Anarchism and science fiction: T

Gabriel Tarde: Underground Man (1905)

Underground Man is a stifling and unpleasant authoritarian utopia, set in the far future, after the sun has cooled. For Berneri it was "more concerned with the discussion of philosophical ideas than the presentation of any ideal commonwealth" (Berneri 1950: 293).


Zeke Teflon (pseud. for Chaz Bufe): Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (2012)

A fast-paced journey through a series of isolated communities of political and religious extremists on a prison planet. One such, with which the author's sympathies clearly lie, is the anarchist community of New Harmony.


William Tenn: 'The Liberation of Earth' (1953)

Vittorio Curtoni saw Tenn as an sf author who "satirizes the mechanics of repression" (Curtoni 1978: 24). This story is a fine example, in which Earth is repeatedly conquered and reconquered by rival galactic forces, in the course of which 'liberation' the planet is devastated. The tale just stops short of drawing an anarchist moral, in that Earth's indigenous governors are exempted from description as anything worse than stupid; nevertheless it is most appealing.

The Tenth Victim (La decima vittima, 1965, dir. Elio Petri)

Loose adaptation of Robert Sheckley's 'The Seventh Victim'. Legalised murder as a game with a $1 million payoff.


Seen as a "groovy" 60s movie by libertarian Carl Milsted, for whom it takes "libertarian logic to its logical conclusion".


Sherri Tepper: The Gate to Women's Country (1988)

Included in the Think Galactic reading list.

The Terminal Man (1974, dir. Mike Hodges)

An experiment in mind control on an individual with brain damage, aimed at intercepting his potential violent behaviour while fitting, goes badly wrong.


Essentially a cyborg movie, this is ranked in second place at Goliath's 10 Obscure Sci-Fi Films Worth Seeking Out, a link shared on Facebook's Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum and on Sci-Fi Libertarian Socialist.


They Live (1988, dir. John Carpenter)

B-movie-style satirical take on aliens controlling the world through broadcast media, exposed by a group with special sunglasses that reveal the aliens' true form and expose the ubiquitous subliminal commands to obey, consume, reproduce, and conform. Unsubtle, and too much action at the expense of developing the concept.


Recommended by a couple of contributors to the Anarchism SubReddit as a film advocating anti-capitalism.

Things to Come (1936, dir. William Cameron Menzies)

Screenplay by H.G. Wells, based on his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come. The first part sees the start of World War II in Poland, a global Future War that continues for decades; the second, set in 1970, deals with a post-war community reduced to tribalism until the arrival of a mysterious warlord who proclaims a new era of 'law and sanity' and quells the opposition with 'Peace Gas'; and the third takes place in a gleaming technocratic utopian 2036, and an attempt is being made to fire a manned projectile into space, using an electric gun. Considered by SFE "the last sf film of any importance until the 1950s" and "one of the most important films in the history of sf cinema for the boldness of its ambitions and for the ardour with which it projects the myth of space flight as the beginning of humankind's transcendence."


Richard Porton, in his Film and the Anarchist Imagination, writes


One version of Wells's technological utopia, albeit a cartoonish, hyperbolic variant, can be disinterred from William Cameron Menzies's film Things to Come (1936). Although Wells thought that all of his reservations concerning supposedly benign dictatorships were excised from the script by Menzies, this fanciful version of scientism run amok is undoubtedly the pop culture version of the positivist priesthood postulated by thinkers like Comte.

D.M. Thomas: The White Hotel (1981)

Pat Flanagan's 1982 featured Freedom review found the novel "a radical failure, as a novel, but the writing often very fine", and "Thomas is to be admired for the boldness and courage of his endeavour". Nicolas Walter, in a subsequent letter to Freedom, found the book "at the same time a fascinating and coherent work of fiction and a funny and convincing critique of psychiatric dogma." (N.W. 1982)

Amy Thomson: The Color of Distance (1999)

Recommended by Common Action at the panel 'Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction' at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. Describes first contact with a harmonious rainforest community on an alien planet.


Dave Thorpe: Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect (1988)

Described as an allegorical satire on the nuclear age, this was published by the anarchist Hooligan Press, and favourably reviewed in Freedom. (D.R. 1988)

THX 1138 (1971, dir. George Lucas)

In a dystopian future world below ground, where human activities are wholly controlled by android police officers, use of emotion-suppressing drugs is mandatory, and sex is prohibited, the human THX 1138 makes a bid for freedom, after his pregnant partner is 'consumed' and her own number reassigned to the fœtus. He is successful, only because the recovery operation is terminated after exceeding its budget.


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


One of Michael Matthews's Top 10 Best Films for Anarchists. For Libertarian Movies, "all sci-fi fans, and libertarians, should have a look". Also included in the list by 'Incubus' on's 'Any good anarchist films?' page. Included in Starrychloe's list on's Good movies for libertarians and anarchists. Clay Richards, anarchist blogger, was "thoroughly impressed" by the film.


Though this may not be a popular opinion, this is much the best of Lucas's science fiction films.

Time After Time (1979, dir. Nicholas Meyer)

H.G. Wells, having built a time machine, pursues Jack the Ripper into the future, finding 1979 not quite the socialist utopia he'd expected. Old-fashioned but still entertaining.


Included in Goliath's 10 Obscure Sci-Fi Films Worth Seeking Out, a link shared on Facebook's Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum.

The Time Machine (1960, dir. George Pal)

Dumbed down version of the Wells story.


Mark Bould, in his 2005 Socialist Review article, copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list, says this adaptation "replaced Wells's melancholy with the lunk-headed machismo of pre-Vietnam US imperialism."


James Tiptree, Jr: 'The Women Men Don't See' (1973); 'Houston, Houston, Do You Read?' (1976); 'The Screwfly Solution' (1977, as by Racoona Sheldon); Brightness Falls from the Air (1985)

Vittorio Curtoni in 1978 referred to the first two of these stories as "powerful metaphors of the female position in the world of today . . . "


In 'Houston, Houston . . . ' a solar flare sends a three-man space mission 300 years into the future to encounter a depopulated Earth, with all men wiped out by an epidemic, all survivors being clones; the men can't cope with an all-female society that has no need for them, and they are put down. The future society is communalised and libertarian, with no government as such, but, given the conclusion, surely not entirely benign. This story is also included in the Think Galactic reading list.


In 'The Women Men Don't See' a private plane crashes in the Yucatan; a mother and daughter, among the stranded, choose to be taken away by passing aliens, feeling that the male society they already live in couldn't be more alien anyway. More negative than 'Houston, Houston . . . ', with no more than a suggestion of what might be, it's also a more subtle story.


'The Screwfly Solution' is included in the Think Galactic reading list, as is Brightness Falls from the Air.

Torchwood (2006/2011, TV series, created by Russell T. Davies)

Doctor Who spin-off, featuring a covert agency called Torchwood which investigates extraterrestrial and supernatural incidents on Earth.


Though the initial two series were seen as "a bit hit-and-miss" by Iain MacKay (writing as 'Anarcho'), at Anarchist Writers, the third series—a five-part story called 'Children of Earth'—was welcomed as "well worth watching"; MacKay especially appreciated the lead character, Captain Jack Harkness, using the Wobbly slogan, 'An injury to one is an injury to all'. The blogger was editor, in 2011, of Property is Theft!: A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Reader, and wrote that this story "played havoc with my editing down of System of Economical Contradictions"!


Harkness's pan-sexuality was warmly received by contributors to the 2015 Aljazeera discussion on 'Sci-fi for social change' in 2015.

Total Recall (1990, dir. Paul Verhoeven)

Loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story, the film tells of a man who, in the process of downloading false memories of a trip to Mars and his experiences as a secret agent there, exposes some real ones, and ends up leaving Earth and fighting with rebels against a totalitarian Martian establishment. As with Dick, it's hard to be sure which is the 'real' reality. Over the top entertainment, which suits Schwarzenegger in the lead role.


Included in's Working class cinema: a video guide. Listed at Libertarian Movies, which says "there's quite a bit for libertarians to enjoy".


Also included in Osborne, for whom "If you're going to have a rebellion against a corrupt government, be sure 'Ahnold' is on your side."

The Toxic Avenger (1984, dirs Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman)

Superhero movie, in which a wimpy janitor falls into a barrel of toxic waste and mutates. Supposedly comedy horror, but truly dire and utterly humourless. In the words of SFE "The Toxic Avenger's deliberate tastelessness is uninteresting because pointless."


Bizarrely, Alex Peak gives this film an extended right-libertarian critique which is as humourless as the film. Troma films, the production company, is said by Logan Marie Glitterbomb, of C4SS, to have tackled, through the 'humor' of this film and others, "issues of racism, indigenous rights, animal welfare, queer rights, pollution, devil worshipping corporations, and GMO foods with all the blood and nudity one could ask for."

Trancers (1984, dir. Charles Band)

Criminal with obscure psychic powers travels back to 1985 intending to kill the ancestors of his political opponents in 2247, but is stopped by a detective using the same time-travel technique, namely invading the mind of an ancestor of his own.


In an interview copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list in 2003, this was named by Ken Macleod as on his short list of great SF movies.

Tron (1982, dir. Steven Lisberger)

In its day a pioneering film for its use of computer graphics, but it's now of little more than antiquarian interest.


For Thomas Michaud, in his 'Science Fiction and Politics. Cyberpunk Science Fiction as Political Philosophy', in Tron, as in Gibson's Neuromancer,


. . . the network is simple. It is an elementary structure without power, anarchistic. Hackers from the cyberpunk science fiction are anarchists struggling in anarchistic structures called networks. Anarchy is normality in networks of communication. Networks are anarchistic. The society of communication is anarchistic thanks to technology, and hackers are archetypes of the individual in this society.


The Truman Show (1998, dir. Peter Weir)

Truman Burbank has lived for thirty years as unwitting star of a reality TV show in a wholly fake world; gradually sensing wrongness he eventually breaks free. The film owes a debt to both Philip K. Dick and The Prisoner.


Recommended on the Anarchism subReddit as having anarchist/anti-work/anti-capitalist tendencies. Recommended as libertarian by Alex Peak. The Anarcho-Capitalism subReddit has a discussion specifically on The Truman Show; for one contributor, "If anything, the story is symbolic of the realities of the state. You are born into it, forced to abide by it, and insulted or threatened when you start to disagree."

Harry Turtledove: The Gladiator (2007)

Tied for the 2008 Prometheus Award.


Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

Discussed in two entries in Lampe's blog: 1 and 2.


See my hotlist, for for items particularly recommended by me.


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Anarchists on the genre of sf



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This page was last revised on 2018-04-10.

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