Anarchism and science fiction: M

photo of front cover of P.M.'s bolo'bolo

p.m. (Hans Widmer): bolo'bolo (1983) 

This is an interesting speculative utopia, more an extended essay than a work of fiction—but certainly worth reading in this context. Killjoy says it is "considered one of the primary anarchist utopia novels", and in 2013 the same critic wrote that "P.M.'s society is perhaps the one I'm most drawn to" . . .


Dan Clore describes it as "A full-length attempt to design a libertarian socialist society with enough respect for the diversity of humanity's desires that a community of cyberpunks who live online might be placed next to a community made up of bands of hunter-gatherers. Frequently whimsical but well thought-out; sometimes verges into semi-fictional form."


For Uri Gordon this "anarchist-inspired vision of an alternative society" makes the point that "the diverse and inherently un-enforceable nature of the anarchist project leaves it necessarily open to change and challenge from within." (Gordon 2009: 268)


Recommended by Gelderloos. Used as the basis for a workshop on utopia at the BASTARD conference, and touched on by Mamatas in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015.


p.m. has written articles for Fifth Estate, e.g. 'The next mutiny on the Bounty', in the Spring/Summer issue of 2005.


See also Cohn 224-5, 230-1.


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); The Human Front Plus (2013); The Corporation Wars: Dissidence (2016)

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. Macleod has described Star Fraction as "a libertarian novel about communists," and Stone Canal as "a communist novel about libertarians".


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. Elsewhere he said that Star Fraction also owed a debt to Rothbard's For a New Liberty, and Stone Canal to Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom.


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.


The Human Front Plus is one of the PM Press short books coupling a title novella with a short or an essay, an author interview, and a bibliography. In this case the novella is an entertaining alternate history. In the interview (with Terry Bisson), when asked whether he would describe himself as a libertarian, Macleod replied ". . . I don't call myself a Libertarian, in the sense of a supporter of the Libertarian Party or anything like that. My usual handwave for my position is "hard-left libertarian" but in practice I just vote Labour."


The Corporation Wars: Dissidence is the first book of a hard sf trilogy centring on sentient robots, dead soldiers digitally reincarnated, and complex worlds of simulation, engaged in megacorporate combat. Again, favourably reviewed by Teflon, for whom it is "highly recommended."


Alfonso Martínez Rizo: 1945. El advenimiento del comunismo libertario. Una vision novelesca del porvenir (1945: The Coming of Libertarian Communism. A Fictional Vision of Things to Come; 1933, not yet translated)

Spanish anarchist utopia, set in what was just thirteen years in the future at the time of writing. Rodriquez gives the following summary:


This short political novel narrates the peaceful triumph of libertarian communism in Spain following a general strike declared by anarcho-syndicalist unions, which represent most of the population, thus expanding the already large base of Spanish anarchists at that time. Money, private property, and all prior institutions are peacefully extinguished as anarchist unions take over their functions.


Martínez Rizo was vice-president of the CNT's Sindicato de Obreros Intelectuales in Barcelona, and his familiarity with the CNT and FAI is clear in his first-person utopia. Jesse Cohn's Underground Passages has a few pages on this work, noting the author's attention to what he calls the 'moral' process of emancipation, which takes place at different rates for different people, as well as his use of language which he finds "remarkably similar to the kind of linguistic transformation Orwell witnessed in the freshly liberated Barcelona" of 1936.


The text is available in Spanish in Volume II of the 1991 three-volume Ediciones Tuero publication of Utopías Libertarias; Vol. II is entitled II. Utopías Libertarias Españolas, siglos XIX-XX.


Mad Max (1979, dir. George Miller)

In a post-apocalypse Australia a cop seeks revenge on a violent motorcycle gang.


Included in'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).

What do you think? Does a place like the anarchical Somalia or post-Apocalyptic Australia have something to offer that a governed society lacks?

Included in'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 (David McIlwain): 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); The People's Republic of Everything (2018)

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 People's Republic of Everything—a short-story collection including his short novel Under My Roof—was warmly reviewed by Carrie Laben in Fifth Estate #401, Summer 2018; the inclusion of the definitive text of Under My Roof—"a satire about nuclear war and nuclear families"—Laben regards as "A highpoint for both anarchists and lovers of literature". The story 'The People's Republic of Everywhere and Everything' includes a quotation from Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti.

The Man in the White Suit (1951, dir. Alexander Mackendrick)

Ealing comedy in which a research scientist invents an indestructible dirt-repellent fabric, but wealthy 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 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".


Ethel Mannin: Bread and Roses. An Utopian Survey and Blue-Print (1944)

Mannin was best known as a writer of popular novels, but she was also an anarchist, and as such wrote Bread and Roses, a survey of historical utopian writing, drawing on her contemporary world, and reflecting her own utopian thinking. It foreshadows in some ways Marie-Louise Berneri's Journey Through Utopia. Mannin's concluded:


And that Utopia must be the stateless society of the anarchist ideal, a free and ungoverned society living according to the natural law of mutual aid, the present writer is convinced. And that is must be communist-anarchist.

Ron Avery reviewed the book in War Commentary in 1945. Albert Meltzer sang her praises in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review in 1977:


Ask who is the writer who has contributed most in the English language to the spread of libertarian ideas and you will get some peculiar answers, probably one of them some obscure Canadian professor whom nobody reads except as prescribed in the university curriculum [Meltzer is clearly referring to George Woodcock]. You might well get the same answer from Ethel Mannin, but for my money it is she who deserves the maximum credit, and seems to have received none that I know of. She was writing on sex and women's liberation fifty years ago and has introduced anarchist ideas in numerous works of fact and fiction.

Alas, she has committed the major literary sin: her novels have been successful, and the higher critics cannot possibly evaluate her.

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, 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, dirs 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.


Freedom reviewer Chris Hurt wrote, in 2003:


Is The Matrix really bad? Actually it helped me understand the cryptic comments of the poststructuralists. For instance, Guy Debord's enormously inaccessible Society of the Spectacle has always been a struggle for me to get through. But after seeing the film, it all makes perfect sense. [ . . . ] In this sense, The Matrix is precisely what it advertises itself to be, a matrix. It's the product of a particular organisation of the relations of production pushing us into a state of passivity. It's founded on the separation of ourselves from our culture, regurgitated back at us at dizzying speed. Yet the film also provokes such critical thoughts as these. So I give it both a one and a ten out of ten.

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]


The Matrix Reloaded (2003, dir. the Wachowskis)

Second in the Matrix trilogy. Strong on effects and numerous fight sequences, but otherwise of little interest. Taking a different view, though, Freedom reviewer Richard Griffin wrote, in 2003:


"This is a film all anarchists should go and see. This isn't because it's a great work of art, because it isn't (although it's entertaining enough). But it does deal with issues at the very core of anarchism—control, power, free will and choice. [ . . . ] Through the film character after character muses about freedom and control and power, and the message is clear: we need to dismantle power to be free. Can't everyone in the multiplex see that this applies to capitalism? [ . . . ] This is revolutionary stuff.

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."

Max Headroom (1985 TV movie, dirs Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel; 1987/1988 TV series, created by Morton & Jankel)

Cyberpunk satire on network news, featuring a computer-generated host. Episode 8, 'War', centres on a terrorist group called the 'White Brigade' dedicated to "neo-radicalistic anarcho-syndicalism"; their fanatical leader is actually in a commercial relationship with one of the TV news networks.


Seen by Sharp and Pointed as "intelligent, oftentimes funny cyberpunk with a sharp political edge": "wonderful" and "Probably the best sci-fi series ever to appear on the 'big 3.'"


Red Planets encapsulates the production as a "Punky dystopian drama later sanitised as a US primetime series."


Paul McAuley: Red Dust (1993); The Quiet War (2008); Gardens of the Sun (2009)

Red Dust is a complex novel set on a Chinese-run Mars where terraforming is failing fast. One character is consistently referred to as an anarchist, but little is made of this, the label apparently chiefly intended to evoke the exotic.


The Quiet War sequence concerns tensions between Earth and the outer planets. The second novel follows on directly from the first.


For a 2009 poster to the anarchysf mailing list, "The Outers have variants of Libertarian societies while Earth is ruled by the Oligarchies." Included in the Sharp and Pointed list of essential novels of anarchist science fiction, the two books, while "antiauthoritarian but not anarchist", "concern the brutal aggression of the authoritarian empires that emerged from the chaos against the in-some-ways anarchistic “Outers” who have colonized the moons of Jupiter and Saturn."


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's 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".


Ricardo Mella: 'La nueva utopía (novela imaginaria)' ('The New Utopia (imaginary novel)', 1890; not yet translated)

Mella was a Spanish anarchist intellectual and activist. According to The Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary 2014, the story posits a possible Proudhonian mutualist society. Nettlau describes it as "collectiviste anarchiste". Ramos-Gorostiza, quoted in Rodríguez, notes that, for Mella "the new order is fundamentally urban. New Utopia is a 'great city' and a modern one. It has solid and functional aesthetics and iron and electrical forces that are its defining features." This utopia lacks any narrative framework.


The text is available in Spanish in Volume II of the 1991 three-volume Ediciones Tuero publication of Utopías Libertarias; Vol. II is entitled II. Utopías Libertarias Españolas, siglos XIX-XX.


Judith Merril

. . . "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."


J. Leslie Mitchell (writing as 'Lewis Grassic Gibbon'): Three Go Back (1932)

"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'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.



photo of front cover of Moorcock's The Cornelius Chronicles

Michael Moorcock: The Black Corridor (1969); Breakfast in the Ruins. A Novel of Inhumanity (1971); The Warlord of the Air (1971); The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century. A Romance (1976); The Cornelius Chronicles (1977) ; The Entropy Tango. A Comic Romance (1980); The Steel Tsar (1981); The Opium General and Other Stories (1984); The Dancers at the End of Time (1993—originally published in three volumes, 1972–1976)

Michael Moorcock, described by Vittorio Curtoni as a "bizarre beatnik figure" (25), has been involved in politics for much of his life, having been first attracted, by his own account, by the anarchist movement of the 1950s (Moorcock 1983: 12). At that time he used to attend anarchist meetings in Brylcreemed hair, blazer, tie and flannels, rather than orthodox bohemian wear; contrariwise he would wear beatnik clothes to a church fete (ibid.: 75). He later joined successively Labour, Liberal, and Labour parties, finally reverting to anarchism.


In 1978, at Stuart Christie's request, he contributed 'Starship Stormtroopers: Anarchist and Authoritarian Ideas in Science Fiction' to the fourth issue of the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review; this article is one of the major sources on this theme, and surely the best-known.


In 1983 Moorcock published his political testament, The Retreat from Liberty. He speaks knowledgeably of historical anarchism, referring to Proudhon, Kropotkin, Stirner, Berkman, and Voline (his 1982 novel The Brothel in Rosenstrasse, which is not sf, also mentions Bakunin). Among contemporaries he refers to the British anarchists Stuart Christie, Albert Meltzer, and Nicolas Walter, and to the American Noam Chomsky. With the then marginal state of the anarchist movement, he pinned his hopes for the future on the women's movement.


In The Black Corridor, against the disintegration of British society, a businessman escapes into space; he is, however, progressively shown to be no better than the world he is escaping. A very bitter and pessimistic work, it does however insist on the individual's responsibility for the creation of a decent society, and the necessity for means to correspond to ends.


Breakfast in the Ruins is a sequence of vignettes of Karl Glogauer at dates from 1871 to 1990—key historical loci, from the Paris Commune to Vietnam, via Auschwitz. He is frequently shown, coldly, as perpetrator as well as victim of atrocities. Chapter 9 features Glogauer with the army of Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian anarchist of the 1920s. Makhno himself is shown as miserable but reckless and cruel. The novel is shockingly amoral in presentation, but presumably with the intention of forcing a reappraisal of the reader's moral stance.


The Warlord of the Air is a quasi-Griffithian story of a time-traveller, airships, and a utopian community. Anarchists are prominent, but are not very favourably portrayed—they are the first, for example, to use the atomic bomb. The book slurs over the differences between socialism, communism, and anarchism, but as no more than a potboiler can't be expected to be good propaganda. That said, Margaret Killjoy has described this as "the ultimate proto-steampunk, if you ask me, and probably the punkest steampunk to date".


The Cornelius Chronicles constitute some of Moorcock's best work, centring on the attempts of Jerry Cornelius, a sort of transcendental hippie James Bond, to relate to the late twentieth century world. Nestor Makhno's army is again encountered. On this occasion it is in wild alliance with an army of Scottish anarchists and their fleet of a hundred airships painted in black anarchist livery and St Andrew's crosses. The opportunist Cornelius, known as a Makhnovist sympathiser, winds up as governor in Kiev. Andrew Hedgecock, writing in Freedom in 1986, saw Cornelius as "a template for Moorcock's ironic attacks on authoritarianism, racism and traditionally defined gender roles"; on this seminal tetralogy the author declines to editorialise, compelling enhanced reader participation—hence the "narrative is consonant with the central notion that self discipline is a necessary condition for freedom." Moorcock confirms this:


The whole point of my fiction is to allow readers to decide for themselves their own moral attitudes. The Jerry Cornelius stories, for instance, are pure anarchism in their refusal to "guide" the reader in any direction. I try to set out the material and let them decide what they think. (Killjoy, 2009)

This is entirely consistent with his statement, the same year, that


I remain a Kropotkinist anarchist, which many people will see as unrealistic, but, if I’m unrealistic, so be it. I see my anarchism as a moral position, in that it’s scarcely a realistic political one! But from that position I can very quickly determine what action to take. [Moorcock on H+ and Anarchism]

An interview with Moorcock was published in Freedom in 1988, in which he said


I began political life as an anarchist — in those days I suppose it was a much more naive belief. I then went through a period of trying to express myself politically through more conventional political parties and eventually realised they are all so damn corrupt I might as well be an idealistic anarchist and humanist and maintain my own political position by that means. That also fits in better with my support for the feminist movement.

In The Entropy Tango Makhno, following the success of his Ukrainian revolution, gallivants around the globe attempting insurrections in Ottawa, Yucatan, Somalia, Bohemia and Queensland, before finally being electrocuted by the Americans after looting San Francisco. Not preachy about anarchism, but the message probably gets across.


The Makhnovist uprising was also successful in the parallel universe of The Nomad of Time series; in The Steel Tsar (1981), Makhno once again appears as a character and engages in political arguments with Stalin. Makhno also appears in Byzantium Endures (1981)—which is tagged as sf in the CIRA catalogue, and in LibraryThing's tagmash for 'anarchism, science fiction'—but actually isn't.


Nestor Makhno also appears in The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century. The Opium General and Other Stories includes a long Cornelius story and a few essays. Among the latter are the most accessible republication in print of 'Starship Stormtroopers', and a review of a book on Makhno, whom Moorcock describes as "a martyr to a cause that can never be lost but which the world may never properly understand."


Of The Dancers at the End of Time a poster on anarchysf wrote: "Theme is an anarchic society where all material needs have been met. There's only a few people but boy are they bored! Could be seen as an attempt to play around with a situationist scenario?"


For Bruce Sterling, Michael Moorcock is "the gold standard in these matters, if you ask me".


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.


Alan Moore & David Lloyd: V for Vendetta (1988, 1989)

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)


Iain McKay, writing in Freedom in 2005, said the book includes "some excellent anarchist propaganda", and is a "modern classic," "a masterpiece by a master of his craft."


It won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2006. See also Cohn: 326-7.


Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (19992011)

Steampunk-flavoured comic-book series, recycling characters from sundry Victorian writers, including Wells, Stoker, Doyle, Verne, Rohmer, Stevenson, and Haggard, also owing a debt to Michael Moorcock.


Moorcock himself wrote in 2003 that he found the series "wonderfully entertaining," saying it "inhabits the world of late Victorian and Edwardian imperialism only to examine it, confront it, subvert it and so cast a cold eye on contemporary imperialism, manifested in the deeds and actions of George W Bush and his yapping dancing papillon Tony Blair." [Moorcock 2012: 291]


Included in Bould's Red Planet reading list, and in Sarat's reference list at Airships, Anarchists & Anachronisms.


Thomas More: Utopia (1516; first English translation 1551)

The work that coined the very term. SFE makes it clear that this is a more complex work than is often seen, and in particular points to "More's insistence that his humanistic, rationally governed world was amenable to change, and that his picture of Utopia had caught only a moment in its evolution towards a more perfect constitution for the life of men on Earth."



It was seen straightforwardly by Max Nettlau as authoritarian and statist. Berneri, however, devotes 30 pages to Utopia, reasonably concluding that "we prefer to admire More for his indictment of the society of his time rather than for the set of laws and institutions which he himself devised. "


Richard (K.) Morgan: Altered Carbon (2002); Broken Angels (2003); Market Forces (2004); Woken Furies (2005); Black Man (2007; aka Thirteen)

Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies together constitute 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."


Black Man is highly recommended by Zeke Teflon, who describes it as "A very dystopian look at a future theofascist USA."



photo of front cover of Morris's News from Nowhere

William Morris: News from Nowhere (1890; revised 1892) ; The Tables Turned; or, Nupkins Awakened: A Socialist Interlude (1887)

In 1886 Morris invited Kropotkin, whom he had recently met, and liked immediately, to write for his paper, The Commonweal, but he declined. It was probably through Morris's early contact with Kropotkin, though, that the Commonweal press facilities were used to print Freedom. That year, in a letter, he spoke of "us semi-anarchists", which is really as close to anarchism as Morris ever admitted to (Mackail 11:149). In a letter the following year, he wrote: "I distinctly disagree with the Anarchist principle, much as I sympathise with many of the anarchists personally, and although I have an Englishman's wholesome horror of government interference and centralisation . . ." (Morris 1951:5). In 'Socialism and Anarchism', a letter in Commonweal on 5th May 1889, Morris wrote: "I will begin by saying that I call myself a Communist, and have no wish to qualify that word by joining any other to it."


He himself was always well-liked by anarchists. An anonymous commentator in Freedom in 1891 observed that "Like other people, Anarchists admire his artistic genius, but, in addition, there is not an Anarchist worth his salt who, being acquainted with William Morris, does not respect him as a good comrade and an honest man."


News from Nowhere—"A vision rather than a dream" of a utopian future—was written as a libertarian response to Bellamy's Looking Backward. The polity is described as communist throughout, as one would expect, but the vision parallels closely many people's notions of an ideal anarchist society. No attempt to précis the book could possibly do it justice. Perhaps a single clue to its appeal might be found in Chapter XIII, 'Concerning Politics'—which is just twelve lines long, "because we have none."


Anarchists have generally taken Morris's tale to their hearts. For an anonymous Freedom writer of 1891, "Comrade Morris is not avowedly an Anarchist by conviction; but in character he is a born-Anarchist, and in very much of his writing—for instance, News from Nowhere—the most hypercritical of Anarchists would have to borrow a pair of spectacles to discover serious points of disagreement." Peter Kropotkin, in his 1896 memorial to Morris, described News from Nowhere as "perhaps the most thoroughly and deeply Anarchistic conception of future society that has ever been written. . . . his ideal society is undoubtedly the one which is most free of all our State and monastic traditions; the most imbued with the feelings of equality and humanitarian love; the most spontaneously growing out of a spirit of free understanding."(109) Much later Jeff Cloves, in Freedom in 1968, summed up the feelings of many: "I'm not bothered by jeers about the impracticality and implausibility of News from Nowhere. All that I know is that when I read it, I think . . . that's what I want, that's how life ought to be." Murray Bookchin, in his The Ecology of Freedom, refers to Morris as "my favorite utopian".


With The Dispossessed, News from Nowhere ranks as one of the two essential texts in the context of this guide.


In the lightweight satirical playlet The Tables Turned, "the sleeper who awakes in a libertarian-socialist society in Part II is the corrupt judge who presides over the farcical trial of socialists and anarchists in Part I." (The pre-revolution Part 1 is much the longer of the two parts.) "There, he has to face the Council of the Commune (the general assembly of the local population, or folk-mote), who refuse to waste chains by shackling him, or to take care of him in a prison (they have none, anyway), but instead teach him to do useful work farming so that he might become a self-employed individual like everyone else." (Dan Clore)



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.


James Morrow: Towing Jehovah (1994)

A satirical look at the improbable claims of religion, centring on the death of God as a literal event, with his corpse found floating in the Atlantic. Affectionately irreverent.


Much appreciated by Tom Flynn, in Science Fiction and Atheism. Included in the Think Galactic reading list.


Walter Mosley: Blue Light (1998)

A mysterious blue beam of light strikes California in 1965, and those touched by it—known as the Blues—are changed forever.


Described in Mark Bould's Red Planets reading list as "a peculiar apocalyptic story about race, sex, identity, death, transformation and possibility. Among the 'black expressionists' listed by M. Asli Dukan at Invisible Universe. Included in the Think Galactic reading list.


Mr. Robot (TV series 2015, created by Sam Esmail)

A disaffected hacker is recruited into a group seeking to bring down capitalism by wiping out debt. There are numerous references on the internet to the eponymous Mr Robot—the group's leader—being an 'anarchist', or even an 'insurrectionary anarchist', but this isn't supported by the programme content. Nonetheless, it's attractively anti-capitalist.


Briefly discussed on its own forum, for one poster "The politics are naive, but it was still really good." For another "Mr. Robot's excellent and as far as the politics go, it pretty accurately depicts the shitty politics of Anonymous (more or less the model for a fictional organization in the show) and the nonsense that's often passed around as 'anarchism' these days among young American activists without IMO making is seem much more appealing than it is in real life." Another thought "it's got more to do with the Occupy Wall Street thing." While a fourth dismissed it as "Blanquist cyber-anarchist fantasy", the response was that "It's recuperation, but it's interesting because somewhere along the way recuperation is going to fail just like the rest of the capitalist project."


There are three relevant pages on, though I ignore the first, as it predates the first transmission. The initial poster on Has anyone been watching "Mr. Robot"? was "pleased to see that the anarchist 'Mr. Robot' is not an asshat cartoon villain (which is usually how 'anarchists' are portrayed in the media)." Later comments were more sceptical: "Episode 1 was pretty okay but it's hard to take it too seriously when it's coming from USA network and packaged for prime time television"; "Beware the capitalist, they will package up your rebellion and sell it back to you in order to incorporate and defuse it. Never forget why you like it..."; "[ . . . ] nobody in the show is an anarchist why do ppl keep using that word"; "I don't really see the point, it's capitalist reformism all over again"; "The show does not play to anarchist philosophy(s), it acts as a reservoir for anyone alienated or who feels occasionally alienated by the current blah." But the last response prompted a different viewpoint: "[ . . . ] I would argue that the general anti-capitalist/anti-corporate themes do, in fact, "play to" anarchist philosophy. Nobody seems to espouse any anarchist philosophy, per se, but the fact that anarchist ideas and tendencies are the primary driver of the plot, without explicitly saying it, actually makes the show that much more subversive and effective in my opinion." A new post on Mr. Robot expressed the view that "It's obviously extremely anti-capitalistic, one would maybe even say pro-anarchism, and the main characters voice-over provides us with a lot of social commentary."


Jim Munroe: Angry Young Spaceman (2001)

Jim Munroe has been an anarchist since his teenage years, has his own publishing label, and proactively supports self-publishing. His is one of the featured interviews in Mythmakers and Lawbreakers.


Of his books, comic books, video games and movies, his very entertaining Angry Young Spaceman 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.


Text in blue means I haven't personally read the item concerned, so can't vouch for the reliability of the information.

An beside the title means an item's particularly recommended by me. See my hotlist, for these recommendations only.

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