Anarchism and science fiction: J

Malcolm Jameson: 'The Anarch' (1944)

Published in Astounding in 1944, this concerns a rebel against a future totalitarian autarchy, who strikes a deal with the Autarch under which his own role is formalised as the Anarch, acting as antithesis. Out of their engagement a new democracy is born, based on representative democracy. The Autarch decides to run for President. The only real ideological base is classical liberalism, with Mill's On Liberty cited explicitly.


Richard Jefferies: After London (1885)

For Arthur Uloth, "This strange book has not the compulsive power of 1984. Yet it wears better than many other prophecies, and could still come true." A post-holocaust novel, for Uloth ". . . the sub-medieval society Jefferies describes could still come into being, indeed it is the most likely sort of society to do so after an atomic war, unless all life were obliterated." (Uloth 1963: 380)

David Glyn Jones: The Machine (2010)

Blurb: There is only THE MACHINE and those who live within it. Told through the unconventional, simple language of blue 7, one of the millions of workers who scurry through its metallic entrails, THE MACHINE tells of a brutal regime and the beginnings of rebellion within . . .
Working without purpose and without end, humanity lives and slaves to maintain the huge mechanical leviathan, beyond which there is nothing. Blue 7 has spent his lifetime working and wondering the function of THE MACHINE, but someone has noticed him, and slowly his world begins to unravel in a bloodsoaked violent struggle that threatens not only him, but THE MACHINE itself. A sharp anarchist critique of the modern world devoid of imagination and freedom, THE MACHINE pierces through the thin surface of western capitalism, and asks difficult questions of modernity.

This blurb describes The Machine pretty well, but doesn't capture its relentlessly dark and Kafkaesque desperation.

Gwyneth Jones: '2020: I AM AN ANARCHIST' (2006)

A rather gross (unless you're a coprophile) near-future story, so far only ever published in Farah Mendlesohn, ed.: Glorifying Terrorism, an anthology written in deliberate defiance of the UK government's Terrorism Act 2006 banning all "glorification of terrorism". The title is a reference to the Sex Pistols.

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

   (My thanks to Gwyneth for a reading copy of the story.)


Langdon Jones: The Eye of the Lens (1972)

Jones's collection of late sixties stories, mostly from New Worlds, presents some interesting examples of the sort of speculative fiction associated with the magazine. Moorcock described the book as "superb", in the Appendix to his 1983 Retreat from Liberty (90).


(Lyman) (Spicer) Vincent Judson: Solution PNC and PNCland (1973)

This obscure and unjustly neglected work is the most comprehensively thought-out utopia I can recall reading. 'PNC' stands for 'Pseudo-Nation Corporation', Judson's premise being that the nation-state is obsolete and, in his words, "A corporation can do anything a government can do—and better". There is no government as such, but all aspects of life are nevertheless subject to comprehensive regulation. PNC is a benign meritocratic technocracy, with real sf elements (futuristic technology, and even alien contact). The book itself is presented as if it were the Corporation's official Report, as presented by its Chairman and CEO. Though on the face of it unattractive, there are real freedoms within PNC, and the idealistic author is at pains to point out that PNC favours intangible profits ("serving the good of mankind and the betterment of the individual") over tangible profits such as hard cash or barter commodities. Anarchists are unlikely to be won over, but this is definitely worth reading, and the prevailing optimism is surprisingly beguiling.



See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.

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