Compton Mackenzie: The Lunatic Republic (1959)
Comically portrays a future utopian society on the Moon, but for Freedom's reviewer it was "another totalitarian-technocratic horror story". (Uloth 1959) It is in fact a light-hearted work, more a skit on 50s Britain than a warning about totalitarianism.
Ken Macleod: The Star Fraction (1996); The Stone Canal 1997); The Cassini Division (1999); The Sky Road (1999); Cosmonaut Keep (2000); Dark Light (2001); Newton's Wake (2004); Learning the World (2005); The Night Sessions (2008); Intrusion (2012)
Distinctive left-wing Scottish take on sf, displaying evidence of the author's own activism.
"Portrays a future that includes both a libertarian socialist society and a libertarian capitalist society." (Dan Clore)
. . . "while both anarcho-communist and anarcho-capitalist worlds have appeared in science fiction, only The Cassini Division shows them making contact and slowly starting to subvert each other." (Walker)
In March 2011 Macleod published a review of a new interpretation of the work and influence of the individualist Max Stirner, in issue 1 of the new journal i.
The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, and Learning the World were Prometheus Award winners.
All except Newton's Wake and Learning the World are included in Zeke Teflon's Favorite Anarchist Science Fiction Novels. Newton's Wake is recommended on a relevant Ask Metafilter page, and is included in LibraryThing's anarchism, science fiction tagmash.
The Night Sessions is in a different vein from the others, an sf/crime fiction hybrid, set in a secularist world in which faith-heads are a mistrusted minority, and all flavours of fundamentalism equally abhorred.
In Macleod's 2002 article on 'Anarchism and Science Fiction' he notes that, after being introduced to anarchism in his youth,
. . . off I went and read all I could find about Anarchism, starting with Giovanni Baldelli’s Social Anarchism, April Carter’s The Political Theory of Anarchism, and the Cohn-Bendits’ Obsolete Communism. They didn’t make me an Anarchist, but they changed my life. By way of retaliation, I’d like to get more Anarchists interested in science fiction, and change theirs.
What I’d like to see is not just more SF informed by Anarchism, but an Anarchist movement and climate of opinion much more informed by SF than it currently is.
In the same article he stated that he couldn't have written The Star Fraction without Nozack's Anarchy, State and Utopia, or The Sky Road without Gambone's Proudhon and Anarchism.
Farah Mendlesohn's 'Impermanent Revolution: The Anarchic Utopias of Ken MacLeod', in her Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, considers Macleod's 'Fall Revolution' series (the first four novels above) at some length. She argues that "Each of MacLeod’s utopias is built upon a different anarchist theory." In summary:
The Fall Revolution Quartet tries to show how a viable anarchy might function, but unlike many utopian authors MacLeod is anxious to provide a choice of models: this multiplicity of models is in itself crucial to any anarchist project. To insist on only one model, only one truth for utopia, would be to revert to ideological authoritarianism. MacLeod outlines for us four potential or actual utopias: a Trotskyite utopia (which never comes to pass and which I will not be considering here) in The Star Fraction, a libertarian, anarcho-capitalist society in both isolated and universalist form in The Stone Canal, a socialist Stirnerite anarchy in The Cassini Division, and in The Sky Road, an ecotopia which may or may not be anarchic or libertarian, depending on one’s definition. The common threads between the three established utopias are the rejection of the state as the primary means of organisation, and the assertion of utopia as a necessarily civilised and technological project, rather than as a retreat to primitivism.
Intrusion is a sort of low-key dystopia set in a New Labour inspired surveillance society and nanny state, in which a pregnant mother resists pressure to conform by taking 'the fix', a pill that corrects defects lurking in the child's genome. Cory Doctorow's boingboing review says "MacLeod himself is a Marxist who is lauded by libertarians, and his unique perspective, combined with a flair for storytelling, yields up a haunting, gripping story of resistance, terror, and an all-consuming state that commits its atrocities with the best of intentions." The novel is "highly recommended" by Zeke Teflon, for whom this is "the best near-future dystopian sci-fi novel that’s appeared in years." Teflon, however, is annoyed by MacLeod's "impenetrable Britishisms and (is this even a word?) Scottishisms"; this side of the Atlantic MacLeod's uncompromising use of the language is refreshing.
Mad Max (1979, dir. George Miller)
In a post-apocalypse Australia a cop seeks revenge on a violent motorcycle gang.
Included in libcom.org's Working class cinema: a video guide.
Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior (1981, dir. George Miller)
Also in a post-apocalypse Australia, an embittered loner contracts to help a small, petroleum-rich community escape a band of marauders.
In a 2011 blog on 'Anarchy, Security and Freedom', for Politics and Government at Shepherd University, readers are invited to compare the real anarchy of Somalia with the post-apocalyptic society of Mad Max 2:
. . . the anarchy of Somalia and the anarchy of The
Road Warrior is not chaotic. In post-Apocalyptic Australia, for instance,
Lord Humongous has a following. He's clearly in charge and his band of marauders
provide a level of collective security not available to most people living
there. In Somalia, people are struggling in a more open and less structured
fashion, but there is still a level of everyday order. Money is being made by
some people and there is enough stability for some people to spend their money
on goods (e.g. food, fuel, clothing) and services (e.g. pirating is a service
that some people in Somalia provide).
Included in libcom.org's Working class cinema: a video guide.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, dir. George Miller)
Fourth in the series; strong on action, the story unimpressive.
According to Conservapedia's Worst Liberal Movies, this is "Feminist propaganda that endorses and celebrates anarchy." Can't be all bad then.
Douglas French writes:
But is this really what anarchy would look like? R. Brownell over at The Libertarian Republic thinks so. In describing the movie he writes, "This post-apocalyptic reality devised by franchise creator and director George Miller, shows the fallacy of anarchism with a flair of theatrics in a way which makes members of the audience truly ask themselves whether or not they could survive on their own if faced with the challenges and danger Max and his cohorts are forced to encounter."
It seems even some libertarians forget that all the world’s problems are caused by government. What is good in the world happens despite it.
[. . .] It’s not another hero we need, it’s anarchy.
Charles Eric Maine: The Isotope Man (1957); The Tide Went Out (1958); Count-Down (1959); Subterfuge (1959); The Darkest of Nights (1962)
Maine had a particular attraction for Freedom's reviewers of the late '50s and early '60s. Although probably not even among the second tier of sf writers, one can see why: a persistent anti-authoritarian streak runs through his work. Pilgrim regarded The Tide Went Out as Maine's best book, epitomising Maine's preoccupation with the "perfidy of governments".
Nick Mamatas: Sensation (2011)
Blurb: When Julia Hernandez leaves her husband, shoots a real estate developer, and then vanishes without a trace, she slips out of the world she knew and into the Simulacrum—a place where human history is both guided and thwarted by the conflict between a species of anarchist wasps and a collective of hyperintelligent spiders.
Clever and funny, it is disconcertingly narrated by the spiders, collectively using the 'arachnid plural' We. More anarchic than anarchist, though.
Mamatas was the keynote speaker at the 2015 BASTARD conference (Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory And Research & Development), on the topic 'Hard Utopias, Soft Science Fiction.'
The Man in the White Suit (1951, dir. Alexander Mackendrick)
Ealing comedy in which a research scientist invents an indestructible dirt-repellent fabric, but wealth mill owners and trade unions try to suppress the invention.
Included in the Libertarian Movies filmography. For Osborne, this was one of the few selections in his guide "to receive the perfect 'double-five' score—that is, dead-on libertarian content and first-rate production quality/entertainment value."
The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936, dir. Lothar Mendes)
Adaptation of the H.G. Wells story, on which Wells himself, worked, revising the plot to reflect his socialist frustrations with the British upper class, and the growing threat of from extremism in Europe.
Mark Bould's 2005 Socialist Review article, copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list, described the film as "pretty good".
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, dir. Nicolas Roeg)
A humanoid alien comes to Earth, where he is progressively corrupted by our world.
Described in Bould's filmography as a "Hyperbolic parable about alienation in the dawning information era."
The Manchurian Candidate (2004, dir. Jonathan Demme)
Second film version of the Richard Condon novel; political thriller about Gulf War veterans with implanted nanotech command devices that will oblige them to kill when prompted, with one of the vets intended for a presidential assassin.
Tom Jennings found it an "effective" update, with the revisions "appropriate", but felt it had lost "much of the political sharpness of the source novel".
G.A. Matiasz: End Time (1994)
A near future (2007) in which war and civil war rage across the former Soviet Union and much of the globe. Prosperous, competing regional capitalist blocs have been consolidated in Europe, North America and East Asia under transnational corporate leadership. The US is fighting a sophisticated, high-tech counterinsurgency war in southern Mexico, against a popular libertarian revolution claiming the tradition of Zapata. A military draft has been reinstated, and a strong antiwar movement flourishes on American streets. In a small town north of San Francisco a group of antiwar college students gains possession of enough bomb-grade riemanium to build a nuclear weapon, and Oakland rises in revolution to become the 21st century's Paris Commune.
Described by Hakim Bey as "a very smart meditation on the near-future of anarchism" (blurb), Randall Barnhart, reviewing the book on Amazon.com, commented: "Yup, this is the greatest piece of anarchist agit-prop since . . . well, since forever. There is nothing better." In the same place Britt A. Green summed it up as "Well-thought out, anarchist, sci-fi."
The Matrix Reloaded (2003, dir. the Wachowskis)
Second in the Matrix trilogy. Strong on effects and numerous fight sequences, but otherwise of little interest.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003, dir. the Wachowskis)
Last of the trilogy. More of the same.
Of the finale, Shawn Taylor notes that "While the freeing of the humans and the emergent better world scenario can be read as utopian, the conflict narrative is only paused until the need to engage reveals itself."
Taylor Andrew Loy, in his 'Anarchy in Critical Dystopias: An Anatomy of Rebellion' (in Shantz), finds the second two films convoluted, and mostly chooses to disregard them. Of Revolutions, he concludes:
Despite its clever title, The Matrix: Revolutions ends with Neo's martyrdom precisely because he fails to achieve a state of "permanent revolution." Instead, he chooses to preserve the power balance embodied in the technological infrastructure of the Matrix—in other words, he out-sources their present problems to the future generations of Zion.
JessEcoh, writing for the anarchysf mailing list in April 2004, didn't hold back: . . . "the third film totally dropped the ball, was a pure exercise in spectacle itself, was embarrassing, was ridiculous, was phony through and through. and that ending -- it belonged on one of those pamphlets the mormons or the jehovah's witnesses hand out. just awful -- smarmy orthodoxy."
Anne McCaffrey: To Ride Pegasus (1973)
Freedom's inadequate 1975 review missed the book's central law-and-order message. (Brent 1975)
Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
Superlative post-apocalyptic novel, but Jesse Cohn sees it as one of a number of scenarios of disaster substituting for popular radical narratives in the context of the ongoing global economic crisis (391). Leona, in The Bastard Chronicles 2015, similarly includes The Road among her examples of "the embrace of hopelessness and alienation" that we should be wary of.
Shepherd Mead: The Big Ball of Wax (1954)
"Good entertainment", for Freedom's reviewer, "with the moral 'It might happen here'." (M.G.W. 1955) It is a highly entertaining satire comparing high-pressure advertising with religious evangelism, written by the author of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.
Megamind (2010, dir. Tom McGrath)
Weakly humorous cartoon superhero film, strictly for children.
Listed by a contributor to the Reddit discussion on Have you any movie recommendations containing Anarchy? as a movie "with political implications/subversiveness", and "especially interesting from a leftist perspective".
. . . "an ex Trotskyist turned libertarian." (Moorcock 1978)
Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang)
Set in a 2026 monumentalist dystopia, the story relates the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city's ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the class divisions of their society. Although for SFE the film "is trite and its politics ludicrously simplistic", albeit visually powerful, it's nevertheless been hugely influential.
Whilst celebrated by one contributor on the Anarchism sub-Reddit as anti-capitalist and anti-bolshevist, another felt that "It also features class collaboration and propagates the myth of a weaker lower class awaiting its bourgeois hero to bring freedom and peace between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat." Noting some fascist undertones, another pointed out that Lang's wife, Thea von Harbou, who wrote the original novel and the screenplay for the film, would later become a Nazi sympathiser.
It was one of 69 films screened in Barcelona during the 1936/7 season, from a list drawn up by Solidarida Internacional Antifascista [Diez: 92].
Louise Michel: The Human Microbes (1886); The New World (1888)
Among the literary works of the French anarchist Louise Michel is The Human Microbes, described by Santo Catanuto as "a Jules Verne-style 'science fiction' novel". (Catanuto: 30) An English translation by Brian Stableford was published in 2012, and it now appears that Catanuto's description is wide of the mark. It is in fact a lurid short novel, written while Michel was in solitary confinement in prison, described in the blurb as "like Eugène Sue on speed". Not itself sf at all, it was planned as the first of a six-novel series, of which only one further novel appeared—The New World (also translated by Stableford and published in 2012; there is a passing mention of Bakunin); it seems that the series, as projected, would have developed to depict not just the worldwide transformation of Earth but an expansion to other worlds, which in Stableford's words "would indeed have made it an unparalleled epic of anarchist scientific romance." (introduction to the Black Coat Press edition). Both novels are referred to in the 2014 Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary.
See also Cohn: 199-203; and under Jules Verne, for a putative link.
China Miéville: Perdido Street Station (2000); The Scar (2002); Iron Council (2004); Un Lun Dun (2007); The City and the City (2009); Embassytown (2011)
Perdido Street Station and Iron Council were recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.
The Scar has been recommended on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum. While I would endorse the recommendation—the floating pirate city of Armada is particularly attractive—this, along with Miéville's two other New Crobuzon books, are aptly described as 'New Weird', and not easily categorised as sf.
Un Lun Dun was also recommended at the Seattle Bookfair, but it is young adult urban fantasy, not sf.
The City and the City is included in the Think Galactic reading list.
Embassytown is included in David Agranoff's list of "anarchist-themed-sci-fi". It's also suggested on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction forum, and mentioned briefly in the Winter 2013 issue of Organise!
Miéville is a Marxist, and a member of the Socialist Workers Party.
Victor Milan: The Cybernetic Samurai (1985)
Prometheus Award winner.
Minority Report (2002, dir. Steven Spielberg)
In the year 2054 a specialized police department apprehends criminals based on the precognition of three psychics.
Included at Libertarian Movies. Stephen Carson says "The movie brilliantly explores issues of predestination and free will while demonstrating the injustice of a 'justice' system that punishes not for actual crimes, but for ones that are yet to be committed... The ultimate 'tradeoff' of liberty for security."
"A transatlantic airship goes through a timewarp and crashes into a mountain of Atlantis. The three survivors are found by a tribe of Basque-speaking Cro-Magnons, whose society has no government, property, war, superstition, clothing, or other vices of civilization." (Dan Clore)
Surprisingly effective, and Mitchell's portrayal of the Cro-Magnon society is sympathetic and passionate.
J. Mitchinson: T.A.D.—The Anarchist's Dream (2007)
Although one lead character is cursorily described as a Christian anarchist, the title is entirely misleading. Naïve self-published sf.
Mon Oncle (1958, dir. Jacques Tati)
It's a bit of a stretch to regard this as science fiction, but I'm happy to count it as such on the strength of its inclusion in the Red Planets filmography, where it's described as a "Comedy about the absurdity of ultramodernity." It's a delightful light comedy, and beautifully observed, having a gentle dig at consumerism, and suggesting that there might be more important values than materialism.
Moon (2009, dir. Duncan Jones)
A lone supervisor of mining operations on the moon, approaching the end of his contract, discovers that he is in fact a clone of the original, and will be replaced by another clone as his own life expires; the second clone, accidentally revived before the expiry of the first, with whom he conspires, escapes to Earth.
Included in Libcom.org's guide to working class films.
One of Rich Dana's three nominations for Best Sci-Fi Ever Committed to Film, on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum in 2016.
Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons: Watchmen (1986)
Alan Moore first got involved in radical politics in the 1960s. Since his 20s he has seen himself as an anarchist: "it seems to me that anarchy is the state that most naturally obtains when you're talking about ordinary human beings living their lives in a natural way." (Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, 2007; republished in Mythmakers & Lawbreakers. Anarchist writers on fiction)
Watchmen is a truly remarkable comic book alternate history with darkly and richly characterised superheroes and a story that cautions against trusting heroes and leaders of any description: who watches the watchmen? Not least among those extolling its virtues is Michael Moorcock, who has said that "What was especially substantial about Moore's work was not the innovations, the new riffs on the super-hero theme, but the fundamental question of the nature of power and those we invest with power." (Moorcock 2012, reprinting a 2003 review.) Moorcock also wrote the introduction to an Italian 20th anniversary edition in 2006, in which he describes this work and V for Vendetta as "sophisticated moral parables far and away more stimulating and interesting than most of the fiction being produced then or now". Both works are also noted in the 2014 Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary.
Set in a near future London where a fascist state took over after the Bombs were dropped, with V "the kind of Guy Fawkes style hero who starts blowing up monuments and bases of operation. He basically proclaims himself to be an anarchist in a rather touching scene involving a statue of Lady Justice, where he is lamenting about how she betrayed him and he has found a new lover now, Anarchy. It goes into the whole psychology of being a revolutionary terrorist and what brought him to this point, and they switch to a lot of different POVs. . . . In one part of the comic in a speech, V tells the people how he can only do what he can do to remove the State Apparatus but once they are free they must make their own decisions upon what to do, and if they want to repeat the mistakes of the past. It is pretty brilliant . . .". (posting to anarchysf)
It won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2006. See also Cohn: 326-7.
Richard (K.) Morgan: Broken Angels (2003); Market Forces (2004); Woken Furies (2005)
Broken Angels is second, and Woken Furies the third, in a trilogy described by Teflon as having "distinct anarchist undertones". Clinton Fry, on the Facebook Anarchists and Science Fiction page, wrote that Woken Furies "is about as good as sci fi gets. There are good bits in there about the nature of power, anarchism, the inherent failures of central planning technocracy....lots of good stuff."
Market Forces is "An overtly political projection of the future of corporate capitalism." (Teflon) For Bork, on Anarchists and Science Fiction, this is one of two books by Morgan that "play with some interesting concepts for anarchists". For Wally Conger, who includes this novel in his Top Ten Sci-Fi Liberty Novels, "all Libertarian Leftists—whether agorist, georgist, mutualist, or other—should thoroughly enjoy this brutal and extraordinarily well-written page-turner."
Grant Morrison: The Invisibles (1994–2000)
Included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters. Also recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. Also see Cohn: 386.
Jim Munroe: Angry Young Spaceman (2001)
Of his books, comic books, video games and movies, his very entertaining Angry Young Spacemen is included in the Think Galactic reading list.
Pat Murphy: The City, Not Long After (1989); 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation' (1989)
. . . "a stateless community wages a non-violent war against invaders" . . . (Cohn: 119). San Francisco, after a plague, is inhabited by artists, who actively and successfully resist an attempt to re-establish governmental order, using creative means that minimise (but don't eliminate) personal violence.
'How I Spent My Summer Vacation' is the final story in the themed Time Gate anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg with Bill Fawcett; the liberated simulacrum of Mikhail Bakunin (from the earlier Sheckley story) reappears in friendly conversation with Queen Victoria, and is later contemplating his potential future as an anarchist computer virus.
Merril Mushroom: 'Darcee's Temptation' (2006)
Short story published in Fifth Estate. In a future dystopia it dawns on a woman that it needn't be the way it was.
An beside the title means an item's particularly recommended by me. See my hotlist, for these recommendations only.
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