John Hackett: The Third World War: August 1985: A Future History (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); Friday (1982)
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. Easterbrook describes it as "Heinlein's first foray into explicitly libertarian thought" (p555).
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" . . . .
In 2014 Margaret Killjoy presented a more ambivalent view. On the one hand he argued that that "Starship Troopers is one of the more brilliant and influential arguments for hierarchy ever put to print. For that reason alone, it’s worth reading. Know your enemy." But on the other he found himself irresistibly drawn to the novel's romanticism, as he saw it, and was compelled to acknowledge that anarchism occupies an awkward liminal space with elements of both extreme leftwing and extreme rightwing values, which is shared, among others, with Heinlein.
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]
Friday is better, and certainly readable. Killjoy comments that "one of the important life lessons he imparts in Friday is that "everyone is bisexual."
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)
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 U V W Y Z Possibles
@sf home, Ben Beck's website home
This page was last revised on 2015-08-16.
© Benjamin S. Beck 2005–2016