This archive is an open-source repository of anarchist or anarchy-adjacent science fiction. Featured on the site are books, movies, and other media which are either anarchist in their politics or of interest to anarchists.
This archive was first collected and organized by Ben Beck, who gathered and maintained it for the better part of three decades (!) As of 2019, it was redesigned and re-built by Eden Kupermintz and Yanai Sened as a collaborative effort. Eventually, the goal is for a community to help maintain and edit the wealth of knowledge on this site, as well as to add to it (follow us on Twitter where we aim to organize this community).
Suggested as anarchist reading by a poster to libcom.org.
In its irreverence of authority and its absurdism, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can certainly hold interest for the anarchist reader. Within its pages, it seems that no hierarchy, no political structure, no matter how big or small don't hold some form of corruption within them. Whether the crass and brutal lack of empathy of the Vogons, the mind-numbing bureaucracy of local, municipal government, or the start-system encompassing absurdism of the galactic governance, all the systems in these books are a mockery of rigid, segmented power-structures and their traps.
In their place, individual empathy, perseverance and ingenuity are often suggested or expanded upon. However, it should be noted that, as part of its satirical voice, there are no firm political alternatives suggested within the series. The fact that it's very good more than makes up for that.
Feeble unfunny sci-fi spoof.
Described by Paul Di Filippo at Locus as "High Camp Anarchist SF", it's nothing of the sort, not really even anarchic, as perhaps Di Filippo meant to say.
Influential early sf film, but more style than substance. An engineer dreams of travelling to Mars by rocket, falling in love with its queen Aelita, then leading an uprising to establish a Union of Soviet Socialist Martian Republics. 'Quaint' might be the word.
Included in the Red Planets filmography, and in libcom.org's Working class cinema: a video guide.
Three series of short animations, first shown on MTV (the first two series very short indeed, the third series of roughly 22-minute episodes), featuring secret agent Æon Flux, set in two countries in what was once Eastern Europe in the year 7698, after a global environmental disaster. One country is said to be an anarchist society while the other is a police state led by Aeon Flux’s antagonist.
15 minute short featuring an airship attack on London. Believed to have been based on Fawcett's Hartmann the Anarchist. No footage is known to survive. For Tony Shaw, the film "can be seen as early evidence of film-makers' ability to marry terrorism with images of mass destruction."
Included in the CIRA filmography.
Classic anime, set in a post-World War III Neo-Tokyo, featuring a teenage biker who develops special psychic powers and eventually liberates the imprisoned Akira, also a psychic, who had been blamed for the war.
In a comment on a blog about Akira, John Wiberg said "Akira, to me at least, has always been about power and oppression (It is in essence a highly political film; something rarely discussed considering the film features anarchist revolutionaries, greedy officials dying clutching money and a riot being suppressed by military police). Alex Fitch at Electric Sheep notes, too, that "it is only the interaction of the super-powered with ordinary, albeit anarchist, humans that stops the (complete) destruction of Tokyo for a third time."
"There is Brian Aldiss with his Barefoot in the Head vision of an LSD 'bombed' Europe almost totally liberated and developing bizarre new customs." (Moorcock 1978) There was an interesting exchange concerning the book in Foundation in 1976, between Peter Nicholls and Brian Aldiss. Nicholls felt that, while it is "not fair to say that the novel preaches anarchy, . . . it certainly accepts it", and that it is "somehow more anarchic than one believes Aldiss to be." (Nicholls 1976: 34, 35). Aldiss's reply, in a letter in the following issue, exclaimed indignantly that " . . . the novel is about anarchy; but why claim that I therefore espouse it? Don't I make it look nasty enough?" (Aldiss 1976: 48).
Vittorio Curtoni in 1978 singled out the other three titles, probably for the sole reason that they existed in Italian translation; he described them as "inspired parables", modelled with the tools of psychoanalysis (Curtoni 25). Earthworks is an Aldiss potboiler, of minimal interest; 'Down the Up Escalator' is a minor work in which a publisher's sickness is paralleled with the Vietnam war; and Intangibles, Inc. is a good collection of five stories (Curtoni may only have been referring to the title story; it has no special relevance, however).
Remarked on favourably by D.P. in 1986.
A Mars colony is cut off from contact with Earth, and seeks to create a new utopian society from scratch; meanwhile there are parallel stories regarding the discovery that the Martian mountain Olympus Mons is actually a gigantic sentient being, the quest for the particle we now know to be the Higgs boson, and the nature of consciousness. As a novel it's a disappointing failure through trying to cram so much into too small a space. Nevertheless, the utopian aspects have definite interest.
In 2004 the novel was the subject of a half-page review in Freedom, by David Peers. He notes that it "discusses several topics of interest to anarchists: a small community with few formal structures; a society that works without using money; ways of discarding previously learned habits of thought and so on", as well as "How do we deal with crime and punishment?" Peers concludes: "The obvious science fiction comparison is with Ursula Le Guin's novel, The Dispossessed. In that book the anarchy was established and congealing. Here, it's struggling to begin."
Fiona Harrington, in a posting to the Anarchy-SF mailing list in 2009, found it "a bit disappointing in that it was overly didactic at the expense of narrative", but "interesting as a novel of ideas and exploration of how an alternative society would or could work. It is more or less anarchistic, no formal government but a few authoritarian personalities wield a degree of influence, also no money!"
Overlong and not terribly coherent, with a dislikeable lead character and a cast of cardboard cut-outs, this nevertheless has a degree of interest for its discussion of free market anarchism, and some worked examples of how 'criminal justice' might work in this situation.
Ferocious scary alien stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship.
Categorised as subversive by Glenn in his 2015 essay 'Film as Subversion', in the BASTARD Chronicles. In his view, "The real horror of the film was not the multi-mandibled, slathering lizard, it was discovering that the crew's bosses intentionally sent them to collect the alien and then serve as its meal for the journey home, forcing the viewer to reevaluate his relationship with his own employers."
Three contributors to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum, in November 2016, listed this film as among the best sf ever committed to film.
Second instalment in the Alien franchise, the film follows the lead character Ripley as she returns to the planet where her crew first encountered the hostile alien, this time accompanied by a unit of space marines.
One of Rich Dana's candidates for best sci-fi ever committed to film, on the Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum.
Film version of the novel, directed by the author.
Distinctly poor, and really only for the agorist converted.
French New Wave pulp sf, but shot in black and white in a hard-boiled film noir style, with a surrealist streak. An intergalactic secret agent goes to Alphaville, a city run by a computer busy eradicating emotion from its occupants, defeats the computer's logic, kills its creator, and departs with the latter's daughter. Plenty of thoughtful dialogue along the way.
Described in Red Planets as a "Dystopian satire on bureaucracy and commodification, betraying a genuine affection for popular culture.
Included in Stuart Christie's filmography.
Recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.
A joyful spontaneous world-wide rebellion in which everyone decides we got it wrong and need to start again: no bosses, no jails, no private property, free love. Year 01 of the new order.
Included in the CIRA filmography.
Recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. Also on Think Galactic's reading list.
A fine and timely view of a future in which corporations have direct access to consumers' minds and purchasing behaviours, via an implanted net feed, viewed from the perspective of two young people with different takes on this dystopian vision.
In 'The Star Beast' a future earth has a social system resembling a form of anarchy, though not so described; it is presented as typical of decadence.
"It was a short story called Security Risk, in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION a monthly American magazine, that had in fact, first interested me in ideas that I later found to be embodied in anarchism." (Pilgrim 1963)
In 'For the Duration' an authoritarian future US government is overthrown, but the revolutionary forces quickly proved just as bad. The obvious anarchist moral is only implicitly drawn.
'The Last of the Deliverers' is a creaky, cold-war yarn with some attractive post-consumerism and a tinge of green. Dan Clore's summation: 'In a world where the US and USSR have become decentralized, libertarian socialist townships, the last capitalist debates the last Communist, and everyone else is bored by their irrelevance.'
In 'No Truce with Kings', Earth's states have broken into small, feudal realms; alien invaders attempt to reintroduce civilization to the "starveling anarchs" of the planet, who prefer the relative freedom offered by a choice of masters.' (Dan Clore) The story won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2010.
Trader to the Stars tied for the 1985 Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award, which was won by The Star Fox in 1995. The Stars Are Also Fire won the 1995 Prometheus Award.
Dull Christian utopia, apparently an influence on Bacon's New Atlantis.
For Nettlau this, with the Bacon and Campanella utopias, "offer the greatest interest and, [ . . . ] for the organization of work, of science, of inventions present remarkable perspectives."
Throughout his utopia one feels that his love of men inclined him to trust them as sensible beings capable of going about their lives in a reliable and honest way, but his religion told him that man is wicked and has to be carefully guided, preached to and, if necessary, threatened, to be kept away from sin. That is why his ideal city is a curious combination of free guilds and religious tyranny, of personal responsibility and of complete submission to religion.
American-Japanese anime anthology loosely based on the Matrix trilogy: a compilation of nine short films, including the back story of the original war between man and machines which led to the creation of the Matrix. Surprisingly successful, and more interesting than the final two of the Matrix trilogy.
Spoof travel-guide to the utopian island of Sonsorol, combining ideas from various libertarian strands.
Dramatisation of the near disaster of the Apollo 13 lunar mission. Convincing and suspenseful, even though the ending's so familiar.
A comment on reason.com's The libertarian film festival says "Yes, I know that NASA is a tax-funded bureaucracy; nevertheless, A13 is the only movie I've ever seen in which the main protagonist is human intelligence."
Drilling workers are sent by NASA to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, their mission being to bury a nuclear device deep enough to blow the asteroid apart.
Jon Osborne includes a review of this film, saying:
There are several aspects of this story that will appeal to libertarians. First, it has something of the creator-as-hero theme. [. . .] Second, there are numerous small conflicts between his skilled workers and their government handlers, in which the workers are always right. [. . .] And finally, when the team agrees to save the planet, the chief compensation they demand is that they be free of taxation for the rest of their lives!
This short story, published in Freedom in two parts in March and April 1935, recounts a dream of a prisoner at the bar defending his throwing a bomb at an Anarchist Committee in the 1980s. He did it to attack the hypocrisy of those who profess anarchism but fail to live as anarchists. A moral tale, it just scrapes in here as, by its future setting, marginal sf.
Solarpunk first novel by a writer from Quebec, who describes it as "a standalone novel sitting firmly between dystopia and solarpunk and centering LGBTQIAP+ characters", and a hopeful story "about overcoming desperate odds, nemesis working together, and larger-than-life characters". It was plugged by Facebook's Solarpunk Anarchist in December 2017.
Pretty much what the title says, the anthology is overwhelmingly fantasy, though with a solarpunk cast.
T.X. Watson, interviewed for Obsolete, found the mix "really cool".
In this obscure story from Science Fantasy an individual rebels against the destruction of an alien city by earth colonists; he is "stabilized". Pilgrim in 1963 saw it as "a horribly effective warning against a too enthusiastic worship of science."
Anarchist opinions on the Foundation trilogy have been divided: Pilgrim wrote in 1963 that "The theme of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Violence is the last resort of the incompetent, is indicative of the general science fiction writer's attitude to war." (Pilgrim 1963: 369)
It 'rams home repeatedly the argument that "violence is the last resort of the incompetent." In Peace News in 1966 he added: "Readers of this paper may well argue that violence is the first resort of the incompetent too, but the fact remains that Asimov is adopting an anti-war attitude.' (Pilgrim 1966) Eagle, too, was less than impressed: "Isaac Asimov, in his several novels about Galactic civilisation (the Foundation series and others) can think of nothing better than a depressing Galactic Empire." (Eagle 1969: 2) There is some truth in this—the two Foundations, opposed to the Empire, themselves constitute a scientific elite, the nucleus of the next ruling class. The near-mythic Hari Seldon, whose Plan the Foundations act out, had no doubt of his position:
"Even if the Empire were admitted to be a bad thing (an admission I do not make), the state of anarchy which would follow its fall would be worse. It is that state of anarchy which my project is pledged to fight." (Foundation: 27, Panther edn)
'The Dead Past' is Asimov's most notable treatment of 'intellectual anarchy'; it involves a discussion of the ethics of suppressing a 'chronoscope', a device for viewing the past, and the political control of research. The reader is initially encouraged to side with Potterley and Foster, both repeatedly described as "intellectual anarchists", against the government; but Asimov finally sides with Araman, for the government—
. . . "you all just took it for granted that the government was stupidly bureaucratic, vicious, tyrannical, given to suppressing research for the hell of it. It never occurred to any of you that we were trying to protect mankind as best we could." (The Best of Isaac Asimov: 246)
All in all it is a strong statist, and specifically anti-anarchist, parable.
Adaptation of the 1957 Ayn Rand novel; parts II and III were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
Brian Doherty, of Reason magazine, noted that while "the early reactions from Randians has been positive, with adulation from Rand’s closest friends and disciples during the years she wrote Atlas", by the same token, "some people who don’t care for Rand have also hated the film." This is entirely to be expected, given the way Rand divides opinion. I suspect that many readers of this page will be in the latter camp.
Centres on members of a teenage street gang who have to defend themselves from a Guy Fawkes Night attack by predatory alien invaders on a council estate tower block in south London.
Reviewed by Tom Jennings in Freedom in November 2011, who enjoyed this "witty, engaging homage to cult alien invasion films", and appreciated its "intensive local research and an impressive ensemble of street-cast youngsters," but felt that ". . . the chances for deeper meaningful connections to be made between contemporary class stratification and the predicaments which dominate impoverished urban existence are obliterated in Ali G-style comic relief, scoffing at stereotypically clichéd tentative self-criticisms which are never followed up. Strictly segregating which and whose understandings have import and practical significance rather than entertainment value, Attack the Block thus has far more in common with the safe conservatism of Spielbergian spectacle . . . "
The Handmaid's Tale is included in Zeke Teflon's Favorite Anarchist Science Fiction Novels, though he describes it as "More speculative social fiction than science fiction." Zakk Flash, on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum, considers it a "Wonderful, wonderful book."
Oryx and Crake is on the Think Galactic reading list, and is also recommended by Left Bank Books.
Set in the mid-22nd century, when humans are colonizing Pandora, a lush habitable moon in the Alpha Centauri system, in order to mine the mineral 'unobtanium', a room-temperature superconductor. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of the Na'vi, a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. Jake Sully is part of a team seeking to establish contact with the Na'vi and, in avatar form, is inducted into a local tribe. But when his corporate handlers use his information in a violent campaign of clearance he leads a successful resistance movement, with the help of a handful of human defectors, and uploads his consciousness to reside permanently in his avatar body.
The film has been of particular interest to anarcho-primitivists. Layla AbdelRahim entitled her 2009 review 'Avatar: An Anarcho-Primitivist Picture of the History of the World'. For her "the film’s logic has anarcho-primitivism stamped in every scene", but she sees as a problem "that to relate the story, Cameron uses the same machines, technologies and money that devastate the wilderness he tells us we need to save." John Zerzan recommended AbdelRahim's review in his 2009-12-29 Anarcho Radio TV video, and the film was under discussion again during each of Zerzan's next five weekly broadcasts.
For Red River Radical Avatar is "hardly more than a remixed Dances With Wolves; a watered down anti-colonization story in which a white male is still the hero after his remake into the indigenous other. Avatar’s story revolves around a typical teenage American romance; same gender roles, heteronormative and weirdly middle class." The article author sees it as another example of Hollywood dumbing down.
In Glenn's 'Film as Subversion', his essay in the 2015 BASTARD Chronicles, he argues that "What makes a film subversive is determined by how well it challenges a narrative; what makes a film propaganda is reinforcing a narrative." For Glenn, Avatar is propaganda, as it "simply celebrates a Green/Indigenous narrative."
At worldbuilding.stackexchange.com, 'recognizer' suggests that, leaving aside his environmental and technological themes, in The Windup Girl and other works, Bacigalupi "often addresses the conflicts between state power and private (corporate or individual) power, and how these power relationships affect his protagonists." Andrew Dana Hudson sees The Windup Girl as a vision of "solarpunk-gone-wrong". Teflon includes it in his Essential Novels, where he describes it as "Antiauthoritarian and anti-corporatist, but not specifically anarchist." It was recommended in a panel discussion between Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson and John Shirley at the 2012 San Francisco anarchist book fair. It's also included in the Think Galactic reading list, as is Pump Six and Other Stories.
The Water Knife is a bleak portrayal of a future of extreme drought, centring on Phoenix, Arizona, summarised by Andrew Dana Hudson as "In the American southwest permanent drought is making refugees out of everyone who can’t afford to buy a place in a verdant, self-sustaining arcology. This world is solarpunk for some. It is what happens if we allow capitalism to dictate the distribution of sustainable technologies." Though recommended by Zeke Teflon in his 2015 Sharp and Pointed review, as "a very well told story with well drawn characters and an unusual and spot-on social and economic subtext," Teflon, as a Phoenix resident, takes issue with the author's apparent ignorance of the actual city, and argues that Bacigalupi's anticipations of the level of future water shortage in the southwest are overstated, although "it does alert readers to the seriousness of the problems".
Short piece of utopian speculation, described by SFE as "a remarkably accurate assessment of the potential of the scientific renaissance."
Citing this work, Bob Black describes Bacon as "technology's first enthusiast." Berneri devotes eleven pages to the piece.
The Tribunal is a lightweight near-future political thriller, involving the declaration of independence of Acquitaine and the attempted destruction of the leaning tower of Pisa; the anarchists, who also smuggle arms into Acquitaine, saw the leaning tower as a symbol of government because, although it will eventually fall, its fall can be accelerated by gunpowder.
Ballard's first four novels centre on elemental disasters and, with the exception of the first, successfully transcend the run-of-the-mill. For Vittorio Curtoni, Ballard, "inspired by pictorial surrealism, preached the investigation of 'inner space, i.e. of those connections at the unconscious level which revealed the mechanisms of the human psyche, and translated the idea in a series of brilliant novels [ . . . ] and stories" (25); he only named these four. For one poster to Facebook's Anarchists and Science Fiction page, "The Drowned World perfectly matches many contemporary ideas regarding what the world might be like after decades of climate change."
Michael Moorcock's 1978 article in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review singles out The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash for inclusion among books which in his view promote libertarian ideas. He comments that they have "brought criticisms of 'nihilism' against him" (43). Both works are innovatory in sf, and have an impersonal and amoral quality which perhaps gives rise to such criticisms. They are libertarian in the sense of challenging orthodoxy, of iconoclasm. Crash is described as "seminal" in a 2013 editorial in the Occupied Times.
For Ricardo Feral, The Drought, and The Atrocity Exhibition provide "a haunting, introspective alternative to the the mainstream media vision of society."
Millennium People features a very British rebellion by the jaded middle class. Darkly humorous, it's included in the Swindon Anarchist Group's list of Anarchist/Resistance Novels.
This popular series showcases an implicitly anarchist post-scarcity society, enabled by nanotechnology. Banks himself said, of the Culture, "Essentially, the contention is that our currently dominant power systems cannot long survive in space; beyond a certain technological level a degree of anarchy is arguably inevitable and anyway preferable." More specifically, he argued that "the mutuality of dependence involved in an environment which is inherently hostile would necessitate an internal social coherence which would contrast with the external casualness typifying the relations between such ships/habitats. Succinctly; socialism within, anarchy without." Politically, "one of the few rules the Culture adheres to with any exactitude at all is that a person's access to power should be in inverse proportion to their desire for it." ['A Few Notes on the Culture']
According to the 2014 Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary "A non-anarchist, he has been one of the few such to approach depicting a real (if imaginary) anarchist society with any conviction or accuracy, although a significant number of anarchists might dispute that statement."
Of Look to Windward, Wikipedia notes 'This book deals with the themes of exile, bereavement, religious justification of mass violence against humanity/sentience in war, and the mores associated with life within a technologically and energetically unlimited anarchist utopia.'
All these novels are included in Zeke Teflon's Favorite Anarchist Science Fiction Novels, though he particularly recommends The Player of Games and Surface Detail. McKay enjoyed all the Culture books, finding only Matter disappointing, with Surface Detail the most fun. In my own view, Inversions is the most unusual, but perhaps the most subtle.
The title novella forming the greater part of the State of the Art collection is of particular interest, for two reasons: it is in some ways the most accessible of the Culture series, by its explicit contrast with an Earth of the 1970s and, as the SFE puts it, "for the only time, it openly advocates some aspects of the Culture as a model for human behaviour."
". . . full of crypto-Anarchism', according to a poster to anarchysf. 'The dominant space colony is organized into IWW divisions so to speak. Each group of seven lives together makes communal decisions and lives bisexually with each other as a family unit comprised of seven. The main character is sent back to Earth to start an uprising that is organized along anarcho-communal lines against the Earth Administration."
This description is nonsense. The book is barely coherent, and has no bearing on anarchism whatsoever.
Feeble story of cowardly anarchists.
A dystopian view of a world entirely run by ruthless global corporations in murderous competition, with government functions privatised and marginalised.
Lost race utopia of atheists and anarchists.
Batman is widely believed to be an urban legend until he takes on a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
Dan Clore posted Robert Anton Wilson's film review "Have You Ever Danced With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight?" to the anarchy-sf mailing list in 2005; Wilson considered Batman "an anarcho-surrealist attack on the conventions of mass market melodrama".
Acclaimed and successful re-envisioning of a poor 1978 series of the same name.
Post-anarchist academic Lewis Call has written two papers on this series: 'Crisis of Authority Aboard the Battlestar Galactica,' in New Perspectives on Anarchism (2010) ed. Nathan J. Jun and Shane Wahl; and 'Death, Sex and the Cylon: Living authentically on Battlestar Galactica,' in Science Fiction Film and Television vol. 5, no. 1 (2012). Neither is readily available.
Annihilation Factor includes the character Castor Krakhno, based on Nestor Makhno. (Dan Clore). Included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters. The Krakhno character, however, is largely a caricature 19th century villainous anarchist, about whom even the author seems ambivalent. The anarchism, such as it is, is both nihilist and individualist.
"I admire Barrington J. Bayley, whose stories are often extremely abstract. One of the most enjoyable recently published is The Soul of the Robot which discusses the nature of individual identity." (Moorcock 1978) The novel concerns the quest of the robot Jasperodus for his own identity—is his consciousness real or fake, has he a soul? He has, but not a constructed one. Although the reader takes pleasure in Jasperodus's refusal to take orders and insistence that he alone is the initiator of his deeds, he himself is no more to be admired in his ethical behaviour than his would-be masters; and the excess of palace intrigue detracts from the undoubted interest of some of the book's philosophical discussions.
In Bellamy's influential utopia Looking Backward the economy of the future United States is highly organized, workers being organized in an industrial army. We learn that
"Almost the sole function of the administration now is that of directing the industries of the country. Most of the purposes for which governments formerly existed no longer remain to be subserved. We have no army or navy, and no military organization. We have no departments of state or treasury, no excise or revenue services, no taxes or tax collectors. The only function proper of government, as known to you, which still remains, is the judiciary and police system." (Signet Classic edn: 143-4)
Bellamy takes this further in Equality:
"A government in the sense of a co-ordinating directory of our associated industries we shall always need, but that is practically all the government we have now. It used to be a dream of philosophers that the world would some time enjoy such a reign of reason and justice that men would be able to live together without laws. That condition, so far as concerns punitive and coercive regulations, we have practically attained. As to compulsory laws, we might be said to live almost in a state of anarchy." (1933 Appleton-Century edn: 409)
This sounds well enough; but, as Marie-Louise Berneri put it,
"Bellamy's state socialism allows a greater degree of personal freedom than most other utopias based on the same principles. But it is the freedom which might be granted to soldiers once they have been conscripted; no provision is made for 'conscientious objectors' (249).
While Looking Backward and its sequel are not in themselves anarchist, they nevertheless attracted the interest of Peter Kropotkin himself. He reviewed the first at great length (extending over four issues) in Le Révolté at the end of 1889, noting that "Bellamy's ideal is not ours. But he helps to clarify our own ideas; on many points, without intending to, he confirms them." (Pt 1:1). He concluded: "Whatever may be the defects of this little book, it will always have done the immense service of suggesting ideas and giving matter for discussion for those who really wish for the social Revolution." (Pt 4:2). Lest there be any doubt, though, he stated right at the start of his article that "Bellamy n'est pas anarchiste" (Pt 1:1). Kropotkin found Equality certainly not so interesting, but superior in that it analyses "all the vices of the capitalistic system. . . so admirably that I know of no other Socialist work on this subject that equals Bellamy's Equality." These remarks on Equality come from Kropotkin's obituary notice of Bellamy in Freedom, translated from Les Temps Nouveaux. His final considered opinion:
What a pity that Bellamy has not lived longer! He would have produced other excellent books. I am positive that were Bellamy to have met an Anarchist who could have explained to him our ideal, he would have accepted it. The authoritarianism which he introduced into his Utopia was useless there and contradictory to the very system. It was simply a survival, a concession, a tribute to the past.
On a tiny Earth-like alien planet, the decision is taken to send a volunteer to Earth. Earth is seen as backward by the seemingly human aliens, and at first no-one wants to volunteer. One woman eventually raises her hand, curious because her mother was from Earth. The visit to Earth portrays the Paris of the present, but she is later joined by her two sons who initially land in Australia and are given a warm reception by aboriginal people whom the sons instantly take to as far more advanced (as in tune with their environment) than the western world encountered by their mother. The middle segment of the film tells the story of the visit to Earth, the first and third acts depicting life on the alien planet, which is quite idyllic and very solarpunk anarchist. The film is a delightful family comedy, with gentle satiric fun at the expense of the unenlightened Earthlings.
Included in the Anarchist Studies Network's Anarchist filmography, and listed as a utopian film at Black Flag Blog's Anarchism and film.
This light political satire hangs on a mistaken identity / pursuit story. By 1979 "The parliaments of the Great Powers had long ago settled down into two sober parties, Communist on the right and Anarchist on the left, who between them maintained the Majestic Rotation of Representative Government . . . " (Arrowsmith edn: 57) Lady Caroline Balcombe, the Foreign Secretary, had said in a famous statement of 1952:
"I am as profoundly attached to Anarchy, and to all the principles of Anarchy, as any woman or man here present. But the only Anarchy I know is an Anarchy to be achieved by Constitutional Means." (87)
Clearly this shouldn't be taken too seriously; however it is suggestive of the durability of political institutions and their ability to absorb dissent.
Alien astronauts crashland on Earth in 1908 causing, in the original universe (ours), the Tungus meteorite phenomenon. They represent themselves as ambassadors from a galactic empire, whilst actually only wishing to speed up technological progress in order to repair their craft, and have various escapades with H.G. Wells, Rasputin, Theodore Roosevelt, etc. And Having Writ . . . is not really in any way anarchist, but it does present a delightful satire of Earthly ways, and it gently mocks a variety of authority figures. All in all, great fun.
Berneri was an Italian-born anarchist, a member of the group centred on the newspaper Freedom and its stable-mates, and one of the four editors of War Commentary tried in 1945 for incitement to disaffection, but acquitted as her husband Vernon Richards was a co-defendant, and legally she couldn't conspire with him. She died in childbirth aged just 31.
Her notable survey of utopias was published the year after her death. Although much of the survey reviews the familiar historical utopias, she also looked at more recent utopian (and dystopian) works, including Lytton's The Coming Race, Bellamy's Looking Backward, Morris's News from Nowhere, Wells's A Modern Utopia and Men Like Gods, Zamyatin's We, and Huxley's Brave New World (Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four being published too late for inclusion).
A new edition of Journey through Utopia was reviewed by Geoffrey Ostergaard in Freedom in August 1982.
Part 3 appears to express anarchist sympathies (feministsf.org). Included in Killjoy's list of stories that feature sympathetic anarchist characters.
It's stretching a point to consider this sf, though. It's a feminist manifesto, objectivised as the viewpoint of a visiting alien.
John Pilgrim wrote:
On a more popular level a libertarian idea is often thrown away casually with no real discussion, nevertheless its presence can alter the slant of the book. Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, for instance. This is a science fiction detective story set at a period when telepathy has become an accepted power for a large part of the population and psychotherapeutic techniques are much further advanced than at present. People like the hero/villain Reich who want a return to the 20th Century system of power politics are regarded as sick people and treated as such. At the end of the book this conversation occurs: "Three or four hundred years ago the cops used to catch people like Reich just to kill them. Capital punishment they called it [. . .] But it doesn't make sense. If a man's got the guts and talent to buck society he's obviously above average . . . You want to turn him into a plus value . . . Why throw him away? Do that enough times and all you have left are the sheep". "I don't know. Maybe in those days they wanted sheep".
This particular novel, a popular entertainment mind, not a philosophical dissertation, ends in an outburst from one of the protagonists in which the following words occur: ". . . there is nothing in man but love and faith and courage, kindness, generosity and sacrifice. All else is but the barrier of your blindness . . ." Such lines may not be brilliant, or new to the readers of this journal [Freedom], perhaps, but they are surely a new thing in popular fiction. (Pilgrim 1963)
The Demolished Man isn't quite the libertarian novel that Pilgrim suggests. The future society shown, though it can redeem 'criminals', still has all the trappings of the state and capitalism; and telepathy, for all its potential to spread sympathy and understanding, is principally shown as just a new weapon in the armoury of repression.
Of The Stars My Destination Moorcock wrote: "This is one of the very few libertarian sf novels I have ever read. That it was the first and turned me on to reading sf is probably the purest accident. [. . .] I know of no other sf book which so thoroughly combines romance with an idealism almost wholly acceptable to me . . ." (Moorcock 1978: 43). He particularly commends the conclusion in which the hero, Gully Foyle, delivers PyrE, the ultimate weapon, to the outcasts of the Earth, for them to repossess their future. Foyle justifies himself: "'Who are we, any of us, to make a decision for the world? Let the world make its own decisions. Who are we to keep secrets from the world? Let the world know and decide for itself.'" (Penguin edn, p. 242) The book won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1988. For Evan Lampe, the book reminds him "of the need, from time to time, to embrace those systemic shocks that may not promise permanent freedom but do create spaces for autonomy."
Dire pulp story, originally published in Weird Tales, in the June-July issue of 1939. The principal character travels 10,000 years into the future, and finds that the world has become an Anarchy. But in this case all it means is that, following the release of limitless atomic power, evolution tended in the direction of a diminishing population, as "better minds saw no reason for allowing poorer, duller minds to exist, and warred on them". With the demise of government, the survivors spend all their time duelling in giant battle-machines, apparently for want of anything better to do, while at the same time all concepts of love and friendship have been forgotten. The hero, his girlfriend, and her scientist father have no difficulty in convincing everyone to "forget their differences and live with one another peacefully", claiming that they will "found a new co-operative union here in this mad world of Anarchy!"
Fire on the Mountain is socialist rather than anarchist, but is an astonishingly convincing alternate history predicated on John Brown's success in the raid at Harper's Ferry in 1859. Of very real interest. It has recently been reviewed in the Winter 2019 Fifth Estate by RB, who finds fault with Bisson's understanding of the true history of the raid, and dislikes what he sees as "Bisson's utopia: a technocratic mega-state that valorizes total domination of nature."
TVA Baby was recommended in Zeke Teflon's review: "If you enjoy concise writing and mordant humor, you’ll enjoy TVA Baby."
In 2010 Terry Bisson moderated a workshop, and in 2012 spoke on 'The Left Left Behind', at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair. Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson and John Shirley were on a panel on Anarchism and Science Fiction at the 2012 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, which is available as a podcast on Rucker's website.
Superlative near-future anthology series, each episode free-standing, with different casts.
One contributor to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum in 2015 said she'd been "overwhelmed with the political and philosophical issues raised on the show." And one answer to a Quora query on "How would an anarchist society deal with crime?" cited Black Mirror as a "quite chilling" example of one solution.
Superhero film with a predominantly black cast, and with strong women characters. While it can be seen as Afrofuturism, and as sending strong messages about diversity and empowerment, and while it has drawn positive comments on Facebook's Anarchist Solarpunk and Sci-Fi Libertarian Socialist pages, I found it quite disappointing: while supposedly depicting Africa in a progressive way, it spends as much time presenting traditional tribal images and rituals as it does in demonstrating the technological superiority of the Wakandan state; the story line is corny as hell, and is depressingly centred on elite struggles for supremacy in a traditional monarchy; and the tokenistic conclusion in which the king finally agrees to share some of Wakanda's wealth with African Americans in Oakland altogether fails to redeem the film from its desperate conventionality. I'm not familiar with the comic books from which the film is derived, but surely the film betrays its pulpy origin. It comes across as a rehash of sf stories of the 1920s and 1930s (if not earlier). Full marks for casting, but F for failure of imagination. Well, to be charitable, it might be OK for kids.
The film was reviewed in Fifth Estate in Summer 2018, by Matthew Lucas, who considers its place in the history of Hollywood's "attempted recuperation of black-produced black images":
When reduced, the film's embrace of an autocratic ruler allied with the CIA willingly funneling resources to the West, does not depict a new future for Majority World nations populated by people of color. It depicts the one already created by imperialist intervention.
But he concludes that "Black Panther nevertheless could expand avenues of portraying blackness on the big screen."
A young blade runner seeks out the elusive former blade runner Rick Deckard, after uncovering a mystery concerning a replicant who had apparently given birth.
Reviewed for the Anarcho-Geek Review by Margaret Killjoy, who loved the cinematography, but deplored its misogyny, saying the real story was about women, yet it was the two male blade runners who were the narrative focus: ". . . what got me, what sat under my skin and left me uncomfortable for an entire day, is just how goddammed many interesting themes about women, trans and cis alike, could and should have been explored in Blade Runner 2049." Similarly Matthew Lucas, who reviewed the film for Fifth Estate #400, in Spring 2018, also drew attention to its "repugnant misogyny," finding it "as limited and lacking in vision as its predecessor—especially in respect to the roles of women in its posthuman future'.
The exploits of a political dissident who leads a small group of rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Terran Federation that rules Earth and its colonies.
The series was much enjoyed by one poster to the old anarchysf mailing list back in 2000, for whom as a teenager it had been their favourite TV series: "It had a very '80s hopeless end-of-the world feel to it, almost gothic."
Seen by Sharp and Pointed as "Great political sci-fi", "which despite its awful FX succeeded because of the strength of its plots and dark, complex characters".
A Case of Conscience was discussed by John Pilgrim in his 1963 Anarchy article, for its ethical dimension. The society portrayed, though described by the author as Christian, beyond which Pilgrim himself doesn't venture, is in many ways anarchistic—an austere kind of Godwinian anarchism, its ethical system rooted in nature, as Godwin argued. For Evan Lampe, "The main anarchist themes in this work seem to revolve around the potential for a working anarchist utopia. Lithia lacks governments and moral codes. They even sustain a scientific and technological society without the rise of a technocracy."
Pilgrim also looked at They Shall Have Stars: though he found the plot banal, he considered the novel "a powerful attack on authoritarianism, power politics, and the evils of the military mind's concept of security." (p. 365). This is perhaps somewhat overstated.
On a distant future Earth, in which the oceans have flooded most of the planet, and most of humankind has been destroyed, submarine forces wage war against a demented scientist and his hybrid marine beings, whom he intends as our successors.
Seen by Connor Owens at solarpunkanarchists.com as an ecological reflection on the human species's capacity for destruction, and on whether a post-human world might be "for us death, but for you, a utopia".
Socialist utopia on Mars, written by an early Bolshevik not long after the 1905 revolution.
Suggested by a couple of contributors to Facebook's Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum, one of whom perceives points of similarity to Le Guin's The Dispossessed. Of only peripheral interest here.
Strongly feminist documentary-style film, cheaply filmed on 16 mm and video, set in a near future social-democratic America. Two women's groups running pirate radio stations turn to direct action after their premises are burned out.
Richard Porton, in his Film and the Anarchist Imagination, devotes four pages to an analysis of Born in Flames, finding it, "despite its dystopian scenario, a more optimistic evocation of contemporary currents within anarcho-feminism". He further notes that "From a broader historical vantage point, her fantasia on anarchist themes recapitulates debates between anarchism and social-democratic antagonists such as George Bernard Shaw." Porton found that the film "proved most scandalous, both within the feminist movement and outside it, by resisting the temptation to condemn definitively the use of revolutionary violence." This he sees as a "strategic provocation", in the context of the celebration of the Greenham Common pacifist activism of the time by many radical women who "ascribed to women a state of natural non-violence" which Borden found "dubiously essentialist."
Shown at the film festival that formed part of the Boston anarchist bookfair in 2011, the programme for which describes it as exploring racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism. Shown as part of the if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution exhibition at Haverford, Pennsylvania, curated by Natalie Musteata in 2014, who described it as both "The movie that rocked the foundations of the early Indie film world" and "The film that heralded the arrival of Queer Cinema". Also screened by the Toronto Anarchist Reading Group in July 2016. Also shown in 2017 at a 3-day anarchist mini-film festival in Petersham, Sydney, Australia; the blurb says the film "suggests the insufficiency of a radicalism that restricts itself to politics."
Brian Bergen-Aurand lists the film as number 3 in his great anarchist movies that are worth your time, saying "The film emphasizes alternative aesthetics, direct (rather than representative) democracy, and women’s roles in what is deemed as 'necessary violence.'"
Lizzie Borden, when asked if she was comfortable with being described as an anarcha-feminist, replied:
I’m comfortable with it by process of elimination because I never quite figured out what it is, but I feel closer to it than any other political identification. I’m so critical of any kind of organized left wing just because of bureaucracy really becoming another class, and the relationship of women to whatever organized left there is. So, the idea of anarchism has always appealed to me simply because it’s always calling into question that which is. I somehow see anarchism as that. I see it as not necessarily excluding different political identifications. For example, on one issue it might be possible to side with a socialist stance, on another issue a very Western stance. But the thing about anarchism is that it allows you not to have to be over-programmed. The other thing is about feminists. What gets me now is people saying that they’re not feminist anymore. Feminism is such a mild word for how I consider myself, that I’m absolutely a feminist. Anarcha-feminism to me has always been about stirring things up. You try to constantly ask those questions which will prevent stasis from setting in. Even at the expense of sometimes being seen as contradictory or saying things that go against what you said a year before or a minute before. For me it’s a process. We all know what’s wrong with Western capitalism and we all know what’s wrong with the extreme left, so anarcha-feminism—it just seems to be the only viable identification, if one is to identify at all.
Included in the CIRA filmography.
A Quora user included this in their list of dystopian novels, in response to a request for 'What are some of the best anarchist fiction novels?' It's also given as an instance of the dystopian sub-genre by Alex R. Knight III, writing on 'Libertarian Anarchism and Speculative Fiction.'
First-person dystopia as written by the inventor of a truth serum that will fulfil the totalitarian dream of the rulers of the world state. "Grim and stark" is the verdict of Anders Monsen, for whom it is one of 50 works of fiction libertarians should read. Also included in Oyvin Myhre's handful of examples of "very good and influential utopian novels".
Made for TV adaptation of the Huxley novel. Overlong.
Included as a dystopia in Black Flag Blog's Anarchism and film.
Reviewed by Alex Peak, as a libertarian science fiction movie. Peak rightly regards the character of Helmholtz Watson as "the libertarian hero" of this movie: Bernard G. Marx ultimately conforms, and in any case poses no threat, and John Savage, too, though interesting, is also a conformist. But Helmholtz "most clearly represents the individualist spirit" and is "the most refreshing, inspiring, and interesting character offered in this teleplay."
Again, a TV movie adaptation of the Huxley novel, but this time abridged and updated, with a new ending. Watchable, though.
Included as a dystopia in Black Flag Blog's Anarchism and film.
Reviewed by Alex Peak, who boldly gives his view that "this movie is even better than the book". As a libertarian dystopia, he says, "This is a story primarily about two things: individuality, and the freedom to have one’s own emotions."
Dystopian satire, drawing much from Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, but also from Kafka, with an appealing flavour of steampunk.
Recommended by several contributors to the 2014 Anarchism SubReddit discussion on films advocating anti-capitalism, for one of whom—RednBlackSalamander—it is "one of the greatest movies ever made."
This is one of the two Gilliam films named by Glenn in his essay 'Film as Subversion', in the 2015 BASTARD Chronicles, as subversive, and dealing with individual alienation in a hive society.
In 2015 the film also received an enthusiastic 30th anniversary review by Clint Worthington on TheFreeOnline, Mike Gilliland's blog. Worthington described the film as "certainly one of the most fascinating and compelling depictions of Orwellian-esque sci-fascism ever put to screen," and concluding "However you feel, Brazil makes everyone hope for a world in which people are free to live, dream, and dissent."
Included in Killjoy's list of stories that explore anarchist societies. Of the four books, the first three were republished as K-PAX The Trilogy. The story centres on a patient in a mental hospital who appears to have a multiple personality disorder, with one of the personalities manifesting as an alien called 'prot' from the planet K-PAX. In some incomprehensible way it appears that prot really is an alien. The world he describes is so attractive in most respects, with its peace, its freedom from government and religion, and its love of harmony and a sustainability, that it is hard not to reach the conclusion that humans have got it all badly wrong. It is no coincidence that prot says, of a book he once read called The Travels of Gulliver, that 'The author got it about right.'
K-PAX IV (2007), is a disappointing coda.
Graphic novel in which an elderly couple experience the dropping of a nuclear bomb in England. Well received at the time by reviewers (two of them children) in two issues of Freedom. In the later review Julie Southwood wrote:
With wit, sympathy and simplicity almost unbearable in its pathos, Briggs illustrates how powerless we all are, once we agree to leave decisions concerning our 'survival' to any self-appointed elite of politicians and 'experts' . . . Whatever one's political views, this book concentrates the mind wonderfully on the real questions: what sort of survival, for whom, at what price? (Julie Southwood 1982)
Intelligent space opera, third of what SFE describes as a 'super-series'. One of Anders Monsen's 50 works of fiction libertarians should read; Monsen says "Uplift War deals with rights and liberties in subtle ways, and remains memorable for very realistic sketches of interactions between species."
Gentle comedy, showing incidents in the experience of an alien slave who has escaped and crash-landed in New York; he appears African-American, and is pursued by two white alien 'men in black'. Seen as a classic of Afrofuturism.
Included in the Red Planets filmography.
Described by John Pilgrim as "impressive", a "straightforward little morality tale", and an "instance of sf's capacity for healthy scepticism about the ethics of scientific research." (Pilgrim 1963, 1966)
Colin Ward's Work (1972) concludes with a long quotation from this book (Ward 1972: 64). Smallcreep is a factory assembly worker, who one day roves through the factory hoping to discover once and for all what he has been making all these years. The work as a whole is a very powerful protest against alienation; chapter Eight in particular contains an anguished confession from the managing director of his comprehension of the hypocrisy and unfairness of the system of authority which he represents. The managing director's devastating demolition of authority, and his vision of what a free society would be, may be presumed to represent Brown's own views: Smallcreep himself fails to understand them, which is Brown's pessimism—he, like the managing director, has no faith in his own visions, and can see no way out.
In his 1964 essay on political attitudes in sf Brunner envisaged an automated anarchistic society as a possibility work exploring in sf (Brunner 1964: 125). Interviewed in 1979, he said that "if you had to classify me, you'd have to put me in some vague area like 'fellow-travelling idealistic anarchist.'" (Platt: 276)
Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up are included in Think Galactic's reading list.
For Lessa, Takver & Alyx, writing in Open Road in 1978, the "anarchist city Precipice" of The Shockwave Rider "appears like a jewel in a sea of horror". (13) Congenial and professedly anti-authoritarian as Precipice may be, it can't fairly be described as anarchist, given that it supports sheriff, mayor, courts, lawyers, and a judicial code with mandatory sentences. It is included in Zeke Teflon's Favorite Anarchist Science Fiction Novels.
"Who? asked three major questions. How does technology shape who we are? How does technology (and technocracy) undermine our human relations? And, how—in the modern era—do institutions take the role in defining us, undermining our capacity for self-identification?" [Lampe's blog]
Won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2014.
William Godwin exerted a degree of influence on Lytton's writing, and Godwin wrote to Lytton admiring his early work Paul Clifford. Godwin even gave support to Lytton when the latter stood for parliament. But George Woodcock notes that though Lytton "had a real admiration for Godwin as a philosopher" he was "most attracted to him as a novelist" (Woodcock 1946:231).The Coming Race is the work by which Lytton is chiefly remembered in science fiction circles. It is a utopia set underground, in which social relations have been drastically modified since the discovery of 'vril', an almost magical source of unlimited energy available to every individual. Political power is thus rendered inoperable: "Man was so completely at the mercy of man, each whom he encountered being able, if so willing, to slay him on the instant, that all notions of government by force gradually vanished from political systems and forms of law." (Steiner pb edn: 56). Marie-Louise Berneri (242) detected Godwin's influence in Lytton's model of a stateless society. Angel Cappelletti (1966:31) additionally hints at some influence from Proudhon. But without suggesting direct influence perhaps Woodcock's suggestion is closest, namely that Lytton's utopia is similar to the world of Stirnerite egoists.
For Moorcock, the novel "seems to think that Christianity could conquer Hitler but is otherwise a pretty incisive projection of Nazism several hundred years in the future". (Moorcock 1978)
Tense thriller in which mechanical failure leads to a US nuclear attack on Moscow; to convince the Soviet leader that it was a mistake, the US president is forced to order the tit-for-tat destruction of New York. John Pilgrim in 1966 considered it to be in the tradition of Chesney's The Battle of Dorking, but its motivation is very different, being passionately opposed to nuclear escalation and the arms war.
Burgess himself responded in the pages of Freedom to a review by Nicolas Walter of the film of his book. The novel concerns a violent delinquent youth who is forcibly conditioned to non-violent behaviour at the cost of his absorbing pleasure in music; he is eventually reconditioned to his old behaviour patterns. The near-anarchistic moral of the story is made explicit by Burgess in his later work, 1985, which includes comments on A Clockwork Orange:
The unintended destruction of Alex's capacity for enjoying music symbolizes the State's imperfect understanding (or volitional ignorance) of the whole nature of man, and of the consequences of its own decisions. We may not be able to trust man—meaning ourselves—very far, but we must trust the State far less. (Arrow edn: 93).
'1984'—the first part of Burgess's 1985—displays an extensive knowledge of the anarchist movement, its history and philosophy. References to the Spanish Civil War or to Sacco & Vanzetti are unusual but not unique in sf, but Burgess's mention of an anarchist youth movement in China's Yunan province almost certainly is. A chapter entitled 'Bakunin's Children' actually incorporates a three-page biographical portrait of Bakunin, whom he describes as "the rank meat in a more rational anarchical sandwich, tastier than the dry bread of theory that Proudhon offered before him and Kropotkin after." (69). Burgess argues that Bakunin's temperament, which urges him to destroy all that is old, led anarchists to reject the past, and that "Anarchism, in rejecting the past and assuming that the new is, by a kind of Hegelian necessity, better than the old, opens the way to tyranny." (77) Thus, for Burgess, the world of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has its intellectual origins in nineteenth-century anarchism. "Anarchism is not possible. Bakunin is a dead prophet." (81) Nevertheless, Burgess clearly finds it appealing: though he says "you can almost smell the cordite in the word" (69) he finds its overtones "terrible, and attractive" (71). Essentially it is historical anarchism that Burgess rejects, rather than anarchism's roots in anti-statism and individualism. Having rejected Bakunin and Kropotkin, Burgess opts for Thoreau, "the true patron saint" (82) of the individual. "The individual alone can be a true anarch." (82).
A Clockwork Orange won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2008.
Burroughs's work is difficult to describe or classify, but most of his books have some sf interest, and among these all the above titles have been referred to in anarchist publications. The most characteristic and recurrent of his themes is stated succinctly in The Naked Lunch:
" . . . You see control can never be a means to any practical end . . . . It can never be a means to anything but more control . . . . Like junk . . ." (164, Calder & Boyars edn).
Dave Cunliffe, in his 1968 Freedom review of The Soft Machine, summed up Burroughs as "a technological mystic and creative journalist with liberal and reformist tendencies". But "his inspired solipsistic vision" (Moorcock 1983: 71) represents more than this: his sympathies are libertarian and revolutionary. B.P.D., writing in Freedom in 1972, felt that "To employ the term 'anarchist' to such an individualist thinker as William Burroughs would be to categorise him wrongly and unnecessarily." But that he approached closely to anarchism is shown clearly in his 1969 interview with Daniel Odier, published as The Job. He says he is "very dubious of politics myself" (47), and believes that "all existing governments are control machines" (35); and when asked directly whether he believes in the anarchist solutions for the future he replies
I don't really know what they are, although I would say this, that I don't believe in any solution that proposes halfway measures. Unless we can abolish the whole concept of the nation, and the whole concept of the family, we aren't going to get anywhere at all, just nowhere. (65)
He had no illusions about the (then current) hippie challenge to the system of control: "The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower-pot from a high window." (67)
"While Burroughs work is primarily dystopian, a few anarchistic utopian societies do show up. In The Wild Boys, for example, Burroughs portrays an anarchistic society that consists of roving gangs of dope-smoking, homosexual teenage boys who wear nothing but jockstraps and rollerskates. The trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night includes material about several attempts to found libertarian societies, including Libertatia . . . and a group of Rimbaud-reading, dope-smoking, homosexual Zen gunslingers in the Wild West. Ghost of Chance stars Captain Mission and his pirate utopia Libertatia." (Dan Clore)
Libertarian sf collection. Readable, and entertaining in parts.
Patternmaster is one of the weakest of Butler's novels, but is nevertheless included in Mark Bould's Red Planets reading list, and is in Dukan's bibliography as an early work from the first generation of Black Futurists.
Kindred is probably Butler's best-known work, and is by now pretty much a standard text, featuring a complex critique of race and power relationships in the ante-bellum South, from the viewpoint of an African-American woman from 1976, who is intermittently pulled back to 1815 whenever her slave-owning white forebear is in danger.
For Anu Bonobo, in Fifth Estate #373,
Dawn's most daring maneuver was not the unattractive aliens on the breathing bio-ship that rescued the xenophobic humans after a human holocaust—nor even the seemingly benevolent freaks' rejection of humanity's apparently inherent hierarchies; rather, Butler busted boundaries with bizarre, kinky, and blissfully psychedelic interspecies sex. Even though the humans cannot help but like it, do they really want it? As one might imagine, the issue of permission is problematic here; do the humans choose to breed with their apparently terrifying and tentacled saviors and captors? Is this patronizing servitude masked as emancipation?
The Xenogenesis stories have also been recommended on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum.
The two Parable books chart the rise of a movement based on mutual aid (or just common human decency) amid the breakdown of society in the United States. Warm and literate, it's unfortunate that the author chose to hang her principles on a new religion.
Butler's work, and especially the Parable novels, were featured in articles in her memory, by Anu Bonobo and Benjamin Carson, in Fifth Estate in 2006. While Bonobo focuses on her Afrofuturism, Carson, while relishing the mutual aid depicted, finds Butler's orientation towards a future in space "deeply troubling".
Bonobo, in Fifth Estate #373, speaks of the vampire collectives of Fledgling as "bloodlinked free love communes—of a sort. But since the symbionts need the vampire kiss like a junky needs his needle, it’s difficult to define this as a liberated relationship." Fledgling is included in the Think Galactic reading list as well as the Swindon Anarchist Group's list of anarchist/resistance novels.
Erewhon is a satirical utopia with dystopian elements, set in New Zealand. Established Western conventions are overturned—criminals are cured, but sickness punished; churches have become musical banks; machines have been banned because of fears of their possible role as evolutionary successors to Homo sapiens. The satire was familiar reading to a number of anarchists: Marie-Louise Berneri, Angel Cappelletti, Ethel Mannin, Herbert Read, and George Woodcock all refer to it. In this satire, for Cappelletti, "is shown the singular taste of the author for inverting ideas and values commonly accepted, pleasure in turning the world upside down, and a caustic and subversive use of paradox" . . . (Cappelletti 1966: 27)
Erewhon Revisited was bought and read by Herbert Read in 1915. (Read 1963: 211)
Effective mockumentary, purporting to be a cable-TV-style account—complete with fake archive footage and even commercial breaks—of the alternate history of the establishment of a Confederate empire across most of the Americas, where slavery has remained the norm until the present day, after Confederate victory in the American Civil War.
Mark Bould's Red Planets filmography says it "reveals how deeply the tendrils of racism extend into the present." The film was one of those selected by Joe Jordan, of Anarchist People of Color, for inclusion in events for black history month in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2013.
Ecotopia drew mixed responses from anarchists. For Lessa, Takver & Alyx it was "an environmentalist's dream come true", but for Milligan "Ecotopia is a shoddy amalgam of Swedish social democracy, Swiss neutrality, and Yugoslav workers' co-ops cobbled together with the authoritarianism of Blueprint for Survival. [ . . . ] Ecotopia is a flawed vision of a flawed future." For A.B. "This is an important book which should not be taken seriously", but is "unconvincing on the political plane".
Ecotopia Emerging is the prequel, setting the scene for the first novel. It is tagged as sf in the CIRA catalogue, as well as being included in the Red Planets reading list.
Not sf, but as SFE puts it this novel "stunningly transfigures the conventions and momentums of narrative into a Bunuelesque labyrinth", and Calvino's "use of sf subjects and their intermixing with a whole array of contemporary literary devices made him a figure of considerable interest for the future of the genre."
Calvino wrote, of his father, that he "had been in his youth an anarchist, a follower of Kropotkin and then a Socialist Reformist".
This classic utopia was seen straightforwardly by Max Nettlau as authoritarian and statist. But Berneri was somewhat more charitable, in the 14 pages she devoted to the work. She noted that it
. . . is the first utopia which gives a leading role to natural sciences. It is also the first utopia which abolishes slave labour and considers all manual work, however humble it may now appear, as an honourable duty. As in other utopias, however, there is little freedom in the City of the Sun."
However, given Campanella's own experience of years of imprisonment courtesy of the Roman Catholic church, she noted that "not unnaturally, Campanella bans prisons and torture from his ideal city." Nevertheless, given that the utopia was intended as a political blueprint, she found it "arid and uninspiring."
Bob Black has commented approvingly on Campanella's suggested four-hour working week.
Campbell argues that "Since it can be pretty fairly shown that any form of government—from pure anarchy through absolute tyranny, with every possible shading in between—will yield Utopia provided the rulers are wise, benevolent, and competent, the place to start engineering of Utopia is with the method of selecting rulers" (6). This he suggests should be done by restricting the franchise to the top 20% income bracket, irrespective of how such income may have been earned, which in Campbell's view should at least ensure competence, which is really the only criterion which concerns him.
Anarchism is pretty summarily dismissed:
Anarchy is government-that-is-no-government. In other words, each individual citizen is his own ruler. Given that all the citizens are wise, benevolent, and competent, anarchy will produce a Utopia. Unfortunately, this requires that each citizen be in fact, not simply in his own perfectly sincere convictions, actually wise, benevolent and competent.
It is therefore clearly impossible. Campbell spells this out in a reply to a letter in a subsequent issue (UK edition, Oct 1961): "the usual trouble is that some individual exercises his right as an Anarchist, to live the way he wants to by enslaving his neighbours." (125)
It has been said that Čapek had to leave school "when it was discovered that he was a member of a secret anarchist society". (Gale) He has also been quoted as saying (but at what date is unknown) "I think I am slowly becoming an anarchist, that this is only another label for my privateness, and I think that you will understand this in the sense of being against collectivity." (Wikiquote)
Berneri, Read, and Woodcock were all familiar with R.U.R., in which the word 'robot' first became common parlance. Read felt that maybe the robot "is no longer an appropriate symbol for an age of automation. Capek saw men transformed into a machine; we see machines transformed into men." (Read 1966)
Čapek's satiric novel War with the Newts ridicules Nazi-Germany and fascism in general, while conveying the author's ideas that technology can become a threat to mankind and that capitalism unrestrained also poses a serious danger. It's included in the Think Galactic reading list.
Lots of action and some pretty good effects, but basically a silly story of too many superheroes fighting each other.
The Anarcho-Geek Review's Sadie the Goat was rather more enthusiastic with a review entitled 'Captain America is a big screen anarchist superhero, how fucking weird is that?', saying "Steve's [Captain America's] perspective [ . . . ] fits nicely with an anarchist outlook; he is fighting to keep his actions his own. He refuses to put himself in a position of taking orders simply to avoid the possibility that he might have to feel guilty for his own mistakes later. That’s anarchist as hell" . . . .
Connor Owens, at solarpunkanarchists.com, gives 'A Social Anarchist Take on Captain America: Civil War', which—while still enjoying the film—gives a rather more in-depth analysis of the film from this perspective. And I fully concur with a key point he makes:
Built on a legacy of slavery, imperialism, colonialism, and ecocide, from a social anarchist perspective the best thing superheroes could do, if they’re going to exist at all, would be to use their enhanced abilities to help inspire a planetary popular uprising against capitalist-statism—then use their powers constructively to help build a post-scarcity economy of the commons. This would effectively eliminate about 90% of the things they beat people up for.
Explores an attractive anarchist society in a post-collapse 22nd century San Francisco. Anu Bonobo, in Fifth Estate, described it as "more an imaginary treasure map than utopia-by-the-numbers blueprint . . .". Carlsson, in the acknowledgments, depicts the novel simply: "a stab at describing the world I'd like to wake up into."
The first of a long series of original anthologies, it was briefly reviewed in Freedom in 1965, where it was described as "a well balanced collection" (anon. 1965). It is actually mediocre sf.
So much a part of our cultural heritage that for years I didn't include it in this listing. But it has been as familiar to anarchists as to other readers, and was commented on by, for instance, Alex Comfort, Herbert Read, and George Woodcock.
The poet W.H. Auden considered Wonderland to be "a place of complete anarchy" (Auden 1962: 35).
For Arthur Wardo, writing in Freedom, this was "Yet another fantasy of what things will be like after a nuclear war. Angela Carter's novel is one of the more realistic visions however."
Warm-hearted space opera, mercifully underplaying 'adventure', but strong on character, humour, gender, and unorthodox sexual relationships. SFE comments on how the starship crew "eschews weapons and deals with its crises using co-operation and diplomacy."
A space opera concerning a planet named Liberia, which had been settled by anarchists. The extent to which the colony had stuck to anarchist principles had varied much over the years. There is now an Original Anarchist Party, which favours a return to basic principles. These, however, are opposed by the entrenched anarchist establishment, "the cream of Liberian society, the black-and-scarlet-clad Anarchist grandees and their ladies" (50, DAW edition). Bakunin has become a demi-god, 'Holy Bakunin' is used as an interjection (139), and the central figure even wonders if anarchists pray to him!
Not only does Chandler's knowledge of anarchism tend towards zero, the novel is forgettable third-rate sf.
Alexei dozes off while reading Herzen, and wakes in a peasants' utopia, which is described with some charm; if it was all a dream remains uncertain, as the work is unfinished.
Geoffrey Ostergaard reviewed this work at length in Freedom in 1978, describing it as ". . . probably the only and only peasant utopian romance ever written . . .". (9) ". . . Chayanov's vision of Russia was not an anarchist one, "the marvellous anarchy of Prince Kropotkin". But it may fairly be described as "libertarian socialist". In its distrust of the State, in its concern for individual freedom, in its hostility to the values typical of industrial urbanised society, and in many other ways, it expresses an ideology that is miles nearer to anarchism than it is to bolshevik Marxism." (13)
Marginal to science fiction, and of marginal anarchist interest, but a minor utopian socialist work of major historical significance, especially in Russia. The novel was translated by Benjamin Tucker and serialised in Liberty from 1884 to 1886. Both Tolstoy and Lenin borrowed the title for works of their own. Kropotkin himself wrote of this novel that "It became the watchword of Young Russia, and the influence of the ideas it propagated has never ceased to be apparent since." (Kropotkin 1899)
In December 1982, this work was reviewed at length (five pages) by Nicolas Walter, in Freedom. For Walter, "It may not be one of the great classics of Russian fiction, but it deserves its place as a minor classic of political and social utopianism."
Suggested by a respondent to a Metafilter query looking for left-anarchist SF.
For John Pilgrim, in 1966, this story "gave a military twist to the popular conception of the survival of the fittest".
George Woodcock, discussing Orwell's view on nationalism in 1966, used The Napoleon of Notting Hill as the extreme example of how local patriotism could be, when ". . . every parish is its own patria" (p203). This work of Conservative romanticism has a degree of charm that may appeal, but is really of only slight interest for anarchists. It may have been more than chance that suggested this comparison to Woodcock, as Napoleon is set in 1984.
The Man Who Was Thursday is included here on the strength of Brian Aldiss's comment (in Billion Year Spree, 1973) that it is "Not science fiction, perhaps, yet nearer to science and rationality than the science fantasy which is the hallmark of the period."
Jack Robinson, in Freedom in 1977, described this work as "a parable . . . in which the anarchist gang all turn out to be policemen (not so improbable) but this idea evaporated in gaseous Catholic mystic flummery." John Quail, in his 1978 history of British anarchism, The Slow-Burning Fuse, referred to it as a variation of a stereotype developed in the 1890s. Although the novel is entirely about anarchists, not a single character actually is one, so it's particularly unjust that the book has become one of the sources of the stock anarchist slander. Chesterton's only authorial comment on real anarchists comes in chapter IV where, speaking of Syme ('Thursday') he writes that "He did not regard anarchists, as most of us do, as a handful of morbid men, combining ignorance with intellectualism." It is an entertaining novel, but basically rubbish.
Set in England in 2027, two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse, with illegal migrants corralled in camps. Miraculously, a 'fugee' is found to be pregnant, and is helped to find sanctuary with the 'Human Project'.
The film was reviewed by Tom Jennings in Freedom when it came out, in typically acerbic manner. While finding the set design and cinematography "magnificent", and the action sequences "superb", he concludes:
So, opposition to the fascist state from the urban guerrilla 'Fishes' [ . . . ] signposts the messianic underbelly of moral politics. This rainbow coalition of former anti-war, civil rights and green activists is riven with 'broad front' contradictions—only demanding human rights for refugees; yet launching armed insurrection! Utterly lacking the sociopolitical underpinnings to wring interesting speculation from its pandemic/police state scenario, Children of Men's naff nativity parable crumbles into faith in scientific progress—the mythical 'Human Project' run by "the best brains in the world" on the good ship Tomorrow. [ . . . ] The redemptive convergence of rationalist wishful-thinking with pseudo-religious ethical superiority, promising salvation from the jackboot, is instead its shoehorn—with the blind liberal management of capitalism actively fostering disaster. Theo's death delivering (Black refugee) madonna and (female) child to safety then merely finesses the conclusion that middle-class heroism (physical or philosophical)—like this film—can suggest no solutions.
But for David Ehrlich at IndieWire, ten years after its release Children of Men has become not only the "best and bleakest sci-fi movie of the 21st Century", but also the most prescient: "Children of Men may be set in 2027, but when Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States, it suddenly became clear that its time had come."
In The World in Winter Europeans retreat to Africa at the onset of a new ice age. Arthur W. Uloth, writing in Anarchy, suggested that the survival of this novel's leading characters is sufficiently improbable (as whites who deserve a come-uppance), as to verge on racism on the part of the author.
The Lotus Caves, a juvenile, concerns the discovery by two boys of an exotic world of alien life beneath the surface of the moon. Colin Ward, in his 1974 educational book on utopias, used the drabness of existence in the moon colony to demonstrate that even escape to other worlds can't ensure the attainment of utopia. Seemingly this example was selected at random, as it doesn't seem particularly pertinent.
Demented scientist kidnaps children to steal their dreams, but finds inevitably that they only have nightmares. Surreal, oneiric steampunk.
Included in Glenn's 'Film as Subversion', in The BASTARD Chronicles, where it is described as "a dadaist steam-punk fantasy [. . .]" which "leaves the viewer wondering, 'What is Normal'?"
Third-rate western, set on an alien planet, of which the social system had been designed by anarchists, described as followers of Bakunin, "an obscure Russian nihilist". Society, of course, has collapsed, anarchism being "not entirely realistic". The planet appears to harbour a society in a Hobbesian state of nature. The hero describes anarchy as "absurd", and the planet as "the longest-running planet-wide madhouse in the history of the human race." (Ace pb edn: 20).
A Freedom contributor in 1976 found the novel "horrendous". Albert Meltzer, in the same year, went further: "It is anarchism as seen through Fascist eyes. Maybe Clark is not a Fascist and has just picked up the arguments [. . . .] But the arguments are a perfect example of the Nazi views on anarchism, and fairly presented."
Anarchaos is probably the nastiest representation of anarchism in the genre.
Fondly remembered by a couple of posters to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum (and by myself).
Joint winner of the 2012 Prometheus Award, but for Neil Easterbrook, though antiauthoritarian, it falls short of being libertarian; he found it charming, nevertheless. In anticipation of the forthcoming movie, a new Anarcho-Geek review of the book was published in March 2018; while clearly entertained, the reviewer is sharply critical:
I think this story has something to offer us. I think it wants to have good politics – the mutual aid, the need for a team, the belief in the importance of a future in which access to information and communication be open to everyone.
But seriously, I’m so tired of narratives about hetcis nerdboys with fucked up gender politics and stalker-like behavior.
A teenage thug in a a dystopian near-future Britain is cured of his violent ways by aversion therapy, the moral being an inversion of the Frankenstein story, namely that it is as wrong to unmake a monster, by taking away his free will, as to make one. Aurally and visually intense, and challenging to watch.
Included in the Libertarian Movies list. Described as a "good anarchist movie" in a comment on Bergen-Aurand's great anarchist movies that are worth your time.
The life of an ordinary blue-collar work changes forever after an encounter with a UFO, leading eventually to first contact with the aliens.
Joe Schembrie's 'Science Fiction and Libertarianism' notes the film's anti-government aspect, in that "the aliens turn from government attempts to contact them and instead embrace a group of private citizens". Tim Cavanaugh, who in general would exclude all Spielberg and Lucas movies from consideration as libertarian, wrote in 2004 that "I'm tempted to give a pass to Close Encounters because it popularized black helicopter culture".
Complex story set at six points in time, from 1849 through 2321, with the same six actors playing different roles in different threads, the stories and characters having tenuous and serendipitous connections across all timelines. Bold and engaging, despite its length.
Reviewed at length by Cat Woods, at peaceandfreedom.org, for whom the film "takes on the unlikeliest of themes for a major mainstream film: the politics of justice, including, most importantly, justice for workers." As an independent film, when set against the Hollywood backdrop "the film is completely ground-breaking, a victory of the interests of the people over those of the ruling class, and a source of inspiration and spiritual nourishment for those of us endeavoring to work toward greater social justice." Woods concludes:
I do not know whether Cloud Atlas will move people or whether it will be received and responded to appropriately. I do know that it should change the world. By all rights, it should usher in a whole new genre of socio-political films exploring the nature of justice as well as the various possible avenues for achieving it. May it be so.
Recommended by starrychloe on Liberty.me's Good movies for libertarians and anarchists.
Comfort—renowned sexologist and gerontologist—was at one time better known as an anarchist. The novel concerns the discovery of a sexually-liberating drug, and the havoc it wreaks on an uptight society. It's not explicitly anarchist, though it tends that way.
Harold Drasdo, discussing Comfort's work in Anarchy in November 1963, wrote:
Humour is a notoriously erratic weapon but most readers without insuperable sexual barriers ought to enjoy this book thoroughly. [ . . . ] it presents serious and humane ideas about sexual and personal relationships and about modern science and politics." (Drasdo: 352)
Ludicrous tale of cone-headed aliens stranded on earth. What humour there is is very American.
Listed at Libertarian Movies. Osborne's guide considers it "upbeat", "hilarious", and "a terrific pro-immigrant, anti-INS film!"
Apes in revolt against their human masters.
Listed in the Red Planets filmography, which notes that "The studio neutered the conclusion of worker/slave revolt, which resonated too strongly with Black Power."
One contributor to the anarchysf mailing list, back in 2004, admitted (rather improbably) that "I love that movie. I've probably seen it dozens of times."
New Amazonia was reviewed, briefly and scornfully, by an anonymous writer for Commonweal in its anarchist phase, in 1890. It is a feminist utopia, set in Ireland in 2472; domestic service still exists, but servants are state-trained; the museum has on exhibition "an instrument of torture . . . called a corset" (Tower edn: 44); and so on—all rather quaint.
Thematic four book quartet. Love and War and No Future portray anarchists in the form of neo-pagan anarchist travellers in an interstellar travel era and a Black Star militant group (described in No Future as "probably remnants of the Angry Brigade") in the background of a possibly alternate version of the 1976 London milieu. These portray anarchists favourably. Part of the DOCTOR WHO New Adventures sequence. (mailing to anarchysf)
"Finally I must make some acknowledgement to Mr Edmund Crispin, whose anthologies of science fiction for Faber and Faber are still the finest of their kind, and whose introductory essays I have shamelessly pillaged." (Pilgrim 1963)
Crispin seems to have admired sf for its anti-authoritarianism, or at least its capacity for scepticism of authority, which he saw as healthy, "for only by perennial widespread mistrust can the power of rulers of any kind—politicians, ecclesiastics, scientists, managers, trade unions, bureaucrats, bankers or commissars—be kept restricted within tolerable bounds" (Introduction to Best SF Two, Faber pb edn: 9). Pilgrim quotes this passage approvingly; he does not, however, quote a passage in the introduction to Best SF Four (1961) which perhaps spurred Pilgrim to write his essay, in which Crispin states that "the political leanings of the genre . . . are overwhelmingly democratic, with a strong tendency to anarchism" (Faber pb edn: 7)
Published by London's anarchist Freedom Press, this short book is essentially an anarchist utopia set in a future Britain. The story involves a quest for the eponymous capitalist, and contributes greatly to the book's readability. England has been renamed 'Atopia', and is explicitly anarchist, but the state and capitalism have pretty much crumbled world-wide. Alternative polities exist, to reflect local conditions and aspirations; among these is a republic on the Isle of Man, based on delegate democracy. In Atopia everything is voluntary, education is through free schools, and the economy is based on barter. Informed by green principles, technology is nevertheless sufficiently sophisticated to include high-altitude remote-controlled airships, to maintain satellite communications. Social life is fuelled by plenty of real ale (with an explicit admiring nod to CAMRA) and an easy attitude to sex. The book is joyful and optimistic.
Extremely short collection of three linked stories (40 pages in total) of post-apocalyptic steampunk. The anarchist influence is clearest in The Catastrophone Orchestra's "The Mushers," the longest of the three.
The Expanse is a series of novels which was written by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) but also adapted into a TV series by the writers.
The Outer Planets Alliance faction from The Expanse features about as much explicit anarchism as you can get past TV censors or in a Hugo-prize-winning series. The OPA logo in the show is literally the circle-A (or rather the "bisected circle" in the books). The larger backdrop of the series features anti-colonialism and syndicalism in the context of humankind's first steps in settling the outer solar system, alongside stark class warfare, as the richer "inner planets" exploit the "belters", those working in the outer solar system.
For a space-opera, it's also surprisingly far on the "hard" side of the science-fiction hardness scale; with amazing attention to realism and scientific detail in physics and engineering, but also in fields like linguistics, sociology and political theory. While there are plenty of protagonists who aren't anarchists, the good of the commonwealth is often set above and in conflict with the good of individuals or of governments. Earth in particular is a not-too-exaggerated version of our society, where wealth, resource scarcity, and corruption keep a docile population suffocating in opulence.
Winchell Chung explains this series' worth better than we can, check out their site for more info and links.
Dakan is described by Killjoy, in one of his featured interviews, as an 'anarchist geek'. This entertaining caper story was taken as 'certainly' science fiction by a contributor to the Anarchysf mailing list, but can't really be seen as sf at all, though it's still likely to be of interest to sf readers.
Anthology of original short fiction, poetry, and a couple of essays, as well as two classic tales featured in this reading list, Dick's 'The Last of the Masters' and Forster's 'The Machine Stops'. Rich Dana's introduction is particularly useful: an updated version of his 2013 essay on the Daily Anarchist (as by Ricardo Feral).
Although it will be The Watch that is of most interest to anarchists, Danvers's previous novel, The Fourth World, is also a refreshing left-libertarian take on a possible future, in which Chiapas and the Zapatistas are centre-stage. For Teflon, the novel "deserves to have sold better than it did."
The Watch is supposedly written in the first person by Peter Kropotkin, who has been plucked from his deathbed, rejuvenated, into a future in which he has the opportunity to foster anarchism once more. The plot is on the weak side, but the writing is first rate, and the Kropotkin character thoroughly researched, as is historical anarchism itself (with references to more recent figures such as Bookchin and Chomsky). Anarchism is integral to the book, and is presented with the utmost sympathy. Very readable, and a wonderful introduction to anarchist ideas for anyone not familiar with them.
For Magpie Killjoy, whose favourite anarchist fiction novel this is, "The book tells a low-key and beautiful story with compelling characters, yet introduces the reader to some of the most basic of anarchist political and philosophical concepts." (Killjoy, Fall 2011)
An amnesiac man who finds himself suspected of murder attempts to discover his true identity and clear his name while on the run from the police and the mysterious 'Strangers'. It transpires that he's really aboard an alien habitat, where the hive-mind of the Strangers is/are seeking to understand the human concepts of individuality and personality. Defeating the Strangers, he remakes the world based on 'his' childhood memories, which were themselves illusions implanted by the Strangers.
The Red Planets filmography describes Dark City as "offering a phantasmagorical image of life under capital."
Peter Suderman, in his Liberals and Libertarians at the Movies, identifies the essence of the film as "one individual struggles to reclaim his agency and identity". Also recommended on the Anarchism sub-reddit discussion on movies.
Bruce Wayne/Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon and enthusiastic new District Attorney Harvey Dent seek to eliminate organized crime in Gotham City, but the sociopathic Joker carries out a dastardly scheme to turn Dent into a villain and Batman into a public enemy. According to SFE, this film is "Widely regarded as the finest Superhero film ever made".
David Graeber has written interestingly on the Batman trilogy (with a longer version published as 'On Batman and the Problem of Constituent Power', in Graeber 2015). This film, and Batman Begins, he says "had moments of genuine eloquence",
But even that movie begins to fall flat the moment it touches on popular politics. The end, when Bruce and Commissioner Gordon settle on the plan to scapegoat Batman and create a false myth around the martyrdom of Harvey Dent, is nothing short of a confession that politics is identical to the art of fiction. The Joker was right: redemption lies only in the fact that the violence, the deception, can be turned back upon itself.
When Dark Knight came out in 2008, there was much discussion over whether the whole thing was really a vast metaphor for the war on terror: how far is it okay for the good guys (America, obviously) to adapt the bad guy’s methods? The filmmakers managed to respond to these issues and still produce a good movie. This is because the War on Terror actually was a battle of secret networks and manipulative spectacles. It began with a bomb and ended with an assassination. One can almost think of it as an attempt, on both sides, to actually enact a comic book version of the universe.
Set eight years after the previous film, Batman comes out of retirement to take on the imposing figure of Bane, and save Gotham City from nuclear destruction; Catwoman is also featured, and Robin introduced.
David Graeber opens his New Enquiry essay 'Super Position' (with a longer version published as 'On Batman and the Problem of Constituent Power', in Graeber 2015) by stating that "The Dark Knight Rises really is a piece of anti-Occupy propaganda," whilst acknowledging that Christopher Nolan claims that the script was written before the movement started, and that the scenes of the occupation of Gotham were actually inspired by Dickens's account of the French Revolution. Graeber feels that the film is defeated by its own ambition, and "stuttered into incoherence."
Reddit's Anarchy 101 has a page discussing 'Would Bane from the Dark Knight Rises qualify as an Anarchist?':
Satirical space story. The Dark Star has been roaming space on a mission to destroy 'unstable' planets, but after 20 years systems are breaking down, and the crew are bored witless. Things go completely belly-up. Lots of delicious black humour.
Ranked in first 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.
Gory zombie film. SFE insists it is true sf, as Romero is interested in zombies the way an sf writer might be interested in aliens.
Wendy McElroy, at Daily Anarchist.com, says "This is his most explicit assault on mindless, modern consumerism. [. . . ] In short, the walking dead are doing the same thing as they did as the walking living. This glimpse of voracious humanity is all the more horrifying because it contains truth.
Included in libcom.org's guide to working class films.
Resistance grows in a near-future where people with an HIV-like infection are held in a quarantine more like a concentration camp.
For Libertarian Movies the film—described by Osborne as "inspiring"—"presents a dark vision of what can happen when morality is enforced by the government."
Ten years hence a vampire corporation captures and farms the remaining mortal humans while developing a substitute for human blood. A vampire hematologist's work is interrupted by human survivors led by a former vampire who has discovered a cure for vampirism. The sf context is well developed, so it's not just another vampire movie.
Recommended for a fairly obvious political message, by a poster to the Reddit discussion on movie recommendations containing Anarchy. SFE says "the use of vampirism as an allegory of oil dependency stands out from the red tide of other vampire fiction in its era."
(Then) near-future docudrama about the assassination of US President George W. Bush.
Criticised at the time for what was perceived as poor taste, the film's director has said the film was "not a leftist jeremiad", and that "It was very important that the film was not a political rant. It was not just a condemnation or polemic because I think that polemics are easy to dismiss." Sabina Becker's view was that the right didn't like the film because "it strikes a blow against the notion that arbitrary measures which grant inordinate power to the president will ever protect anyone—even himself—against terrorism."
Included in the Red Planets filmography.
"A walk-through description of the world in the year 2858, after the abolition of the state, religion, property, and the family." (Dan Clore) Described by Kropotkin himself as an anarchist-communist utopia, and by Max Nettlau as "L'utopie anarchiste par excellence". Editor of the New York anarchist paper Le Libertaire, he "let his utopian imagination run riot" in L'Humanisphère. "Each is his own representative in a 'parliament of anarchy'. Déjacque's 'humanispheres' resemble Fourier's 'phalansteries' and while based on the principle of complete freedom reflect a similarly rigid planning." (Peter Marshall:435) For George Woodcock Déjacque's vision was "Fourier modified by his opposite, Proudhon." He also felt that it "in some remarkable ways anticipates the vision of the future which H.G. Wells projected in Men Like Gods." (Woodcock : ch. 10)
L'Humanisphère was first serialised in Le Libertaire, the US's first anarcho-communist journal, of which Déjacque was editor. (Killjoy, 2009) Déjacque is said to have exercised an influence on the anarchist movement in Latin America through the intermediary figure of journalist Sebastian Faure. (Heffes 2009: 129)
Babel-17, 'Aye and Gomorrah', and The Einstein Intersection are included in the Think Galactic reading list. Babel-17 is quoted in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015.
Dhalgren has been described as presenting a world which is 'anarchist in all but name' (Moore 95). Although this is questionable, this is a stimulating and thought-provoking novel that bears inclusion here.
Trouble on Triton was recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. Delany has said that the novel was written partly in dialogue with Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, his ambiguous heterotopia a response to her ambiguous utopia. His own perspective is that SF can't really be utopian. More pretentious than Dhalgren, Trouble on Triton hasn't aged as well. The interview with Delany published in 1990 as "On Triton and Other Matters" is actually more interesting than the novel.
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is discussed and quoted in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015, and has been recommended by a contributor to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum. Another, on Ask Metafilter, considered that "I don't think that Delany describes the society of Morgre as anarchist, but it definitely has anarchist-style social organization." In fact he almost does: he describes the most common form of government on Velm (the planet) as "an efficient bureaucratic anarchy". Later he says that of the 6000 worlds only 30% have a world government, but in the same paragraph describes Velm's bureaucratic anarchy as a world government. It isn't really an anarchy in anarchist terms: his definition says that "Bureaucratic anarchy means a socialist world government in which small sections are always reverting to some form of feudal capitalism for anywhere from a week to two years standard—the longest we'll allow it to last."
A Strange Manuscript is a lost-race story, set in Antarctica. In 1969 George Woodcock discussed the work as a "solitary successful Canadian utopian novel" (97), deciding that it is not so much utopia as Butlerian satire: its moral vision, "perhaps . . . characteristic of Canada", he finds to be "that of the Middle way—moderation in all things." (98) In 1980 he found the novel "an effective satire on the hypocritical Victorian world" de Mille lived in (Woodcock 1980: 24).
A violent criminal and a maverick cop are cryogenically frozen in 1996, being revived in 2032 to find the culture homogenised and risk-free, the cop finding some sympathy with a radical underground. Much action and a limited amount of comic book satire.
One comment at the libertarian film festival describes the film as "a parable about the nanny state", with "a nice minarchist bit as the anarchists are told to clean up a bit, the government to dirty up a bit, and then to figure the rest out for themselves."
Historically important as the first serious attempt at portraying a mission to the moon, a major difference from what eventually happened in the 1960s being that in the film it was private enterprise that ran the show. Loosely based on Rocketship Galileo, by Robert Heinlein, who acted as technical advisor to the film
In 2007 an article copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list, on the occasion of the centenary of Heinlein's birth, described this as "the first sober space travel movie".
In 'The Last of the Masters' Dick took anarchism itself for its explicit theme. Two hundred years after the triumph of the Anarchist League by overthrowing the world's governments, a pocket state is discovered, ruled by a still-surviving government robot. An Anarchist League agent destroys the robot. The League itself is a voluntary club of unorganised individuals whose task it is to patrol the world scotching any attempts to restore government. It is made clear at the end of the story that, while there are disadvantages to global anarchism, they are more than outweighed by the effective abolition of war that has followed from its adoption. The tale is included in Dana's AnarchoSF V.1. For Margaret Killjoy "This story, by my reading, is neither libel nor advocacy, just a thought experiment by someone only peripherally versed in anarchism. Which frankly doesn’t make it feel all that valuable to the conversation."
Dick's works constituted for Vittorio Curtoni a "violent fresco of social schizophrenia" (25). All his works show a high degree of humanity and identification with the underdog.
The three novels of the 1950s are referred to by Curtoni as exemplary of his style and concerns. Solar Lottery is Dick's first, in which the top political position is chosen by lot, but subject to popularly condoned assassination; a parallel plot concerns a quasi-religious quest outside the solar system. The novel was described in Marzia Rubega's 1996 article on Dick in A-Rivista Anarchica, and is cited in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015. In Eye in the Sky an accident in a particle accelerator causes a number of individuals to live successively through each other's versions of the normal world, none of which is particularly normal. In Time Out of Joint the central character believes he is living in the 1950s, as a competition expert; in reality he is living in the 1990s, helping plan the bombing of the moon; his fantasy is a withdrawal psychosis, the only way he can continue this work, having been converted to the 'lunatic' cause.
The society of Galactic Pot-Healer has been described as "the ultimate Communist denial of personal consciousness." (Riggenbach)
The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, among Dick's best, are listed in Curtoni's essential bibliography, but not discussed by him. The Man in the High Castle is a complex alternate history of America after losing World War II, set in the Japanese Pacific States of America; it is a superb sf classic, high on compassion and having much to say, indirectly, about power relationships. Ubik recounts the involuted existences of a group of people living in 'half-life' after being killed by a bomb on the moon; in many ways similar to Eye in the Sky, it has perhaps been overrated, though Rubega describes it as both "fascinating" and a "masterpiece". Reality is out of joint for the protagonist of Flow My Tears, who finds himself briefly living in an alternate world created by another character's drug trip; the figure of Police General Buckman, although disagreeable, is presented as human—there are no human baddies, for such antagonist as may be discerned is the abstract one of drugs-as-control. For Evan Lampe "The novel is incredibly powerful and in my view his greatest work."
The Simulacra "portrays a world in which government is evil, duplicitous, and bent on concealing the truth from the public." (Riggenbach) The novel is cited in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015, as is The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
In Counter-Clock World a black religious leader, round whom much of the book revolves, is referred to throughout as the 'Anarch' Peak; but the reason for this is obscure.
The Zap Gun depicts an America divided between those who believe the government is protecting them with ever more elaborate weaponry and those who know that none of the weaponry works, except in simulations; both parties are in on the fraud, which they perpetrate in order to prop up a permanent Cold War economy. (Riggenbach)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—famously adapted as the film Bladerunner—was singled out for mention by Walker Lane, of the Fifth Estate collective, for a Summer 2012 anarchist reading list.
In The Penultimate Truth members of the elite program an android politician which/who keeps the underground masses properly stirred up and misinformed. (Riggenbach) For Lampe a clear moral is that "It does not matter if power if justifiable on some level. It is nonetheless, sociopathic."
A proponent of governmental decentralisation and opponent of organised religion, it is perhaps unfortunate that some of Dick's later, delusional, work has had a posthumous influence in the emergence of anarcho-gnostics. Among these later works is Valis, briefly mentioned in a quotation in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015.
Evan Lampe has individual blog entries for each of 30 Dick novels, including one not sf.
Short utopian account of society in Tahiti which, according to SFE, "prefigures much Anthropological sf in its debate on Natural Man."
Marie Louise Berneri, for whom it was "a description of a free, primitive society which knows neither governments nor laws", yet which described "a primitive society, not perhaps as it was, but as it should be," included a four-page extract in her classic 1950 Journey Through Utopia. Colin Ward, in his 1991 Unesco Courier article 'Ideal Community', found the tale "delightful."
The whole of North Africa has become a political isolate thanks to its controversial use of anti-entropic free energy from nanotechnology. Money is increasingly pointless, and guns won't function, as a consequence of "a local accumulation of anti-entropy". A pre-utopian sidelong glimpse of the state in the very act of withering away.
Vittorio Curtoni, writing in 1978, considered Camp Concentration to be "very fine". It concerns the experimental treatment of American concentration-camp inmates with a syphilis-derived drug which enhances intelligence but accelerates death.
'Mutability' is set in the free university city of Tübingen at the end of the 21st century. Tübingen is said to have been declared a free city by the UN in 2039, after the faculty and students of the university had spearheaded the pan-Germanic Anarchist movement. It is said to have a uniquely democratic government, but American observers seem to be unimpressed.
A population of debilitated prawn-like aliens is found aboard an inert alien ship that has appeared over Johannesburg. The South African government confines them to an internment camp shanty town called District 9. Twenty years later, a bureaucrat assisting in the relocation of the aliens to District 10 is accidentally contaminated by contact with an alien fluid, and begins to metamorphose. He teams up with one of the aliens, assisting him to escape with his son to the mothership, which departs, leaving 2½ million of the prawns behind. The human is seen to have completed his transformation.
Libcom.org's guide to working class films gives this description: "Alluding to the District Six evictions in apartheid and the more recent Blikkiesdorp settlement, District 9 sees aliens come to Earth. But when they arrive, they are a minority group just like any other, and are hated by both black and white in South Africa."
In a post-apocalyptic Chicago everyone is pigeon-holed as one of five factions, based on personality testing; the central character is found 'divergent', as she straddles several factions.
Recommended by starrychloe at Good movies for libertarians and anarchists.
The adventures of a time-travelling renegade Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. According to the Science Fiction Encyclopedia "It is the most successful Space Opera in the history of television, not excluding Star Trek."
St John Karp, in The Anarchist Doctor Who, while a "massive fan" of the show, identifies two contradictions: "One is the Doctor's xenophilia vs. Doctor Who's xenophobia. The other is the Doctor's status as both a rebel against and a symbol of the status quo. El problemo." But also "it's a show about libertarianism; a love of strange things; a love of exploration; a love of eccentricity; and the defence of the rights of the individual against the establishment."
For Kasimir Urbanski the Doctor is a "libertarian superhero":
He hated the stifling bureaucracy of his own people that he ran away in a broken time machine just to be his own person. He has a complete distaste for authority, particularly corrupt government and warmongering military. He’s always ready to fight anyone who wants to force their will on anyone else.
And he’s pretty much always been that way.
Most importantly, he's always been about the power of the Individual—not the ideals of some Federation, or even specifically about things like justice, fairness or even good. But more than anything, about the power that any one person has, as themselves, to change the world.
A contributor to libcom.org's forum on Science fiction and fantasy with anarchist themes noted that a 2005 episode called 'The Long Game' included "an undercover Anarchist posing as a journalist from a group called 'Freedom 15' 200,000 years into the future on a space station above Earth." "My impression was that while the episode did not go into any depth into the political philosophy of Anarchism the anarchist was portrayed in a positive anti-straw man like way."
The two earlier novels were both recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom features a post-scarcity future in which money has been replaced by personal reputation ratings, or 'Whuffie'. It was the subject of a retrospective review by Jason Rodgers in the Summer 2018 Fifth Estate.
Someone Comes to Town is an unusual fantasy novel, which if it wasn't by Doctorow I would probably not include, though it's well worth a read. Killjoy (Fall 2011) includes it among some examples of books in which anarchists appear as "sympathetic (though often misguided or idealized characters").
Little Brother won the 2009 Prometheus Award. A stirring novel for young adults, it features a hackers' fightback against the paranoid surveillance society of the US Department of Homeland Security. Reviewed and commended by andywelshman of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation, for whom "This book is a must read for everyone and should be required reading for everyone under 25, if you read it you’ll find out why."
The sequel, Homeland, was published in February 2013, and was joint winner of the 2014 Prometheus award.
Makers—described by the author as "a book about people who hack hardware, business-models, and living arrangements to discover ways of staying alive and happy even when the economy is falling down the toilet"—isn't one of Doctorow's best, but was nominated for the 2010 Prometheus award. It was suggested by one contributor to reddit as a possible example of agorist fiction, and is listed at the GoodReads Anarchist & Radical Book Club.
For the Win features an interesting combination of militant international labour activism and the world of online gaming, in which game-workers join the IWWWW (Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web), known as the Webblies, by analogy with the Wobblies (a concept borrowed from Ken Macleod). While some readers have not appreciated the moralising, for me the gaming angle was a bit heavy-going, but it's a YA book, and doubtless this would be fine for its intended readership.
Zeke Teflon's 2014 review of the PM Press edition of The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow plus found the novella disappointingly short, and not quite fulfilling its promising potential.
Pirate Cinema won the 2013 Prometheus Award. Another YA novel, it's a rousing subversive attack on attempts to stifle creativity by controlling Internet downloads. One of the protagonists is explicitly anarchist, and works in an anarchist bookshop off Brick Lane, London—named "Dancing Emma's" after Emma Goldman, but the location more than coincidentally close to the Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel; Doctorow personally contributed to Freedom Bookshop's repair and rebuilding fund after it was firebombed in January 2013.
For Ricardo Feral Doctorow's YA novels are "particularly important for introducing the ideas of personal freedom and opposition to State control to younger readers." Margaret Killjoy has said "I've never met a Cory Doctorow book I don't love."
Walkaway tells of walking away from work and the dominance of a mega-rich oligarchy, the development of a post-scarcity gift economy, and the near-conquest of death. Described by the author as "a utopian novel", with credit given to David Graeber in the acknowledgments, the novel is recommended in the Sharp and Pointed review by Zeke Teflon as "quite possibly the best fictional description of a post-scarcity society ever written."
In an August 2018 interview Doctorow states explicitly that he's not an anarchist, but that he doesn't know what he is.
Very entertaining animal fable sequel to Orwell's Animal Farm; not actually sf.
This rather minor story concerns an alien stranded on earth, living telepathically in a dog but through a mentally-challenged child: it seeks understanding from a sympathetic human. Pilgrim, in 1963, rated the story highly, but rather overstated the case for considering the society of the aliens, as described as "anarchic" and their reaction to human coercion and competition as "very much that of the anarchist" (Pilgrim 1963: 365).
Futuristic utopia set in South America. "It is anarchistic in that there is no authority except an advisory board, and communistic in that the land is communally owned and there is little personal property." [Bleiler: 209]
An invasion from "the Empire of the North" succeeds. This play is referred to by Pilgrim in his 1966 Peace News review, without particular comment.
A boy befriends an alien stranded on Earth and helps it to return to its home world, while evading the attention of the authorities.
Osborne takes evident pleasure in the film's depiction of government agents as the bad guys. Joe Schembrie, too, in his Science Fiction and Libertarianism, notes with approval that, in E.T., "government agents and scientists prove to be far less competent than children at dealing with an alien encounter."
Interesting and readable, but mostly non-sf, bracketed by a chapter set during the Peasants' Revolt and a chapter in a future where all but an anarchist community have died through ecological meltdown. Briefly reviewed in July 1990, in the New Anarchist Review #16.
Permutation City is among books cited by Nick Mamatas in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015 as hard sf overwhelmed by religious allegory.
Distress is largely set against the backdrop of the sympathetically presented anarcho-syndicalist society of Stateless, an engineered coral island in the Pacific. The inhabitants mostly disregard anarchist thinkers like Bakunin, Proudhon and Godwin; children are educated in sociobiology.
. . . Stateless seemed to run on the principle of people agreeing to do the same thing for entirely different reasons. It was a sum over mutually contradictory topologies which left the calculus of pre-space for dead; no imposed politics, philosophy, religion, no idiot cheer-squad worship of flags or symbols—but order emerged nevertheless. (ch. 24)
Primarily a romantic fiction centred on an anarchist-hunter and an anarchist, the latter ultimately plotting to destroy society by means of anthrax germs distributed by balloon; she only succeeds in killing herself. Although the author displays considerable knowledge of 1890s anarchism, the image he paints of anarchists is only lurid and melodramatic: one instance will suffice, in which an anarchist, who has been betraying the conspiracy unwittingly via his wife, redeems himself by slitting her throat and writing 'Vive l'Anarchie' on the wall in her blood. (Tower edn: 167)
Comic book series, noted by Evan Lampe on the Facebook Anarchists and Science Fiction page; Lampe has also published an essay on the series, included here. The series is also recommended by two contributors to Reddit's Anarchism strand.
Recommended by Melanie Petrewski, who says:
It's kind of a different take, postulating a "floating republic" kind of syndicalist gathering based on 17th century ships articles. I found it interesting because it seemed vaguely plausible as well as the fact that it completely avoided the sort of philosophical overthink in most Anarchist depictions.
In the 22nd century, Earth is overpopulated and has in effect been written off by the rich, who have decamped to an idyllic orbiting habitat; it becomes clear that by a reboot of the system immigration controls can be overridden, giving citizenship of Elysium to all inhabitants of Earth.
Included in the libcom.org Working class cinema: a video guide. Also short-listed by two contributors to the Anarchism subReddit discussion of films advocating anti-capitalism, of whom one says "It's not great, but it is alright and contemporary. [ . . . ] Critiques of wage slavery, class, immigration, healthcare, etc are great."
SFE cautions that "descriptions of the film as a socialist manifesto are highly exaggerated".
The CEO of an Internet giant calls one of his programmers to his isolated home and research base, where he is asked to appraise the level of consciousness of his most recent android construct, whom its creator already believes to have passed the Turing test. The experiment proves all too successful, the android outwitting both of them, and escaping her confinement. An intelligent and beautifully made film, clearly echoing the Frankenstein motif.
Seen as strongly feminist by J.A. Micheline, a view endorsed by Eoin O'Connor on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum. Also noted on the FB Solarpunk Anarchists and Anarchists & Science Fiction pages. Two contributors to the FB Forum include this film among their shortlists of the best sf ever committed to film.
Unconvincing take on the theme of where simulation stops and reality begins, using videogaming in place of Chuang Tzu's famous butterfly dream.
One of three Cronenberg films categorised as subversive by Glenn in his essay 'Film as Subversion', in the 2015 BASTARD Chronicles.
This short tale was published in Freedom in 1956. The narrator day-dreams, at Speakers' Corner, that he sails through the 'A' on an anarchist banner into the future anarchist world, which is fully described. Britain is now basically running on anarchist-communist lines. Curiously, though, there is still a need for a police force, though this is all right because they are all qualified in sociology, psychology, local history and orgone therapy.
The story's gently satiric humour has considerable charm; and the notion that the British only got round to having a revolution after their supply of tea ran out is perhaps as plausible as many another scenario for revolution here.
Based on the Bradbury novel of the same name, the film takes place in a dystopian future in which a fireman, whose duty it is not to extinguish fires but to burn books, takes to reading and rebels against the regime.
Included in the Libertarian Movies filmography. For Osborne "its antiauthoritarian content will make it of very strong interest to libertarians," but "one is left with the disturbing impression that such a society could actually be brought about." (58–9)
Cold War tension between the USSR and the USA leads to an accidental nuclear attack on Moscow, with devastating consequences for both countries. A similar story line to Dr Strangelove, but with deadly earnest.
Included in Mark Bould's Red Planets filmography.
Vittorio Curtoni refers the reader to these "stories of sensual liberation" by Farmer. The Lovers, with its story of forbidden love between a future human and a humanoid alien insect parasite, broke new ground in sf when it first appeared. Strange Relations is a collection of five stories all named for family relationships; most of them feature bizarre alien sexuality. The best is 'Mother' (1953) (Curtoni: 25).
Dark tale of workers rebelling against a monopolistic plutocrat, first through sabotage, then through strike action; but their efforts are defeated by the rapid introduction of automation, and their revolt is brutally put down by their bosses with a disintegrator ray which kills them in their hundreds of thousands. The failed uprising is led by the charismatic head of the Council of the Order of Anarchy, but as so often anarchism is just a boo word. The anarchists and the bosses are both unsympathetic, and the proletarian 'useless hands' are no more than ciphers.
Included in Miéville's Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read (as copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list), where it is seen as "Bleak Social Darwinism" and "A cold, reactionary, interesting book."
In 1920 Hartmann, having invented a tough, light metal, launches his aeronef the Attila and mounts a raid on London. His object, he says, is "to wreck civilization . . . We are Rousseaus who advocate a return to a simpler life . . . We want no more 'systems,' or 'constitutions'—we shall have anarchy." (Tangent edn: 83-4) Parliament, the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange and St Paul's are destroyed, and the crew of the Attila use flamethrowers on the crowds in Farringdon St. However, less than a fifth of London is destroyed, Hartmann hears no news of similar risings overseas, and on learning that he has killed his own mother he blows up the Attila, with himself and all on board. Order is restored, and the Empire recovers.
Although not the first story of this kind, Hartmann the Anarchist is the first to identify the terrorists as anarchists. Superior to most of its successors, it is still fresh, and probably the only one still worth reading.
Weir (2011) describes it as "frankly anti-anarchist". Pedelty (2011) considers it a "very silly story", but "Not silly-funny [ . . . ] but silly-toxic." (Pedelty: 73)
Ian Bone, in his introduction to the 2009 reprint, is kind enough to mention this website.
Five-minute short, summarised on IMDb as "In a dystopian future nothing is taken for granted", available on YouTube, but only in Greek, without subtitles.
Shown during the 2017 festival for anarchy and libertarian communism at Patras.
Based on the novel of the same name by the prolific anarchist sf writer Michael Moorcock (book one of The Cornelius Chronicles), the film is OTT in the way to be expected from the director of The Abominable Dr Phibes and many episodes of The Avengers.
Space western set in 2517, featuring the activities—licit and illicit—of the motley crew of a 'Firefly-class' spaceship, in a star system controlled by the Alliance, apparently a fusion of the two surviving superpowers, the USA and China.
According to Ilya Somin, of the Libertarian Futurist Society, Whedon "deliberately incorporated libertarian themes in his 2002 science fiction series Firefly." Roderick Long, too, says "The show also has a strong, albeit implicit, libertarian edge to it."
Most usefully, though, a recent Revolutionary Left Radio podcast features a long interview with Dr James Rocha, on 'Interpreting Firefly: Libertarianism vs Anarchism'. Rocha had authored a paper entitled 'The Black Reaching Out: An Anarchist Analysis of Firefly' in which he argues for an anarchist interpretation of the show over the more prevalent right-libertarian interpretation. Though Rocha's paper doesn't seem to be accessible on the Internet, in the interview Rocha argues that Firefly should actually be seen as an anarchist critique of right-libertarianism, in which the initial fairly pronounced libertarian sentiments of the spaceship's captain are progressively rejected as the series goes on in favour of a more anarchist perspective.
Adaptation of the Wells novel, brought up to date by framing the story with a 1960s moon landing and the unexpected discovery there of the British flag, with a note claiming the moon for Queen Victoria.
Mark Bould, in his 2005 Socialist Review article, as copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list, described this "laboured comedy" as evoking "a nervousness about the passing of empires."
In The Queen of Life the humanoid inhabitants of Venus have encased the planet in an alarmingly sterile glass sphere, and vanquished scarcity many generations in the past, entirely eliminating conflict and with it any concepts of nationhood, the state, and government itself. This curiosity has the flavour of the true utopia about it, yet as sf it withholds the utopian possibility. Flint seems unusually ambivalent about his authorial intent, presumably the consequence of editorial intervention.
Prometheus Award winner.
One of the best 50s sf films, indeed described by Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as "one of the few masterpieces of sf cinema". A re-imagining of Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Listed as utopian at Anarchism and film.
An early dystopia, in which Earth's future population, now living underground, has become slave to, and is beginning to worship, the Machine; a rebel discovers freedom above ground, but although those already living free survive, he is not spared when society collapses on the breakdown of the Machine.
George Woodcock found this the most interesting early anti-Utopia, with its "strong element of neo-Luddism". He felt it lacked immediacy, though, saying it "pays scanty attention to its social and political implications". (Woodcock 1956) For Ursula K. Le Guin this was "the first and finest" of the satirical utopias in which robots do the work and humans sit back and play (Le Guin 1982). Some short extracts were published in Fifth Estate #373 in 2006, where the full story was "highly recommended
Since the advent of the Internet this story has gained in value from what may now be perceived as prescience. It won the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2012. The tale is included in Dana's AnarchoSF V.1.
Escape story set in a future semi-automated private-enterprise underground prison and an authoritarian United States operating a draconian one child policy.
Jon Osborne finds that "the film makes the ultrapowerful state toward which we are gradually slouching seem a dangerous and unhappy prospect."
"Governments and corporations wage war against anarchist enclaves." (Dan Clore)
The dense text and opacity of the storyline tend to dilute such interest as the reader might have in the self-contained enclaves, which are more outlaw than anarchist, notwithstanding a passing nod in the direction of Kropotkin.
Feeble countercultural light comedy, set in a world where everyone over the age of 25 has been killed by a leak of poison gas.
Included in the Red Planets filmography.
Wannabe astronaut swaps identities to secure a place on a mission to Saturn, the only way he can pass the biometric screening.
Included as politically ambiguous, but interesting from a leftist perspective, in a comment on the Anarchism subreddit discussion on movie recommendations containing Anarchy. Another, on 20 Great Anarchist Movies That Are Worth Your Time, gave a succinct description: "future anarch praxis user's manual".
A future of sexual apartheid, with men in the cities and women in the hills, seen exclusively from the women's point of view; the women have developed nebulous psi powers and communicate freely with animals and birds as well as each other.
Widely noted as among the feminist utopias of the second wave of the feminist movement (see Piercy, for example). Described by Mark Bould as a "Lesbian feminist utopia."
Although "it didn't have much of a story", Gernsback's well-known novel was still seen as "phenomenal" by Justin A. Winston in 1967, and the best example of a technocracy he could think of.
Set in 2040 Toronto, after the economic collapse of the West and the ascendancy of China, this is a mock documentary about ridiculous jobs held by Americans, supposedly made for the amusement of a Chinese audience. Each storyline has a different director. The jobs featured are a digital janitor, who has to manually cover up logos for copyright reasons in a future version of StreetView; a couple who assemble robot baby dolls for the children of the wealthy; two collectors of spider silk; and a human spammer who makes a living by mentioning brands and products in casual conversation.
The film was shown at the 2013 Chicago Anarchist Film Festival, with one of the directors present for a Q & A.
Idoru's Walled City "presents us with a new model of anarchist politics, for it insists that truly radical activities cannot be carried out within the epistemological framework of modern spatial relations" (Call: 105). For Seán Sheehan, however, "Cyberpunk is partly characterized by neat, throw-away concepts like the Walled City, but such ideas hardly constitute an attempt to dismantle the bourgeois forms of reality, especially when they occur within novels like Idoru that are utterly conventional in their narrative form."
A rather questionable link here, but Jeff Riggenbach has traced a perceived influence on Pattern Recognition from the neoliberal economist Friedrich Hayek.
Described by its publisher as "A novel of love, hope and revolution, set in the very near future, on an island off the coast of Britain. From the underground to revolution, repression and resistance! Essential. The first great contemporary anarchist novel." Frank Jackson, in a 1986 review in the New Anarchist Review, found it "A raw visionary book that touches a hopeful chord."
There is an online essay entitled "What can M. Gilliland's The Free contribute to an understanding of the conceptual structure of modern British class struggle anarchism?" here. See also Cohn: 201-2, 223.
The author says the later editions are "3 times as long and 10 times better, with lots more humour, sex and triumphing alternatives". In his list of the novel's themes (at the end of the text) he says "The Free are inspired by the anarchist fiesta, trying out Pete Kropotkin's cut on Darwin. Cooperation in tooth and claw."
The Free gives an exceptionally vivid account of the exhilaration of the revolutionary process, with strongly imagined characters and very believable dialogue. Potentially inspirational.
Interesting and surprisingly readable lost-race story of an all-woman utopia, but for Jesse Cohn, writing 99 years after its original publication, it is "decidedly non-anarchist" (221).
Disappointing French short, rather freely adapted from Zamyatin's We, and stylistically derivative of La Jetée.
Noted on Facebook Anarchists and Science Fiction in January 2017.
Confused and derivative story of Esperanto-speaking anarchists waging war on society from a marvellous new airship. Their leader proclaims himself Emperor of the Air and rapidly forgets any anarchist principles he may ever have had, whereupon ground-based anarchists collaborate with police forces in opposing him. The novel concludes when the airship impales itself on the summit of Mt Everest. Exceptionally silly.
Quakerism and Esperanto (again) in space, but disappointingly cool as sf, no matter how well written. Included in the Think Galactic reading list.
A giant fire-breathing amphibious dinosaur is aroused from the deep by undersea nuclear testing, and wreaks havoc on land, before being despatched with a secret weapon.
Described by Mark Bould in his Red Planets filmography as a "Mournful, pacifistic, anti-nuclear monster movie."
Anarchist critics took a dislike to Lord of the Flies, and those with a particular interest in sf were also at pains to exclude it from the genre, as they understood it (Uloth 1961, Pilgrim 1963, A.M. 1976, A.F. 1983). For A.F. "The book is indeed a deliberately anti-humanist tract, following Golding's frequently expressed hatred of science and progress, and also an equally anti-anarchist tract, insisting that humanity without law and authority must relapse into savagery."
A.F. considered Golding's second novel, The Inheritors, to be his best.
Included in the science fiction reading list on the R.A. Forum website, where the contributor Ronald Creagh describes it as "A subtle evocation of anarchism in the uncanny universe of a surrealist crossing the avenues of time in Paris." Also included in Mark Bould's Red Planets reading list.
One of the few explicitly anarchist sf novels. The plot is stock utopian: the protagonists escape via time machine into the future, encounter utopia, and decide to stay.
The future society is anarchist to a pattern apparently of Gordon's own devising. The only rules the community abide by are inscribed on a memorial stone to the instigator of the revolution:
Sir Humfrey Gylberte and other figures from the past are plunged into 1990 by a US Navy experiment. 'Humf', as he becomes, eventually throws in his lot with the lorry people, who are a sort of hippie-anarchic travelling community. This is apparently in fulfilment of the Egyptian priestess Tari's sense of their destiny. An earlier exchange with Humf had outlined this:
"I told you," she said patiently. "We work towards self-responsibility so that the need of hidden elite groups is reduced!"
"Spiritual socialism?" I asked bitterly.
"More precisely, it is an-archy, meaning 'without a ruler,' or perhaps I should say, 'without earthly ruler,' for it's impossible to gain such a state without some common sense of things within and beyond, through which we are, in fact and always, united." (1984 Arrow pb edn: 262)
The novel, though entertaining, is poorly unified, and it's doubtful what lessons, if any, can be drawn.
Lightweight comic-book, but strong on anarchist propaganda, with a teenage protagonist.
Logan Marie Glitterbomb has a paragraph on Anarky as "used to spread Grant’s anarchist philosophy".
Included in the CIRA collection.
Set in 2000, with New York an independent city state, as sf it's otherwise not of great interest, and such anarchism as it includes conforms to contemporary negative stereotypes. In the words of the Mayor,
"They are frankly anarchists, they assert the solidarity of chaos, the unity of discord, the prosperity of idleness, the stability of disorder. Their philosophy is a jumble of contradictions. But worse, they are self-elected criminals, or else they are hopelessly mad."
(Dillingham edn: 98)
Long and tedious.
Incorporates two volumes previously published separately: Give Me Liberty (2003) and Visions of Liberty (2004). The anthologies won a Special Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 2005.
Exceptionally disappointing anthology on the theme of societies without government, or with very little. Most stories are pedestrian and uninspiring, though a couple of genre classics are included: Russell's 'And Then There Were None', and van Vogt's 'The Weapon Shop'. Linaweaver's 'A Reception at the Anarchist Embassy' is irritating and juvenile.
"In Angel of the Revolution an anarchist invents the airplane and puts this at the disposal of Terrorists. They bomb the existing governments out of existence, and maintain the world's new socialist-anarchist society by coming out of hiding in Aëria, their African stronghold." (Dan Clore) For Michael Moorcock "Even the aerial anarchists of The Angel of the Revolution by George Griffiths have something to be said for them, for all their inherent authoritarianism, but they are essentially romantic 'outlaws' and the views they express are not sophisticated even by the standards of the 1890s." (Moorcock 1978) In fact Moorcock's memory is not doing anarchism any service here, since in this novel Griffith consistently describes his villains as 'Terrorists', only mentioning 'Anarchists' in passing in chapter V, as one of a number of groups unwittingly manipulated by the Terrorists' secret society.
"In the sequel, Olga Romanoff, . . . which takes place in 2030, a hundred years after the events of the preceding novel, the descendant of the last Tsar manages to discover the secret behind advanced technology like airplanes and submarines. Just as she has nearly attained world domination, the Aërians receive news from Mars that a comet is about to strike earth. They go into hiding underground, and return to rebuild their anarchist society after the comet wipes out all life on the surface." (Dan Clore)
The Outlaws of the Air is Griffith's principal diatribe against anarchism, apparently written shortly after the assassination of Sadi Carnot, to which it repeatedly refers. The plot is predictable: anarchists—members of the "sanguinary brotherhood of the knife and the bomb" (Tower edn: 4) gain control of revolutionary new airships and proceed to terrorise the world, until finally defeated by their own treachery. All the usual targets are bombed in London, with Scotland Yard being singled out for the first field trials of the new explosive anarchite. The anarchists, as so often in this sort of fiction, don't really even live up to their own principles, being "really under the direction of a governing Group" (294). The body of the book is curiously bracketed by a sub-plot set in a south Pacific island utopia. Griffith seems to admire the Utopian society for doing away with government and politics, but doesn't seem to notice the irony this produces, given his hatred of the "horrible creed" (214) of anarchism.
Recommended by Common Action at the panel 'Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction' at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.
This well-known future-war story, by a team of top-rank militarists, involves a limited nuclear engagement in which Birmingham and Minsk are destroyed; the war concludes with Communism wiped off the face of the earth.
A.B., reviewing this novel in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, found it "one of the crudest, crassest, and most boring bits of propaganda that have ever been written."
The war is not quite forever, but lasts over a thousand years, and is entirely witnessed, thanks to relativistic effects, by one trooper; the war (against the Taurans) is unsurprisingly shown to have been entirely pointless.
The Forever War was compared by P.S., in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review in 1978, with Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero, both books being condemned—unfairly, although Haldeman's experience as a Vietnam combat veteran means that his descriptions of warfare sometimes obscure his anti-militarist message. Reviewed and recommended by Margaret Killjoy in 2014.
The Godmothers has two interwoven plots. In one, a contemporary feminist circle takes on Toronto capitalism; in the other, a future where women run the world communication network is threatened by reactionary forces. The two are uneasily linked telepathically with past witchcraft and a zone outside of space-time. Though strongly feminist, it's not even libertarian.
It was reviewed by Annamarie Allan in Peace News in 1982, who felt that ". . . the intensity of her desire to persuade has prevented a full realization" of the novel's potential. In the way she characterizes women, but caricatures men, "Ms Hall unfortunately lays herself open to the charge of demonstrating the same intolerance which she criticises so fiercely."
"Those who commit 'breach of reason'—as, for example, by refusing the mate assigned to them by the Eugenic Board—are sentenced to spend time on the Island of Unreason, where there is "no form of government"." (Dan Clore)
In practice, the island is dominated by the most successful male fighter, the inhabitants living in a Hobbesian state of nature rather than an anarchy in any positive sense.
Margaret Atwood's dystopia, adapted for the screen. In a patriarchal theocracy, the tiny minority of fertile women are in effect enslaved as breeders. After a failed escape, the story follows one woman up to the point of her next escape, the degree of success of which is left uncertain.
Recommended in Osborne's Guide. For Libertarian Movies, "This film will especially speak to feminist libertarians, but this nightmare of an ultimate church-state is one that all libertarians can appreciate!" Also recommended by two posters on the page looking for movie recommendations on Reddit.com/r/Anarchism, though both preferred the original novel.
For Moorcock, "The Paradox Men with its sense of the nature of Time, its thief hero, its ironic references to America Imperial, is highly entertaining." He also singled out 'The Rose' as a particular favourite. (Moorcock 1978)
Sometimes described as a utopia, but Marie-Louise Berneri correctly described it as belonging to the category of ideal constitutions rather than ideal commonwealths. She noted—as did Max Nettlau—its significant influence on the constitutions of the United States and particularly of Pennsylvania.
Made for TV, and based on the Vonnegut short story, but considerably reworked. Good, but the 2009 version (entitled 2081), which reverted to the original, is appreciably better.
Osborne reviewed the film enthusiastically (but before 2081 came out): "For a cinematic attack on enforced equality, you could hardly do better than this wonderful film. [. . .] This is a moving and stimulating experience, and one of the most dead-on libertarian films ever made."
'The Ash Circus' is a short story featuring Moorcock's character Jerry Cornelius; there is brief reference to William Godwin.
The Centauri Device is, unusually, an explicitly anarchist space opera. Captain John Truck is the only human with the Centauran genes capable of arming and triggering the ultimate weapon, the Centauri device. Pursued by the powers that be, he finally explodes the device, concluding that none of them should have it. Anarchists play central roles—two chapters are devoted to Swinburne Sinclair-Peter, the Interstellar Anarchist, who "prowled the galaxy like a brilliant tiger" (Panther edn: 74), and the anarchist world of Howell, a 2-mile diameter asteroid midway between Sol and Centauri; in the final chapter Truck himself becomes "The Last Anarchist" (187).
According to Moorcock "M. John Harrison is an anarchist and his books are full of anarchists—some of them very bizarre like the anarchist-aesthetes of The Centauri Device. Typical of the New Worlds school he could be described as an existential anarchist." (Moorcock 1978)
North of New Guinea an island is discovered and visited, on which survives the Magdalenian culture of the old stone age. Attempts by an American expeditionary force to take over are thwarted by a British archaeological group and the islanders' telepathic powers.
This well-meaning book was treated kindly by ADF in Freedom, who considered it "worth reading purely as an emotional record", noting that "Miss Hawkes is obviously wrung by the inhuman aspects of our culture . . .". (ADF, 1959)
A watchmaker spends years creating an artificial butterfly but is relatively unmoved when it is destroyed by a child.
Herbert Read, writing in 1945, said:
I believe that this particular tale of Hawthorne's is the author's deepest comment on his own work. He realised that he was only creating symbols inconsistent with his sceptical outlook on life. He realized that his works of art would not bear the test of reality. But nevertheless they did reveal, if only through the reactions they provoked, the reality of men's souls, the truth of the human heart.
Herbert was "immensely and constantly critical of government", lived on a sustainable land project, and "developed the idea of technopeasantry, a precursor to post-civilized theory and the appropriate technology movements" (Killjoy, 2009). The Dune novels were among the first to explore ecological sf.
Herbert once said "I have a standard axiom: all governments lie. Don't believe anything they say." (Platt, 1980: 212)
Non-statist libertarian utopia. Berneri comments that Freeland was received with great enthusiasm in the UK, and Nettlau, in 1897, included these works among "les utopies [ . . . ] non étatistes et où se retrouvent des tendances libertaires" . . . . According to Nettlau the anarchist Gustav Landauer was a Freelander when young. (Nettlau 1897, 1964)
Based on the novel by J.G. Ballard, the film is set in a luxury tower block in the 1970s. With all facilities located on-site, residents gradually detach their lives from the outside world, the infrastructure begins to fail, tensions become apparent, and the building soon descends entropically into class war between upper and lower floors.
Reviewed in Obsolete! #10, with enthusiastic declarations that "High-Rise captures Ballard on film perfectly, at last", portraying the essence of the book "in all of its cool, disturbing, sexy and perverse glory."
Highly recommended by Facebook's Sci-Fi Libertarian Socialist in July 2016.
Ethel Mannin wrote that "In modern times there has been the glimpse of a free Utopia in James Hilton's novel, Lost Horizon, but it is a glimpse only, making no claim to being a detailed picture of an ideal commonwealth" . . . (Mannin 1944: 40)
Lost Horizon is a story of longevity in a Tibetan Christian/Buddhist lamasery, an idyllic community. Mannin rather overstates the freedom of the Utopia: the political system is flexible, but not anarchist. It is defined by one of the visitors to Shangri La as ". . . a rather loose and elastic autocracy, operated from the lamasery with a benevolence that was almost casual", and the lama Chang comments that "we believe that to govern perfectly it is necessary to avoid governing too much" (c. VI). The idea of straightforwardly not governing doesn't arise.
This wonderful post-apocalyptic novel was one of three sf novels selected for mention by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, of the Fifth Estate collective, for a Summer 2012 anarchist reading list (the others being Delany's Dhalgren and Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time).
. . . "set in 5000 CE, by which period the warlike and primitive white races have been restricted to North America while, in black-dominated Africa, anarchism and scientific genius have generated a utopian world." (SFE)
An unusual and surprisingly interesting work, it's as much scientific romance as utopia, but the anarchism is quite explicit, and explicitly endorsed, with a whole chapter entitled 'Anarchy'. Perhaps improbably, government had simply been 'abolished', as the future society came to realise it would be better off without it. The 'White Man's Burden' of the title is revealed on the final page (no surprise by then, so it's scarcely a spoiler) as Himself.
Discussed by Mark Bould in 2010, who concluded that "The equality Tracy hints at is that of the oppressed, regardless of color or sex."
Voyage from Yesteryear describes an attempt by Terrans to recolonise a planet settled by humans some years before, in which the authoritarianism of the new colonists is thwarted by the libertarianism of the old. The planet's social system is essentially anarchy, but details are not dwelt upon. For Zeke Teflon, though, it features "a setting directly derived from Murray Bookchin’s Post-Scarcity Anarchism." The plot is largely derivative of Russell's '. . . And Then There Were None', and the book doesn't improve on that story in any respect.
This and The Multiplex Man were both Prometheus Award winners.
Satirical utopian Hollow Earth story. The best part is the extract from the writings of a traveller from the inner world to the world of Europe on the outside, which successfully holds a mirror to the absurdities of 'civilisation'.
Noted by Nettlau as an influence on Bulwer Lytton. Tagged as sf in the CIRA catalogue.
A complex story of conflict between the inner and outer planets of the solar system, featuring a post-revolution anarchist Earth. The book presents an interesting contrast between libertarian and authoritarian society. Most of the book is set in the empire of the Styths on the outer planets, rather than on anarchist Earth. Neither side is presented as an ideal, and authorial judgment is not explicit. Earth's anarchy, in particular, is perhaps—like Le Guin's Anarres—an ambiguous utopia, in which the Committee for the Revolution has become just a vestigial government (Sphere edn: 13). Unlike Anarres, though, Earth's society is closer to anarcho-capitalism than anarchist communism. The anarchy is in any case essentially no more than the backdrop. Robert Shea considered this novel "not anarchist propaganda", but nevertheless felt it "presents a persuasive picture of an anarchist society". "The testing to which Holland subjects her anarchist community is so severe that it is finally destroyed by invaders. But not before we have learned to love it and to mourn its passing—4000 years in the future." (19)
Anarchist conspiracy story. Various British institutions are destroyed; the Houses of Parliament are blown up by rocket, but no MPs are killed. The chief culprit, Salvator, the unknown King of the Anarchists, turns out to be Chief of the Russian Secret Police, and a puppet of the Russian reactionary party, his purpose being to destroy England as a haven for anarchists. Olga, the eponymous Woman, is his sister; she finally shoots her brother to prevent his assassination of the prime minister, then kills herself. Poor and derivative.
Brown Girl in the Ring is described as Caribbean magical realism. Fine writing, very readable, but for my taste the magic is at the expense of the sf.
Midnight Robber was recommended by Common Action at the panel "Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction" at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009.
The Salt Roads is transgeneric magical realism and historical fiction, not sf at all. Very good, for all that. Included in the Think Galactic reading list.
Recommended by Common Action at the panel 'Beyond The Dispossessed: Anarchism and Science Fiction' at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair in October 2009. Included in the Think Galactic reading list, one story, Carole McDonnell's 'Lingua Franca', also being included in its own right.
The eponymous traveller gently mocks American society, while refraining from describing his own Christian socialist utopian land until the final chapter.
Noted by Bob Black for its three-hour obligatory working day. Included in Nettlau's Esbozo and in the Red Planets list of recommended reading.
A Crystal Age is a far-future matriarchal utopia, pervaded with a cloying sweetness-and-light.
Herbert Read read all of Hudson's books at the end of World War I, and according to George Woodcock Hudson was a significant influence on Read's The Green Child. Marie-Louise Berneri was also familiar with this utopian romance, though she found Hudson's "sexless society" unattractive. (Berneri 1949, Woodcock 1972b)
Set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future where boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 must take part in the Hunger Games, a televised annual event in which the 'tributes' are required to fight to the death until there is only one survivor; based on the novel by Suzanne Collins.
Included in Starrychloe's list on Liberty.me's Good movies for libertarians and anarchists. A contributor to the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum in 2016 described the film as "very politically relevant." Described on Reddit as showing "political implications/subversiveness".
A special reprise of the Hunger Games, with the same lead player (Catniss), is used as a set-up for the start of a rebellion, in which Catniss will be the figurehead Mockingjay.
Sadie the Goat, reviewing the film for The Anarcho-Geek Review, enjoyed the film's anti-authoritarianism, and felt that, especially for the intended YA audience, "It’s hard to imagine a kid not walking out of Hunger Games able to see where the anarchists are coming from, if they’re able to make the connections between the movie and the real world." However, "For people who are already radicals, revolutionaries, and anarchists, I think this movie may be a frustrating experience", with the "resolution too perfect, and too unattainable."
Second sequel to The Hunger Games, and the first half of the final part of the trilogy. Katniss reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the Capitol, fighting to save the man she loves as well as the districts in rebellion.
Reviewed by Margaret Killjoy, who liked the movie, but found it "decidedly less fun" than its predecessors:
[. . .] the worst thing about the third part of the Hunger Games is that there aren’t any hunger games. It’s just a movie about revolution instead. Considering that the hunger games are an awful thing and revolutions are something us anarchists are known for encouraging, this is a strange statement. But frankly, the battle royale under the omniscient gaze of an evil dictator made for good fiction.
Revolution can too, it turns out.
Huxley has a significant place at the periphery of anarchism. Influenced to some extent by anarchist thought and experiment, he came in his turn to influence a later generation, the libertarian counter-culture of the 1960s. Already familiar with Godwin, Tolstoy, Proudhon, and Kropotkin, for Huxley it was the Spanish Civil War which prompted a specific reappraisal of anarchism. In a response to a questionnaire circulated to British writers by the Left Review in summer 1937, in which authors were asked to take sides, he responded: "My sympathies are, of course, with the Government side, especially with the Anarchists; for Anarchism seems to me much more likely to lead to desirable social change than highly centralized, dictatorial Communism." (Huxley 1969:423). In December Huxley's response was reprinted on the front page of the British anarchist paper Spain and the World (Huxley 1937-12-10). Emma Goldman responded enthusiastically to Huxley's statement, writing to the latter in early 1938 to thank him: "Without wishing to be pushing, I cannot refrain from assuring you that this statement of yours is an event in my life of first-rate importance: indeed, I feel that it was worth fighting for fifty years to be able to call one a comrade who is so outstanding as a creative artist and who comes from a family of libertarians." (Porter:309) Albert Meltzer records, however, that when she tried "to rope him into activity for the Spanish Anarchists", "he ran off like a startled fawn" (Meltzer 1976: 24)
Subsequent non-fiction works Ends and Means (1937), Science, Liberty and Peace (1947), Brave New World Revisited (1949), though never directly anarchist, explored collateral issues such as pacifism, decentralisation, the role of science and technology, property distribution, and ecology.
In the seminal dystopia Brave New World the Savage, who has taught himself classic Western culture, encounters the new world of babies in bottles, soma and sex, is revolted, and is finally driven to suicide. In his 1946 introduction to the work Huxley said that if he were to rewrite it he would include a third option for the Savage: a community of exiles and refugees, in which "economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and cooperative." (Huxley 1946: 8)
Among anarchists, the most enthusiastic discussion of this work came from George Woodcock, for whom it was "the first warning vision of the kind of mindless, materialistic existence a society dominated by technological centralization might produce" (Woodcock 1975: 458). Of the big three dystopias (with Zamyatin's We and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four) it is the weakest and most overrated.
George Woodcock linked After Many a Summer with Ends and Means and Brave New World Revisited as writings in which "Huxley explicitly accepted the validity of the anarchist critique of the existing society" (Woodcock 1975: 458); and felt that it was through this novel especially that Huxley transmitted the libertarian attitude to the 1960s (Woodcock 1977: 52). David Goodway sees Huxley (with Lewis Mumford) as one of the forerunners of the 'new anarchism' of the late 20th century, with its emphasis on biology, ecology, anthropology and alternative technology, in a line through Paul Goodman and Alex Comfort to Colin Ward and, especially, Murray Bookchin (Goodway: 232).
Ape and Essence is a post-holocaust dystopia, presented in the form of a film script. For Woodcock it was "a book which cannot be ignored by the libertarian, for it is one of the most bitter and sincere satirical attacks on the modern state and its centralising tendencies that has been produced in recent years" (Woodcock 1949).
Island is Huxley's utopia, ostensibly an anti-Brave New World, founded on tantric yoga, Buddhist behaviourism, and psychedelic drugs. The economy is cooperative, the political system a federation of self-governing geographical, professional and economic units, and religion centred on individual experience. For Woodcock Island "was the nearest any writer approached to an anarchist Utopia since William Morris wrote News from Nowhere" (Woodcock 1975: 458). For Goodway, too, it was "the first fully realized libertarian utopia" since Morris's work; for him the society Huxley presented "is a society in which I personally would be delighted to live." Very much a novel of the 60s, it is in a broad sense anarchistic, but the formula presented—sex, drugs and religion—is far from liberating, and objectively it is not that distant from Brave New World.
Hyams was well-versed in the history of anarchism. His non-fiction publications include Killing No Murder. A Study of Assassination as a Political Means (1969), A Dictionary of Modern Revolution (1973), The Millennium Postponed (1974), Terrorists and Terrorism (1975), and his final work, unfinished at his death, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (1979).
It's worth looking a bit more closely at The Millennium Postponed, which is a history of socialism in its wider interpretation. Hyams exhibits a rather low opinion of some anarchists: Godwin is "a mere theorist" (Hyams 1974:11), Bakunin an imbecile, "a comic figure, the clown of socialism" (93), and a "bit of a fraud" (93). Proudhon, however, is "very great" (33), and "the most brilliant of the anarchists" (88). And Kropotkin's work "is of the first importance today, in the New Left context" (102). Hyams here clearly finds anarchism seductive. He considers that "re-examination of anarchist theory as a possible means of ridding ourselves of the foul parasite on human life (is) a matter of urgency" (80); and in particular "it may be that anarcho-syndicalism, as a possible way to egalitarian social justice combined with the optimum measure of personal liberty, should be one of the roads to re-explore". (153) But in his conclusion he draws back: "Now although the anarchist philosophers are, without question, morally correct in condemning and wishing to be rid of the State as unavoidable evil because more or less oppressive, . . . it is a fact that since society has to be administered, some kind of State apparatus seems essential." (228)
In The Final Agenda an international terrorist group blackmails the world's governments by means of tactically-placed H-bombs into surrendering part of Brazil and $32 billion, the land to set up a free country, the money as reparations for the wretched of the earth. It was aptly described by A.B. in the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review as "profoundly disappointing because it is nothing more than a misleading fantasy despite its supposedly realist hypothesis, and is most un-Anarchist at core even with all the quotes and references to great Anarchist thinkers." A.B. concluded that "It is very sad that such a sympathetic writer who makes telling points against the State's hypocrisy of violence and against the parliamentary fraud should in the end present such an elitist and distorted version of Anarchism."
In Morrow's Ants a billionaire industrialist fascinated with ant-colonies constructs a human formicarium-city, with a view to a millennial subjugation of the individual in the mass. The novel's reflections on motivations for tyrannicide, on the nature of freedom, and on the relationship of the individual to society, are of considerable interest for anarchists. Much superior to The Final Agenda. If there is any doubt about the metaphor of the formicarium, a sentence from Hyams's The Millennium Postponed, published the year before Morrow's Ants, points the moral. The anarchist path must be explored again, he says, "For we are confronted by a choice: either the capitalist-communist hive, anthill, termitory; or a society which is free, if relatively poor, because it denies authority to any power but the individual conscience implanted in men by the beautiful fiction of immanent justice." (143)
Taken at face value, this is a reasonably thoughtful film about robot consciousness and will, only claiming to be "suggested by" the classic short story collection by Isaac Asimov, though it uses the names of some of Asimov's characters, and the famous three laws of robotics are strongly featured.
Libertarian Movies says the film has "a very libertarian message", and "libertarians will find the underlying ideas especially satisfying."
Satire in which two people take part in an experiment in suspended animation, only to wake up 500 years later in a vacuous dystopia where commercialism and anti-intellectualism have run rampant, and society is devoid of any sense of justice or human rights.
Ilana Mercer describes this film as "my all-time favorite social commentary", and a "stroke of genius. She, like a good number of commentators, has seen the parallel with America in 2016/17. Mike Judge himself is on record as saying "I'm no prophet. I was off by 490 years." [Stein]
Recommended on two of Reddit's anarchism threads (1, 2).
Dystopian Bonnie and Clyde story, set in a future where ageing is engineered to stop at 25, with longer life only available by the purchase of time, as the only meaningful currency.
The Anarchism sub-Reddit discussions on top films advocating anti-capitalism, and movies containing anarchism, both have recommendations for this film: in the former, one poster says it is "surprisingly one of the most anti-capitalist films I've ever seen!", while in the latter one says "I got a socialist vibe from it not even halfway through", another commenting on its obvious political message.
Invasion by hostile aliens is successfully defeated.
In a Guardian article forwarded to the Anarchy-SF mailing list in 2004, J.G. Ballard suggested that films such as this might be a warning to non-Americans, that "the greatest danger is that Americans will believe their own myths." Mark Bould's 2005 Socialist Review article, also forwarded to the Anarchy-SF list, rightly identified the film as another reworking of The War of the Worlds, but "In Wells's novel the Martians are killed by bacteria. In Independence Day Will Smith gets to 'kick ET's butt'. The gulf could not be wider."
Alien plant spores have fallen to earth and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of duplicating a human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the appearance and persona of each sleeping person placed near it, but the replicas are without emotion.
Red Planets calls the film "A satire on mechanical reproduction, commodification, alienation and McCarthyism", which about wraps up the allegorical interpretations—according to SFE, this is possibly the most discussed B-movie in the history of US film—but there is evidence that its creators had no allegorical intent.
Recommended, though regarded as "politically ambiguous", on Reddit's thread on movie recommendations containing Anarchy.
Vintage horror, based on H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr Moreau, but disliked by him. Mad scientist carries out vivisection trying to transform animals into human form. They turn on him, after he breaks the law he'd imposed on them.
One of the Wells adaptations regarded as "pretty good", in Mark Bould's 2005 Socialist Review article 'Science Fiction: The Shape of Things to Come', which was copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list. In Bould's Red Planets filmography he lists this as the best film adaptation of Moreau, commenting that it "draws out colonialism's hysterical sadism."
Short short about cyborgs, published in Fifth Estate #398, Summer 2017.
Atomic bomb testing has resulted in a significant sub-population of conjoined twins, mostly sharing a body but with two heads; the first-person narrative is by one/two such twins. Imaginative and surreal.
For Joan Haran this "brilliant" novel makes imaginative use of the unreliable narrator, and "teaches you to read critically" about both fiction and non-fiction.
Included in the Think Galactic reading list.
Published in Astounding in 1944, this concerns a rebel against a future totalitarian autarchy, who strikes a deal with the Autarch under which his own role is formalised as the Anarch, acting as antithesis. Out of their engagement a new democracy is born, based on representative democracy. The Autarch decides to run for President. The only real ideological base is classical liberalism, with Mill's On Liberty cited explicitly.
For Arthur Uloth, "This strange book has not the compulsive power of 1984. Yet it wears better than many other prophecies, and could still come true." A post-holocaust novel, for Uloth ". . . the sub-medieval society Jefferies describes could still come into being, indeed it is the most likely sort of society to do so after an atomic war, unless all life were obliterated." (Uloth 1963: 380)
Concerns lead characters who can mentally control geological forces, on a planet afflicted with periodic catastrophic climate change.
Included on a number of lists linked to by posters on Facebook's Solarpunk Anarchists, Sci-Fi Libertarian Socialist, and Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum pages, as significant feminist writing with a message of social justice and diversity.
Influential black and white 28 minute short almost entirely composed of photographic stills, telling an enigmatic tale of time travel.
Marker is quoted as saying "I practice, without ostentation, a tranquil anarchism which allows me to traverse this society’s booby-trapped byways without too many mishaps". [Traon]
Richly-imagined YA novel set in a future matriarchal state in Brazil.
Included in the Think Galactic reading list, and in GoodReads' Solarpunk list. Nisi Shawl commends it for "the author’s involving characters and the intensely believable predicaments they face." Recommended in a comment on Reddit's Any good anarchist novels directed towards teens, but mainly for its "cool art-as-protest imagery".
Blurb: There is only THE MACHINE and those who live within it. Told through the unconventional, simple language of blue 7, one of the millions of workers who scurry through its metallic entrails, THE MACHINE tells of a brutal regime and the beginnings of rebellion within . . . Working without purpose and without end, humanity lives and slaves to maintain the huge mechanical leviathan, beyond which there is nothing. Blue 7 has spent his lifetime working and wondering the function of THE MACHINE, but someone has noticed him, and slowly his world begins to unravel in a bloodsoaked violent struggle that threatens not only him, but THE MACHINE itself. A sharp anarchist critique of the modern world devoid of imagination and freedom, THE MACHINE pierces through the thin surface of western capitalism, and asks difficult questions of modernity.
This blurb describes The Machine pretty well, but doesn't capture its relentlessly dark and Kafkaesque desperation.
More or less coincident with the silver jubilee of the UK's Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth I is transported forward in time by John Dee, to experience a punk view of an anarchic London.
Included in the Red Planets filmography.
More or less coincident with the silver jubilee of the UK's Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth I is transported forward in time by John Dee, to experience a punk view of an anarchic London.
Included in the Red Planets filmography.
This obscure and unjustly neglected work is the most comprehensively thought-out utopia I can recall reading. 'PNC' stands for 'Pseudo-Nation Corporation', Judson's premise being that the nation-state is obsolete and, in his words, "A corporation can do anything a government can do—and better". There is no government as such, but all aspects of life are nevertheless subject to comprehensive regulation. PNC is a benign meritocratic technocracy, with real sf elements (futuristic technology, and even alien contact). The book itself is presented as if it were the Corporation's official Report, as presented by its Chairman and CEO. Though on the face of it unattractive, there are real freedoms within PNC, and the idealistic author is at pains to point out that PNC favours intangible profits ("serving the good of mankind and the betterment of the individual") over tangible profits such as hard cash or barter commodities. Anarchists are unlikely to be won over, but this is definitely worth reading, and the prevailing optimism is surprisingly beguiling.
Fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise. The dinosaur theme park descends into chaos when a genetically engineered ahistorical dinosaur (the 'Indominus rex') breaks loose and goes on a rampage across the island.
The film is subject to a flippant review by Gutter Punk Josh at the Anarcho-Geek Review, which concludes "God I fucking love dinosaurs. 5/5 would watch again." Contrariwise it is also held up by Mark Tovey of the Mises Institute (with perhaps po-faced satiric intent—but perhaps not) as an allegory of how even market forces can get things wrong, in comparison with a hypothetical government-run dinosaur park, concluding that:
Jurassic World’s operators made an 'entrepreneurial error,' an attempt at profit-making gone awry. The balance between safety and wow-factor was ill-struck, and by no means profit-maximizing — Jurassic World will lose many, many prospective guests as a result of the Indominus Rex debacle.
Importantly, the Indominus Rex must not be held against the market per se; we should assess the market not on the basis of individual case studies but rather by the equilibria it inspires. Non-optimal outcomes do occur on the market’s watch, but in spite of (and not because of) its carrot-and-stick regime. The market institutionalizes optimal outcomes; without profit and loss, optimal outcomes could come about only by a fluke.
A good film treatment of Gene Brewer's Swiftian novel of the same name. Not as well-received generally as it might have been, perhaps because of a perceived naivety, which I would prefer to see as intentional innocence, as counterweight to worldly cynicism. The society of the (real or delusional) planet K-PAX is clearly both anarchist and pacifist.
Kafka's best-known novel isn't obviously science fiction, but Kafka's influence is sufficiently pervasive that John Clute has a long entry on him at SFE, concluding that "His work is a Baedeker to where we live now."
Current anarchist writers are clearly familiar with The Trial: David Graeber, for instance, sees it as paradigmatic of all great literature on bureaucracy, in taking the form of horror-comedy (p53); while for Saul Newman "Kafka's The Trial might be understood in part as a meditation on voluntary servitude: rather than escaping the clasp of the law, which does not forcibly entrap him—on the contrary, it tries to repel and elude him—Joseph K persistently seeks his place within it, and in doing so constitutes the law's domination over him." (p145).
Kafka himself was evidently familiar with anarchism and anarchists, though the extent of his interest and degree of his activity are contested. A comprehensive account is given by Michael Löwy, in his 'Franz Kafka and Libertarian Socialism', concluding that "With his libertarian sensibility, Kafka has succeeded marvellously in capturing the oppressive and absurd nature of the bureaucratic nightmare, the opacity, the impenetrable and incomprehensible character of the rules of the state hierarchy as they are seen from below and the outside."
Dystopian novel in which dissidents are not punished but "adjusted". The protagonist has such doubts, even about the value of the state itself ("What if there is a collective madness of a State?"—Penguin edn: 158), that he is ultimately given a whole new personality—but even then his individuality starts to show through. John Pilgrim found it "really brilliant". "Since this book was written," he says, "we have perceptibly advanced towards the type of society portrayed in it and therefore its message, that only death can destroy the personality completely, is a little more cheering than appears at first sight." (Pilgrim 1963)
This is simply an old-fashioned utopia, with much emphasis on an entire language constructed by the author. In Prashad there is no institutionalised government or religion, no police or criminal law, no formal authority of any kind; there is, however, much emphasis on the family as the base element of their society, 'family' being interpreted loosely. The only accepted rule of behaviour is that if you see something that needs doing, you do it. The utopia of Prashad, in other words, is essentially anarchic.
Although it has twice been published in an sf context, this story is itself not really sf.
Short tale published in The Green Anarchist in 1985. In a future anarchist community a visitor is spurned for his authoritarianism. The tale is Morris-derivative and very naïve—government had been weakened by proportional representation, allowing in five anarchist MPs!
This famous story is written as the diary of Charlie Gordon, the subject of an experiment in which his IQ of 68 is trebled, but subsequently declines again. It was praised by John Pilgrim for its concern for the human condition. (Pilgrim 1963)
A Country of Ghosts isn't sf, but Killjoy's contemporary take on an anarchist utopia has to be welcomed here. For Nick Mamatas, in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015, the book is "pretty interesting", but gets "really good" in the final third, when war comes to the stateless utopia.
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is also more a gothic fantasy novella, but anarchists and anarchism are central to the story.
Included in Bould's Red Planets filmography as a "Powerful—if accidental—fantasy of colonial revolt."
"Effective but reactionary" . . . (Moorcock 1978)
The first story introduced the Aerial Board of Control, and is an air drama followed by long magazine extracts; it is highly realistic, and first-rate early sf. It's also superior to its sequel, in which the ABC are called in to suppress mob-making in Chicago.
An envoy from the galactic community converts Earth to nonviolence by means of a chemical agent that causes pain to be felt by the perpetrator as much as by the victim of a violent act. The alien spells out how governments exist for war, and how nothing they do could not be done without them. "Government," it says, "builds nothing but more government." (1975 Pan edn of Natural State and other Stories: 70) Since "all governments were based on violence, as currency was based on metal," (68-9) all the world's governments in due course collapse.
All were Prometheus Award winners. The Jehovah Contract is a bold (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to tackle religion head-on, the storyline concerning an assassin's mission to kill God. Though God and the Devil both end up dead, the magickal Goddess survives, apparently with the author's approval.
Arthur Maglin contrasted Not This August with The Syndic, finding the former "reactionary" and tainted by "race prejudice and fear of communism", while the latter "outlines a working, socialistic society".
Moorcock has a soft spot for Kornbluth, who "to my mind had a stronger political conscience than he allowed himself, so that his stories are sometimes confused as he tried to mesh middle-American ideas with his own radicalism. One of my favourites (though structurally it is a bit weak) is The Syndic . . ." (Moorcock 1978)
The novel is set in a future USA now ruled jointly by the Mob and the Syndic (i.e. the Mafia), and the Government of North America, so-called, is now no more than a pirate band making sporadic raids from western Ireland. Government is attacked in scathing terms: one of the Syndic chiefs says:
"Let me point out what the so-called Government stands for: brutal 'taxation,' extirpation of gambling, denial of life's simple pleasures to the poor and severe limitation of them to all but the wealthy, sexual prudery viciously enforced by penal laws of appalling barbarity, endless regulation and coercion governing every waking minute of the day. That was its record during the days of its power and that would be its record if it is returned to power" (Sphere edn: 39).
The Syndic insists that it is not itself a government, but it's hard to see what else it is—this is the weakness of the book: the attack on government is serious, but only a comic Mafia is put in its place.
Tied for the 1986 Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award.