Utopias in Science Fiction Samuel R. Delany's Triton

About the science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany and history of his envisioned utopia written about in the novel Triton.



He wrote his first novel at the age of 19, won his first Nebula Award just after his 24th birthday, and had amassed a body of 10 novels before turning 30, as well as three more Nebulas and a Hugo Award. He is generally regarded as one of the most brilliant and promising young writers in modern science fiction. Dhalgren (1975), his most controversial novel to date, has sold over a half-million copies in paperback.

His Utopia: TRITON (1976)

In the year 2112, people from Earth have settled Mars and the satellites of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, is also the center of human civilization among the outer moons of the solar system. Life on Triton is a curious combination of an unregulated existence and the universal presence of bureaucracy. Men live in areas protected from the alien environment by a force shield and artificial gravity. Although governed by an elected board, the people of Triton generally follow unstructured lives based on mutual cooperation. Money is obsolete; as one of the characters says, "... credit on basic food, basic shelter, and limited transport is automatic--if you don't have labor credit, your tokens automatically and immediately put it on the state bill." Everyone goes on welfare at one time or another, but rarely for very long. There is no poverty, no possibility of economic disability, no ghettos. The city does have a section where no laws apply, to release any social frustrations that might build up among the populace. Two fifths of the citizens live in mixed co-ops, in an irregular combination of men and women with different sexual preferences; one fifth live in family communes; and the rest in nonspecified single-sex co-ops or specified single-sex arrangements (a gay co-op, for example).

Body decorations are worn by both men and women; fashions are nonexistent, and can range from complete nudity (with or without decorations and body paint) to elaborate costumes. Distinctions between the sexes have tended to become blurred on the moons. Names like Gene or Sam or Bron may be used by either sex; sex-change operations, complete in every respect, with psychological conditioning to match, can transform men or women into their opposite numbers in six hours' time. Theatrical groups are funded by the government to provide "unique performances" of newly-created spot dramas to one or two persons at a time. Despite this looseness in the societal fabric, bureaucracy still operates. Citizens are assigned 22-digit identification numbers and are routinely surveyed by machines; it is estimated that the government has 10 hours of videotaped information on every member of the society (indeed, there are booths where one can request three minutes of random viewing footage from the governmental files relating to the requester). Still, this situation is clearly better than the old ways of Earth: During the course of the book, Earth fights a war with the "Moonies" and is completely devastated.

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