A Libertarian Reading List

A libertarian anarchist named Dan Clore has published a reading list entitled Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy for Libertarians. In his prefatory remarks, he says: “Many works of science fiction and fantasy portray libertarian societies or otherwise bear relevance to libertarianism; this list names some that I consider the most essential reading for anarchists, anti-authoritarians, libertarians, and whatnot.” He also provides some story notes for each entry.

I am not a libertarian, nor particularly anarchist, but I think he’s come up with a very interesting list. Here’s what’s on it:

Poul Anderson, “The Last of the Deliverers.” (I’ve read a lot of Anderson but don’t remember this one. From his description, it seems to describe a post-scarcity society.)

J. G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition.

Marie-Louise Berneri, The Journey Through Utopia. (Non-fiction; I am not familiar with this one.)

Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination.

A whole raft of William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick books.

Anatole France, The Revolt of Angels.

Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed and The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.

P.M., bolo’bolo. A work with which I am not familiar, though it sure has an interesting Wikipedia write-up.

William Morris, News from Nowhere.

J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series. (Who knew that it had an “increasingly libertarian message”?)

Rudy Rucker, Peter Lamborn Wilson, & Robert Anton Wilson, eds. Semiotext(e). Clore says, “Perhaps the greatest anthology of original SF ever published.”

Eric Frank Russell, “Late Night Final” and  The Great Explosion.

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Jack Vance, Emphyrio.

H.G. Wells, Men Like Gods.

Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea, the Illuminatus! trilogy.

Yevgeny Zamiatin, We.

He also includes a list of other authors he might have reasonably included and notes, in conclusion, that he has intentionally excluded Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

My reaction when skimming was, wow, what an interesting list! For a list composed with the intention of furthering a political agenda, it has a remarkably strong aesthetic agenda. (It usually works the other way around: ostensibly aesthetic lists, ballots, and tables-of-contents sometimes manifest strong political leanings.)

One certainly would have a wild time reading these works back to back, whether alphabetically, chronologically, or at random, coming out of it with an altered perception of reality.

What aesthetic, exactly, are we looking at here? Are its politics what he says they are? Despite his inclusion of fiction by Le Guin and Rowling, if he were publshing this list as an anthology, these days he would probably be criticized for underrepresentation of women.

And if we think we understand what he’s really doing, what has he left out? Authors he lists as others who might have been included are “Iain M. Banks, Barrington J. Bayley, Anthony Burgess, Cyrano de Bergerac, Harlan Ellison, Harry Harrison, Stanislaw Lem, Ken MacLeod, Michael Moorcock, Thomas Pynchon, Mack Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson, Norman Spinrad, A. E. Van Vogt, and Kurt Vonnegut; also, the initial-middle-name-last-name trio of J. Neil Schulman, L. Neil Smith, and F. Paul Wilson.” But given the dominant aesthetic, it seems to me that Lewis Carroll perhaps should have been in the mix.

Also, where are Tiptree, Delany, and Sterling?

In any case, I find this a thoughtful and thought-provoking list. Is there such thing as aesthetic libertarianism? And is this it?

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