Anarchism and science fiction: O

Nicholas P. Oakley: The Watcher (2013)

"The Watcher, set in the anarchist Confederation universe, examines issues raised by ‘primitivist’ or green anarchist theory by considering the ethical and sociological implications of a culture that rejects technology but tries to remain free." (author's blog) One of Teflon's essential anarchist sf novels.


John October (pseudonym of Christopher Portway): The Anarchy Pedlars (1976)

Despite the title, has nothing to do with anarchism.


Nnedi Okorafor: Who Fears Death (2010)

More fantasy than SF, but included in SFE, so accepted here. School of Octavia Butler. Included on the Think Galactic reading list.


Malka Older: Infomocracy (2016)

Debut novel with a promising premise of potential interest: in an internet-dominated world, nation states have fragmented, and the primary political units are now the 'centenals', micro-states with a population of just 100,000-odd. Teflon's See Sharp Press review is spot on in identifying the book's strengths and weaknesses, of which the latter outweigh the former. Given the premise, the dearth of information on how the centenals operate, internally, or how the system came about, or the political differences between the various factions fighting a global election, is significant. For Teflon the promise—despite the quality of the writing in other respects—remains unfulfilled.


Henry Olerich: A Cityless and Countryless World. An Outline of Practical Co-operative Individualism (1893)

A Martian (but here called 'Marsian' or 'Marsite') traveller to earth is encouraged to describe at length the utopian society of his native planet. Explicitly influenced by Herbert Spencer, the novel projects a surprisingly open and free society, with no government and no organised religion, and equal rights for men, women and children, but with a strong sense of order and self-regulation. Though the word is never used by Olerich, it is explicitly treated as an anarchist sf utopia by Brigitte Koenig in her essay in Davis and Kinna's Anarchism and Utopianism, included in Nettlau's 'Utopies libertaires', and referred to in Cohn's Underground Passages. It's also noted by Bob Black for Olerich's advocacy of a 2-hour working day [Black 2015: 223].


Chad Oliver: 'The Ant and the Eye' (1953)

The disarming of a future Hitler before anyone knows of him. One feature of the developing social context is, obscurely, "a spurt in membership in the Anarchist Party" (William F. Sloane: Stories for Tomorrow, London, 1955, p273)

The Omega Man (1971, dir. Boris Sagal)

After the destruction of most of humanity by biological warfare, a survivor battles against a group of anti-technology albino mutants.


Libertarian Movies says "Libertarians will enjoy the aspect of the individual creator/scientist as hero, fighting against the crowd". Also reviewed in Osborne.

Origin: Spirits of the Past (銀色の髪のアギト; 2006, dir. Keiichi Sugiyama)

Global civilisation has collapsed, following a failed attempt at geo-engineering, which covers the world in sentient trees. Individuals brought forward from the past seek to reverse the process, but eventually realise the future is to live in harmony with the mutant trees.


Connor Owens, at, notes that "The finger is pointed more at militarism and statism as being responsible for environmental devastation more than some kind innate species-wide propensity towards wrecking the Earth." Though finding the film "excessively preachy and unsubtle", he concludes that "Origin succeeds in coming close to what's called the social ecology school of environmental thought, emphasising human-nature cooperation and balance between the two as a solution to conflict, rather than one dominating or destroying the other."


photo of front cover of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Orwell had considerable knowledge of anarchism and anarchists, most notably from his period as a combatant in the Spanish Civil War, described in his Homage to Catalonia (1938 and 1953), where the anarchists are described very favourably. Though after 1939 he distanced himself from anarchist views (disagreeing with their wartime pacifism), he became a good friend to anarchists. During and after the Second World War he came into personal contact with the anarchist movement in Britain, mixing with them at Freedom Bookshop and in pubs, and developing friendships with well-known British anarchists of the day, including Herbert Read, George Woodcock, and Vernon Richards; in 1946 he was billed to speak to the London Anarchist Group on Russian foreign policy (though it's not certain the talk took place); he contributed a book review to Freedom, and in 1949 donated a typewriter to Freedom Press, also giving financial support to NOW, Woodcock's anarchist publication. That year, while Orwell was treated in a sanatorium in Gloucestershire, his adoptive son Richard was lodged at the nearby Tolstoyan anarchist Whiteway Colony, where he attended school. (Bowker: 403) It was said that "At most, George Orwell may be said to have been an anarchist fellow-traveller; but he was one of the best there ever was." (Walter 2011: 211 [Walter 2011 is the key reference for Orwell and Anarchism]; Goodway: 346-7) In an unexpected tribute, Class War's Ian Bone has written that "Orwell's kind of pipe-smoking English radicalism was a greater influence than Bakunin or Kropotkin." (Bone) (See also Laursen for a recent work of particular interest.)


Nineteen Eighty-Four has been seen by some anarchists as a vindication of Bakunin's opposition to the Marxist view of the state (Woodcock 1966: 49). Like most people, anarchists have seen the novel as a masterpiece (Woodcock 1953: 150, P.S. 1983). For Herbert Read it was "the most terrifying warning that a man has ever uttered" (Read 1950: 105). For Woodcock "what gives 1984 its peculiar force is the way in which it accepts Zamiatin's hints of the continuity between the present and the possible Utopian future, and shows that these may be not merely signs of direction, but actual parts of a new social structure even now forming around us." (Woodcock 1956: 97) Anarchist writing as the year itself approached and passed noted how accurate some of Orwell's prognosis had been, especially how Britain had indeed become no more than Airstrip One, an eastern outpost of the American Empire (PS 1983, Albon 1984). "The most important insight of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he shared with the anarchists, that the urge to power is more durable and more dangerous than all ideologies, has been abundantly borne out with the decay of ideology in Russia and the increase in the number of regimes in the modern world that depend wholly on naked power." (Woodcock 1984: 20) The anarchist activist Albert Meltzer, who admittedly only met Orwell once, was less impressed with his writings: "To be honest, I thought Orwell a lot wittier than his writings, which I found usually, and at that time always, a dreadful bore. Such an opinion became literary heresy." (Meltzer 1996)


The book tied for the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1984.




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