Anarchism and science fiction: N


Ramez Naam: Nexus (2012)

Joint winner of the 2014 Prometheus award. Recommended as a "fun read" by a contributor to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, 1984, dir. Hirao Miyazaki; 2005, unedited and redubbed version)

Set a thousand years after an environmental disaster, this appealing anime film tells the story of Nausicaä, the young princess of the Valley of the Wind, who is opposed by a neighbouring kingdom that seeks to eradicate a jungle full of giant mutant insects, as she tries to resolve the conflict amicably whilst protecting the local fauna.

 

Reviewed by Connor Owens at solarpunkanarchists.com, for whom it "embodies all the best traits of the anime films that came after it: ecological awareness, links between ecocide and the militaristic desire to dominate nature, and the aspiration to adopt a cooperative relationship to the natural world instead of one based on hierarchy and destruction."

 

Josef Nesvadba: 'In the footsteps of the abominable snowman' (1964)

Story of telepathic yetis, part of which is set in Spain during the Civil War. Speaks unusually warmly of the anarchists: one character says "'They were men of courage and I remember them often. Naturally they had no idea that reason and intellect would get them nowhere.'"(1979 NEL pb collection of the same title: 169)


Robert Newman: The Fountain at the Centre of the World (2004)

Included in the science fiction reading list on the R.A. Forum website. It isn't actually sf, but it's so good that I'm opting not to delete this entry, in the hope that others will give it a try.

 

Chris Newport: The White Bones of Truth (1996)

Recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.

 

photo of front cover of Nichols's Daily Lives in Nghsi-Altai

Robert Nichols: Daily Lives in Nghsi-Altai (1977–9) ; Red Shift (1977)

Short tetralogy, set in a near-future alternate-world central Asian land. Strong on ecological and (unusually) traditional-religious values, the anarchist influence is explicitly acknowledged. Written in a fragmented, poetic and impressionistic style, it's an interesting and important modern utopia. Daily Lives is preceded by an introductory work, Red Shift, in which characters include 'Errico Malatesta' and 'Sandy Berkman'.

 

"While Daily Lives is not widely known, it is one of the most important contributions to both literary and theoretical utopianism." (Clark 2009: 21-2) It was a significant influence on Ursula K. Le Guin, who is on record as saying that " . . . Nghsi-Altai is in some respects the very place I was laboriously trying to get to, and yet lies in quite the opposite direction . . .". (Le Guin 1982)

 

Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir. George A. Romero)

Classic zombie movie, the newly dead apparently revivified by unexplained radiation from a returning Venus probe.

 

Included in the Red Planets filmography, as an anti-racist movie. SFE comments that some have seen "the savagery – and helplessness – of both ordinary people and zombies [ . . . ] as symbolic of the horrors of the Vietnam War."

 

Donovan Irven, in his paper 'Anarchism of the Living Dead', argues that

 

[ . . . ] the zombies in Romero’s film are the heralds of a radical decoding and deterritorialization. Rather than being the predisabled people who, as slaves, serve to implement the codes of their masters, mapped out on colonial/capitalist territory, the zombies, as immune to the dominant codes that striate and structure society, are the horrific implementation of the radical deconstruction of those codes. [ . . . ] What marks Night of the Living Dead as the completion of a transition of the zombie from the capitalist’s dream to the capitalist’s nightmare is the utter nihilism exhibited in the film. [ . . . ] After Night of the Living Dead, the zombie is also that mechanism of the State’s radical decoding . The undead breaks down all social norms, all of the axioms of the State apparatus become meaningless and lose their force as the zombie hordes spread. Yet, the state of emergency generated out of the zombie apocalypse also occasions the reactionary and even more violent assertion of State ideology [ . . . ]

For Wendy McElroy, Romero's message "is not leftist but anti-authoritarian and a jarring cry out against the dehumanization of society through programming. [ . . . ] "Over and over, stereotypes are both broken and bitterly reinforced. The ultimate message: authority and mass mentality are the enemies."

 

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954, dir. Rudolph Cartier)

Telerecording of the original mostly-live BBC broadcast, still seen as a superb version, with a memorable lead from Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. The political messages come across strongly.

 

Listed as a dystopian film at Black Flag Blog's Anarchism and film.

 

Reviewed by Alex Peak, for whom "The teleplay’s bleak ending demonstrates why we all must, at all times, be sceptical of government, and be weary of allowing it to have power. For power, in the hands of a state, invariably means the power to oppress." Peak, citing Professor Tony Shaw's British Cinema and the Cold War: The State, Propaganda and Consensus, notes that it was this broadcast that "effectively 'launched' Orwell as a 'public' writer, marking the point when the language of his novel entered the popular imagination."

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984, dir. Michael Radford)

Second film version of Orwell's novel, with a definitive performance by John Hurt as Winston Smith, managing also to look like Orwell himself.

 

Also listed as a dystopian film at Anarchism and film.

 

Libertarian Movies says "Orwell's warning against totalitarianism has obvious appeal for libertarians, but the vision portrayed here, I would think, would get under anybody's skin."

 

Osborne finds this film "very effective [ . . . ] bleak in every aspect, thoroughly controlled, and impossible to escape." He concludes: "[Hurt's] is such a powerful portrayal that many viewers will find the ultimate defeat of the individual in the hands of the mega-state depressing [ . . . . ] It's not the most uplifting film, but it's certainly a very important one."

 

Larry Niven: 'Cloak of Anarchy' (1972)

In a future 'Free Park' anything goes, though automated 'copseyes' hover around ensuring there is no violence. Ron Cole decides to sabotage the copseyes and see what results, taking the opportunity to expound his theory of anarchism, which is actually anarcho-capitalism—"'After all, anarchy is only the last word in free enterprise.'" Though maintaining that the Free Park experiment without copseyes (which results in chaos) is too short an experiment to pass judgement on anarchy, at the conclusion of the story he recants, and declares anarchy unworkable because unstable.

   The story is badly written and badly argued, deliberately playing on the ambiguity of anarchy as a form of polity and anarchy as chaos.

Available on-line at www.larryniven.org/stories/cloak_of_anarchy.htm.


Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn: Fallen Angels (1991)

Prometheus Award winner.

 

Alice Nunn: Illicit Passage (1992)

. . . "highly anarchist, workers / working class organizing & revolting—really really excellent & one of the most political science fiction novels I've read in a long time . . ." (posting to anarchysf). Original and very readable, but less anarchist and more feminist than this quote suggests.

 


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

 

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