Science Fiction and the Law: A New Wigmorian Bibliography

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 388

13 Harvard J. Sports & Ent. L. 65 (2022)

48 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020 Last revised: 6 Apr 2022

See all articles by Jorge L. Contreras

Jorge L. Contreras

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2020

Abstract

In 1908, Dean John Henry Wigmore compiled a list of novels that no lawyer could afford to ignore. Wigmore’s list, taken up by Professor Richard Weisberg in the 1970s, catalogs one hundred literary works from Antigone to Native Son, each of which offers insight into the legal system or the practice of law. This article undertakes a similar bibliographic exercise with respect to law and the literature of science fiction. While science fiction, as a literary genre, has its detractors, it cannot be denied that science fiction stories – whether in books, short stories, films or television shows – reach a vast audience and, for better or worse, influence popular perceptions and understanding of science and technology issues. This has been the case since the days of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but is especially true today. When we talk about genetic engineering, Brave New World, Gattaca and Jurassic Park are invariably mentioned. When we think about artificial intelligence, HAL, Skynet and other fictional depictions immediately come to mind. The surveillance society? Nineteen Eighty-Four, of course. These speculative fiction accounts inform the background intuition of judges, legislators and citizens when confronting novel legal issues that arise due to technological change. As such, it is important to understand the body of literature that forms these background intuitions. Accordingly, this article offers the first curated and categorized list of legal science fiction literature, following the model of Wigmore and Weisberg. It is classified according to doctrinal themes, and also includes a compilation of academic literature addressing issues of law in science fiction. It is hoped that the materials compiled here will serve as a useful resource for legal practitioners, policy makers and educators as they grapple with ever increasing legal challenges brought about by the rapid evolution of science and technology.
[This is a draft - suggestions, comments and corrections are welcome]

Keywords: science fiction, law and literature, artificial intelligence, genetics, utopia, dystopia

Suggested Citation

Contreras, Jorge L., Science Fiction and the Law: A New Wigmorian Bibliography (August 1, 2020). University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 388, 13 Harvard J. Sports & Ent. L. 65 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3647579 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3647579

Jorge L. Contreras (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

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