The review series on Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds continues.
Review: “The Myth of Man-Made Catastrophe”, Brian Stableford, 1980.
In this long essay, Stableford presents a taxonomy of man-made catastrophes presented by science fiction.
The sense that humans could compete with nature in creating catastrophes started in the latter part of the 19th century.
There were works hostile to the growing effects of technology like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon and William Morris’ News from Nowhere, but they didn’t present notions of true catastrophe at the hands of man’s machinery. Stableford claiming that Richard Jefferies After London (1872) left the reasons for a pastoral, medieval like England being created as “deliberately unspecified” doesn’t quite jibe with my memory of that novel.
While he doesn’t nominate it as the first work of man-made catastrophe, he notes that Ignatius Donnelly’s Caesar’s Column had a world wrecked by the capitalist system. (And, I suppose, I should clarify that catastrophe does not equal a literal doomsday or human extinction.) Continue reading