Science and science fiction are indelibly intertwined, each inspiring the other since their modern birth in the Victorian Era. Good science fiction, like a sound scientific theory, involves thorough worldbuilding, avoids logical inconsistencies, and progressively deeper interrogations reveal further harmonies. This series explores the connection between the evolution of biology and science fiction into the modern era.
“It isn’t only art that is incompatible with happiness, it’s also science. Science is dangerous, we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.” —Mustapha Mond, Brave New World
Brave New World (1932) is set in a world that is built with, dependent upon, and terrified of science. Humans are manufactured on assembly lines. The shape of their lives and their intelligence are determined through the addition of mutagens during in vitro fetal development. During childhood, their personalities, likes and dislikes are conditioned during sleep with subliminal messaging to produce a perfect and completely replaceable cog that knows only work and pleasure in a utopia of the unquestioning. It is a science fictional dystopia, written by the grandson of Darwin’s bulldog, with a title drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, partly inspired by the British scientist J.B.S. Haldane’s 1926 lecture, Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, and a response to industrial and political totalitarianism. As a piece of literature, it is a mash-up of legacies—of Wells and science fiction, of Darwin and Mendel and biology, of Henry Ford and Sigmund Freud, of the Victorian era itself—which perfectly captures the the complex feelings of hope and anxiety that marked the time between the turn of the 20th century and the start of the second World War.