I think I first came across "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K LeGuin a few years ago. I read something else in conversation with it, but somehow had missed the original. Hugo Award winning and Locus award nominated, I thought folks might be interested in discussing it and its descendants.
Omelas is a utopia in the middle of a festival. And as the narrator explains the city to you, they understand that you may not believe it is even possible.
The ones who walk away from Omelas spoilersSo the narrator explains that keeping this city a utopia relies on the horrible and perpetual suffering of a single child. At a certain age, all citizens are brought to see the suffering child and they're all horrified, but most come to see that the prosperity and safety of everyone is served by the suffering of this one child. The ones who don't, walk away and never return.
Othe authors have written stories in conversation with this,
NK Jemisin's The Ones Who Stay And Fight is directly engaging with it.
In Um-HelatThere is a utopia, and no child suffering in a hole. But when suffering arises, there is a call to fix it.
The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (the 3rd Scholomance book) engages with this idea too.
Golden Enclaves major plot point spoilerAll the major enclaves of magic users are build on the death of an innocent - someone that has never taken and used magic from the death or pain of other beings, and at least once a teenager, but likely a often child due to the restriction. This allows you to create a safe home against the magical monsters but also creates an ever hungry devouring monster of perpetual suffering (a maw mouth) that is unleashed on anyone who doesn't have an enclave to protect them. There's a way to build them without this, but the enclaves would be smaller and less luxurious, and after all, it's only one person...
So I had read all of the above works and been mulling over the topic of Omelas, and then found this story today
In which people, uh, start killing the kid in the Omelas hole. Sorry, not a lot of room not to spoil that given the title. I'll let you read the story for where that goes.
Risk of spoilers for the above works from here:
I think there is a lot about our society here. LeGuin herself said the story, "has a long and happy career of being used by teachers to upset students and make them argue fiercely about morality." Because what is the right answer? Novik, via El in the Scholomance series says to burn it down. Jemisin says there is a better way. I don't believe LeGuin is arguing that the ones who walk away are "right" in that they leave having benefited from Omelas and the child still suffers.
But I thought folks who hadn't read one or more of these might enjoy them, and I find they make me think and often won't stop letting me think.
ETA: ST:SNW did an entire episode using Omelas as an inspiration. I haven't seen it so I can't speak to it but wanted to add it here for reference.