Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Seven Decades of Science Fiction Books: The Fourties

Funnily enough there weren't all that many great sci-fi books written in the 1940s.

Partly his was because H G Wells died in 1946, a year after the war he predicted had been brought to an end in a flash of heat rather similar to a Martian death ray.

The winner then is rather obvious. It is of course George Orwell's 1948 taster of what life might be like during the Cold War - Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A sombre book made even darker by the fact that Orwell died just after finishing it. It appears to be his last will testament, a pessimistic look back at his life's futile struggle against totalitarianisms from Barcelona to the Blitz.

But of course he didn't mean to die when he did. "Don't let it happen" was his motto, and he certainly didn't want anyone who read his book to give up and let Big Brother take over.

Optimists have even seen hope in the essay on Newspeak at the back of the book. It's written in the past tense, so does that mean it was written after the time of Big Brother?

Neither was he sure that English Socialism would mutate into IngSoc. His near contemporary essay The Lion and the Unicorn sets out a curious vision of a post-war England after the Revolution in which the judges still wear wigs and the pubs still serve warm beer.

Compared to Huxley's globalised world of trivial hedonism and slick advertising, the world of Big Brother seems rather old fashioned. Doublespeak is mere crude propaganda compared to the delights of the Feelies. But
Orwell still packs his punch.

Maybe the future of 1984 came crashing down with the Berlin Wall, but maybe not.

We are still Airstrip One, 'Compassionate Conservatism' and 'Blue Labour' show Doublespeak is alive and well but today called Triangultion. Rupert Murdoch does a good line in Prolefeed and despite the Credit Crunch the Ministry of Plenty is still trying to convince us we've never had it so good. Perhaps today we call the Ministry of Truth Fox News, Room 101 Guantanamo Bay, and as for English Socialism? Well, it has clearly been to see O'Brien and now thinks two plus two equals five.

Winner: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1948)


Cricket Bug 12 said...

love the article. Huge fan of Bradbury and Orwell, especially love 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Just watched 1984 (the film) last night on Netflix, had nightmares all night in which modern day characters and environments were morphed with those in the film, so eerie. I fear that Big Brother's plan to Occupy our minds is alive & well -flourishing, even - and i honestly feel a great deal of trepidation about the future of humanity (not just the U.S.). The trend towards a global government, global currency (predominately electronic), & the ongoing removal of civil liberties in the interest of "safety".... it's just overwhelming. I fear for my children, especially, as they enter adulthood. They scoff at my efforts to explain & warn them of the impeding human crisis... they think I'm being an alarmist, that I've been brainwashed by "conspiracy theorists". This is the conditioning they have acquired via the web and public media. :< Thanks, at any rate, for featuring such important novels in prescient fiction.

Martin Porter said...

Thanks for the comments.

I guess the future doesn't look much brighter from 2012 than it did from 1948, but what strikes me now is th eorganised nature of Orwell and Bradbury's dystopia.

The world we appear to be heading for seems more chaotic and less organised. The real nightmare could be, not that the government is out to get us, but that we are living in a world of forces nobody can control.

Hopefully we can make a good future still. Orwell always thought so.