From TOTT News
Individuals have long-explored the pages of fiction as a means to discover fundamental eternal truths about the surrounding world and to provide timeless insights into the human condition.
Over the last century, dystopian novels have become a disruptive force in this genre, breaking utopian programming about the world in order to question the possibilities of our societies.
In striving to achieve this objective, a novelist will use the future as their backdrop, and many prolific authors have had an uncanny ability to predict the future with phenomenal accuracy.
In the following membership piece, we take a look at all aspects of dystopian novel influence, including defining genres that changed literature, early science fiction, the rejection of ‘false utopia’, famous published works and their transition to reality, collection of authors responsible and an in-depth look at Aldous Huxley and the ‘Brave New World’ Order.
It has long been held – from the high-minded humanism that Dr Samuel Johnson espoused in the 18th century to the likes of the serious literary critic FR Leavis in the 20th century – that literature is fundamentally good for you.
Today, research in psychology has suggested that reading fiction can improve individual social-cognitive abilities.
Too often in the modern world, however, humanity has shun away from the pages of literature to a sensory overload of multimedia bombardment throughout the 20th century.
Many suggest a direct correlation exists between the decline of connection to literature and an inability for generations in the modern world to develop authentic, original perspectives of reality.
Humanity has become distracted in a sea of pointless information, unable to develop perspectives amidst a wave of computer screens, television sets, mobile phones and advertising campaigns.
No wonder, when you consider that some of the most radical and groundbreaking ideas in recorded history have all come from the hands of the writer — including genres that would define a species.
DEFINING THE GENRE
Utopian fiction portrays a blissful setting that agrees with the author’s ethos, including various attributes of another reality intended to appeal to readers.
Dystopian fiction (sometimes combined with, but distinct from apocalyptic literature) is the opposite: the portrayal of a setting that completely disagrees with the author’s ethos.
Many novels combine both themes, often as a metaphor for the directions humanity can take.
Utopian concepts were the first to emerge in a tradition of literary science fiction novels, however a dissonance between perceived utopian conditions and new understandings of the full expression of human desires began to develop, leading to the birth of the dystopian novel.
In essence, dystopia can be thought of as a ‘false utopia’; a society that initially seems perfect, but turns out to be thoroughly corrupt. Here, it is necessary to present the pseudo utopia for what it is.
In this shift, a generation of writers began to turn away from blissful visions of the utopian setting, beginning to recognize a negative pattern when similar visions manifested in the real world.
Dystopian settings subsequently began to reflect the inner-expressions of visions of a world in which the trojan horse of utopia descended into a totalitarian nightmare.
However, at the peak of the genre, this notion wasn’t accepted as universal truth, as the age of technology was beginning to excite millions in infant stages at the turn of the last century.
THE FALSE UTOPIA
Meanwhile, the Treaty of Versailles had carved out a new Europe, while electricity, the automobile, production lines, mass media and aeroplanes were changing the world.
England was in the grip of a depression, but science and technology promised a better future: a world where disease, drudgery and poverty might no longer exist.
At the time, very few writers were bold enough to challenge this naive ‘utopian’ optimism.
A fundamental rejection of literature of the past century which envisioned utopian lifestyles was underway, with authors arguing the utopian deception was a front for something much deeper.
In a world developing in an era of mass deception, a neat dystopian vision soon became often more satisfying than a complicated truth, especially as the Second World War approached..
Chris Robichaud, an ethicist at Harvard who teaches a course on utopia and dystopia in fiction and philosophy, spoke on this notion in a research paper:
“We can work our way through problems by telling stories better, at times, than by writing philosophical treatises. You look to utopian and dystopian fiction to see how people are wrestling with serious problems.”
That’s valuable for readers as well, especially in a politically divided climate that we see today.
People reach out to dark visions to make sense of an increasingly unrecognizable world, and a well-told narrative — truthful or not — can awaken a reader’s imagination and push them to action.
In this sense, literature has long given writers and readers a means of interrogating the world around them, and the birth of science fiction was the blueprint that accelerated this.
EARLY SCIENCE FICTION
Utopian and dystopian literature finds its roots in science fiction, which began in the Age of ‘Enlightenment’, and would develop over the century to diversify as fundamental concepts.
The 19th century saw a major acceleration of dystopian trends and features, most clearly seen in the groundbreaking publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818.
The short novel features the archetypal ‘mad scientist’ experimenting with advanced technology.
In the last decades of the 19th century, works of science fiction for adults and children were numerous in America, though it was not yet given the name ‘science fiction’.
The brand of science fiction properly began later in this era, with the scientific romancesofJules Verne and the science-oriented, socially critical novels of H. G. Wells.
Wells’s stories, on the other hand, use science fiction devices to make didactic points about his society, and is considered the most prominent author of the early stages of the genres.
In The Time Machine (1895), for example, the technical details of the machine are glossed over quickly so that the Time Traveller can tell a story that criticizes the stratification of English society.
H.G Wells was a former student of Darwin’s champion, Thomas Huxley, whose grandson Aldous would go on to write another set of prolific books in the genre.
Until this point, however, the majority of authors in the emerging science fiction genre continued to operate on the notion of a better utopian society for all humans.
The development of American science fiction as a self-conscious genre dates beyond this point, where writers attempted to respond to the new world in the post-World War I era.
Part of the appeal of dystopian classics, of course, is a morbid strain of escapism: Dystopian fiction enables readers to taste a darker timeline, albeit one that a protagonist invariably triumphs over.
The world could be a lot worse, you think while reading. But the thrill goes beyond the vicarious. A dystopian worldview, whether derived from fiction or real-world events, can have therapeutic value — no matter which side of the aisle your politics belong on.
We don’t just observe dystopian settings as merely some bad slippery slope argument. Rather, they challenge us: What are the values in this dystopia, and what do they say about our values right now?
Dystopian novels allows readers to sit down and correctly envisage, for instance, how generations to come will be communicating, interacting, travelling, thinking and much more.
A total of over 400 novels have been published in the genre to date so far — many of which have had a profound effect on shaping the perceptions of society.
Some of the most famous dystopian novels to emerge during this early period included:
- Jack London’s The Iron Heel(1908).
- Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).
- Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here(1935).
- George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four(1949) and Animal Farm(1945).
- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953).
- William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954).
- Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962).
We admire the best dystopian novels because they’re written well and depict people we can relate to, we’re fascinated by the terrible things these characters face and we react to how some bravely and cowardly respond with resignation.
We, as readers, rubberneck to see the misery; we can’t avert our eyes even as we’re enraged by what despots and other vicious officials are doing to citizens — and we’re compelled to turn the pages.
This is because, much like in our own world, we wonder if rebels and other members of the populace can somehow remake a wretched society into something more positive.
As the world continues to decline away from the principles, the popularity of the genre increases.
Tapping into a long tradition hallmarked by works by the likes of Orwell and Huxley, dystopian fiction seems to have found a home in the growing body of young adult literature today.
While the issues commonly found in dystopia shed light on the horrors of the denial of basic human rights, there is now a fascination and enjoyment that comes from consuming these forms of media.
War, death, despair, oppression and environmental ruin, have now overtaken concepts designed to make readers critically analyse the socio-political environments of the world around them.
However, despite dystopian novels becoming more depressing as the world progresses, there seems to be a certain ‘rightness’ in reading about a future that’s negative.
Why? Because we know that politicians, military people and corporate moguls are capable of doing awful things — meaning dystopian novels feel kind of honest.
Dystopian literature has helped to also highlight many social ills that society can use as red flags to determine if the power system has gone too far.
We admire dystopian novels because, by giving us worst-case scenarios of the future, maybe our current society can be jolted enough to avoid those scenarios eventually happening in real life.
Like some of the characters in dystopian novels, we might feel a little against-all-odds hope.
For example, George Orwell’s chronicle of totalitarian doublethink provides comfort that we’ve fought “alternative facts” before, and we’re still standing.
Deeper beneath the surface of tales of dystopian totalitarian structures, a very real emotional element exists that touches each individual that reads them. This is because the writings are directly related to the reality of the darkest corners of our societies.
As a result, many of the most prominent novels written in the 19th and 20th centuries have had an uncanny ability to transition to reality — with a select handful almost prophetic in their predictions.
TRANSLATION TO REALITY
One of the most fascinating aspects of dystopian science fiction is found in the underlying revelation in the modern world that many of them were stunningly accurate in their predictions.
From technologically-governed totalitarian regimes that dominate society through total information control, to computers and viruses, to wars and consumerism — many have painted profound pictures of modern human conditions and societies across the world.
FREE WILL DISTORTED“We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1924)
Zamyatin’s novel depicts a totalitarian attempt to create a utopia that results in a dystopic state where free will is lost, and is generally considered to be the grandfather of the futuristic genre.
The citizens live in glass houses which enables the political police to supervise them more easily. Each citizen is identified by number, and variety is not allowed within the state.
It takes the modern industrial society to an extreme conclusion, depicting a state that believes that free will is the cause of unhappiness, and that citizens’ lives should be controlled with mathematical precision based on the system of industrial efficiency.
We became the first book outlawed by the Soviet Union in 1920, and it displays an apparent struggle between freedom vs. reason.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/Wes-sweggy
PLEASURE AND CONSUMERISM“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Aldous Huxley would build upon the concepts of We and bridged the gap between the literary establishment and science fiction with Brave New World, an ironic portrait of a stable and ostensibly happy society built by human mastery of genetic manipulation.
Huxley’s novel foresaw a tech-dystopia that knows nothing of wars, political parties, religion or democracy, but caters to creature comforts, maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain.
A world consisting of the total eradication of all emotional and spiritual suffering through the removal of free choice by radical conditioning from conception in the testtube to blissful euthanasia.
In the book, the past is absent from school curricula, sexual promiscuity is mandated by the state; birth control pills are worn on women’s belts and abortion is available.
The novel eschews the futuristic landscapes, flying machines and technical wizardry that much of sci-fi is obsessed with, and focuses instead upon a story set in a blissful totalitarian regime.
This is a world where people think they are always happy, always get what they want, and never want what they can’t have, through a systematic and complicated breeding process.
Make sure to watch the feature video at the bottom of this piece to learn more about this novel.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/1932BraveNewWorld
MASS SURVEILLANCE AND SPYING“Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell (1939)
George Orwell’s famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, is perhaps the most widespread and culturally celebrated works of all time for the uncanny predictions and themes contained inside the pages.
In the novel, Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia.
In writing, Orwell’s main goal was to warn of the serious danger totalitarianism poses to society. As a socialist, he believed strongly in the potential for rebellion to advance society, yet too often he witnessed such rebellions go wrong and develop into totalitarian rule.
Orwell predicted a future of mass government surveillance, where “Big Brother is Watching You,” via telescreens, audio channels, and secret informants.
The modern equivalent of the telescreen is CCTV cameras, while it has been proven that special interests are listening to our calls, reading our emails, and watching everything we do on the internet, down to your most embarrassing Google searches.
The novel, to this day, continues to captivate audiences across the world with a powerful message.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/pdfy-A3IjKcYwPkd-6POv
LESSER KNOWN NOVELS
DEHUMANIZATION OF MASSES“Lord of the World” by Monsignor Benson (1907)
The world depicted in Lord of the World is one where creeping secularism and godless humanism have triumphed over traditional morality. It is a world where philosophical relativism has triumphed over objectivity; a world where, in the name of tolerance, religious doctrine is not tolerated.
It is a world where euthanasia is practiced widely and religion hardly practiced at all. The lord of this nightmare world is a benign-looking politician intent on power in the name of “peace”, and intent on the destruction of religion in the name of “truth”.
Like many other Christians of the era, Benson was sickened by H.G Wells’ belief that atheism, marxism, world government and eugenics would lead to an earthly utopia.
Due to his depiction of a Wellsian future as a murderous police state, Benson’s novel has been called one of the first modern works of dystopian science fiction.
It has been called prophetic by Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, and Joseph Pearce wrote that, while Orwell and Huxley’s novels are “great literature”, they “are clearly inferior works of prophecy”.
The novel is considered by many to be the most realistic dystopian perspective ever produced.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/lordofworld00bens/page/n6
SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION“The Machine Stops” by Edward Morgan Forster (1909)
The Machine Stops is a short paper that hit the nail on the head in the early 20th century, and parallels to today’s society are eerie in the fact it closely depicts the way that social media operates.
In the novel, a dictator forces people to interact with others all over the world via a machine. During this interaction, people are coaxed to “like” things that these strangers do or say.
During this story, people start to decrease their outdoors time in favor of time with remote friends, and they also start sending short statements to others — similar to Twitter.
Forster is credited with predicting technologies such as the internet and instant messaging. This is impressive considering that talking motion pictures hadn’t even been invented at that time.
The major difference in this comparison is that a dictator forced the characters in the story interact with the machine, while we are perfectly happy doing it on our own.
“The Machine Stops” reflects Forster’s concerns about the future of humanity, and the key theme centres on the consequences of humanity’s dependence upon technology.
Read the book here:https://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf
ADVANCED WAR AND CONFLICT“Solution Unsatisfactory” by Robert Heinlein (1941)
One science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein tells a story which predicted the Cold War before the U.S. was even in World War II, and before the Manhattan Project.
In Solution Unsatisfactory, the U.S. develops a nuclear weapon and, for a brief time, is the only nuclear power in the whole world. America knows that its enemies will get the weapon soon.
The novel holds so many similarities to the Cold War that it’s almost as if he lived the experience and then wrote the historical details. At the request to write about “radioactive dust”, Heinlein went even further to write about the U.S. playing the part of “world police”.
Heinlein’s vision details a scenario which humanity supposedly experienced for much of the 20th century, and his other books are credited with predicting many aspects of modern warfare.
Read the book here: https://www.baen.com/Chapters/0743471598/0743471598___5.htm
REALITY TELEVISION AND POP MEDIA“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)
Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 addresses complex themes of censorship, freedom, and technology, and views technological advancement as a means to make humans less free.
Mildred, the wife of protagonist Guy Montag, doesn’t listen to him or care about anything based in actual reality because she is too busy watching her “family” — a popular ongoing television show.
“That’s all very well,” cried Montag, “but what are they mad about? Who are these people? Who’s that man and who’s that woman? Are they husband and wife, are they divorced, engaged, what? Good God, nothing’s connected up.”
“They—” said Mildred. “Well, they-they had this fight, you see. They certainly fight a lot. You should listen. I think they’re married. Yes, they’re married. Why?”
Montag describes the show as “the gibbering pack of tree-apes that said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud”.
The plot is uncannily like certain reality shows we all love to hate. In the book, people don’t get married, and when they want to have sex, they go into their apartment, they use their computer to select a sex partner, and then if the other party is willing, they have casual sex.
In the novel, the only hope for the survival of the human race is a world without technology.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/Fahrenheit451ByBradburyRay
MACHINES AND SEX ROBOTS“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip Dick (1968)
In the story, a bounty hunter, plans to kill enough errant androids so he can replace his robotic sheep with real ones. In the process of hunting down these slave pseudo-humans, the main character falls in love with an android and learns about himself and what it means to be human.
The novel looks at what it means to be human, questions reality, and blurs the lines between real and artificial. In this novel the humans become inhuman and the androids become human.
The humans question their own humanity and the androids question their artificiality. This book fully explores the robot consciousness its implications.
The book peers ahead to imagine life in the modern world, correctly forecasting wearable technology, Viagra, video calls, same-sex marriage, the legalisation of cannabis and more.
Today, meet Roxxxy, the first sex robot with artificial intelligence. And she’s not alone — Realbotix now offers customizable lady robots, and a 2015 report claims that “human-on-robot sex could be more common than human-on-human sex by 2050”.
It is generally considered to be the most thought-provoking novel on artificial intelligence to-date.
Read the book here:https://www.larevuedesressources.org/IMG/pdf/dadoes.pdf
THE MODERN INTERNET“Neuromancer” by William Gibson (1984)
This 1984 sci-fi novel Neuromanceris deeply entrenched in themes of individual identity and relevance of physical human embodiment.
The novel is set in a grim, not-too-distant future where a good chunk of humanity lives within immense urban sprawls, where Henry Case, a washed-up computer hacker, is hired for one last job — which brings him up against a powerful artificial intelligence.
In the strictest sense of the word, many characters involved have an artificial personality constructed by a computer, and life is completely dependent upon technology.
Throughout the work, Gibson explores the question of what it means to be human and how technology affects and reshapes humanity.
Along with introducing the concept of a worldwide network of computers — the internet — he also predicted the negative sides of such a system.
Many authors credit this book for its futuristic visions at a time where technology was still emerging.
Read the book here:https://archive.org/details/NeuromancerWilliamGibson
Some of the most prominent novels in the world have had a profound effect on society, and outside of the notion of being products of fiction, were developed my minds that are highly connected to socio-political establishments.
These authors had deeper connections than many know, with many serving on major think tanks and institutions, with intertwined personal and family relationships with one another.
H.G Wellswas a prolific English writer in many genres, publishing significant dozens of novels, short stories and works of social commentary across his lifetime.
A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering.
Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley — the grandfather of Aldous Huxley.
His contemporary ideas of socialism were associated with the recently formed Fabian Society, where he delivered free lectures at Kelmscott House.
During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale.
The science fiction historian John Clute describes Wells as “the most important writer the genre has yet seen”, and notes his work has been central to both British and American science fiction.
Stay tuned for more on H.G Wells in the membership section of this website.
Aldous Huxley was an English writer and philosopher who authored prolific novels and non-fiction works, as well as wide-ranging essays, narratives and poems.
Born into the prominent Huxley family, he graduated from Balliol College with an undergraduate degree in English literature.
Huxley was interested in philosophical mysticism and universalism, while his works illustrated commonalities between Western and Eastern thoughts and interpretations of his own psychedelic experiences with mescaline.
In his most famous novel Brave New World (1932) and his final novel Island (1962), he presented his vision of dystopia and utopia, respectively.
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times and was elected Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature in 1962.
Huxley is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost intellectuals of his time.
Make sure to watch the feature video at the bottom of this piece to learn more about this author.
Eric Blair, known by his pen name George Orwell, was an influential English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic.
His work is primarily characterised by awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.
Blair produced literary criticism and poetry, fiction and polemical journalism — best known for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Orwell worked for the BBC’s Eastern Service, where he supervised cultural broadcasts to counter propaganda from enemies designed to undermine domestic links.
Arthur Koestler said that Orwell’s “uncompromising intellectual honesty made him appear almost inhuman at times”.
The adjective “Orwellian” — describing totalitarian and authoritarian social practices — is part of the English language, like many of his terms.
Orwell’s work remains influential in popular culture and in political culture.
John Brunner was an influential British author of science fiction novels and stories.
Brunner’s writing was turbo-charged with ideas, as he ‘grappled’ with some of the key themes of his era: artificial intelligence, racism, drugs, the environment, space travel, and hi-tech warfare.
Best remembered for his 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar, the primary engine of the novel’s story is overpopulation and its projected consequences — correctly predicting 7 billion people alive in 2010.
As a result of ‘overpopulation’ in his fictional novel, governments have responded globally with draconian eugenics laws, harnessing genetics to determine who can be allowed to have children.
His writings also predicted portable media players, pollution and environmental problems, computer hackers and viruses and many more aspects of modern society.
In New Worlds magazine in November 1967, an editorial claimed that his works were the first novels in their field to create, in every detail, “a possible society of the future”.
He won the 1969 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel, the BSFA award in the same year and his book The Jagged Orbit won the BSFA award in 1970.
THE DEEPER QUESTIONS
Many prominent authors associated with dystopian literature have also documented various instruments used to enforce the systems envisioned in their novels, with some directly involved in advanced organisations and movements that are establishing real world equivalents.
This has led many researchers to questions the underlying intentions behind the publishing of such literature, including the motives of the authors themselves, deeper connections to the establishment and discussion surrounding concepts such as predictive programming.
The most important author and novel on this list — Aldous Huxley and his associated Brave New World novel — have garnered the most questions, given his family and personal connections.
Huxley and his family remain prominent members of British and intellectual society, and their influence is almost unparalleled in terms of achievements for a single breed of family.
From Darwin evolution, to modern Eugenics, to dystopian literature, to physics and brain science, to nursing and medicine, to media pioneering and space exploration — the family is everywhere.
In the following membership video, we take a look at the Huxley family and Brave New World, to examine some of the deeper questions that still remain today:
Did the powerful Huxley family know what was going on?
Just who is the group in charge of this world of consumerism and fear?
In the end, Huxley’s dystopian novel presents the reader with much more of a well-rounded vision of the future, as it centers on the scientific methodology for keeping all populations in a permanently autistic-like condition, in love with their servitude.
It is interesting to consider if the future societies he wrote about were born out of his imagination, or were gained from insider knowledge gleaned from elite scientific and government policy directors, and preeminent members of society with whom he was associated with throughout his life.
Was Huxley warning the population of an impending technocratic consumer state with his novel? Or was he an agent of the described totalitarian system all along?