Ernest C. Large: Dawn in Andromeda (1956)
A new society without priest or politician
is built from scratch on an uninhabited planet.
The book is a rationalist delight, suffused with anarchist spirit, though never
Philip Latham (pseud. of Robert S. Richardson): 'The Xi Effect'
For John Pilgrim this is "a nice example" of sf
cutting the scientist down to size. (Pilgrim 1963)
Ursula K. Le Guin: Rocannon's World (1966); The Left Hand of Darkness (1969);
The Lathe of Heaven (1971); 'Vaster than Empires and More Slow'
(1971); 'The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas' (1973);
The Dispossessed. An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)
'The Day before the Revolution' (1974); 'The New Atlantis' (1975);
The Word for World is Forest (1972/1976);
The Eye of the Heron (1978);
The Compass Rose (1982); Always Coming Home (1985); A Fisherman of
the Inland Sea (1994); 'Solitude'
Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995); The Telling (2000); The Birthday of the World, and Other
Stories (2002); 'Notes from the Inner City' (2006)
In a 2008 interview
Ursula Le Guin stated that she does not consider herself an anarchist, because "I
entirely lack the activist element". But when asked if she minded that a lot of
anarchists claimed her, in approximately the same way they claimed Tolstoy, her
response was "Of course I don't mind! I am touched and feel unworthy."
(strangers, 2008; and republished in Mythmakers &
Lawbreakers. Anarchist writers on fiction) Asked, in 2011, if she would
describe herself as an anarchist (politically), her reply was "Politically, no;
I vote, I'm a Democrat. But I find pacificist anarchist thought fascinating,
stimulating, endlessly fruitful." ("A
Lovely Art", p91) Jamie Heckert, writing in Fifth Estate in
In recent interviews, you suggested that perhaps you don't
qualify for the label anarchist because you are middle-class or because what you
do isn't activism. I invite you to reconsider. Who needs activism when you have
wu wei? And why not be a middle-class anarchist? This is no contradiction
in my book—and your own books have never shied away from life's apparent
contradictions. They are embraced, queered.
. . . Whether or not you call yourself an anarchist,
you've helped me to deepen my own understanding of what an anarchist can be, can
do. Of what I can do. Of who I can become. [online]
Reviewing Le Guin's science fictional oeuvre
as a whole, Max Haiven's exceptionally perceptive 2015
essay on Le Guin concludes that it exemplifies
prefigurative fiction, which "invites us to both imagine, cultivate and critique
the dynamic tension between authority and responsibility as it exists in our own
hearts, our communities, our struggles and our movements."
Rocannon's World is among the works
discussed by Haiven; he find that it "demonstrates many anarchistic themes",
among which he includes critical anthropology and a humanism of possibility.
For George Woodcock The Left Hand of
Darkness was Le Guin's "strangest and most successful novel". (Woodcock
For Oshee Eagleheart in 2010 'Vaster
than Empires and More Slow' "accurately and hilariously portrays the
interactions within groups of 'crazy' characters who dare to explore the far
reaches of the social universe in search of workable ways of living."
concerns two worlds, one moon to the other, with vastly differing political
systems. One of these is 'Odonianism', a form of Taoist anarchist communism. For Le Guin, anarchism
"is the most idealist, and to me the most
interesting, of all political theories." (Le Guin, 'Introduction' to
The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975)). She is well-versed in
the historical anarchist tradition (especially Kropotkin, the Goodman brothers, and Bookchin), and this shows. The utopia itself is
'ambiguous' because flawed and mutable. The novel succeeds in presenting the most believable, and perhaps the best,
exploration of anarchism in a science fiction context, of any yet written. For
John P. Clark, "what is most notable about the work is the protagonist's
ruthlessly anarchistic critique of Annares itself. It is, in effect, an
anarchist critique of anarchism and a utopian critique of the dangers of
utopia." (Clark 2009: 22) Uri Gordon describes it as "perhaps the most honest
attempt at portraying a functioning anarchist society". (Gordon 2009: 267) The
novel won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1993. For Paul
J. Comeau, in 2010, "The novel is one of the best, if not the best, fictional
realization of an anarchist society as it might be practiced, and remains one of
the most influential modern utopian novels written." In
the 2010 online Anarchist
Survey, when asked "What is your favourite anarchist book?", of single books
The Dispossessed received the third highest number of hits, only
surpassed by two works by Peter Kropotkin. The anonymous reviewer in
Organise! magazine in
Like the anarchist ideals the book so
deftly explores, the story itself does
not leave us with an ending so much
as a staging point for our own journey. To use the ideas of the books, it
comes to you like a beggar man, relying on you for all that it requires and leaving you enriched by realising you
would be better with nothing but
what you carry as long as all needs
are met. By the end of reading it I
was stood at the wall between two
worlds with the choice over whether
I help to dismantle it, and by choosing to do so build a greater whole.
The influence of this novel hasn't always been welcomed: Ken Macleod said of it,
in his 2002
article on 'Anarchism and Science Fiction', that it "has probably put more
people off Anarchism than any other." Bob Black concurs with Michael
Moorcock's view that the book is "dull and journalistic" (Black 2015). He
continues: "There is little indication that Le Guin is very familiar with anarchist or
utopian literature. Contrary to legend, Le Guin is no anarchist. If she is, then
where has she been, politically [ . . . ] for the last forty years? Writing
stories and making money." Noting that in 2015 she wrote an introduction to a
collection of some of Bookchin's old essays (The Next Revolution), he finds further cause in this for
Le Guin now claims that Bookchin's "Post-Scarcity
Anarchism" inspired The Dispossessed. That's ridiculous, since her
"ambiguous utopia" Anarres is scarcity anarchism, not post-scarcity anarchism,
and even its anarchism is compromised. If Bookchin inspired Le Guin, her
inspiration was based on a misunderstanding. Taking her at her own word, she
concealed her debt to Bookchin (and undoubtedly concealed it from Bookchin
himself) until long after she had collected her Hugo and Nebula awards [ . . .
]. (Black 2015: 227–228)
to Neil Easterbrook (p588) both The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of
Darkness were frequently cited by Occupy Wall Street organizers and
websites and, with Le Guin's approval, some marchers at Occupy Oakland carried placards depicting the
cover of The Dispossessed. (The
(A study guide to The Dispossessed
The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed.)
'The Day before the Revolution' tells of
Laia Odo herself, the founder of Odonianism. Odo is also one of 'The Ones Who
Walk away from Omelas', refusing to benefit from a system in which some gain at the expense of another.
Andy Sunfrog, in 2010, concluded: "Thinking of Laia Odo and Ursula K. Le Guin in
our day, at the dawn of yet another decade, the day after many past revolutions
and the day before many future ones, let's be like the anarchists of these
stories, always seeking and questioning, never owning much more than our ideals
and practicing them the day before, the day after, and most of all, today."
The story is included in the Think Galactic
Josh Gosicak, writing in Fifth Estate
in 2010, reflected on The Lathe of Heaven as a prescient
"post-neoliberal parable", a "potent and unforgiving critique" of both
liberalism and neoliberalism.
Lewis Call, in 2007, saw the novel as "creating the possibility of an
ontological anarchy" and "a major contribution to postmodern anarchism",
creating "the possibility of an anarchism that will be highly spiritual, deeply
personal and yet also intimately engaged with the world." For Jesse Cohn
this "technocratic nightmare" is "an authentically anarchist anti-utopia" (p.
158). This work had also
been sympathetically treated by
George Woodcock in 1976.
For Eagleheart, in the same issue of
Fifth Estate, "The Word for World is Forest articulated the
indigenous worldview of the interdependence of humans and "nature" in a way that
I could immediately grok." [Fifth Estate #382 was a special issue, "a
Tribute to the Radical Imagination of Ursula K. Le Guin", in honour of her 80th
The Eye of the Heron concerns "a
society of pacifists inspired by the life and writings of Gandhi." (Comeau)
The Compass Rose was favourably
reviewed in Freedom (Murtagh 183). Of the included story 'The New
Atlantis' the Open Road writers wrote that Le Guin's character "knows his Bookchin". (Lessa, Takver & Alyx 1978)
In Always Coming Home the Kesh, a
far-flung future people, are, in their absence of formal hierarchy,
"fundamentally anarchistic"; "LeGuin offers a significant challenge to the
outrageous (yet all too common) claim that capitalism represents the unalterable
destiny of humanity" (Call, 2002). Contrasted with the aggressive Condor people
who live in the mountains, the two peoples "present vividly aspects of how the
world is and how it could be." (Peter Marshall, 1992/2008). Admirable as Le Guin
generally is, this work—heavily influenced by romantic views of Native
American culture—comes across as earnest but perhaps a little self-indulgent. She herself
described it in 2010 as "more deeply anarchist than The Dispossessed. [ .
. . ] it's more subversive than the other one." [Le
Guin] Eagleheart found Always Coming Home "still the most complete
and believable vision I've found of a practical, possible, sustainable culture." For John P. Clark this work is Le Guin's "masterpiece and, indeed,
what is perhaps the masterpiece of utopian literature to date"; he had earlier
(2006) gone even further, calling it "the greatest work of utopian fiction ever
For the anonymous author of 'Beyond
Perfection', 'Solitude' is "a strange, sad, beautiful story that
consistently challenges gut responses and judgements on the nature of power and
community. I highly recommend giving it a read, not as a model for an anarchist
society but as a challenge to some of our ideas on interpersonal relationships
and social duty."
The Telling is Le Guin's first
Hainish novel after The Dispossessed. It is a further presentation of her
anti-authoritarian and anti-fundamentalist views, not explicitly anarchist, but
more credible than Always Coming Home, perhaps not least by drawing on
her lead character's Terran upbringing.
Christian Mattheis, at the Anarres Project is prompted by short extracts
from this novel to muse on binaries and dichotomies for the liberated radical.
Four Ways to Forgiveness was recommended by
Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and
Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009; it had also
been recommended by a poster to the anarchysf mailing list, in 2000. It's also
included in the Swindon Anarchist Group's list of
The short stories in the two late
collections, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea and The Birthday of the World, and Other Stories,
are discussed at some length by Max Haiven. He
While these stories do not explicitly address anarchism or
even touch on obviously anarchist themes, it is my argument that they are
possessed of a distinctly anarchistic tenor and that they stand as anarchist
interventions. This, to the extent that they offer sites of reflection,
provocation and meditation for anarchists and non-anarchists alike that
challenge us to think and rethink resistance, gender, relationships, ideas and,
perhaps most importantly, authority.
Heckert notes The Birthday of the World, and Other Stories, for its
"tales of love and resistance in a bisexual polyamorous culture". One
of the stories, 'Coming of Age in Karhide', is included in the Think Galactic
Le Guin's poem 'Notes from the Inner City'
was first published in Fifth Estate #373 in Fall 2006.
William Le Queux: The Invasion of 1910 (1906)
This reactionary and militaristic future-war story, a
well-known example of the kind, was referred to in Pilgrim's 1966 review, but
without comment. It is similar in tone and style to a more modern example,
Hackett's The Third World War.
Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice (2013)
Included in the
Fritz Leiber: Gather, Darkness! (1943)
For Moorcock, writing in 1978, "Fritz Leiber is probably the best of all the American sf writers for his prose-style,
his wit and his humanity, as well as his abiding contempt for authoritarianism,
and Gather, Darkness is one of the best sf books to relate political
power to religious power" . . . .
The book concerns an underground witch
conspiracy against establishment theocracy, all founded on scientific gadgetry.
Though commendably irreligious, it is lightweight.
Stanisław Lem: The Star Diaries (1957/1971); Solaris
(1961); The Futurological Congress (1971)
The Star Diaries is referenced by
Clore, without comment.
A poster to the anarchysf mailing list in
2006 considered Solaris to be "insufferably slow, pretentious,
incomprehensible and non-entertaining". Nevertheless, it is included in the
For another poster to anarchysf mailing list
the same year The Futurological Congress "was incredibly fun, fairly easy
to read, deeply insightful, and even having read it more than a decade ago, I
still find my memory of it profoundly enlightening."
'Lessa, Takver and Alyx': 'Daily Life in Revolutionary Utopia: Feminism,
Anarchism & Science Fiction' (1978)
A notable centre-page spread in the Canadian anarchist
paper Open Road. The unidentified pseudonymous author(s) look(s) at the
expected works by Le Guin, Piercy, and Russ, but also Brunner, Callenbach,
Garskof, Reynolds, and Wittig. Only available on the Internet in the Italian
translation that appeared in
Doris Lessing: The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974); Shikasta
In Memoirs, an observer watches passively the collapse around her of
urban life and the reversion to tribalism. Though there are occasional
suggestions that the community is becoming anarchistic rather than merely
anarchic, the dominant tendency is towards primitive patriarchy.
Shikasta is included in
the Think Galactic
Ira Levin: This Perfect Day (1970)
A classic and very readable
dystopia, in which the protagonist rebels against a future totalitarian world.
Somewhat reminiscent of The Prisoner. Winner of the Libertarian Futurist
Society Hall of Fame Award in 1992. Jeff
regards it as "one of the top half-dozen libertarian novels ever published in
C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet (1938); That Hideous Strength (1945)
Out of the Silent Planet is the first part in
Lewis's theological space trilogy. For
Justin Fowler there are "hints of a subtle anarchist philosophy threaded
throughout", and the novel is "a simply delicious work of literature that
libertarians may treasure forever."
That Hideous Strength is the final
part. It is included
50 works of fiction libertarians should read, and in Goodreads'
Popular libertarian science fiction books.
Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith (1925); It Can't Happen Here (1935)
Paul Goodman drew attention to Arrowsmith in his
1971 New Reformation, but found the idealised figure of the dedicated
scientific researcher "no longer believable". The book is almost fanatically
pro-science, and its uncritical attitude to vivisection is alienating.
Ethel Mannin refers to It Can't Happen
Here as "excellent", and "proving that it can" [i.e. Fascism]. (Mannin
1938:31) It tells of the rise of a home-grown fascist dictatorship in the USA,
from the viewpoint of a New England liberal. There are a number of references to
anarchists and anarchism, and the protagonist had earlier established his
dissident credentials by questioning the guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti. Though
dated, the book is still quite powerful, and is strong on libertarian New
The novel tied for the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award
Moon of Ice (1988)
Alternate history in
which Germany won World War II, and a daughter of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's
propaganda minister, has become a renowned revolutionary anarchist. Hilda
Goebbels likens her own disillusionment with Germany with Emma Goldman's
Disillusionment with Russia. Well-written, but the story-line is
disappointing. The author is prone to suggesting that as an anarchist Goebbels
should share his romantic view of the American dream.
Prometheus Award winner.
Brad Linaweaver and Edward E. Kramer, eds: Free Space (1997)
"An anthology of (mostly original) libertarian capitalist short stories." (Dan Clore) Better than it sounds; in particular Victor Koman's
'Demokratus' is an
enjoyably retro take on democracy extended ad absurdum. The anthology won a
Special Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
Brad Linaweaver and J. Kent Hastings:
Anarquía. An Alternate History of the Spanish Civil War (2004)
This is something
genuinely new, and without real precedent that I know of. The premise is that,
instead of being squeezed out of the equation, the Spanish anarchists prevail,
thanks to an alternate Wernher von Braun, who—with Hedy Lamarr—designs a
rocket-based weapon which he puts in their hands. Prominent in the novel, too,
are George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Konrad Zuse, and an imaginary pulp science
fiction writer. The book is so well-researched, and the mise-en-scène so
comparatively unfamiliar, that it is easy to suspend disbelief, in uncertainty
as to what relates to our history and what to the alternate history
course of the narrative there is much discussion of the various flavours of
anarchism active in Spain of the 1930s, not to mention the agorism that hadn't
yet been invented in our history.
ends all too quickly—almost before it's really got going—but there is a
suggestion of a sequel in the offing, which is definitely something to look
Take a look
at the official website,
for more on this.
Saab Lofton: A.D. (1996)
An inhabitant of a dystopia ruled by the Nation of Islam and the White Aryan Resistance becomes a sleeper who wakes in
a Libertarian Socialist Democracy (LSD). 'What a libertarian socialist democracy means is that we have the social policies
of a libertarian, the fiscal policies of a socialist, and everything is decided by direct democracy.' (135)
The Iron Heel (1907);
'The Enemy of All the World' (1908)
London had knowledge of the anarchist movement of his time, writing sympathetically here of the Haymarket martyrs
("ferocious and wanton judicial murder"—Penguin edn: 163), greatly admiring Louise Michel, and encountering Emma
Goldman in person in 1897 and 1909. Goldman wrote that "As the artist he did not fail to see the beauties of anarchism,
even if he did insist that society would have to pass through socialism before reaching the higher stage of anarchism."
(Goldman 1931: 468) He was asked to write a preface for Alexander Berkman's
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, which he
did, though it was then refused, as he had taken the opportunity to propound the superiority of his own views over
those of the anarchists. According to Goldman,
His argument was summarized in his dictum: "The man who
can't shoot straight can't think straight." Evidently Jack assumed that the
world's best thinkers were also the best shots. (506)
The Iron Heel is written as a contemporary account of the abortive coming revolution and the oligarchy that suppresses it, with a commentary by a supposed historian 700 years hence, written after the triumph of socialism. It has attracted and irritated anarchist critics in roughly equal measure. Vigné d'Octon, in 1922, for example, wrote that
"There are, one could say, pages of Jack London which could have been signed by Kropotkin, others which evoke the generous spirit, ardent and clairvoyant at the same time, of Reclus, of Bakunin, of Proudhon, of all those who, disgusted and indignant at the cruelties of capitalist and bourgeois society, engaged in the implacable struggle against the bosses and gods which are its incarnation. It was worth being read and re-read." (Vigné d'Octon 1922 II:57). That said,
"Certainly, The Iron Heel is a fine and powerful book, worthy in all respects of Jack London, but I prefer his others." (Vigné d'Octon 1924: 63)
Other anarchist critics, including Jack Robinson and S.E. Parker, were
dismissive of the view that London had foreseen the rise of fascism, and
condemned him for his racism and leader-worship.
'The Enemy of All the World' is a trivial
revenge against the world story, featuring a violent anarchist—though London
acknowledges that "Perhaps the word is misused, and he is better described as a
nihilist or an annihilist."
Barry Longyear: Circus World (1980)
Included in the science fiction
reading list on the
R.A. Forum website by
contributor Ronald Creagh. Momus—the world in question—was settled by circus
performers, and has no government.
Simon Louvish: The Resurrections: A Novel (1994; aka Resurrections
from the Dustbin of History)
"A political thriller set in a parallel universe in which the libertarian Marxist Rosa Luxemburg has led a successful communist revolution." (Dan Clore)
There are in fact numerous other major divergences, dating back at least as far
as Napoleon. There are also a number of explicit anarchist references, including
one in which a character speculates about the possibility of alternate
universes, one much like our own, but another in which Bakunin succeeded in
having Marx expelled from the First International.
Grey Lynn: The Return of Karl Marx (1941)
Sf satire in which Karl Marx returns
from the grave and is expelled from the Communist Party for political deviation. The foreword was written
by Herbert Read, who also commissioned Lynn to illustrate the 1946 edition of his own novel,
The Green Child.