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)
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.
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.'
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 (1999, dir. the Wachowskis)
Set in a dystopian future in which reality as generally perceived is actually a simulated reality called 'the Matrix', created by a global machine intelligence to subdue the human population while their bioelectricity is used as an energy source. Neo, a hacker, learns this truth and joins a group of rebels fighting to free the harvested humans. Strongly influenced by cyberpunk and the work of Philip K. Dick.
The movie, and its sequels, was much discussed on the anarchysf mailing list during its active period, and still crops up from time to time on Facebook pages such as 'Solarpunk Anarchists' and the 'Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum', where in November 2016 three contributors listed it among their contenders for 'best sci-fi ever committed to film'. A discussion on the Anarchism SubReddit began with using The Matrix as the benchmark for identifying films advocating anti-capitalism. Jesse Cohn noted that "some contemporary anarchists have critically endorsed" the film (Cohn 1999, citing Sanda Jeppeson, 'The Matrix; Revolution or Simulacrum in Hollywood?', Social Anarchism 36 (Spring 2004)). Thomas Michaud, in his essay on 'Science Fiction and Politics', locating The Matrix firmly within the field of cyberpunk, cites it is an example of anarchist denunciation of the use of technology to control people.
The film is discussed at some length in Taylor Andrew Loy's 'Anarchy in Critical Dystopias: An Anatomy of Rebellion' (in Shantz). Loy says "Neo may begin The Matrix as 'just' a cyberpunk, but by the end he has also become a self-governed Anarchist.' [p205] He sees Neo's final voice-over as addressing both the AI and the movie audience itself —
. . . I'm going to show them a world . . . without you. A world without rules and controls. Without borders or boundaries. A world where everything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.
— and concludes that "Not only does this statement clearly refer to an Anarchistic world, it is also a useful general description of the telos of Anarchistic rebellion: the perpetual generation of change and revolution without constraints." [p215]
For Lewis Call,
This film has been widely criticised, but critics overlook the film's valuable contributions. In the film, the face of Fawkes provides the basis for sophisticated representations of sexuality, mass media systems and anarchist political action. Through its visual iconography, the film thus provides mainstream cinema audiences with an effective introduction to the symbolic vocabulary of post modern anarchism.
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.
. . . "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.
"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.
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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