Episode 17: Democracy and its discontents

In “The Waldo Moment,” an episode of  Black Mirror , a blue animated bear named Waldo becomes a weaponized political meme.

In “The Waldo Moment,” an episode of Black Mirror, a blue animated bear named Waldo becomes a weaponized political meme.

With the U.S. midterm election coming up, it's time to look at representations of democracy in science fiction. The genre is often skeptical or satirical when it comes to democracy--you can see this in everything from episodes of The Prisoner to the movie Idiocracy. But science fiction is also a testbed for dramatic re-imagingings of this political system, offering a hopeful look at a more egalitarian world. Our guest Malka Older, a human rights worker and author of the novel Infomocracy, talks to us about how to improve democracy with storytelling.

Works cited:

Find out more about our guest Malka Older, author of Infomocracy, on her website.

The Prisoner, “Free for All”

Black Mirror, “The Waldo Moment

Doctor Who, “Vengeance on Varos”

“The Marching Morons,” by Cyril Kornbluth

Idiocracy, dir. Mike Judge

Wag the Dog, dir. Tim Robbins

Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time

Joan Slonczewski, The Door Into Ocean

Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Tobias Buckell, Sly Mongoose

Carrie Vaughn, Bannerless

What we’re obsessed with!

Annalee recommends you listen to an Ars Technica Live conversation she had with Alex Stamos, former CSO of Facebook, who dealt with Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Now he’s a researcher at Stanford, studying election security.

Charlie Jane can’t get enough of Hilda, a terrific Netflix show for kids of all ages about a girl from the country who has to leave her elf friends behind and go live in the big city of Trollville.

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Annalee Newitz