Anarchism and science fiction: F

S.F.: 'Through the 'A' in Anarchism' (1956)

This short tale was published in Freedom in 1956. The narrator day-dreams, at Speakers' Corner, that he sails through the 'A' on an anarchist banner into the future anarchist world, which is fully described. Britain is now basically running on anarchist-communist lines. Curiously, though, there is still a need for a police force, though this is all right because they are all qualified in sociology, psychology, local history and orgone therapy.


The story's gently satiric humour has considerable charm; and the notion that the British only got round to having a revolution after their supply of tea ran out is perhaps as plausible as many another scenario for revolution here.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966, dir. François Truffaut)

Based on the Bradbury novel of the same name, the film takes place in a dystopian future in which a fireman, whose duty it is not to extinguish fires but to burn books, takes to reading and rebels against the regime.


Included in the Libertarian Movies filmography. For Osborne "its antiauthoritarian content will make it of very strong interest to libertarians," but "one is left with the disturbing impression that such a society could actually be brought about." (58–9)

Fail-Safe (1964, dir. Sidney Lumet)

Cold War tension between the USSR and the USA leads to an accidental nuclear attack on Moscow, with devastating consequences for both countries. A similar story line to Dr Strangelove, but with deadly earnest.


Included in Mark Bould's Red Planets filmography.


Philip José Farmer: The Lovers (1951/1961/1979); Strange Relations (1960)

Vittorio Curtoni refers the reader to these "stories of sensual liberation" by Farmer. The Lovers, with its story of forbidden love between a future human and a humanoid alien insect parasite, broke new ground in sf when it first appeared. Strange Relations is a collection of five stories all named for family relationships; most of them feature bizarre alien sexuality. The best is 'Mother' (1953) (Curtoni: 25).


Claude Farrère: Useless Hands (1926; first published as Les condamnés à mort, 1920)

Dark tale of workers rebelling against a monopolistic plutocrat, first through sabotage, then through strike action; but their efforts are defeated by the rapid introduction of automation, and their revolt is brutally put down by their bosses with a disintegrator ray which kills them in their hundreds of thousands. The failed uprising is led by the charismatic head of the Council of the Order of Anarchy, but as so often anarchism is just a boo word. The anarchists and the bosses are both unsympathetic, and the proletarian 'useless hands' are no more than ciphers.


Included in Miéville's Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read (as copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list), where it is seen as "Bleak Social Darwinism" and "A cold, reactionary, interesting book."


E. Douglas Fawcett: Hartmann the Anarchist (1893)

In 1920 Hartmann, having invented a tough, light metal, launches his aeronef the Attila and mounts a raid on London. His object, he says, is "to wreck civilization . . . We are Rousseaus who advocate a return to a simpler life . . . We want no more 'systems,' or 'constitutions'—we shall have anarchy." (Tangent edn: 83-4) Parliament, the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange and St Paul's are destroyed, and the crew of the Attila use flamethrowers on the crowds in Farringdon St. However, less than a fifth of London is destroyed, Hartmann hears no news of similar risings overseas, and on learning that he has killed his own mother he blows up the Attila, with himself and all on board. Order is restored, and the Empire recovers.


Although not the first story of this kind, Hartmann the Anarchist is the first to identify the terrorists as anarchists. Superior to most of its successors, it is still fresh, and probably the only one still worth reading.


Weir (2011) describes it as "frankly anti-anarchist". Pedelty (2011) considers it a "very silly story", but "Not silly-funny [ . . . ] but silly-toxic." (Pedelty: 73)


Ian Bone, in his introduction to the 2009 reprint, is kind enough to mention this website.

Felony (2014, dir. Thanos Kermitsis)

Five-minute short, summarised on IMDb as "In a dystopian future nothing is taken for granted", available on YouTube, but only in Greek, without subtitles.


Shown during the 2017 festival for anarchy and libertarian communism at Patras.

The Final Programme (1973, dir. Robert Fuest; aka The Last Days of Man on Earth)

Based on the novel of the same name by the prolific anarchist sf writer Michael Moorcock (book one of The Cornelius Chronicles), the film is OTT in the way to be expected from the director of The Abominable Dr Phibes and many episodes of The Avengers.


Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer, eds (2014) Hieroglyph. Stories and Visions for a Better Future

Bright and optimistic anthology, which has been seen as one of the founding anthologies of solarpunk.


First drawn to the attention of the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum in 2014, with the comment "Not sure how much in here is in the anarchist spirit, but looks promising that there could be ....." In fact there isn't, really, but it's still worth reading.


Reviewed by Zeke Teflon, for whom it was only partially successful: "Of the 16 stories and one novella, I enjoyed only the six pieces mentioned above, disliked about an equal number, and was indifferent to the rest." But for him the last but one story, Charlie Jane Anders's 'The Day It All Ended,' tipped the scales, so that the anthology as a whole was recommended.


Firefly (2002/2003, dir. Joss Whedon; single TV series of 14 episodes)

Space western set in 2517, featuring the activities—licit and illicit—of the motley crew of a 'Firefly-class' spaceship, in a star system controlled by the Alliance, apparently a fusion of the two surviving superpowers, the USA and China.


According to Ilya Somin, of the Libertarian Futurist Society, Whedon "deliberately incorporated libertarian themes in his 2002 science fiction series Firefly." Roderick Long, too, says "The show also has a strong, albeit implicit, libertarian edge to it."


Most usefully, though, a recent Revolutionary Left Radio podcast features a long interview with Dr James Rocha, on 'Interpreting Firefly: Libertarianism vs Anarchism'. Rocha had authored a paper entitled 'The Black Reaching Out: An Anarchist Analysis of Firefly' in which he argues for an anarchist interpretation of the show over the more prevalent right-libertarian interpretation. Though Rocha's paper doesn't seem to be accessible on the Internet, in the interview Rocha argues that Firefly should actually be seen as an anarchist critique of right-libertarianism, in which the initial fairly pronounced libertarian sentiments of the spaceship's captain are progressively rejected as the series goes on in favour of a more anarchist perspective.

First Men in the Moon (1964, dir. Nathan Juran)

Adaptation of the Wells novel, brought up to date by framing the story with a 1960s moon landing and the unexpected discovery there of the British flag, with a note claiming the moon for Queen Victoria.


Mark Bould, in his 2005 Socialist Review article, as copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list, described this "laboured comedy" as evoking "a nervousness about the passing of empires."


Leslie Fish: The Weight (serialised 1976/1979, standalone 1988)

Fan-published anarchist and feminist Star Trek novel, now virtually unobtainable. There's much on this at The story apparently involves Kirk encountering a rocket headed for the Moon; after making contact, he finds the crew to be a collection of longhaired, tattooed, free-living anarchists; he himself has an affair with one of them. There is said to be much on the cultural clash between the anarchists and the Federation.


Fish is described as an "IWW member and anarchist activist" in the 2014 Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary.


Homer Eon Flint: The Queen of Life (1919)

In The Queen of Life the humanoid inhabitants of Venus have encased the planet in an alarmingly sterile glass sphere, and vanquished scarcity many generations in the past, entirely eliminating conflict and with it any concepts of nationhood, the state, and government itself. This curiosity has the flavour of the true utopia about it, yet as sf it withholds the utopian possibility. Flint seems unusually ambivalent about his authorial intent, presumably the consequence of editorial intervention.

Michael Flynn: In the Country of the Blind (1990/2001)

Prometheus Award winner.


Gabriel de Foigny: The Southern Land, Known (1676, La Terre Australe Connu; first English translation 1693)

Proto-sf fantastic voyage, in which a traveller arrives in Australia, to find a utopia of hermaphrodites made possible in part because there can be no issues based on sexual dimorphism; the traveller fits in immediately, as he too is a hermaphrodite.


Colin Ward described Foigny as "the first Utopian to conceive of a society without government." The work is included among Nettlau's 'Utopies libertaires'. Berneri has 17 pages on this tale, which she describes as "an original and entertaining utopia."

Forbidden Planet (1956, dir. Fred M. Wilcox)

One of the best 50s sf films, indeed described by Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as "one of the few masterpieces of sf cinema". A re-imagining of Shakespeare's The Tempest.


Listed as utopian at Anarchism and film.


E.M. Forster: 'The Machine Stops' (1909)

An early dystopia, in which Earth's future population, now living underground, has become slave to, and is beginning to worship, the Machine; a rebel discovers freedom above ground, but although those already living free survive, he is not spared when society collapses on the breakdown of the Machine.


George Woodcock found this the most interesting early anti-Utopia, with its "strong element of neo-Luddism". He felt it lacked immediacy, though, saying it "pays scanty attention to its social and political implications". (Woodcock 1956) For Ursula K. Le Guin this was "the first and finest" of the satirical utopias in which robots do the work and humans sit back and play (Le Guin 1982). Some short extracts were published in Fifth Estate #373 in 2006, where the full story was "highly recommended


Since the advent of the Internet this story has gained in value from what may now be perceived as prescience. It won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2012. The tale is included in Dana's AnarchoSF V.1.

Fortress (1992, dir. Stuart Gordon)

Escape story set in a future semi-automated private-enterprise underground prison and an authoritarian United States operating a draconian one child policy.


Jon Osborne finds that "the film makes the ultrapowerful state toward which we are gradually slouching seem a dangerous and unhappy prospect."


Charles Fourier: The Theory of the Four Movements (1808); The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier. Selected texts on work, love and passionate attraction (1971, ed. Jonathan Beecher & Richard Bienvenu)

The Theory of the Four Movements is an extraordinary work of early libertarian socialism, a mix of a penetrating critique of developing capitalism and a fanciful quasi-prophetic visionary cosmogony. The fullest anarchist discussion is probably that by Don LaCoss, originally published in Fifth Estate in 2003, and now available at The Anarchist Library. LaCoss gives an accurate summary of this work:


This scheme for a revolutionary reorganization of life on all planes of existence was the subject of his wonderfully weird first book, Theory of the Four Movements (1808), which might be best characterized as a combination of philosophy, cosmogony, industrial psychology, science fiction, and prophecy. In the pages of this great utopian text, Fourier vigorously condemned capitalist markets, bureaucratic excrescence, the oppression of women, and suffocation of desire by the leviathans of industrial civilization.

To address these wrongs, he proposed a complex system of worker self-management, locally autonomous voluntary associations, and the restoration of existential meaning to daily chores. The goal of this system was “universal harmony,” a near-hallucinatory level of sensual creation and gratification that would emerge from intentional communities. The paths toward Harmony would inevitably lead to the evolutionary overcoming of industrial capitalism: animals would learn to play musical instruments, stars will copulate and spray us all with their sexual fluids, weather patterns will shift, new moons will revolve around the earth, the chemical composition of the oceans would change, and human bodies begin to mutate.

I suspect that Fourier may not have intended that people read his Theory of the Four Movements as literal, instrumental prescriptions for social change. What his book did offer, however, was a glimpse of what unleashed passion and imagination could produce if you refused to let your mind be limited by the existing orders of knowledge and institutions of power.

To be honest, parts of the book come across as pretty demented, but the strength of the rest sustains the reader's interest.


The Utopian Vision anthology is definitely of interest. Fourier's vision is really rather remarkable, and though by no means conventionally utopian the future tense in which much of it is written, and the occasional vignettes of life in his ideal society, mark it as in a sense science fictional. Though in many ways rigidly regimented on pseudo-scientific lines, the utopian society is depicted as joyously socialistic, antipathetic to the work ethic, and glorying in free-range sexuality.


Max Nettlau was clear on Fourier's importance: "In short, we can say that many roads led from Fourierism to libertarian socialism" . . . .


George Foy: The Memory of Fire (2000)

"Governments and corporations wage war against anarchist enclaves." (Dan Clore)


The dense text and opacity of the storyline tend to dilute such interest as the reader might have in the self-contained enclaves, which are more outlaw than anarchist, notwithstanding a passing nod in the direction of Kropotkin.

John Foyster

Australian sf critic John Foyster was an anarchist, and wrote 'Why are they always badmouthing the anarchists?' for the fanzine Oh Bloody Hell! in 1976, reproduced in Scratch Pad 55, April 2004.



Anatole France: The White Stone (1905); Penguin Island (1908)

The last quarter of The White Stone recounts a dream of a 23rd century collectivist utopia in a federal Europe; there remains a strong anarchist opposition, which is generally tolerated. For Marie-Louise Berneri "Anatole France's utopian sketch in La Pierre Blanche has been rightly ignored, as it is one of his dullest pieces of writing" . . . (Berneri 1949: 293)


Penguin Island is a satire involving evolution among penguins. Book Two presents an essentially anarchist view of the origin of property and government:

"Do you see, my son," he exclaimed, "that madman who with his teeth is biting the nose of the adversary he has overthrown and that other one who is pounding a woman's head with a huge stone?"


"I see them," said Bulloch. "They are creating law; they are founding property; they are establishing the principles of civilization, the basis of society, and the foundations of the State."

(Bantam Classic edn: 37)


The last book concerns the future destruction of civilization, initiated by anarchist bombers; although the author seems to have some sympathy for this, the book concludes with the cyclical return of the triumphant State. Unusually, we have a record of the views of Bartolomeo Vanzetti on this work: for him "France masterly slaps, in this book, the pretentions, proudness, hypocracy, stupidity and ferocity of the humane, and shows the uselessness of religions, and the venom of the clergies." (Frankfurter & Jackson, eds: 144)


Text in blue means I haven't personally read the item concerned, so can't vouch for the reliability of the information. See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.

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