How to Write an Utopia
The first step in writing a utopian story is to decide what sort of ideal you want to explore. Maybe you’re interested in environmentalism and want to work out how an environmentally conscious society might work. Or maybe you want to try your hand at designing a society without poverty. Or maybe you believe that advanced artificial intelligence will be able to solve all of humanity’s problems. Whatever ideal you choose, make sure that you’re not just ignoring its flaws. All political ideals have their drawbacks, and a utopian story needs to account for these in some way (otherwise it will start to seem like pure fantasy rather than a thoughtful exploration of an idea).
Don’t overlook the possibility of exploring an ideal you don’t agree with! Some of the best utopian literature is written in a “devil’s advocate” tone – for example, if you believe in individual freedom and limited government, try writing a utopian story about a society with a powerful centralized authority. Can you begin to see why such a society might have appealed to people throughout history? And does it help you refine your arguments in favor of your own ideals? You might end up writing a dystopia this way, but it’s even more interesting if you can make your utopia seem genuinely believable without fully supporting its underlying principles!
When to use Utopia
Since most utopias are described in short stories, novels, or films, utopian literature is a genre of fiction. However, it also has a place in some non-fiction essays, especially those about politics. There’s a branch of political theory, called ideal theory, that’s essentially all about theorizing what the perfect society would look like. This is just like utopian literature, except that it’s expressed through arguments and logic rather than through stories.
In making an argument about ideal theory, it may help to give your reader a quick thought experiment in the form of a short utopian story. Although it’s not written as a formal argument, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (see Examples of Utopia in Literature) is widely considered to be a fairly persuasive case against the political theory known as “utilitarianism.”