Who had the more prophetic and realistic vision of a dystopian future?
George Orwell? Or Aldous Huxley?
Orwell, most famous for Nineteen Eighty-Four (one of the earliest works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame), was inspired by Stalinist communism in imagining his “hard tyranny” of brute dictatorship.
Huxley, best known for Brave New World, worried that a softer tyranny would ultimately prevail, one more insidious partly because it was more enveloping of both politics and culture and more seductive via a future of mindless pleasures.
Writing for the Institute for Art and Ideas, a British philosophical organization founded in 2008, British university instructor Emrah Atasoy compares Orwell and Huxley’s different dystopian visions in an informed and provocative essay: “Orwell, Huxley and the path to truth: How fiction can help us to understand reality.”
Many “bests” lists or ranked-reading lists tend to be matters of opinion, even if objective merit remains a meaningful standard of rational evaluation. Yet isn’t it interesting to compare favorite books and novels and discover that some our favorites also rank high on other lists?
For those libertarian sci-fi/fantasy fans who have the curiosity and time to look beyond our own Prometheus Awards track record of 100 past winners in all categories, an online list compiled of “Books to understand the world” makes for interesting reading….
…Especially because two of the most notable Prometheus Award winners are prominently featured on the list.
Some Prometheus-winning fiction imagines a better, freer future for humanity, one that libertarian futurists yearn to see come true in some form.
Other Prometheus-winning fiction is more dystopian, offering cautionary warnings about totalitarian tendencies that their authors portray with hopes of preventing them from materializing.
“Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut’s now-classic 1961 short story, which falls into the latter category, satirically but seriously extrapolates the coercive, absurd and even monstrously inhuman possibilities of radical egalitarianism taken to extremes.
Read the Prometheus Blog Appreciation to appreciate why Vonnegut’s story deserved to be recognized by the Libertarian Futurist Society as the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner.
Overall and at least in theory, it’s a good thing to see outstanding fiction continue to resonate within the broader American and world culture – especially when it’s pro-liberty or anti-authoritarian sf/fantasy and has been recognized through the Prometheus awards.
Unfortunately, “Harrison Bergeron” is becoming all too timely.
Maverick American-British writer Lionel Shriver has been recognized – again – in the Prometheus Awards.
First nominated in 2017 for The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, which went on to become a Best Novel finalist, Shriver has been recognized as one of five 2022 Best Novel finalists for her novel Should We Stay Or Should We Go.
To celebrate the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing Appreciations of all past award-winners, that make clear why each winner deserves our recognition as pro-freedom.
Here is an Appreciation for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, the 1994 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.
By Michael Grossberg We imagines a world of repressive conformity and stagnant stasis within a totalitarian State.
With his landmark novel Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin bravely pioneered and imagined what later came to be known as dystopian literature.
For better and worse, that dark and cautionary new genre was inspired by the millions of innocent people whose lives were destroyed by the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s communism. The genre took on even more moral weight after the world witnessed the horrors of all the other statist-collectivist variants (from socialism to national socialism and fascism) whose authoritarian excesses and violent extremes of dictatorship, war, famine, poverty and social collapse so brutally marked and disfigured the 20thcentury.
We, written in 1920-1921 by the Russian writer and first published in English translation in 1924 in New York, was so critical of collectivist authoritarianism that it wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1988, when the era of glasnost led to its first appearance with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, the two dystopian novels were published together in a combined edition.