Anarchism and science fiction: S


Hans Stefan Santesson: Crime Prevention in the 30th Century (1969)

This very poor thematic anthology receives a mention in John Brent's 1975 Freedom review of McCaffrey's To Ride Pegasus.

 

José Saramago: Seeing (2004)

Included in Killjoy's list of stories that explore anarchist societies. Explores the consequences of an election in which the majority cast blank votes. Not really sf, though.

 

Pamela Sargent, ed.: Women of Wonder. Science-fiction Stories by Women about Women (1974)

Sargent's important thematic anthology was referred to by Curtoni as "the first women's (and feminist) anthology of sf" (Curtoni 1978: 26); but he obviously knew the work only by repute, since he attributed it to Joanna Russ. Sargent's long and interesting introduction was quoted from in Lessa, Takver & Alyx's 1978 Open Road article (8).

 

John Scalzi, ed.: METAtropolis (2009)

Included in Killjoy's list of stories that explore anarchist societies. See also Killjoy's review at The Anvil, which sees this as a work of 'outsider anarchism'; and a response by Paul Raven at futurismic.

 

Nat Schachner: 'The Shining One' (1976)

A future war Angel of Mons story, in which war is vetoed by means of electronic gimmickry. A minor character, Valverde, declares himself "An anarchist—an individualist! I wish for no State to regiment, me, to tell me what to do." (Roger Elwood, ed.: Visions of Tomorrow, 1976, Pocket Books pb edn 284)

 

J. Neil Schulman: Alongside Night (1979); The Rainbow Cadenza (1983)

Alongside Night "features an agorist-anarchist underground that eventually supplants the state." (posting to anarchysf). It won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1989.

   The Rainbow Cadenza won the 1984 Prometheus Award.


Ilan Shalif: Glimpses into the Year 2100

Novella-length old-style utopia about a future world community, 50 years after the 2050 revolution: anarchistic, albeit systematically regulated, and drawing on the author's background as an active Israeli libertarian communist with 16 years experience of living in a kibbutz.

 

George Bernard Shaw: Back to Methuselah (1921)

Shaw was familiar with anarchist literature—references to Godwin, Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Tucker, and Tolstoy abound in his work; among these he was on fairly close personal terms with Kropotkin and Tucker; and in the 1880s he was familiar with British anarchists such as Charlotte Wilson, Henry Seymour and Joseph Lane. Several times he contributed articles to anarchist publications, including The Anarchist (1885), Freedom (1890), and both the American and the British Liberty (1891 and 1894 respectively). But by 1891 he was clear that anarchism was not for him, dismissing it in his 'The Impossibilities of Anarchism'.

   Back to Methuselah is an episodic dream of human evolution from Genesis to the 32nd millennium; humanity by 31920 had outgrown corporeal life and exists on a spiritual plane only. It has been suggested that some of the Lamarckian ideas used here by Shaw may have been suggested by Kropotkin, who had published a number of articles on the inheritance of acquired characteristics in The Nineteenth Century and After in 1910 (Hulse). Woodcock considered that the theme Shaw chose for development in this play was Godwinian (Woodcock 1962: 86).


Nisi Shawl: Filter House (2008)

Recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009, where Shawl herself was a panelist. See her own 'Armchair anarchy list'.

 

Robert Shea

Co-author, with Robert Anton Wilson, of the Illuminatus trilogy. A member of the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation, for several years Shea edited an anarchist zine, No Governor.

 

 

Robert Sheckley: 'The Seventh Victim' (1953); 'Skulking Permit' (1954) ; 'A Ticket to Tranai' (1955); Untouched by Human Hands (1955); 'Pilgrimage to Earth' (1956); 'The Prize of Peril' (1958); 'The People Trap' (1968); 'The Resurrection Machine' (1989); 'Simul City' (1990)

'The Seventh Victim' is among those instanced by Curtoni. It concerns a society in which murder has been institutionalised as, paradoxically, a means of reducing crime. The 1966 novelisation (The Tenth Victim), cited in Curtoni's bibliography, is distinctly inferior.

   In 'Skulking Permit' a backwater planet is recontacted by Imperial Earth; the inhabitants attempt to revive old Earth customs—crime, police, etc.—but fail by misunderstanding the (lack of) Point Of It All; Earth abandons the attempt to conscript colonists. It is a splendid anarchic story: the colonists have lived without authority so long that there's manifestly no need for it.

   'A Ticket to Tranai' features an exotic utopia in a remote corner of the galaxy; an Earth visitor is suitably freaked out. Society on Tranai is minimal-statist or anarcho-capitalist, though in distinctive ways: government is restricted to minor matters like care of the aged and beautifying the landscape, and is financed by tax collectors who are literally robbers in black silk masks; government officials wear explosive badges which will be detonated on a majority vote in favour of assassination. Though the story has attractive elements, it is vitiated by sexism—married women are kept in a stasis-field purdah, a state which is subject to only token criticism.

   Untouched by Human Hands—Sheckley's first short-story collection—is listed in Curtoni's bibliography. As well as 'The Seventh Victim', 'Keep Your Shape' is noteworthy as a nice parable of liberation and the throwing off of formalist shackles. In general, it is a good collection.

   'Pilgrimage to Earth' is referred to in Curtoni's article. Love is purveyed to tourists as a commodity, which not surprisingly proves disillusioning.

   "The television quiz becomes the occasion for the release of that cruelty which is so functional to the system"—such is Curtoni's succinct description of 'The Prize of Peril'.

   In 'The People Trap' possession of land becomes the reward of successful competition in a ritual race. The bandit leader Steinmetz declares, with Sheckley's tongue in his cheek, that "Rules is rules, even in an anarchy."

   The two later stories include Bakunin as a character. Both are included in Killjoy,'s list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters. 'The Resurrection Machine' features the resurrection of simulacra of Bakunin and Cicero; the virtual Bakunin is mistreated by one of the experimenters, whose colleague retaliates by 'freeing' him within the computer network. The story is part of the themed Time Gate anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg with Bill Fawcett, and Bakunin reappears later in the volume in Pat Murphy's 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation.' 'Simul City' appears in the sequel volume Time Gate, Vol. 2, Dangerous Interfaces, where Bakunin plays a lesser role; in other stories in this volume, by Anne McCaffrey ('Pedigreed Stallion') and Karen Haber ('Simbody to Love') Bakunin has little more than a walk-on role; McCaffrey's story must be unique in including an encounter between Bakunin and Margaret Thatcher . . . .


Mary Shelley: Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818, rev. 1831); The Last Man (1826)

In one respect Mary Shelley is the prime example of association between sf and anarchism: for the mother of science fiction was daughter to the father of anarchism, William Godwin, and wife to the Godwinian Percy B. Shelley. Critical opinions differ, however, as to how much Godwin's philosophy influenced her works, or for that matter P.B. Shelley's own brand of Godwinism. Though the influence on her upbringing must have been considerable, she chose to keep her distance from radicalism. As she wrote in her journal, "I believe we are sent here to educate ourselves, and that self-denial, and disappointment, and self-control, are a part of our education; that it is not by taking away all restraining law that our improvement is to be achieved; and, though many things need great amendment, I can by no means go so far as my friends would have me." (quoted in Spark 1952: 5)

   Frankenstein, now widely regarded as the first work of modern science fiction, is too well-known to need description here. On its appearance it bore a dedication to Godwin; and it is noteworthy that Shelley had been re-reading her father's great work Political Justice in 1817, whilst writing Frankenstein: one entry in her journal (1817-04-13) actually reads "Correct Frankenstein; read Political Justice" (Shelley 1947: 78). Godwin himself praised Frankenstein in his letters to his daughter. On 1822-11-15 he described the novel as "a fine thing; it was compressed, muscular, and firm; nothing relaxed and weak; no proud flesh." (Marshall 1889: II.52) And by 1823-02-14 he could write that "Frankenstein is universally known, and though it can never be a book for vulgar reading, is everywhere respected." (ibid.: II.68). Most recently (2013), John Zerzan has described Frankenstein as "a classic warning about the hubris of technology's combat against nature".

   The Last Man, though historically important in sf as a very early post-catastrophe story, is overwhelmingly tedious, and was understandably out of print for over a century. The character of Lionel's father, as described in the novel's opening pages, has been seen as a portrait of William Godwin (Luke 1965: xii). In an 1824 letter from Godwin to the author he gave at best lukewarm opinions on the extracts she had sent him.

 

Lewis Shiner: Slam (1990)

Influenced by Bob Black's The Abolition of Work. "Shiner says: 'In fact, I was at a cyberpunk conference in Leeds this summer and one of the participants gave a paper on my stuff. It was not a terribly theoretical paper; his point was that all my books involve anarchy to one degree or another. The anarchist is perceived as a positive force to reawaken a stagnant society. He found this in a great number of my works. I'll buy into that, particularly since the novel I'd already finished—Slam, which he hadn't seen—is a blatant novel about anarchy. Genre distinctions or the presence or absence of certain tropes in a work is a very minor detail compared to the other stuff.'"

    Shiner is reluctant to self-identify as anarchist, but he is a paid-up member of the IWW, and has stated that "I look to anarchists for inspiration, for those gestures of defiance that I can use in my work" (interview in Killjoy, 2009).

    Although Shiner wrote one of the first cyberpunk novels (Frontera, 1984), Slam itself isn't actually sf. But it's hugely enjoyable, so I'm happy to include it here.


John Shirley: Transmaniacon (1979); Three-Ring Psychus (1980)

The protagonist of Transmaniacon is described as "punk, anarchic, exorbitant, his mind evacuated of normal constraints, death-loving." (SFE)

    Three-Ring Psychus is a real curiosity, with a vision of 'The Great Unweighting', in which Jung's collective unconscious asserts itself and allows people control over their own gravitation, flitting about in a surreal vision reminiscent of Magritte's Golconda. A metaphor for freedom, this 'Upping' leads to a complete revisioning of society with thousands of micro-polities; the lead character explicitly feels "an increasing kinship with the anarchist viewpoint" (Zebra edn, p150).

    Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson and John Shirley were on a panel on Anarchism and Science Fiction at the March 2012 San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair, which is available as a podcast on Rucker's website.

 

Nevil Shute: On the Beach (1957)

With most of the world already dead from the nuclear holocaust, Australians await the fallout; the central characters end up taking suicide pills.

   Referred to by a number of anarchist writers, Freedom's 1958 reviewer Arthur Uloth wrote of this famous World War III novel "After reading this book I felt a desire to lose my temper and throw things about." (Uloth 1958)

 

Alan Sillitoe: Travels in Nihilon (1971)

According to Sargent (153), this is a satire on anarchism (nihilism). Actually, it's nothing at all do do with anarchism, but is rather a satirical utopia (not really sf) about a nation of self-styled nihilists. Its perverse logic can nevertheless be quite beguiling.


Robert Silverberg: 'The Songs of Summer' (1956), Hawksbill Station (1968)

In The Songs of Summer a man from the present is projected into a far-future post-holocaust world, and attempts to reinstate government. The community psychically isolates him in his own fantasy. The future society is very sparse and individualistic; this and the far-future setting imply no belief on Silverberg's part in either the practicality or the desirability of anarchism.

   Hawksbill Station is a penal colony for political dissidents from a future Syndicalist USA, located a billion years in the past. With a change of government, and the discovery of a method of sending people forward in time, it becomes possible for them to return. A couple of the dissidents were anarchists before their exile. One of these, the man who profoundly believed in individualism and the abolition of all political institutions (c. 7), has ironically been obliged to swallow his theory and acknowledge the value of team work. This individualist version of anarchism is the only one presented. Anarchists are shown in a fairly positive light in the novel, but this appears to be despite their beliefs.

 

Clifford D. Simak: 'Beachhead' (1951)

Members of a human survey party perceive as a threat the warning from aliens that they will never leave the planet; they soon learn that it was merely factual, as an unknown factor destroys all alloyed metals on the planet—which is why the aliens had not developed a technology. The humans' smug faith in their own faith is of no avail.

   For John Pilgrim this was a nice example of an SF writer cutting the scientist down to size. (Pilgrim 1963)

 

B.F. Skinner: Walden Two (1958)

Walden Two is a provocative utopia based on experimentation in behavioural engineering. It's provocative because it's presented as a eutopia, to be admired, whereas many people, and most anarchists, would regard behavioural engineering as nightmarish totalitarian control. Frazier, Skinner's mouthpiece, denies "that freedom exists at all" (Macmillan pb edn, New York, 1962: 257). In 1980 Skinner explained that

 

If acting for the good of the group is positively reinforced, people will feel as free and worthy as possible. I am in favour of that. It is the best way to promote government by the people for the people." (Skinner 1980: 5)

   Despite this apparent opinion of Skinner's that freedom itself is just a weapon in the behaviourist's armoury, Walden Two presents arguments that anarchists need to be able to answer, and should be read with this in mind.

 

John Sladek: 'Heavens Below: Fifteen Utopias' (1975)

One of the fifteen is the one-page 'Utopia: A Financial Report', in which the four planned nations of Fascesia, Commund, Capitalia and Anarche are the subject of an experiment on the social institutions of Homo sapiens; it is successfully completed, Utopia closed, the inhabitants destroyed, and the experimenters move on to the social behaviour of armadillos. Anarche had not proved viable: it was found that "Anarchers are evidently unstable, and frequently migrate to the other three nations."

   'Heavens Below' is an entertaining mixture: 'Utopia: A Financial Report' is too short to establish anything much, especially given the overall satirical/ironic cast of the story as a whole.


Brian Francis Slattery: Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America (2008)

Included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters.

 

William M. Sloane: Stories for Tomorrow (1954)

Referred to in Pilgrim's 1963 Anarchy article, it is a good anthology for the period.

 

Joan Sloncewski: A Door into Ocean (1986)

It has been suggested that this novel's hidden anarchism is very much in harmony with Murray Bookchin's social ecology (Sobstyl: 128).


Clark Ashton Smith

"He says: 'One other observation: Communism, as practised in the insect world, is a poor recommendation for its possible effect on humanity. Nothing sickens me more than to watch the mechanistic activities of ants, who have certainly achieved the ultimate in regimentization and co-operation. I guess I must be an anarchist myself; and I am sure I would be strictly non-assimilable in any sort of co-operative society, and would speedily end up in a concentration camp.'" (Dan Clore)


Cordwainer Smith: Instrumentality series

Smith's series, collected in four volumes (The Best of Cordwainer Smith, The Instrumentality of Mankind, Norstrilia, and Quest of the Three Worlds), is an unfinished future history, mainly featuring 'underpeople'—humans made from animal stock—in an unusual Chinese-influenced quasi-mythic narrative style. The stories are variable in quality, but some are superlative sf; nevertheless, they are basically right-wing in political orientation. This is perhaps not surprising given the author's real identity as Paul M.A. Linebarger, godson to Sun Yat-sen, close confidant of Chiang Kai-shek, and an expert on psychological warfare, known to have done undocumented work for the CIA.

   M. Eagle, in Freedom, found Smith's stories "somewhat odd" . . . (Eagle 1969) This is perhaps not surprising given the author's real identity as Paul M.A. Linebarger, godson to Sun Yat-sen, close confidant of Chiang Kai-shek, and an expert on psychological warfare, known to have done undocumented work for the CIA.

 

L. Neil Smith: The Probability Broach (1980); Pallas (1993); Forge of the Elders (2000)

The Probability Broach is a Parallel Earth story of an anarcho-capitalist society trying to influence our Earth, involving a Chandlerian cop. American free-market anarchism is integral to the work, involving informed discussion of the relative merits of minarchy and anarcho-capitalism; the general message is that "A free, unregulated laissez-faire market should, and can take care of everything government claims to do, only better, cheaper, and without wrecking individual lives in the process: national defense, adjudication, pollution control, fire protection, and police . . . " (del Rey edn: 3). There are bizarre aspects to the alternate history: the list of Presidents of the North American Confederacy include Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker and Ayn Rand; the former king of the UK now has among his titles Anarch of the Commonwealth; Peter Kropotkin became a wealthy uranium miner in Antarctica (his alternate world widow is a principal character in the novel). The author seems obsessed with hardware—Lucy Kropotkin claims that "freedom always calls for a little hardware" (del Rey edn: 98); this may have something to do with Smith being an ex-police reservist, gunsmith and self-defence consultant.

    Prometheus Award winners.


S.P. Somtow

Based a tetralogy on the premise of Sturgeon's 'The Skills of Xanadu'. The tetralogy concerned was probably Inquestor, the four books being published as by Somtow Sucharitkul (Light on the Sound, 1980, The Throne of Madness, 1983, Utopia Hunters, 1984, The Darkling Wind, 1985).

 

Norman Spinrad: Agent of Chaos (1967), Bug Jack Barron (1969),  'Heirloom' (1972), The Iron Dream (1972), The Void Captain's Tale (1983), Child of Fortune (1985), Little Heroes (1987), Greenhouse Summer (1999)

Agent of Chaos concerns an underground movement which ideologises entropy as leading to chaos, and fights against the total control of the Hegemony over the solar system. Said to have influenced young American radical-anarchists in the 1970s (Platt:70), though it is hard to see why; there is, however, a passage in chapter 11 in which the concept of freedom is linked to that of the infinity of the universe, which equation is perhaps at the root of the attractiveness of sf for many anarchists and libertarians.

   'Heirloom' is a minor anarchistic story, wholly derivative of Russell's '. . . And Then There Were None.'

   For Michael Moorcock The Iron Dream—a heroic fantasy novel supposedly written by Adolf Hitler—was "intended to display the fascist elements inherent to the form." (Moorcock 1978) But for P.S., the same year, "Taken in small doses it is very funny. But the parody of fascism repeated over and over again numbs the mind and becomes a subliminal play for fascism." Zeke Teflon, however, considers it one of his favourite anarchist science fiction novels, describing it as "Alternately chilling and darkly funny. [ . . . ] An excellent illustration of the ugliness of the authoritarian psyche."

   For Moorcock Spinrad used Bug Jack Barron to "display the abuse of democracy and the media in America." (Moorcock 1978)

   "Spinrad says: 'Child of Fortune is another anarchist novel, because there's no government.'" (Dan Clore) The message of the book is unequivocal:

"True Children of Fortune have no chairmen of the board or kings. True Children of Fortune seek not after chairmen of the board or kings. Certainement, no true Child of Fortune would wish to be a chairman of the board or king!" (Bantam edn: 495)

   The Void Captain's Tale is also set in a society with no government. (Lise Andreasen, posting to anarchysf mailing list, 2010)

   Little Heroes and Greenhouse Summer are included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters. Spinrad has said that his model, in Greenhouse Summer, "is some form of syndicalist anarchism—'anarchism that knows how to do business'—no national governments per se." (Shirley) Greenhouse Summer is also included in Teflon's list.

   In a 1999 interview Spinrad confirmed that he was "an anarchist—but I'm a syndicalist. You have to have organized anarchy, because otherwise it doesn't work.' (Killjoy, 2009)


Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men (1930), Star Maker (1937)

One of the most important figures in the history of science fiction, Stapledon (like H.G. Wells) was a democratic socialist, who believed (also like Wells) that state socialism would and should develop into a stateless society. In Last and First Men and StarMaker this development is briefly portrayed. (Dan Clore)


Starhawk: The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993)

. . . "epic tale, set in 2048, California. In a time of ecological collapse, when the hideously authoritarian and corporate-driven Stewards have taken control of most of the land and set up an apartheid state, one region has declared itself independent: the Bay Area and points north. Choosing life over guns, they have created a simple but rich ecotopia, where no one wants, nothing is wasted, culture and cooperation are uppermost, and the Four Sacred Things [earth, air, fire, and water] are valued unconditionally." (Starhawk's website). The author is a neo-pagan activist. In terms of practical politics she describes herself as now "actually more of a progressive democrat" (Killjoy, 2009; also here). For John P. Clark this is perhaps the only work of fiction "that has made a major contribution to anarchistic utopianism" since Le Guin's. (Clark 2009: 22)


Raymond Stark: Crossroads to Nowhere (1956)

Thirty years after the holocaust, an Anarch from the west seeks law and order in (New) York; he finds totalitarianism not to his taste, but unintentionally puts the York government onto the Anarchs, who are promptly colonised. The Anarch and some friends retreat to a minimal statist village, there to plan the overthrow of the government. It is clear they will fail. Naive, with little merit.


Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992), The Diamond Age (1995), Cryptonomicon (1999), The System of the World (2004)

A form of anarcho-capitalism plays a major role in these entertaining novels. In Snow Crash, territory is primarily controlled by corporate franchises, termed "Franchise-Operated Quasi-National Entities" such as "Mr Lee's Greater Hong Kong" and "Nova Sicilia," with privately-operated police and judicial systems, where the landscape has been turned into a patchwork quilt of franchise enclave communities, and the increasingly residual federal government is just one more competitor in a free market for sovereignty services.

It's always been a mystery [ . . . ], but then, that's how the government is. It was invented to do stuff that private enterprise doesn't bother with, which means that there's probably no reason for it; you never know what they're doing or why. (ch. 63)

    Its sequel, The Diamond Age, depicts a more mature anarcho-capitalist society where Common Law and other international private law conventions have evolved into a Common Economic Protocol to which all non-outlaw phyles and FOQNEs subscribe in their own legal systems.

    The System of the World won the 2005 Prometheus Award, and Cryptonomicon the 2013 Libertarian Futurist Society's Hall of Fame Award.

 

Bruce Sterling: Islands in the Net (1989), 'Bicycle Repairman' (1996), Holy Fire (1996), Distraction (1999)

Islands in the Net was "Influenced by Bob Black's The Abolition of Work." (Dan Clore) It has been perceived as an anarchist/anti-capitalist utopia (mailing to anarchysf). Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), who describes himself as a Cyberpunk fan, makes particular reference to this novel, as "based on the assumption that the decay of political systems will lead to a decentralized proliferation of experiments in living" . . .

   'Bicycle Repairman' takes place in an anarchist squatters' enclave.

   Holy Fire was strongly recommended by an anarchysf lister, describing it as "germane to this list because of its treatment of the dynamics of a post-plague society, and social conservativism among the very long-lived." A couple of minor characters are anarchists.
   In 'Distraction', early 21st century America is "populated by large gangs of postmodern proletarian nomads." "Sterling's vision is, in fact, profoundly anarchistic. [. . .] Distraction updates pre-modern gift exchange for the postmodern age, and thus charts a radically non-hierarchical vision of the near future." (Call, 2002)


Robert Louis Stevenson

Freedom in 1889 quoted from one of Stevenson's Samoan letters, in which he speaks of a certain fascination for the anarchists and compares them with the early Christians. The anonymous writer concluded that "Stevenson was a man of an intensely reactionary mind, but he had the honesty, when he saw Anarchists in a truer, clearer light, to say so, and we respect him for it." (anon. 1899)


S.L.S. (pseudonym of John St Loe Strachey): The Great Bread Riots: or, What Came of Fair Trade (1885)

Following the abolition of free trade, the rioting of the unemployed is led by anarchical secret societies, based on violence, their organisation copied from those of Germany and Russia; the events are recounted as from 1934. It is a very slight work, of negligible interest for anarchists.

 

George R. Stewart: Earth Abides (1949)

Most of the population dies from disease; the hero leads his tiny new tribe into posthistory. Earth Abides was reviewed anonymously in Anarchy in 1963, with a degree of reluctant respect: "The author writes with a Defoe-like verisimilitude, and a fascinating wealth of ecological detail"; though the survivors "start life afresh from zero: no government, nothing in the way of constraints and restraints", the story "does not end as anarchists would like it to end." This is clearly because after 21 years of Edenic anarchy the State is effectively reestablished when the decision is taken to hang a stranger who drunkenly brags of his venereal diseases. Ish, the hero, reflects:

 

Ye there was an iron. The State—it should be a kind of nourishing mother, protecting the individuals in their weakness, permitting a fuller life. And now the first act of the State, its originating function, had been to bring death. Well, who could say? Likely enough, in the dim past reaches of time, the State had always sprung from the need to crystallize power in some troublous time, and primitive power must often have expressed itself in death. (pt II, c. 9)

Despite this anarchist analysis, Ish falls for the old story that at least it's better than anarchy, "when there was no strong force to protect the individual against whatever might rise up against him."

 

Charles Stross: Singularity Sky (2003), The Atrocity Archives (2004), Iron Sunrise (2005), Glasshouse (2006), Neptune's Brood (2013)

Singularity Sky is included in Killjoy's list of stories that explore anarchist societies, and is included in Zeke Teflon's list of his favourite anarchist sf novels.

    The Atrocity Archives and Glasshouse are included in the Anarchist Studies Network's Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List.

    Iron Sunrise was recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. It is also included in Teflon's list.

    Glasshouse won the 2007 Prometheus Award. In Teflon's list it is described as "A brutal tale about gender roles and conformity."

    According to Teflon, part of Neptune's Brood "is set in a sympathetically portrayed deep sea anarchist society of genetically modified humans." The author himself describes it as "a parable for our times about the banking crisis and the spiralling growth of debt that is rapidly enslaving us to a floating pool of transnational financial instruments that nobody really understands or owns." [Charlie's Diary]


Arkady & Boris Strugatsky: Roadside Picnic (1971)

Zakk Flash, on Facebook's Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum, writes that "Although not specifically anarchist, this looks interesting."

 

Theodore Sturgeon: More than Human (1953), 'The Skills of Xanadu' (1956), Venus Plus X (1960)

More than Human tells of several individuals with different psychic powers coming together as a single being, 'homo gestalt'. It is briefly described in Vittorio Curtoni's 1978 article. For Evan Lampe the evolution to H. gestalt is reminiscent of Kropotkin's Mutual Aid.

   Though the tenor of 'Xanadu' is appealing, its premise—a technology that renders human co-operation axiomatic and intuitive—is presented in fantastic terms.

   Venus Plus X received a warm response from John Pilgrim in 1963, for the utopia of surgically-produced hermaphrodites it presents.


S. Andrew Swann: The Hostile Takeover trilogy: Profiteer (1995), Partisan (1995), Revolutionary (1996)

Really a single long novel, the setting is chiefly a planet named Bakunin, orbiting the star Kropotkin; the principal city is called Godwin (with a street called Vanzetti), and the spaceport Proudhon.

    . . . "depicts a world called Bakunin that operates on anarcho-capitalist principles, and examines the particular problem of an anarcho-capitalist society defending itself against a statist aggressor when that aggressor hires so many of the Anarcho-capitalist society's own denizens as mercenary forces."  "its portrayal of society on the planet Bakunin is arguably much more critical of the basic premise of anarchism than is typical of the genre, coming close to a libertarian dystopia." "While Swann's portrayal of anarchism falls far short of advocacy, it is clear in the text that his sympathy is with the anarchists and not with the state." [Wikipedia: anarcho-capitalist literature, Hostile Takeover trilogy]

   This really over-eggs the cake. Apart from the name-checks, there is little that can be described as anarchist about the planet Bakunin, apart from the absence of a world government. It's not really even markedly anarcho-capitalist or libertarian, although there's perhaps a degree of warmth to a woolly notion of anarchy.


Michael Swanwick: The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1994)

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

 

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels (1726/1735), 'A Modest Proposal' (1729)

Gulliver's Travels has the eponymous hero marooned amid various alien societies, for satirical ends. It has been suggested that some of Godwin's thinking originates here, especially in relation to the society of the Houyhnhnms, which can be seen as anarchistic (Woodcock 1962, Preu: 372, 382). A quotation from Gulliver's Houyhnhnm master will serve as an example of the similarity to Godwin's thinking: the Houyhnhnm, commenting on British society, expressed the opinion "That our institutions of government and law were plainly owing to our gross defects in reason, and by consequence, in virtue; because reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature . . ." (Pt IV, c. VII). Godwin certainly admired Swift, whom he described as a man who "appears to have had a more profound insight into the true principles of political justice than any preceding or contemporary author." (Godwin 1798) "For the stern and inflexible integrity of his principles, and the profound sagacity of his speculation, he will be honoured by a distant posterity." (Godwin 1798: 443) Of Gulliver's Travels itself Godwin wrote that "It was unfortunate that a work of such inestimable wisdom failed at the period of its publication from the mere playfulness of its form, in communicating adequate instruction to mankind." Interestingly, Godwin's diaries record that he was reading Gulliver's Travels while he was writing Political Justice in just the same way as his daughter's diary records that she was reading Political Justice while writing Frankenstein (Preu: 372). An extract from the Voyage to the Houyhnhnms was printed in La Révolte in 1893. Preu claims that if Godwin is the father of anarchism, Swift, through his influence on Godwin, is certainly its grandfather. (Preu: Dean 69)

    The famous Modest Proposal is that starvation in Ireland could be cured by consuming the children of the poor. An extract was printed in La Révolte in 1893.

 

 


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.

Authors by surname: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T V W Y Z Possibles


Bibliography


@sf home, Ben Beck's website home



This page was last revised on 2014-09-12.

© Benjamin S. Beck 2005–2014

joomla site stats