In science fiction how did eugenics go from being a utopian ideal to a dystopian nightmare?

In several of the older science fiction stories I’ve read like the Lensman series and the Methuselah’s Children selective breeding is seen as a worthwhile goal to produce superior human beings. In later science fiction stories manipulating the genome is often seen in a negative and oppressive context.

What caused this change in perception? Was the notion that some people were inherently “better” than other people at odds with the zeitgeist of the 70’s and the growing civil rights movement?

It was WWII. At the end when the Nazi atrocities were revealed to the world.

Good point.

As said, it got associated with the Nazis. And then genetic engineering got equated with eugenics despite being very different. And on top of that, the Nazi/Nietzschean ideal of “supermen” lording it over “submen” was simplified and equated with the desire for any sort of improvement to humanity whatsoever.

The western, non-Nazi, use of eugenics wasn’t PR-friendly, either. Dating to before the advent of civil rights and proper genetic testing it generally took the form of American sheriffs forcibly sterilising children for being black, or supposedly of “inferior” white stock (ie: poor), and so on. So it, deservedly, got a bad rep.

Generally, fascism and nationalism as well as gattacan dystopia as a social proof is yet to be overcome. And the neo fascist and frankly ruthless ajdication of the medically or scientifically impure is totally apparent in everyday society and exemplified by the pogroms on smokers, fatties, the mentally ill and those outside of puritanical addictions, money, and genetics.

Don’t forget the poors. If there is one section of society that’s feckless, lazy, breeds like rabbits, scroungers, criminals, wasters and so on it’s always the poor.

Money, I mentioned money… right there. Those outside of money…

Brave New World is anti-eugenics, published before Hitler came to power.

This was documented by the historian Robert Marley.

*Sheriff John Brown always hated me,
For what, I don’t know:
Every time I plant a seed,
He said kill it before it grow -
He said kill them before they grow. *

Except at the time it was extremely popular among the thoughtful Progressive elite. The PR problem came later.

Yeah, I really think Brave New World had something to do with it.