Looking Backward

Looking Backward
Edward Bellamy

It’s hard to think of as science fiction, since Bellamy has no interest in the science or technology of the future aside from the “musical telephone” device. Instead it’s a social novel, and this is what really dates it. Even though the “labour problem” and inequalities that Bellamy addresses are arguably as bad today as they have ever been, they no longer exist as a problem on anyone’s radar. Julian West is appalled by all the “Stores! stores! stores! miles of stores!”, but in the twentieth century we learned to love Big Retail. With so much shopping to do, we have entirely given up on visions of the workers’ paradise or socialist dreams of utopia. The real, material nineteenth century won.