This month's topic: Utopian Societies/Dystopian Literature
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The Flyleaf: IOBA Newsletter
February 2017
This Month: Utopian Societies/Dystopian Literature
Many of us are familiar with the classic dystopian works 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and a number of modern examples have recently popularized the genre as well (e.g., The Hunger Games). A look into the origins of utopian and dystopian literature quickly shows us that this is the tip of the iceberg, and that this can be a very fruitful area for both the avid reader and the serious collector.

The word "utopia" was coined by Sir Thomas More, who used it as the title for his 1516 work of philosophy. The etymology is Greek, and translates as "no place." More's work described a fictional island community, which he used as a framework for describing the ideal society.

The influence of this work, combined with the efforts of French philosopher Charles Fourier, inspired the creation of numerous utopian societies (e.g., the Hancock village of the Shakers in Massachusetts; the Oneida Community; etc.). The idea of a utopian community was attractive to intellectuals and free thinkers, and many of their innovative ways of organizing their lives proved influential. For example, John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, coined the term "free love" far before the age of hippies, in his 1847 work The Berean.

These societies inevitably inspired novels, most notably Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887 by Edward Bellamy, in which a 19th century man visits a society far in the future, which has solved the problems of social inequality, hunger, etc. His work encouraged the publication of many similar works, but eventually spurred authors to write anti-utopian fiction (now called dystopian) as a reaction to what many viewed as unavoidable flaws in these communities.

The function of both utopian and dystopian fiction seems to be an analysis of the goods and evils possible within human society, in an attempt to look forward to what may be possible in the future, and what must be avoided in the pursuit of it.

Orwell depicts expertly the pitfalls of such a regimented society, describing the ways in which the populace can be manipulated by those in power, citizens pitted against one another, historical records expunged, and logic turned on its head. Huxley envisions a different future with a focus on eugenics and control of the masses by pharmaceutical means. While the works of these two authors are now the most recognized examples of dystopian fiction, they were not the first. In fact, both were arguably inspired by the 1921 Russian novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Whatever the case, they were certainly not the last. Speculative works such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury depict specific types of damage that might be caused by attempts to create futuristic utopias (in this case, the destruction of books in favor of an endless barrage of visual images - sound familiar?). Works like The Iron Heel by Jack London and It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis show how easily an otherwise advanced society can fall into the grips of a fascist dictatorship. Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale envisions a society in which women are inferior citizens, intentionally drawing direct parallels to today's world. The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Erewhon by Samuel Butler, both originally published anonymously, depict futures similar enough that the latter was mistaken as a sequel to the former.

Each work approaches its subject differently, but the underlying theme of the quest for the ideal, and the dangers that quest entails, persists. As long as we live in an imperfect world, it is certain that works such as these will continue to be produced, and will find an eager audience.

Here is a short list of works to seek out, for those interested in reading and collecting utopian and dystopian works. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you headed in the right direction:

Utopian Literature by Glenn Robert Negley
British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975 by Lyman Tower Sargent

Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887 by Edward Bellamy
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Coming Age by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Erewhon by Samuel Butler

1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Works about, or associated with, Utopian Communities:
The Berean by John Humphrey Noyes
The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America by Carl J. Guarneri
The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier: Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction. by Charles Fourier; et al

Our guest editor for February:
Jonathan Smalter
Yesterday's Muse Books
Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887 (Riverside Paper Series, No. 8, Extra, Sept. 21, 1889) by Bellamy, Edward  
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Date of Publication: 1889
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: Reprint,

Looking Backward: 2000-1887 is a utopian novel by Edward Bellamy, a lawyer and writer from western Massachusetts, and was first published in 1888. According to Erich Fromm, Looking Backward is "one of the most remarkable books ever published in America."

It was the third largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day. "It is one of the few books ever published that created almost immediately on its appearance a political mass movement."

Several "Bellamy Clubs" sprang up all over the United States for discussing and propagating the book's ideas. This political movement came to be known as Nationalism - not to be confused with the political concept of nationalism. The novel also inspired several utopian communities. Available here.
The Berean: A Manual for the Help of Those Who Seek the Faith of the Primitive Church by John H. Noyes
Publisher: The Office of the Spiritual Magazine
Place of Publication: Putney, New York (1847)
Edition: First Edition
Binding: Hardcover

An important work by the founder of New York's Oneida Community - one of the most prominent of many utopian communities of the nineteenth century - published the year before it was founded.

Herein Noyes discusses Perfectionism, the philosophy upon which the Oneida Community was designed. Noyes coined the term "free love," and was the leader of a group that believed in sexual freedom among consenting adults. Their community was characterized by complex marital arrangements, sharing of sexual partners, birth control, eugenics, and communal property.

It inspired a number of similar communities in neighboring states, and existed for over thirty years, sustaining itself by establishing various industries, including the manufacture of silverware. Oneida Limited, a giant in the cutlery industry, had its beginnings in the commune, and still exists today. Available here.
Herland [in] The Forerunner, A Monthly Magazine, Vol. VI by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Publisher: The Charlton Company
Place of publication: New York (1915)
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: First Edition
Signed by the author

Boldly Inscribed on the front fly: "Charlotte Perkins Gilman with love and honor for her friend Alice Park. 1916."

Alice Locke Park, feminist, reformer, and pacifist, was born in Boston in 1861, but lived most of her life in California. She was active in both national and international organizations for the improvement of prison conditions, labor laws, human education, wild life conservation, and the preservation of natural resources. Her primary interest, however, was in women's rights, and she was assistant director of the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Committee of California.

She wrote and promoted the California law, adopted in 1913, granting women equal rights of guardianship over their children. Alice Locke Park died in 1961. Her papers are at the Huntington Library, and her collection of suffrage posters was donated to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe.

The first appearance of the feminist utopian novel Herland serialized and appearing here complete in twelve issues in Volume 6 of Perkins' magazine The Forerunner. An effective and witty novel wherein three young men discover Herland, a utopia inhabited by an all-female race which has existed without men for 2000 years. Eventually the three men select partners and marry, introducing a new era, that of Fatherhood.

The novel's effectiveness is rooted in the fact that Gilman, a humanist known for her feminist social vision, examines the history, culture, and philosophy of this Motherhood-worshipping society through a male narrator, which provides for entertaining twists. A classic novel, not printed separately until 1979, that is both a high spot of feminism and utopian fiction. With a significant inscription. Available here.
Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories by Robert Heinlein 
Publisher: Science Fiction Book Club
Place of Publication: New York, NY (2005)
Edition: First Edition
Binding: Hardcover

Here are smart, savvy tales of space adventure, time travel, weird science, mysterious phenomena, apocalypse and dystopia, tales that reflect the concerns of their day, yet eerily foreshadow our own.

All these, including three previously uncollected stories, Beyond Doubt, My Object All Sublime and Pied Piper, display Heinlein's creative genius to full extent.
Available here.
A Crystal Age
Hard-boiled Wonderland
A Crystal Age by W. H. Hudson

Publisher: E.P. Dutton and Company
Place of Publication: New York (1922)
Binding: Hardcover

A Crystal Age is a utopian novel written by W. H. Hudson, first published in 1887. The book has been called a "significant S-F milestone" and has been noted for its anticipation of the "modern ecological mysticism" that would evolve a century later.

The book was first issued anonymously in 1887. The second edition of 1906 identified the author by name, and included a preface by Hudson. The third edition of 1916 added a foreword by Clifford Smyth. Available here.  
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Harukin

Publisher: Kodansha International
Place of Publication: Cary NC (1991)
Binding: Hardcover
First US Printing

His second novel to be published in the US, set in a near future Tokyo, a place where knowledge confers power and right. A story of "technological espionage and brain waver tampering."

Winner of Japan's Tanizaki Prize. Translated from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum.
Available here.  
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
Publisher: Viking
Place of Publication: New York (1987)
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: First Edition
Signed by the author

In the Country of Last Things is a dystopian epistolary novel written by American author Paul Auster. The novel takes the form of letter from a young woman named Anna Blume. Anna has ventured into an unnamed city that has collapsed into chaos and disorder. In this environment, no industry takes place and most of the population collects garbage or scavenges for objects to resell. Anna has entered the city to search for her brother William, a journalist, and it is suggested that the Blumes come from a world to the East which has not collapsed. Available here.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  
Publisher: Scholastic
Place of Publication: New York (2008)
Binding: Trade Paperback
Edition: Advance Reading Copy

Scarce advance issue of the first book in this powerful trilogy set in the near future with unsettling parallels to our present.

Includes a letter to the reader from Collins which does not appear in the trade edition. Basis for the movie of the same name.
Available here.
The Children of Men
The Children of Men by P.D. James

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Place of Publication: New York (1993)
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: Advance Review Copy

The Children of Men is a dystopian novel by P. D. James that was published in 1992. Set in England in 2021, it centers on the results of mass infertility. James describes a United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses. 
Available here.
Pendulum by John Christopher
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Place of Publication: New York (1968)
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: First US Printing 

When a devastating financial crisis overwhelms the country, the thin veneer of civilization is stripped off . . .. and England becomes a country ruled by feudal gangs of teenagers imposing their own lynch laws and terrorizing the population.
Available here.
Dealer Catalogues and Varia
Blind Horse Books: For the Love of Books - Notable New Listings (pdf)
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