August 30th, 2005

Pretender/Wondering

Dystopias, anyone?

Author Robert Collins recently listed his Top Ten Dystopian Novels in The Guardian.

His choices included the following:

1. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3. Crash by JG Ballard
4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
6. In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
7. Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson
8. Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K Dick
10. Idoru by William Gibson

I definitely agree with some of these choices. I teach three of these in class. A few seem overrated to me, I'm not even sure Lord of the Flies fits under the same definition as the others, and a couple of these are still on my list of books to read, I'm ashamed to say. But my immediate reaction is that several titles I would have expected to see are missing, such as A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., Anthem by Ayn Rand, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Handmaid's Take by Margaret Atwood, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut (especially for "Harrison Bergeron").

The dystopian issue is particularly on my mind since I am preparing a talk entitled "Still Big Brother After All These Years" for PhreakNIC 9. Athough it's tempting to consider film, from 1927's Metropolis to this year's The Island, I am thinking about focusing primarily on a few key works of dystopian literature at the moment.

So what dystopias would be on your top ten list?



A quote for the day:

"'Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element - direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine - the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution. Through the medium of these ten great minds, the blood that was shed at Paris and the windows that were broken at Versailles will be clarified to an idea which you may employ most profitably in your daily lives. But be sure that the intermediates are many and varied, for in history one authority exists to counteract another. Urizen must counteract the scepticism of Ho-Yung and Enicharmon, I must myself counteract the impetuosity of Gutch. You who listen to me are in a better position to judge about the French Revolution than I am. Your descendants will be even in a better position than you, for they will learn what you think I think, and yet another intermediate will be added to the chain. And in time' - his voice rose - 'there will come a generation that had got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely colourless, a generation
seraphically free
From taint of personality
,
which will see the French Revolution not as it happened, nor as they would like it to have happened, but as it would have happened, had it taken place in the days of the Machine.'"

from "The Machine Stops," E.M. Forster (1909)