Anarchism and science fiction: H


John Hackett: The Third World War (1978)

This well-known future-war story, by a team of top-rank militarists, involves a limited nuclear engagement in which Birmingham and Minsk are destroyed; the war concludes with Communism wiped off the face of the earth.

   A.B., reviewing this novel in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, found it "one of the crudest, crassest, and most boring bits of propaganda that have ever been written."

 

Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)

The war is not quite forever, but lasts over a thousand years, and is entirely witnessed, thanks to relativistic effects, by one trooper; the war (against the Taurans) is unsurprisingly shown to have been entirely pointless.

   The Forever War was compared by P.S., in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review in 1978, with Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero, both books being condemned—unfairly, although Haldeman's experience as a Vietnam combat veteran means that his descriptions of warfare sometimes obscure his anti-militarist message. Reviewed and recommended by Margaret Killjoy in 2014.

 

Sandy Hall: The Godmothers (1982)

The Godmothers has two interwoven plots. In one, a contemporary feminist circle takes on Toronto capitalism; in the other, a future where women run the world communication network is threatened by reactionary forces. The two are uneasily linked telepathically with past witchcraft and a zone outside of space-time. Though strongly feminist, it's not even libertarian.

   It was reviewed by Annamarie Allan in Peace News in 1982, who felt that ". . . the intensity of her desire to persuade has prevented a full realization" of the novel's potential. In the way she characterizes women, but caricatures men, "Ms Hall unfortunately lays herself open to the charge of demonstrating the same intolerance which she criticises so fiercely."

 

Edmund Hamilton: 'The Island of Unreason' (1933)

"Those who commit 'breach of reason'—as, for example, by refusing the mate assigned to them by the Eugenic Board—are sentenced to spend time on the Island of Unreason, where there is "no form of government"." (Dan Clore)

   In practice, the island is dominated by the most successful male fighter, the inhabitants living in a Hobbesian state of nature rather than an anarchy in any positive sense.


Charles L. Harness: The Paradox Men (1953), 'The Rose' (1953)

For Moorcock, "The Paradox Men with its sense of the nature of Time, its thief hero, its iron references to America Imperial, is highly entertaining." He also singled out 'The Rose' as a particular favourite. (Moorcock 1978)

 

Harry Harrison: 'The Streets of Ashkelon' (1962; aka 'An Alien Agony'), Bill, the Galactic Hero (1965), The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987)

For John Pilgrim the 1962 story ("this horrific little tale") "poses the question of the amount of harm that the introduction of religious would do to a race who had managed to develop without any concept of the supernatural, or of God. The author's standpoint here is that the harm would be enormous and irreparable" . . . (Pilgrim 1963)

   Moorcock found Bill, the Galactic Hero "very funny", as a send-up of Heinlein. P.S. didn't get the joke: "The drawback with repeating this parody, chapter after chapter, is that the resulting book is no longer a parody of the martial spirit, but just another plug for the military." (Moorcock 1978, P.S. 1978)

   Bill himself, a hard-pressed trooper, surely owes something to Švejk.

   Of the 1987 novel "Harrison says: 'the evil guys invade the plant [sic] which had their own system of Government which is right out of the text book! It's anarchy. It has a bad name. But no one knows a thing about anarchism these days. That world is a world of hard working anarchy. Every single character there is right out of the Encyclopaedia Britannia. And not one person ever noticed. So much for saying you hate anarchy! This was just pure text book anarchism. So now you know more about anarchy.'" (Dan Clore)

   The word itself, though, is never used. The prevailing political theory—developed by an artificial intelligence—is described as 'Individual Mutualism'. There is no state, no law, no army and no police force. One of the lead characters is called Stirner. The invaders are on the point of defeat by the means of passive resistance, when the League Navy turns up and takes the credit.

   A lightweight potboiler—though Teflon considers it a "well thought out book about mutualist anarchism and nonviolent resistance disguised as escapist sci-fi."


M. John Harrison: 'The Ash Circus' (1971); The Centauri Device (1975)

'The Ash Circus' is a short story featuring Moorcock's character Jerry Cornelius; there is brief reference to William Godwin.

   The Centauri Device is, unusually, an explicitly anarchist space opera. Captain John Truck is the only human with the Centauran genes capable of arming and triggering the ultimate weapon, the Centauri device. Pursued by the powers that be, he finally explodes the device, concluding that none of them should have it. Anarchists play central roles—two chapters are devoted to Swinburne Sinclair-Peter, the Interstellar Anarchist, who "prowled the galaxy like a brilliant tiger" (Panther edn: 74), and the anarchist world of Howell, a 2-mile diameter asteroid midway between Sol and Centauri; in the final chapter Truck himself becomes "The Last Anarchist" (187).

   According to Moorcock "M. John Harrison is an anarchist and his books are full of anarchists—some of them very bizarre like the anarchist-aesthetes of The Centauri Device. Typical of the New Worlds school he could be described as an existential anarchist." (Moorcock 1978)

 

 

Jacquetta Hawkes: Providence Island (1959)

North of New Guinea an island is discovered and visited, on which survives the Magdalenian culture of the old stone age. Attempts by an American expeditionary force to take over are thwarted by a British archaeological group and the islanders' telepathic powers.

   This well-meaning book was treated kindly by ADF in Freedom, who considered it "worth reading purely as an emotional record", noting that "Miss Hawkes is obviously wrung by the inhuman aspects of our culture . . .". (ADF, 1959)

 

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne: 'The Artist of the Beautiful' (1844)

A watchmaker spends years creating an artificial butterfly but is relatively unmoved when it is destroyed by a child.

   Herbert Read, writing in 1945, said:

 

I believe that this particular tale of Hawthorne's is the author's deepest comment on his own work. He realised that he was only creating symbols inconsistent with his sceptical outlook on life. He realized that his works of art would not bear the test of reality. But nevertheless they did reveal, if only through the reactions they provoked, the reality of men's souls, the truth of the human heart.

Robert A. Heinlein: 'Requiem' (1940), The Day After Tomorrow (1941), Methuselah's Children (1941/1958), 'Waldo' (1942), Red Planet (1949), The Puppet Masters (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), Double Star (1956), Starship Troopers (1959), Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Farnham's Freehold (1964), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), Time Enough for Love (1973)

Heinlein was of the libertarian right, and has been treated harshly by anarchist critics. For John Pilgrim "the appearance of Heinlein's Day After Tomorrow proved beyond all doubt that Heinlein is that virtually unique creature, a fascist science fiction writer" (1963). Michael Moorcock, similarly, said that if someone sitting opposite him on a tube train were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval, it probably wouldn't disturb him much more then if it were Heinlein they were reading. Heinlein's later stories, especially, he described as paternalistic, xenophobic, misanthropic, and anti-libertarian. Moorcock expressed horror at the way radicals were taken in by Heinlein—"even supporters of the Angry Brigade" being among them; this was perhaps, he suggested, because Heinlein's vague prose allowed readers to interpret him in the way closest to their own sympathies.

   'Waldo' is briefly mentioned in Moorcock 1978.

   Red Planet won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1996, as did Methuselah's Children in 1997 and Time Enough for Love in 1998, and Requiem in 2003.

   Alex Comfort was thinking specifically of The Puppet Masters when he mused, in 1961, that "it is hard to tell whether some of the fantasies of science fiction are paranoiac or merely satirical".

   For M. Eagle, writing in Freedom in 1969, Heinlein's Revolt in 2100 "describes the overthrow of a theocratic dictatorship in the USA and its replacement by the Covenant, by which all citizens can do anything they wish providing no harm is done to others. A social contract indeed!"

   Double Star is included in Evan Lampe's blog.

   Starship Troopers was attacked by both John Pilgrim and Michael Moorcock, in their seminal articles on anarchism and science fiction. For Pilgrim it is "one of the very few examples of retrogressive, one might even say fascist thought, in the entire range of science fiction writing." He goes on to say that "it could well be argued that part of the libertarian nature of science fiction is a built-in effect, for the setting of Heinlein's ideas in a science fiction medium show up, in sharper relief than mainstream fiction could ever do, the repulsive nature of his philosophy." (Pilgrim 1963). In 1966 he summed up this novel as "brilliant but obnoxious". It is of course absolutely central to Moorcock's 1978 'Starship Stormtroopers', which brackets Heinlein with John Wayne, John Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George Wallace. He says "To be an anarchist, surely, is to reject authority but to accept self-discipline and community responsibility. To be a rugged individualist a la Heinlein and others is to be forever a child who must obey, charm and cajole to be tolerated by some benign, omniscient father" . . . .

   Eagle, in 1969, found that "Stranger in a Strange Land contains a beautiful religion or philosophy." The book tied for the 1987 Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award.

   In Farnham's Freehold a nuclear attack propels a US family into a future society where blacks rule and whites are kept as slaves and bred for food. Highly offensive and reactionary, it is if anything worse than Starship Troopers. For Moorcock, "It's not such a big step, for instance, from Farnham's Freehold to Hitler's Lebensraum." (Moorcock 1978)

   The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of Heinlein's more acceptable books, and one to which a version of anarchism is central—a blend of individualist anarchism and Jeffersonian democracy that Heinlein calls 'rational anarchism'. The story concerns the successful lunar war of independence, and owes much to the historical precedent of the American revolution. For Robert Shea,

 

 . . . the picture of an anarchist society on the moon in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is . . . believable. This is one sort of anarchism, at any rate . . . This Wild West Anarchism wouldn't appeal to all anarchists, but it does give us a chance to experience one way that a society without a government might work. Many anarchists like it so much they suggest it to non-anarchists as introductory reading." (Shea 1980:0)

Like most revolutions, though, the lunar one only results in a substitution at the top.

   A key character in Moon, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, is said to have been based on the real-life libertarian Robert LeFevre, who had been a neighbour of Heinlein's. Jeff Riggenbach of the Mises Institute has suggested that, influential on libertarianism as Heinlein clearly was, he was probably not a libertarian himself, and that at the time he was writing works of this period he may well have been under the influence of his third wife, Virginia. (Riggenbach)

   The book tied for the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1983.

   Time Enough for Love is a long-winded and tiresome novel, chronicling the 2360-year life of Lazarus Long, a Heinlein mouthpiece. There is an objectionable passage, in one of the extracts from Long's notebooks, which should be committed to memory by anyone inclined to describe Heinlein as an anarchist:

 

Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist should not be defined as "murder" in a legalistic sense. The offence against the state, if any, would be "Using deadly weapons inside city limits," or "Creating a traffic hazard," or "Endangering bystanders," or other misdemeanour. [Second Intermission]

Frank Herbert: Dune novels (1965–85)

Herbert was "immensely and constantly critical of government", lived on a sustainable land project, and "developed the idea of technopeasantry, a precursor to post-civilized theory and the appropriate technology movements" (Killjoy, 2009). The Dune novels were among the first to explore ecological sf.

   Herbert once said "I have a standard axiom: all governments lie. Don't believe anything they say." (Platt, 1980: 212)


Theodor Hertzka: Freeland: A Social Anticipation (1890), A Visit to Freeland (1893)

Non-statist libertarian utopia. Berneri comments that Freeland was received with great enthusiasm in the UK, and Nettlau, in 1897, included these works among "les utopies [ . . . ] non étatistes et où se retrouvent des tendances libertaires" . . . . According to Nettlau the anarchist Gustav Landauer was a Freelander when young. (Nettlau 1897, 1964)

 

 

James Hilton: Lost Horizon (1933)

Ethel Mannin wrote that "In modern times there has been the glimpse of a free Utopia in James Hilton's novel, Lost Horizon, but it is a glimpse only, making no claim to being a details picture of an ideal commonwealth" . . . (Mannin 1944: 40)

   Lost Horizon is a story of longevity in a Tibetan Christian/Buddhist lamasery, an idyllic community. Mannin rather overstates the freedom of the Utopia: the political system is flexible, but not anarchist. It is defined by one of the visitors to Shangri La as ". . . a rather loose and elastic autocracy, operated from the lamasery with a benevolence that was almost casual", and the lama Chang comments that "we believe that to govern perfectly it is necessary to avoid governing too much" (c. VI). The idea of straightforwardly not governing does not arise.

 

Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)

This wonderful post-apocalyptic novel was one of three sf novels selected for mention by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, of the Fifth Estate collective, for a Summer 2012 anarchist reading list (the others being Delany's Dhalgren and Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time)

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T. Shirby Hodge (pseudonym of Roger Sherman Tracy): The White Man's Burden. A Satirical Forecast (1915)

. . . "set in 5000 CE, by which period the warlike and primitive white races have been restricted to North America while, in black-dominated Africa, anarchism and scientific genius have generated a utopian world." (SFE)

   An unusual and surprisingly interesting work, it is as much scientific romance as utopia, but the anarchism is quite explicit, and explicitly endorsed, with a whole chapter entitled 'Anarchy'. Perhaps improbably, government had simply been 'abolished', as the future society came to realise it would be better off without it. The 'White Man's Burden' of the title is revealed on the final page (no surprise by then, so it's scarcely a spoiler) as Himself.

 

 

James P. Hogan: Voyage from Yesteryear (1982); The Multiplex Man (1992)

Voyage from Yesteryear describes an attempt by Terrans to recolonise a planet settled by humans some years before, in which the authoritarianism of the new colonists is thwarted by the libertarianism of the old. The planets social system is essentially anarchy, but details are not dwelt upon. For Zeke Teflon, though, it features "a setting directly derived from  Murray Bookchin’s Post-Scarcity Anarchism." The plot is largely derivative of Russell's '. . . And Then There Were None', and the book doesn't improve on that story in any respect.

   This and The Multiplex Man were both Prometheus Award winners.


Cecelia Holland: Floating Worlds (1976)

A complex story of conflict between the inner and outer planets of the solar system, featuring a post-revolution anarchist Earth. The book presents an interesting contrast between libertarian and authoritarian society. Most of the book is set in the empire of the Styths on the outer planets, rather than on anarchist Earth. Neither side is presented as an ideal, and authorial judgment is not explicit. Earth's anarchy, in particular, is perhaps—like Le Guin's Anarres—an ambiguous utopia, in which the Committee for the Revolution has become just a vestigial government (Sphere edn: 13). Unlike Anarres, though, Earth's society is closer to anarcho-capitalism than anarchist communism. The anarchy is in any case essentially no more than the backdrop. Robert Shea considered this novel "not anarchist propaganda", but nevertheless felt it "presents a persuasive picture of an anarchist society". "The testing to which Holland subjects her anarchist community is so severe that it is finally destroyed by invaders. But not before we have learned to love it and to mourn its passing—4000 years in the future." (19)


Lizzie M. Holmes. 'World's Exposition in the Year 2,000' (1896)

This very slight sketch was first published in The Rebel of Boston, in March-April 1896. The title says all that is necessary. One notes that exhibits are displayed by association branch number rather than by country. The workerism of the imagined future society verges on Stalinism.


E. Holt-White: The Woman who Saved the World (1914)

Anarchist conspiracy story. Various British institutions are destroyed; the Houses of Parliament are blown up by rocket, but no MPs are killed. The chief culprit, Salvator, the unknown King of the Anarchists, turns out to be Chief of the Russian Secret Police, and a puppet of the Russian reactionary party, his purpose being to destroy England as a haven for anarchists. Olga, the eponymous Woman, is his sister; she finally shoots her brother to prevent his assassination of the prime minister, then kills herself. Poor and derivative.


Nalo Hopkinson: Midnight Robber (2000)

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

 

Nalo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan (eds): So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy (2004)

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

 

 

W.H. Hudson: A Crystal Age (1887)

A Crystal Age is a far-future matriarchal utopia, pervaded with a cloying sweetness-and-light.

   Herbert Read read all of Hudson's books at the end of World War I, and according to George Woodcock Hudson was a significant influence on Read's The Green Child. Marie-Louise Berneri was also familiar with this utopian romance, though she found Hudson's "sexless society" unattractive. (Berneri 1949, Woodcock 1972b)

 

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932), After Many a Summer (1939), Ape and Essence (1948), Island 1962)

Huxley has a significant place at the periphery of anarchism. Influenced to some extent by anarchist thought and experiment, he came in his turn to influence a later generation, the libertarian counter-culture of the 1960s. Already familiar with Godwin, Tolstoy, Proudhon, and Kropotkin, for Huxley it was the Spanish Civil War which prompted a specific reappraisal of anarchism. In a response to a questionnaire circulated to British writers by the Left Review in summer 1937, in which authors were asked to take sides, he responded: "My sympathies are, of course, with the Government side, especially with the Anarchists; for Anarchism seems to me much more likely to lead to desirable social change than highly centralized, dictatorial Communism." (Huxley 1969:423). In December Huxley's response was reprinted on the front page of the British anarchist paper Spain and the World (Huxley 1937-12-10). Emma Goldman responded enthusiastically to Huxley's statement, writing to the latter in early 1938 to thank him: "Without wishing to be pushing, I cannot refrain from assuring you that this statement of yours is an event in my life of first-rate importance: indeed, I feel that it was worth fighting for fifty years to be able to call one a comrade who is so outstanding as a creative artist and who comes from a family of libertarians." (Porter:309) Albert Meltzer records, however, that when she tried "to rope him into activity for the Spanish Anarchists", "he ran off like a startled fawn" (Meltzer 1976: 24)

   Subsequent non-fiction works Ends and Means (1937), Science, Liberty and Peace (1947), Brave New World Revisited (1949) though never directly anarchist, explored collateral issues such as pacifism, decentralisation, the role of science and technology, property distribution, and ecology.

   In the seminal dystopia Brave New World the Savage, who has taught himself classic Western culture, encounters the new world of babies in bottles, soma and sex, is revolted, and is finally driven to suicide. In his 1946 introduction to the work Huxley said that if he were to rewrite it he would include a third option for the Savage: a community of exiles and refugees, in which "economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and cooperative." (Huxley 1946: 8)

   Among anarchists, the most enthusiastic discussion of this work came from George Woodcock, for whom it was "the first warning vision of the kind of mindless, materialistic existence a society dominated by technological centralization might produce" (Woodcock 1975: 458). Of the big three dystopias (with Zamyatin's We and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four) it is the weakest and most overrated.

   George Woodcock linked After Many a Summer with Ends and Means and Brave New World Revisited as writings in which "Huxley explicitly accepted the validity of the anarchist critique of the existing society" (Woodcock 1975: 458); and felt that it was through this novel especially that Huxley transmitted the libertarian attitude to the 1960s (Woodcock 1977: 52). David Goodway sees Huxley (with Lewis Mumford) as one of the forerunners of the 'new anarchism' of the late 20th century, with its emphasis on biology, ecology, anthropology and alternative technology, in a line through Paul Goodman and Alex Comfort to Colin Ward and, especially, Murray Bookchin (Goodway: 232).

   Ape and Essence is a post-holocaust dystopia, presented in the form of a film script. For Woodcock it was "a book which cannot be ignored by the libertarian, for it is one of the most bitter and sincere satirical attacks on the modern state and its centralising tendencies that has been produced in recent years" (Woodcock 1949).

   Island is Huxley's utopia, ostensibly an anti-Brave New World, founded on tantric yoga, Buddhist behaviourism, and psychedelic drugs. The economy is cooperative, the political system a federation of self-governing geographical, professional and economic units, and religion centred on individual experience. For Woodcock Island "was the nearest any writer approached to an anarchist Utopia since William Morris wrote News from Nowhere" (Woodcock 1975: 458). For Goodway, too, it was "the first fully realized libertarian utopia" since Morris's work; for him the society Huxley presented "is a society in which I personally would be delighted to live." Very much a novel of the 60s, it is in a broad sense anarchistic, but the formula presented—sex, drugs and religion—is far from liberating, and objectively it is not that distant from Brave New World.


Edward Hyams: The Final Agenda (1973), Morrows Ants (1975)

Hyams was well-versed in the history of anarchism. His non-fiction publications include Killing No Murder. A Study of Assassination as a Political Means (1969), A Dictionary of Modern Revolution (1973), The Millennium Postponed (1974), Terrorists and Terrorism (1975), and his final work, unfinished at his death, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (1979).

   It's worth looking a bit more closely at The Millennium Postponed, which is a history of socialism in its wider interpretation. Hyams exhibits a rather low opinion of some anarchists: Godwin is "a mere theorist" (Hyams 1974:11), Bakunin an imbecile, "a comic figure, the clown of socialism" (93), and a "bit of a fraud" (93). Proudhon, however, is "very great" (33), and "the most brilliant of the anarchists" (88). And Kropotkin's work "is of the first importance today, in the New Left context" (102). Hyams here clearly finds anarchism seductive. He considers that "re-examination of anarchist theory as a possible means of ridding ourselves of the foul parasite on human life (is) a matter of urgency" (80); and in particular "it may be that anarcho-syndicalism, as a possible way to egalitarian social justice combined with the optimum measure of personal liberty, should be one of the roads to re-explore". (153) But in his conclusion he draws back: "Now although the anarchist philosophers are, without question, morally correct in condemning and wishing to be rid of the State as unavoidable evil because more or less oppressive, . . . it is a fact that since society has to be administered, some kind of State apparatus seems essential." (228)

   In The Final Agenda an international terrorist group blackmails the world's governments by means of tactically-placed H-bombs into surrendering part of Brazil and $32 billion, the land to set up a free country, the money as reparations for the wretched of the earth. It was aptly described by A.B. in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review as "profoundly disappointing because it is nothing more than a misleading fantasy despite its supposedly realist hypothesis, and is most un-Anarchist at core even with all the quotes and references to great Anarchist thinkers." A.B. concluded that "It is very sad that such a sympathetic writer who makes telling points against the State's hypocrisy of violence and against the parliamentary fraud should in the end present such an elitist and distorted version of Anarchism."

   In Morrows Ants a billionaire industrialist fascinated with ant-colonies constructs a human formicarium-city, with a view to a millennial subjugation of the individual in the mass. The novel's reflections on motivations for tyrannicide, on the nature of freedom, and on the relationship of the individual to society, are of considerable interest for anarchists. Much superior to The Final Agenda. If there is any doubt about the metaphor of the formicarium, a sentence from Hyams's The Millennium Postponed, published the year before Morrow's Ants, points the moral. The anarchist path must be explored again, he says, "For we are confronted by a choice: either the capitalist-communist hive, anthill, termitory; or a society which is free, if relatively poor, because it denies authority to any power but the individual conscience implanted in men by the beautiful fiction of immanent justice." (143)

 


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