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.

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).

 

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.


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.

 

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.

 

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.


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)

 


See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.


Authors by surname: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T V W Y Z Possibles


Bibliography


@sf home, Ben Beck's website home




This page was last revised on 2014-04-30.

© Benjamin S. Beck 2005–2014

joomla site stats