Anarchism and science fiction: G


Bert Garskof: The Canbe Collective Builds a Be-Hive (1977)

A book for older children, describing an anarchist community of the future (though the word itself isn't used). It has apparently grown out of the sixties commune movement, and seems to be a sort of hippie utopia for kids. Though stateless, Canbe has a system of local, regional, continental and general planning groups, "the closest things the New Era had to what in the olden times were called governments" (Dandelion edn: 58); their function is to co-ordinate the work of all the various communal associations and collectives.

   Tess Derbyfield, reviewing the book for Open Road, found the reader "taken on a fascinating tour of an anarchistic society in full and healthy operation." "This book is a serious yet delightful exploration of anarchist possibilities." (Derbyfield 1978)

 

Lewis Grassic Gibbon

See J. Leslie Mitchell.


William S. Gibson: Idoru (1997)

Idoru's Walled City "presents us with a new model of anarchist politics, for it insists that truly radical activities cannot be carried out within the epistemological framework of modern spatial relations" (Call: 105).

 

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling: The Difference Engine (1990)

Included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters.


Mike Gilliland: The Free (1986; 2nd edition 2011)

Described by its publisher as "A novel of love, hope and revolution, set in the very near future, on an island off the coast of Britain. From the underground to revolution, repression and resistance! Essential. The first great contemporary anarchist novel." Frank Jackson, in a 1986 review in the New Anarchist Review, found it "A raw visionary book that touches a hopeful chord."

   There is an online essay entitled "What can M. Gilliland's The Free contribute to an understanding of the conceptual structure of modern British class struggle anarchism?" here.

   The author says the new edition is "3 times as long and 10 times better, with lots more humour, sex and triumphing alternatives". In his list of the novel's themes (at the end of the text) he says "The Free are inspired by the anarchist fiesta, trying out Pete Kropotkin's cut on Darwin. Cooperation in tooth and claw."

   The Free gives an exceptionally vivid account of the exhilaration of the revolutionary process, with strongly imagined characters and very believable dialogue. Potentially inspirational.


George Glendon: The Emperor of the Air (1910)

Confused and derivative story of Esperanto-speaking anarchists waging war on society from a marvellous new airship. Their leader proclaims himself Emperor of the Air and rapidly forgets any anarchist principles he may ever have had, whereupon ground-based anarchists collaborate with police forces in opposing him. The novel concludes when the airship impales itself on the summit of Mt Everest. Exceptionally silly.

 

 

William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954), The Inheritors (1955)

Anarchist critics took a dislike to Lord of the Flies, and those with a particular interest in sf were also at pains to exclude it from the genre, as they understood it (Uloth 1961, Pilgrim 1963, A.M. 1976, A.F. 1983). For A.F. "The book is indeed a deliberately anti-humanist tract, following Golding's frequently expressed hatred of science and progress, and also an equally anti-anarchist tract, insisting that humanity without law and authority must relapse into savagery."

    A.F. considered Golding's second novel, The Inheritors, to be his best.

 

Lisa Goldstein: The Dream Years (1985)

Included in the science fiction reading list on the R.A. Forum website, where the contributor Ronald Creagh describes it as "A subtle evocation of anarchism in the uncanny universe of a surrealist crossing the avenues of time in Paris."

 

Rex Gordon: Utopia 239 (1955)

One of the few explicitly anarchist sf novels. The plot is stock utopian: the protagonists escape via time machine into the future, encounter utopia, and decide to stay.

   The future society is anarchist to a pattern apparently of Gordon's own devising. The only rules the community abide by are inscribed on a memorial stone to the instigator of the revolution:

THE GOSPEL OF THIS COMMUNITY . . .

THAT NO ONE SHALL HAVE THE POWER TO ISSUE ORDERS . . .

THAT A STATE OF ANARCHY SHALL PREVAIL . . .

THAT FREEDOM SHALL BE UNLIMITED . . . UNCIRCUMSCRIBED BY LAW . . . UNFETTERED BY TAXATION . . .

    (Consul pb edn: 194–5)

 

Within the anarchy, people are free to organise on non-anarchist lines if they so choose. The society has a form of scientific priesthood, which strenuously denies that it is a quasi-government.

   For John Pilgrim, who devoted a full page of his 1963 Anarchy article to Utopia 239, "Basically the theme of this book is that government is slavery, and unnecessary slavery at that, and it is this view of the doubtful benefits that governments confer that makes science fiction so important at a time when centralised authoritarianism is becoming epidemic."

 

Stuart Gordon: Fire in the Abyss (1983)

Sir Humfrey Gylberte and other figures from the past are plunged into 1990 by a US Navy experiment. 'Humf', as he becomes, eventually throws in his lot with the lorry people, who are a sort of hippie-anarchic travelling community. This is apparently in fulfilment of the Egyptian priestess Tari's sense of their destiny. An earlier exchange with Humf had outlined this:

 

"I told you," she said patiently. "We work towards self-responsibility so that the need of hidden elite groups is reduced!"

"Spiritual socialism?" I asked bitterly.

"More precisely, it is an-archy, meaning 'without a ruler,' or perhaps I should say, 'without earthly ruler,' for it's impossible to gain such a state without some commen sense of things within and beyond, through which we are, in fact and always, united." (1984 Arrow pb edn: 262)

The novel, though entertaining, is poorly unified, and it's doubtful what lessons, if any, can be drawn.

 

Louis Pope Gratacap: The Mayor of New York: A Romance of the Days to Come (1910)

Set in 2000, with New York an independent city state, as sf it is otherwise not of great interest, and such anarchism as it includes conforms to contemporary negative stereotypes. In the words of the Mayor,

 

"They are frankly anarchists, they assert the solidarity of chaos, the unity of discord, the prosperity of idleness, the stability of disorder. Their philosophy is a jumble of contradictions. But worse, they are self-elected criminals, or else they are hopelessly mad."

(Dillingham edn: 98)

Long and tedious.


Martin Harry Greenberg and Mark Tier, eds: Freedom! (2006)

Incorporates two volumes previously published separately: Give Me Liberty (2003) and Visions of Liberty (2004). The anthologies won a Special Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2005.

   Exceptionally disappointing anthology on the theme of societies without government, or with very little. Most stories are pedestrian and uninspiring, though a couple of genre classics are included: Russell's 'And Then There Were None', and van Vogt's 'The Weapon Shop'. Linaweaver's 'A Reception at the Anarchist Embassy' is irritating and juvenile.


George Griffith: The Angel of the Revolution: A Tale of the Coming Terror (1893), Olga Romanoff; or, The Syren of the Skies (1894), The Outlaws of the Air (1895)

"In Angel of the Revolution an anarchist invents the airplane and puts this at the disposal of Terrorists. They bomb the existing governments out of existence, and maintain the world's new socialist-anarchist society by coming out of hiding in Aëria, their African stronghold." (Dan Clore) For Michael Moorcock "Even the aerial anarchists of The Angel of the Revolution by George Griffiths have something to be said for them, for all their inherent authoritarianism, but they are essentially romantic 'outlaws' and the views they express are not sophisticated even by the standards of the 1890s." (Moorcock 1978) In fact Moorcock's memory is not doing anarchism any service here, since in this novel Griffith consistently describes his villains as 'Terrorists', only mentioning 'Anarchists' in passing in chapter V, as one of a number of groups unwittingly manipulated by the Terrorists' secret society.

   "In the sequel, Olga Romanoff, . . . which takes place in 2030, a hundred years after the events of the preceding novel, the descendant of the last Tsar manages to discover the secret behind advanced technology like airplanes and submarines. Just as she has nearly attained world domination, the Aërians receive news from Mars that a comet is about to strike earth. They go into hiding underground, and return to rebuild their anarchist society after the comet wipes out all life on the surface." (Dan Clore)

   The Outlaws of the Air is Griffith's principal diatribe against anarchism, apparently written shortly after the assassination of Sadi Carnot, to which it repeatedly refers. The plot is predictable: anarchists—members of the "sanguinary brotherhood of the knife and the bomb" (Tower edn: 4) gain control of revolutionary new airships and proceed to terrorise the world, until finally defeated by their own treachery. All the usual targets are bombed in London, with Scotland Yard being singled out for the first field trials of the new explosive anarchite. The anarchists, as so often in this sort of fiction, do not really even live up to their own principles, being "really under the direction of a governing Group" (294). The body of the book is curiously bracketed by a sub-plot set in a south Pacific island utopia. Griffith seems to admire the Utopian society for doing away with government and politics, but doesn't seem to notice the irony this produces, given his hatred of the "horrible creed" (214) of anarchism.

 

Eileen Gunn: Stable Strategies and Others (2004)

Recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.

 

 


An beside the title means an item's particularly recommended by me. See my hotlist, for these recommendations only. Text in blue means I haven't personally read the item concerned, so can't vouch for the reliability of the information.


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