THE SUNDAY ESSAY: A history and future of dystopia

Whence it came and where it’s going

For many years now, there has been a programme on British Radio called Desert Island Discs. The basic format is that a celebrity guest is asked to choose eight tracks (usually, but not always, music), plus a book and a luxury item that they would take should they be banished to a remote island with almost no chance of rescue.

When I say “many” years, the programme just had its eightieth birthday and must therefore be one of the oldest media formats in the world. Until four years ago, it was hosted by Scottish temptress Kirsty Young, the lucky owner of the sexiest voice on the planet and the looks to go with it….so I was drawn back into it having lapsed for over a decade.

The only flaw in the idea originally developed by Roy Plumley – for me anyway – is that music has played such an important part in my life, the idea of choosing eight pieces (given there are twenty-eight genres of music I like) feels like a torture of deprivation.

A few years back, I was present at a terrific supper party where each trougher was asked to give his or her top five people (alive or dead) with whom it would have been fun to have lunch. That too is a tricky question, although had the challenge been to share a meal with a complete prick, it could have been even more hilarious.

Who could pass up the opportunity, for instance, to have lunch with Grant Shapps and ask him whether he’d just been born that sleazy and stupid or had simply worked on it over time? Who could resist unfolding one’s napkin at The Ivy with the opening line, “So tell me Tony Blair, has it ever occurred to you that nobody beyond Davos, the White House and Brussels gives a Monkey’s chuff what you think, and the entire United Kingdom hates your lilly-livered guts?”

However, as a writer who is reasonably well read but primarily interested in Homo sapiens as a pack species, ironically if the Game of the Evening was ‘The Top five Best Novels of all Time’, I would arrive at my list with the minimum of hesitation.

I suspect this is because literary fiction can be a very powerful and persuasive force for reaching many of society’s intelligentsia (from all social classes) and waking them up, without prodding them in the chest, of an unrealised danger that lies ahead. Dystopian novels don’t just make people think; above all, they make people think again.

It is something sorely lacking in our epoch. There are five novels I’d cite in that context.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

Although often referred to in academic circles as “Gothic horror”, this relatively short novel is to my mind far more than just one of a genre. I also disagree with scholars who see the book as depicting either schizophrenia or manic ‘bipolar’ depression.

The best description of Hyde is found towards the end of the novella, when the by this time dead Hyde is described as ‘evil, self-indulgent, and uncaring to anyone but himself’. Although almost everyone knows the plot nowadays, the Victorian reaction to the ‘twist’ (that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same) was mixed but generally of the view that the story was a remarkable tale of Good v Evil.

I would go further still. What Stevenson examines in the piece is the existence of a dark side in everyone, and how one way it can be brought to our attention is via the abuse of chemicals. Although I have more than a passing acquaintance with the Demon Drink, I am blessed in that it never makes me violent; usually, it sends me to sleep. But I have known many people who – be the stimulant alcohol, LSD, coke or heroin – became a social disaster area after imbibing their preferred mind alteration….in many cases, leading to ruination.

The Victorian era was one of drug experimentation among the middle and upper classes by (for example) visiting London’s opium dens or dabbling in mescalin during travels. Stevenson’s most famous work is not just an allegory, it’s a parable – viz, ‘there is always a price to pay’.

What makes contemporary public life at times terrifying is the ease with which the narcissistic psychopath hides the evil side, and is rendered plausible by various features of our epoch – most notably, social media protestations, mass media propaganda and the dumbed-down or over-trusting gullibility of most citizens. I confess to having been a guilty victim here and there. It’s never pleasant.

The Time Machine

H G Wells (1895)

I would have to have the Wells classic with me if for no other reason than it would remind me of the astonishing prescience of the human imagination at times.

Set in its own time – and ten years before Einstein proposed his relativity theory – Wells’ Time Machine takes the hero to a distant future where the savages (Morlocks) have triumphed and keep their hold over those that were the dreamers and thinkers (Eloi). The Eloi – a culture of small, elegant, childlike adults – live in small and seemingly ‘perfect’ communities, but the Time Traveller’s efforts to communicate with them are hampered by their lack of curiosity or discipline. Observing them, he finds that they give no response to mysterious nocturnal disappearances, because the mere thought of them alone frightens the Elois into silence.

If you’re already thinking ‘the 7in8’, you’re very much on the right track.With no “raw nature” challenges facing the Eloi, they have lost the spirit, intelligence, and physical fitness of humanity at its peak, and the Traveller’s investigations force upon him a horrible Truth: the Morlocks are secretly eating the Eloi.

Take this particular description of their banal existence in: they appear happy and carefree but fear the dark, and particularly moonless nights.

In the context of today’s frustrating attempts to get the Eloi to “look up”, we know that the Morlocks’ PR agents – Davos Incorporated – work incredibly hard to say that, after the Great Reset, “you will have nothing and you will be happy”.

It’s almost as if von Schlaphead read the Time Machine and used it as a blueprint. Perhaps he did.

The Trial

Franz Kafka (1915)

Although Kafka died before his seminal novel was officially published (in 1925) he wrote it just before and during the early months of the First World War…that’s to say, before the sealed German train took Lenin to Moscow in 1917. Although I regard it as the quintessential fiction about secret and unaccountable States, once again it’s the prescience that fascinates me.

The main character (“Mr K”) is a nonentity bank employee who gets arrested – ‘by an unspecified agency for an unspecified crime’ and is ordered to appear in Court ‘without being told the exact time or room’. He later finds out from a Court official that ‘no definitive acquittal has ever been achieved’ by an accused in this particular place.

At the dénouement of the novel, two unidentified State agents arrive at K’s apartment carry out the decision to execute him…about which the hero is still completely in the dark. The two men drive him to a quarry outside the city, and kill him with a butcher’s cleaver.

Although there are indications throughout the second half of the book that Mr K’s sexual dalliances lie behind the vengeance, he doesn’t know and neither do we. The reality of K’s experience is very similar to a dream I have from time to time, where I have to face trial at a gigantic Court Assizes building. I do feel guilty when the crowds milling around say “We know you did it – save the Court’s time and confess”. There follow endless wrong directions and blind alleys until this enrobed gargoyle yells at me, “You didn’t turn up, so you are declared guilty by your absence”.

I often feel that in contemporary life, it’s very easy to persuade people that they’ve done something anti-social or unpatriotic. One example of this is the average policeman’s approach as you park a car, with the words, “This your car, sir?” with the implication that you might have stolen it for a bank robbery during which three innocent staff were killed in cold blood.

One knows perfectly well this isn’t the case, but the immediate reaction is fear, and a rapid mind- check as to the state of one’s lights, tyre pressures, windscreen wipers and brakes.

All one has to do is slot that factory-fitted guilt into today, and listen as people say, “Well you know, it’s my duty really, innit? I mean, imagine your son or granny catching Covid off you and dying….dunt bear thinking about, does it? You’d never forgive yourself.”

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World is the only one of the five novels discussed here that didn’t immediately ‘click’ with me the first time I read it. It felt derivative of The Time Machine in parts (the Eloi and the Alpha élites were different, but their acceptance and disinterest in knowledge were identical) and I wasn’t exactly gripped by the plot development. The depiction of Henry Ford as a quasi-deity also struck me as way over the top.

But then after University, I had a brief relationship with a girl who handbagged me about my verdict on the book; so I began to seek out some of Huxley’s letters along with later appreciations of the book. I discovered this extract of a letter written to George Orwell:

‘Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World….Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.’

“You will have nothing and you will be happy”.

In Brave New World, the Alphas use the hallucigenic drug ‘Soma’ to keep everybody in a suggestible state. But “infant conditioning” is at the centre of the book’s prescience. Since the arrival of Blair and Clinton, Anglo-Saxon education has been in the hands of “progressive” (intolerant) and “ideological” (fascist) teachers. Independent opinion in that field of endeavour is discouraged and, indeed, penalised in examinations. The growth of paedophilial acceptance in turn echoes the book’s passages about infant sexuality.

But I still don’t rate Huxley as a “great” novelist: his After many a Summer bored me to death. But he was an outstanding philosopher who predicted our contemporary dystopia with uncanny accuracy. The two books of his I most enjoyed weren’t fiction and involved his experiences with first of all mescalin and then LSD – The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell (1949)

The fundamental cultural problem with 1984 is that far too many unwise Bright Young Things have read it. To be repetitive on a subject that bears revisiting, in the early naughties, I wrote that ‘Today’s Blair Babes have digested the book not as a cautionary tale, but as a blueprint’. I still stick with that judgement.

What we now call cognitive dissonance is directly descended from Orwell’s doublethink; thoughtcrime has a bratish little brother in the shape of hatecrime; our current media lockstep was fathered by newspeak; and the media’s blatantly inaccurate demolitions of first Trump and then Putin represent the epitome of a hate rally.

The plot is too well known to need repeating: suffice to say that the betrayal of Julia and Winston, the rats in Room 101, and “how many fingers am I holding up Winston?” are the stuff of not just prescience and insight, but also a writer at work on his masterpiece.

Those of us in the 1in8 community over the last three years have never stopped being amazed by the lack of discomfort felt by the chattering classes caught in the glaring light of contradictory rationales, monied hypocrisy and obvious propaganda that has typified Covid 19, bioweaponry and Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.

Many of us live in families almost mutually estranged by these issues. Most of us grit our teeth when hearing, “I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for it”. One friend after another has been cast adrift for telling me that I am debasing my talent by “scrambling about in silly conspiracy theories”.

Nobody but nobody saw better how this would pan out than George Orwell – who died shortly after completing the most insightful description of evil (and the cowardice of those who refuse to acknowledge it) of modern times.

Our epoch is not just one of good men doing nothing. The nightmare is, sadly, a dearth of good men prepared to do anything at all.

Does dystopia have a future? Could it get any worse than it is now? What will the next futuristic culturo-civilisation novel foresee?

I suspect the answer to those three questions is yes, yes….and maybe the next Things to Come will predict how this dystopian nightmare reality is, ultimately, doomed.

It is utterly predictable of our species to take by far the most important discovery of this century – graphene – and think of it only in terms of 3D printing….and bioweaponry when combined with mRNA. The first of those would completely destroy entrepreneurial high-employment capitalism driven by skilled human endeavour; the second will guarantee the mutually assured destruction of Homo sapiens once everyone from Tanzania to Tennessee works out how easy DNA mapping is when developing all-out biological war. (Iran, for example, is a country run by mad zealots – but not peopled by scientific idiots: one wonders how long Israel would last once Iran had DNA bombs?)

The second half of the 20th century finally ended for all time the idea that physicality as we see it as human beings is “real”. It is simply an illusion based on our limited spectrum of consciousness. The second half of this century will at last – after 800,000 years – allow us infinite movement around the metaverse without resorting to the cryogenic pods and warp factors we see on TV and at the cinema.

Graphene is right at the centre of this genuinely new frontier, because it offers release from our imprisonment by Einstein’s e = mc². Graphene is so thin, it is within 0.001% of two-dimensionality.

e = mc² is something of a drag when you consider that c² is the speed of light squared, and the speed of light is 300 million miles per second before you even think about squaring it. But if a craft has a mass (m) of as near as damnit zero, then mc² is also as near as damnit zero, because 300 mps x nought is nought.

A traveller could achieve the speed of light with minimal energy use. At the speed of light, Time ceases to exist. You would then exist in an eternity of Now.

It says a great deal about the nutjob transhuman systemicists of Davos, Langley Virginia and the Billionaire Club that they haven’t factored any of this into their “thinking” at all. Bezos, for example, thinks he can live forever based on spare parts. The main reason for this is that they are – down to the last man-jack of them – lacking in any imagination or real scientific vision sufficient to grasp the possibilities for purely human advancement. Rather, they prefer to dabble in claptrap about robotics and “minotaurs” half made of cold steel and half-baked peasants.

The two most common observations made by highly trained pilots in relation to UFO sightings is that (a) the craft accelerated away at a speed far more than enough to reduce it to a cinder in Earth’s atmosphere and (b) they seemed to be capable of appearing and disappearing at will.

Both those abilities are possible if you are effectively two-dimensional.

Let the one-dimensional smuggies chortle behind their hands at such thoughts: we are not alone – we are but one species on one planet in a south eastern corner of our constellation. The dystopian eugenicists are doomed because they are driven by tramline thinking and the narrow, myopic greed of materialism in a Godless world; they want the world to stay Godless so they can carry on believing in their self-assigned Demigod genius.

The obvious fact that they don’t actually like people very much will, in the end, be their undoing. The task of the 1in8 going forward is to act as catalysts for the acceleration of that process.

As some of you will already know, I am partway through a Twitter ban meted out because I “engaged in disinformation”. As I have long predicted, this sort of gratuitous Star Chamber witch-burning will only get worse over time – and so once again I appeal to those defending free speech to join The Slog’s rapidly-growing daily email list by writing to me at In the meantime, you can pick up details of all my blogs via the twitter page @MartyrDella, she having most graciously offered to act as a “depot” for Slogposts during the term of my gagging order.

Others of you will have spotted that Mr Elon Musk the infamous electric car ship-jumper and richest man on the Planet has made a $41 billion offer to buy Twitter, taking it private and out of the hands of the Unelected State. We must all choose our Grassy Knolls as we find them.

Have a good Sunday.