Neartopias are not utopias. They have problems. They have to have problems because problems are what drive plots. And on another level problems are just interesting in a way that non-problems are not. They also aren’t post-scarcity Star Treks, or visions of a perfect 6030 A.D. They are “near”-utopias both in the sense that they lack perfection and in that they seem near-enough to be achievable.
Neartopias also have blindspots. Each neartopia pulls from cultural assumptions that will be eventually — like all things — be revealed as problematic. The Golden Age of sci-fi produced some neartopias, for instance, but had a relationship with technological progress and industry, for example, that was — well, let’s say underdeveloped.
Reflecting upon, Kim Stanley Robinson reflects upon the break often associated with utopias:
One weakness I’ve become aware of is how often the authors of utopias set them after a break in history that allows their societies to start from scratch. In the 16th century, Sir Thomas More began the use of this device with a physical symbol: His utopia’s founders dug a Great Trench, cutting a peninsula in two and creating a defensible island. Other kinds of fresh start appear in utopias throughout the centuries, always clearing space for a new social order. Even Le Guin’s Annares is founded by exiles from Urras.