For liberpunk authors, if liberalism is the ideology, then political correctness is the implementation and enforcement. One of the most frequent tropes in liberpunk fiction is the transformation of a liberal or PC ideal into a draconian law whose violation incurs penalties from forced reeducation to the death penalty.
Thus in “Big Dog: A Liberpunk Parable”(“Большая собака: либерпанк-притча”) Volodikhin details the negotiations of a committee trying to make sure it has representatives from all the required groups—which representative is legally recognized as a feminist? Without a feminist, the group cannot continue to exist. In Yuiliya Ryzhenkova’s “Demkontrol", heterosexuality has been all but eradicated, replaced by single-sex families with children raised by the “aunties” and “uncles” who adopted them together. These children are the result of an enforced breeding program that functions like a Russian military draft: upon coming of age, young adults without the necessary connections will have to undergo the humiliating experience of sexual intercourse for the sake of procreation (artificial insemination isn’t an option, because if it were, the author wouldn’t have a story). Naturally, the heroine refuses to part with her baby, and her liberationist struggle against the system begins.
In Leonid Kaganov’s (Over the Gay Rainbow Parade” (“Далекая гейПарадуга”) an inspector comes to a school to make sure that tolerance and multiculturalism are being taught correctly (if not, teachers could be fired); when the inspector attends a physics class, she is appalled to discover that “male” and “female” are being used as metaphors for the poles of a magnet, thereby insidiously instilling heterosexism in children’s impressionable minds.
If my capsule summaries of these stories sound tendentious, it is because these texts are so explicitly satirical and ideological. Theoretically, the tropes involved could be employed by non-liberpunk writers to make the exact opposite points. For example, one of the things that liberpunk shares with cyberpunk is the prevalence of gender modification and polymorphous eroticism. For cyberpunk these are libertarian technological virtues, while for liberpunk, they are signs of moral corruption.
Even some of the basic scenarios I’ve described could be used as calls for tolerance rather than “traditional values.” One can imagine describing a society based on compulsory homosexuality as the means to get straight readers to identify with the plight of an oppressed sexual minority, just as writers in the United States have used the science fiction toolkit to estrange the experience of racism for a white audience (Thomas M. Disch’s and John Sladek’s Black Alice, John Hersey’s White Lotus; almost any given episode of the original Star Trek). For Western liberalism, victimhood is an essentially fungible experience; it can happen to anyone, and therefore it should happen to no one. Liberpunk does not recognize victimhood as a universal; rather, discrimination can be either just or unjust, and the victims of just discrimination should accept their lot. Liberpunk thus accepts the problematic hierarchy implicit in such phrases as “reverse discrimination” or “white slavery,” each of which seem to suggest something particularly improper about the suffering of a majority or dominant group.
Though liberpunk’s most obvious targets occupy roughly the same territory as Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, the critique of liberalism goes far deeper. Particularly odious to liberpunk writers is the procedural legalism that classic liberal structures require. Here liberpunk reveals its Slavophile roots, sharing a Russian conservative disdain for systems based on equal recourse to identical legal procedures rather than on a more “organic” emphasis on achieving the proper moral result (the idea of a criminal going free on a technicality, for example, is antithetical to such an “organic” approach). Thus Liberpunk creates dystopias with hideously complex and invasive bureaucracies that exemplify a liberal preoccupation with the letter of the law.
Ironically, such dystopias are made worse by reflecting the excesses of Russian bureaucracies as well as their Western counterrparts. For example, in the story I mentioned above, at issue is not just the definition of a feminist, but the all-important registration of the official feminist withe the proper governmental authority. This emphasis on registration is alien to the American model that haunts so much of liberpunk fiction; the United States doesn’t even have a national ID system, let alone the multiple registration regimes that make Russian bureaucracy so daunting.
Next: Where My Country Gone?