Anarchism and science fiction: J

Shelley Jackson: Half Life (2006)

Atomic bomb testing has resulted in a significant sub-population of conjoined twins, mostly sharing a body but with two heads; the first-person narrative is by one/two such twins. Imaginative and surreal.


For Joan Haran this "brilliant" novel makes imaginative use of the unreliable narrator, and "teaches you to read critically" about both fiction and non-fiction.


Included in the Think Galactic reading list.


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)


N.K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season (2015)

Concerns lead characters who can mentally control geological forces, on a planet afflicted with periodic catastrophic climate change.


Included on a number of lists linked to by posters on Facebook's Solarpunk Anarchists, Sci-Fi Libertarian Socialist, and Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum pages, as significant feminist writing with a message of social justice and diversity.

La Jetée (1962, dir. Chris Marker)

Influential black and white 28 minute short almost entirely composed of photographic stills, telling an enigmatic tale of time travel.


Marker is quoted as saying "I practice, without ostentation, a tranquil anarchism which allows me to traverse this society’s booby-trapped byways without too many mishaps". [Traon]


Alaya Dawn Johnson: The Summer Prince (2013)

Richly-imagined YA novel set in a future matriarchal state in Brazil.


Included in the Think Galactic reading list, and in GoodReads' Solarpunk list. Nisi Shawl commends it for "the author’s involving characters and the intensely believable predicaments they face." Recommended in a comment on Reddit's Any good anarchist novels directed towards teens, but mainly for its "cool art-as-protest imagery".


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: White Queen (1991); '2020: I AM AN ANARCHIST' (2006)

White Queen is the first book in a trilogy, an intelligent and complex account of first contact. Mark Bould's Red Planets bibliography describes it as an "Ironic green-socialist-feminist-postcolonial revision of the alien invasion narrative." Included in the Think Galactic reading list, and on Red Pepper's list of "sci-fi novels that punch holes in capitalist reality."


'2020' is 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).

Jubilee (1978, dir. Derek Jarman)

More or less coincident with the silver jubilee of the UK's Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth I is transported forward in time by John Dee, to experience a punk view of an anarchic London.


Included in the Red Planets filmography.


(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.


Jurassic World (2015, dir. Colin Trevorrow)

Fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise. The dinosaur theme park descends into chaos when a genetically engineered ahistorical dinosaur (the 'Indominus rex') breaks loose and goes on a rampage across the island.


The film is subject to a flippant review by Gutter Punk Josh at the Anarcho-Geek Review, which concludes "God I fucking love dinosaurs. 5/5 would watch again." Contrariwise it is also held up by Mark Tovey of the Mises Institute (with perhaps po-faced satiric intent—but perhaps not) as an allegory of how even market forces can get things wrong, in comparison with a hypothetical government-run dinosaur park, concluding that:


Jurassic World’s operators made an 'entrepreneurial error,' an attempt at profit-making gone awry. The balance between safety and wow-factor was ill-struck, and by no means profit-maximizing — Jurassic World will lose many, many prospective guests as a result of the Indominus Rex debacle.

Importantly, the Indominus Rex must not be held against the market per se; we should assess the market not on the basis of individual case studies but rather by the equilibria it inspires. Non-optimal outcomes do occur on the market’s watch, but in spite of (and not because of) its carrot-and-stick regime. The market institutionalizes optimal outcomes; without profit and loss, optimal outcomes could come about only by a fluke.


See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.

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This page was last revised on 2018-05-15.

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