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How odd for Aldous Huxley to serve as the
messenger who legitimized sci-fi as a serious
literary pursuit.  
Brave New World, written in 1931
and published the following year, was Huxley’s fifth
novel.  His previous work revealed a knack for
satirical tales focusing on the aimlessness of “lost
generation” bohemians—an unlikely
apprenticeship for a would-be
master of conceptual fiction.  And Huxley’s
own family connections, as grandson of
“Darwin’s Bulldog” Thomas Henry Huxley
and kin to many scientists, would seem to
make him an unlikely Cassandra warning
about a science-based dystopia of the
future.

True, there were some hints at what was
to come.  Mr. Scogan, a character in
Crome Yellow predicts that an
“impersonal generation” of the future
will take social engineering to a new
height: “In vast state incubators, rows
upon rows of gravid bottles will supply
the world with the population it requires.
The family system will disappear; society,
sapped at its very base, will have to find new
foundations; and Eros, beautifully and
irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from
flower to flower through a sunlit world.”

Brave New World had its impetus in Huxley’s
reaction to H.G. Wells’
Men Like Gods, an
egregious work of utopian fantasizing, in which
socialism solves everything from bad English
weather (allowing everyone to wander around in
the buff) to pesky germs.  But, in an odd reverse of
the closing scenario from
War of the Worlds,
visitors from real world industrialized Britain bring
some contagion with them to this collectivist
heaven, and need to be quarantined.  (But at least,
Wells exempted them from the purge trials—but,
then again, he was writing in 1923 not 1938.)  
Huxley considered writing a parody of this novel.  
But though the end result of his efforts runs
counter to the naive optimism of Wells, it lacks the
piquant flavor of parody.  

No doubt other concerns worked their way into his
book.  The now long-standing British anxiety over
creeping Americanism had been spurred by Huxley’
s reading a book by Henry Ford.  Hence
Brave New
World
begins in the “Year of Our Ford 632”
(equivalent to 2540 AD)—an encouraging sign
perhaps for current-day shareholders in the Detroit
automaker.   Mass production permeates society,
perhaps most surprisingly in the birthing and
raising children, activities that now take place in
Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres.  Sex is
liberated from the needs of reproduction, and thus
becomes a leisure activity, along with recreational
drug use.  People go to the “Feelies”—a sensory
experience like Cinerama on steroids—the way
Huxley’s generation went to the “talkies.”  Instead
of Dostoevsky’s “Everyone is responsible for
everyone and everything,” we have the maxim
"Everyone belongs to everyone else"—phrases that
sound similar enough, but in fact lead in
diametrically opposed directions.  

This all sounds quaintly egalitarian, but a rigid
caste system underpins the society of 2540.  When
our protagonist Bernard, an alpha plus male, brings
back two “natives”—John “The Savage” (yes, it
does sound like a great name for a TV wrestler) and
his mother Linda—from a trip to New Mexico,
where pre-scientific ways still exist as tourist
entertainments, it first creates a pleasant stir in a
bored society.  But ultimately all three find
themselves out of synch with this hyper-planned
and pleasure-driven world of the future.

Is this book still relevant today?  When Huxley re-
evaluated the subject in his
Brave New World
Revisited
in 1958, he determined that his vision of
the future was not only correct, but that events
were moving toward it faster than he had
anticipated.  

A half century more has elapsed, and what have
they taught us?  Science obsessed with usurping
reproduction via expansive technologies?  Attempt
to use the educational system as a tool of thought
control?   Drug use and sex as recreational
activities?   The replacement of slogans for
independent thinking?   A creeping mindlessness
permeating all aspects of society?   Do these have
any bearing on our current situation?   Well, just
read the newspapers and find out for yourselves.  
Whoops, I forgot, those boring old print papers are
going out of business.  Heck, bugger it all . . . let’s go
to the Feelies instead.  
[kuhn-SEP-choo-uhl FIK-shuhn]

Noun:   Storytelling raised to a higher degree through
artful reconfiguration of the reader's conception of reality.







Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Reviewed by Ted Gioia
Follow Ted Gioia on Twitter at
www.twitter.com/tedgioia

Conceptual Fiction:
A Reading List
(with links to essays on each work)

Home Page

Abbott, Edwin A.
Flatland

Adams, Douglas
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Aldiss, Brian
Barefoot in the Head

Aldiss, Brian
Hothouse

Aldiss, Brian
Report on Probability A

Allende, Isabel
The House of the Spirits

Amado, Jorge
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands

Amis, Martin
Time's Arrow

Apuleius
The Golden Ass

Asimov, Isaac
The Foundation Trilogy

Asimov, Isaac
I, Robot

Atwood, Margaret
The Handmaid's Tale

Banks, Iain M.
The State of the Art

Ballard, J.G.
The Atrocity Exhibition

Ballard, J.G.
Crash

Ballard, J.G.
The Crystal World

Ballard, J.G.
The Drowned World

Barth, John
Giles Goat-Boy

Bester, Alfred
The Demolished Man

Blish, James
A Case of Conscience

Borges, Jorge Luis
Ficciones

Bradbury, Ray
Dandelion Wine

Bradbury, Ray
Fahrenheit 451

Bradbury, Ray
The Illustrated Man

Bradbury, Ray
The Martian Chronicles

Bradbury, Ray
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Brockmeier, Kevin
The View from the Seventh Layer

Bulgakov, Mikhail
The Master and Margarita

Bunch, David R.
Moderan

Burgess, Anthony
A Clockwork Orange

Card, Orson Scott
Ender's Game

Carpentier, Alejo
The Kingdom of This World

Carroll, Lewis
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Chabon, Michael
The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Chiang, Ted
Stories of Your Life and Others

Clarke, Arthur C.
Childhood's End

Clarke, Arthur C.
A Fall of Moondust

Clarke, Arthur C.
2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke, Susanna
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Crowley, John
Little, Big

Danielewski, Mark Z.
The Fifty Year Sword

Danielewski, Mark Z.
House of Leaves

Davies, Robertson
Fifth Business

Delany, Samuel R.
Babel-17

Delany, Samuel R.
Dhalgren

Delany, Samuel R.
The Einstein Intersection

Delany, Samuel R.
Nova

Dick, Philip K.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Dick, Philip K.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Dick, Philip K.
The Man in the High Castle

Dick, Philip K.
Ubik

Dick, Philip K.
VALIS

Disch, Thomas M.
Camp Concentration

Disch, Thomas M.
The Genocides

Doctorow, Cory
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Donoso, José
The Obscene Bird of Night

Ellison, Harlan (editor)
Dangerous Visions

Ellison, Harlan
I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

Esquivel, Laura
Like Water for Chocolate

Farmer, Philip José
To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Fuentes, Carlos
Aura

Gaiman, Neil
American Gods

Gaiman, Neil
Neverwhere

Gibson, William
Burning Chrome

Gibson, William
Neuromancer

Grass, Günter
The Tin Drum

Greene, Graham
The End of the Affair

Grossman, Lev
The Magicians

Haldeman, Joe
The Forever War

Hall, Steven
The Raw Shark Texts

Harrison, M. John
The Centauri Device

Harrison, M. John
Light

Heinlein, Robert
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Heinlein, Robert:
Stranger in a Strange Land

Heinlein, Robert
Time Enough for Love

Helprin, Mark
Winter's Tale

Herbert, Frank
Dune

Hoffman, Alice
Practical Magic

Huxley, Aldous
Brave New World

Keret, Etgar
Suddenly, A Knock at the Door

Keyes, Daniel
Flowers for Algernon

Kundera, Milan
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Kunzru, Hari
Gods Without Men

Lafferty, R.A.
Nine Hundred Grandmothers

Le Guin, Ursula K.
The Dispossessed

Le Guin, Ursula K.
The Lathe of Heaven

Le Guin, Ursula K.
The Left Hand of Darkness

Leiber, Fritz
The Big Time

Leiber, Fritz
Conjure Wife

Leiber, Fritz
Swords & Deviltry

Leiber, Fritz
The Wanderer

Lem, Stanislaw
His Master's Voice

Lem, Stanislaw
Solaris

Lethem, Jonathan
The Fortress of Solitude

Lewis, C. S.
The Chronicles of Narnia

Link, Kelly
Magic for Beginners

Malzberg, Barry N.
Herovit's World

Mann, Thomas
Doctor Faustus

Márquez, Gabriel García
100 Years of Solitude

Markson, David
Wittgenstein's Mistress

Matheson, Richard
Hell House

Matheson, Richard
What Dreams May Come

McCarthy, Cormac
The Road

Miéville, China
Perdido Street Station

Miller, Jr., Walter M.
A Canticle for Leibowitz

Millhauser, Steven
Dangerous Laughter

Mitchell, David
Cloud Atlas

Moorcock, Michael
Behold the Man

Moorcock, Michael
The Final Programme

Morrison, Toni
Beloved

Murakami, Haruki
1Q84

Murakami, Haruki
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the
End of the World

Nabokov, Vladimir
Ada, or Ardor

Niffenegger, Audrey
The Time Traveler's Wife

Niven, Larry
Ringworld

Noon, Jeff
Vurt

Obreht, Téa
The Tiger's Wife

O'Brien, Flann
At Swim-Two-Birds

Okri, Ben
The Famished Road

Percy, Walker
Love in the Ruins

Pohl, Frederik
Gateway

Pratchett, Terry
The Color of Magic

Pynchon, Thomas
Gravity's Rainbow

Rabelais, François
Gargantua and Pantagruel

Robinson, Kim Stanley
Red Mars

Rowling, J.K.
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone

Rushdie, Salman
Midnight's Children

Russ, Joanna
The Female Man

Saramago, José
Blindness

Sheckley, Robert
Dimension of Miracles

Sheckley, Robert
Mindswap

Sheckley, Robert
Store of the Worlds

Shelley, Mary
Frankenstein

Silverberg, Robert
Dying  Inside

Silverberg, Robert
Nightwings

Silverberg, Robert
The World Inside

Simak, Clifford
City

Simak, Clifford
The Trouble with Tycho

Smith, Cordwainer
Norstrilia

Smith, Cordwainer
The Rediscovery of Man

Stephenson, Neal
Snow Crash

Spinrad, Norman
Bug Jack Barron

Stross, Charles
Glasshouse

Sturgeon, Theodore
More Than Human

Sturgeon, Theodore
Some of Your Blood

Swift, Jonathan
Gulliver's Travels

Thomas, D.M.
The White Hotel

Tiptree, Jr., James
Warm Worlds and Otherwise

Tolkien, J.R.R.
The Hobbit

Updike, John
The Witches of Eastwick

Van Vogt, A.E.
The Mixed Men

Van Vogt, A.E.
Slan

Van Vogt, A.E.
The Voyage of the Space Beagle

Van Vogt, A.E.
The World of Null A

Vance, Jack
Emphyrio

Verne, Jules
Around the Moon

Verne, Jules
From the Earth to the Moon

Verne, Jules:
Journey to the Center of the Earth

Vonnegut, Kurt
Cat's Cradle

Vonnegut, Kurt
The Sirens of Titan

Vonnegut, Kurt
Slaughterhouse-Five

Wallace, David Foster
Infinite Jest

Walpole, Horace
Hieroglyphic Tales

Wells, H.G.
The First Men in the Moon

Wells, H.G.
The Island of Dr. Moreau

Wells, H.G.
The Time Machine

Wilson, Robert Anton & Robert Shea
The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Winton, Tim
Cloudstreet

Woolf, Virginia
Orlando

Zabor, Rafi
The Bear Comes Home

Zelazny, Roger
Lord of Light

Zelazny, Roger
This Immortal



Special Features
Notes on Conceptual Fiction
When Science Fiction Grew Up
Ray Bradbury: A Tribute
The Year of Magical Reading
Remembering Fritz Leiber
A Tribute to Richard Matheson
Samuel Delany's 70th birthday
The Sci-Fi of Kurt Vonnegut
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!
Robert Heinlein at 100
A.E, van Vogt Tribute
The Puzzling Case of Robert Sheckley
The Avant-Garde Sci-Fi of Brian Aldiss
Science Fiction 1958-1975: A Reading List

Links to related sites
The New Canon
Great Books Guide
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Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Los Angeles Review of Books
The Millions
Big Dumb Object
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More Words, Deeper Hole
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SF Signal
True Science Fiction
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