In this guest blog post written for the excellent Great Writers Inspire blog, run by the University of Oxford, our founder-editor Dr Oliver Tearle explores the complex history of dystopian fiction. Click on the link below to visit the Great Writers Inspire site and read the blog post, which includes details of the science fiction novel written by Anthony Trollope, the books that influenced George Orwell’s 1984, and the E. M. Forster story which predicted instant messaging and Skype.
Brave New Worlds before Huxley and Orwell.
Thanks for the reblog as this is a very interesting piece. I am a devoted Trollopian but had never heard of his futuristic novel so will try to dig it out. As the blog indicates, much of the early science fiction were perhaps imbued with the idea of exploring better societies, especially with the impact of technology.
I only recently learned of the Trollope novel too – it’s an odd one, but certainly worth reading! I think you’re right, technology was an important aspect of early dystopias and utopias as they were imagined in the nineteenth-century novel. Industrialisation undoubtedly played its part, though there may be more to it than that… But that’s something I’ll have delve into more before I post on it again!
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Thank you for posting a link to this. It was very interesting, insightful reading.
‘Everything is as bad as possible’? Okay, did not see that definition coming!
The OED doesn’t mince its words! I suppose it’s not always the case with dystopias, but they don’t leave much room for hope. Bless their authors’ pessimistic hearts…
Lol. I’m hoping for a good outcome for Tris and Four when Allegiant’s released at least! :-)
I’m rereading 1984 during my lunch breaks! thanks for linking to this!
Thanks for the comment! I need to reread 1984 too. I’d definitely recommend The Iron Heel, as an important precursor text to Orwell’s novel, too…
Don’t forget Zamyatin’s “We”, published in the 1920’s I believe – definitely a key 20th century dystopian work and fun to read in light of soviet history that followed.
You’re right, of course. I tried to weave in Zamyatin towards the end as I agree, it’s a glaring omission, but I couldn’t find a way of discussing it in a way that didn’t necessitate another whole paragraph, and I feared I was already on the verge of taxing my readers. Since dystopian fiction is going to occupy me for the next few years, I’ll definitely write some follow-up posts, and may well make We the subject of an entire post by itself!
Thanks for responding – I had rudely forgotten to say how much I enjoyed your post! Very well written and informative.
No problem! I appreciate it, thanks Greg. My research is in its early stages, so I’ll probably blog about any further dystopian gems I discover…