In an attempt to reduce the amount of time I spend talking out my ass, I’m reading a series of books that cover various styles and epochs of science fiction. I just finished (in one day!) H.G Wells’ The Time Machine. It’s short, fun adventure story that reflects much of the late nineteenth century’s faith in both technical and social progress. Clearly, this book was written before the inhuman (all too human?) destruction of the World Wars. Wells attempts to use Darwin’s Natural Selection, a hip new concept for the day, to spin a cautionary tell of capitalistic hubris. It’s a good read, despite some truly stupid moves on the part of the Time Traveller — like starting a massive forrest fire.

Representing post-war sci-fi, I also recently finished Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984, in which (for Orwell) the future has become ruled by three giant totalitarian states whose political ideology makes Machiavelli’s work seem like a Christian sermon. These states exist, not to help their subjects or even to aggrandize their leaders, but simply to exert power — everyone is expendable. Even abstract concepts like language and history are viciously assalted. Orwell’s story is a bleak testiment to the loss of faith in humanity brought on by popular rise of fascism 1920’s and 1930’s, and to the war, holocausts and pogroms that followed.

Next up on the tour: the psychadelic sixties. Yeah, baby! Phillip K. Dick trips the light fantastic with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and John Wyndham keeps a stiff upper lip in Day of the Triffids. Turn on. Tune in and drop out, man!

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