Radium Age 100 (100)
April 18, 2016
One in a series of 100 posts about the best science fiction novels published from 1904–33. HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn has named that era science fiction’s Radium Age; more info here. The complete Radium Age 100 list can be found here.
Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1908).
Between the (near-future) years of 1912 and 1932, according to the on-the-scene MS presented here by a far-future historian, an oligarchy known to its foes as the Iron Heel arose in the United States. (We learn, from the future historian, that the Iron Heel would maintain power for 300 years until a socialist revolution finally overthrew it, ushering in a utopian future society.) The Iron Heel is composed of robber barons who have bankrupted the middle class and reduced farmers to serfdom; they use mercenaries to keep laborers — in all industries except steel, rail, and others important to the oligarchs — in check. The Iron Heel has an amazing city built — it’s called Asgard, but let’s face it, it’s Google-era San Francisco — where the proles are wowed by technological advancements but prevented from advancing into the middle class.
Fun fact: Sci-fi historians believe that The Iron Heel influenced Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Whether or not that’s the case, Orwell himself described London as having made “a very remarkable prophecy of the rise of Fascism.”
MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? |Radium Age 100: 100 Best Science Fiction Novels from 1904–33 | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | Radium Age: Context series | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Hugo Gernsback | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin