I have British Socialist Author Fatigue Syndrome.

I just made that up, but I’m pretty sure that with the current administration in office I can get a big study grant to publicize it.

Friends of the Blog have sent me many books this winter (thank you very much)…

…including, alas, two late-period Arthur C. Clarke “collaborations.” And, possibly disoriented by that dreary slog, I recently took it into my addled head to read something by H. G. Wells which I finished last night after unloading all the guns and hiding all the edged weapons from myself.

It’s a book called “The World Set Free.” It was written in 1913 and contains a shockingly accurate prediction about how the fin de siècle world will end – which it did the very year of the book’s publication. He even gets the start of the war right – but then he predicts atomic weapons 30 years before they actually appeared. But hey! He predicted atomic weapons in 1913.

Of course like all people who considered themselves smart at the beginning of the 20th century, H. G. Wells was an outspoken socialist. As with A-bombs, he could predict them but he really didn’t have any idea what they would do. And boy, did he get that part wrong. Wells’ entire premise is that the rise of man is the story of his escape from the curse of bestial individualism. His future hails the coming of Utopia through scientific totalitarianism. I don’t actually know much about Wells – there’s an old writer joke about him, that he sold his birthright for a pot of message, and it shows in this book – but I gather he was a rather urban person…

wells
…because he certainly spares no feelings among possible readers who might have different notions of how to live…

Already this system has abolished a distinctively rustic population throughout vast areas of the old world, where it has prevailed immemorially. That shy, unstimulated life of the lonely hovel, the narrow scandals and petty spites and persecutions of the small village, that hoarding, half inanimate existence away from books, thought, or social participation and in constant contact with cattle, pigs, poultry, and their excrement, is passing away out of human experience. In a little while it will be gone altogether. In the nineteenth century it had already ceased to be a necessary human state, and only the absence of any collective intelligence and an imagined need for tough and unintelligent soldiers and for a prolific class at a low level, prevented its systematic replacement at that time…

I never quite figured out what Wells thought his enlightened citizens were going to eat, but I do know “science” was very much involved.

I don’t feel like being ‘systematically replaced,’ so I guess I’ll go out now and wade in some poultry excrement. If Mr. Wells’ successors show up to uplift me, we can discuss it then. Until then, I’ll just go back to my hovel and my hoarding, half inanimate existence. F*ck you, Herbert.

As with turn of the century ‘anarchists,’ virtually all of whom were socialist, I try to give writers like Wells the benefit of the doubt because they had the excuse that socialism had never been tried on any meaningful scale. Later writers like Clarke don’t have that excuse and don’t get that pass. They like totalitarianism because they think they’re smart and so naturally assume they’ll be in charge. I’d wish them the curse of getting everything they want, except that the rest of us would have to get it, too.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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5 Responses to I have British Socialist Author Fatigue Syndrome.

  1. Brass says:

    Joel, quick, here’s the antidote: the 1907 anti-Socialist “Lord of the World,” from 1907. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_the_World

  2. Tennessee Budd says:

    Damn. I reckon I’ll just sit & bewail my fate in my lonely hovel, away from books; only a couple of feet away from a couple of rather well-stocked shelves, but still, that’s some distance “away”, I suppose.
    I like some of Wells’ fiction, but he was a snooty twit.

  3. Robert says:

    Wow. I’m surprised HGW didn’t get his butt kicked with a rustic boot.
    I’m typing at a rustic location and rather like it.
    “the narrow scandals and petty spites and persecutions of the small minded” Fixed it for ya, Herbie.

  4. deborah harvey says:

    what would they eat?
    for a while soylent green.
    until they ran out of those systematically done away with.
    apparently welles books were not a cure for ignorance.

  5. deborah harvey says:

    by ‘his books’ i mean his own extensive library, not the books he authored.

To the stake with the heretic!