Note — Sep 05, 2021

No Utopias: Gerard O’Neill, Gundam, and the Illusion of Space Colonization

Disclaimer: I know of the existence of Gundam but have never seen any of it. That being said, the article was regardless an excellent read, mixing as it does O’Neill (he of the gorgeous cylinder colonies bearing his name), the Gundam universe, space stations, war, exploration, colonisation, sci-fi, and capitalism in space. In short: Yoshiyuki Tomino’s vision in Gundam addressed war, inequality and extraction, while O’Neill’s abstracted all of that, and how that translated in their respective work.

the Princeton physicist, blinded by the sheer potential of his vision, failed to realize the gross inequities that such a project would require and perpetuate. That interrogatory labor would fall on artists like Tomino and Takayama, who took inspiration from O’Neill but questioned the validity of his dream. […]

In addition to satisfying audience expectations, the climax of War in the Pocket does crucial thematic labor. It reveals that despite idealistic visions, colonization entails conflict, coercion, and class stratification. O’Neill doesn’t argue for a radical overhaul of the system—he doesn’t even attempt to imagine a post-scarcity or emancipated future. What he proposes is capitalism in space, with all the structural oppression that entails. […]

The battle that breaks out between Zeon and Federation forces exists both on a literal and figurative level. It suggests that violence is endemic to the colonial project. The superficial beauty of these suburban environments masks the struggles of their creation.