Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An Anglo-American Alliance Reviewed

It has been five years since I last worked on my Reading the 20th Century project, reading 1 work from 1901, 2 works from 1902, and so on.  I last left off with a defecit of 1906 books to read.  I’ve begun to repair that situation with having finished “An Anglo-American Alliance: a Serio-comic Romance and Forecast of the Future” by Gregory Casparian. 

Though best remembered today as the first lesbian science fiction story, it is also a utopian fantasy story that, set in 1960, accomplished some remarkable predictions, such as predicting the Federal Trade Commission by eight years (though Casparian’s Bureau of Frauds and Swindles seems to have more regulatory power), the corruption of the oil conglomerates (satirically, they lobby to legally pollute in order to exterminate the mosquito), the end of child labor by 32 years, the reaching of the North Pole (but predicted 23 years after it really happened), the 1928 “conflagration of the Atlantic Ocean” anticipates the many oil disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, the 1935 prediction that science would invent a way to blow the Earth “into fragments” was only off by 10 years, and such medical advances as synthetic cells (predicted by 106 years), brain surgery (by 29 years), skin grafts (by 11 years), and sex reassignment surgery (by 24 years).  Other predictions one could only wish would come true, like the states being given the authority to fix maximum prices for commodities or uniform divorce laws between the states.

He failed spectacularly in other regards, such as believing that coeducation would never last, the airplane would not be invented until 1921 (it had already been invented before the book was published) or that pantheism would replace monotheism, but primarily missed in international politics, such as the emergence of an Africa Commonwealth as a world power, the expansion of Tibet to border Russia, and the half the world’s population being from North America and Europe by 1960.  Other failings are his sexism (women decide to never enter politics), racism, and anti-Semitism (with no favorable depictions of non-whites or non-Gentiles). Still other predictions seem to be intentionally satirical only, such as the 1939 discovery that Earth was actually a giant electric motor – anticipating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by 72 years.

Other highlights include the darkly satirical treatment of football (with players in the future equipped with spiked armor) and a brief tour of an alien planet (unnamed, though the implication seems to be it is Mars) inhabited by plant men (sadly not exciting enough to be a RPG setting). 

The book can be read on Google Books or Open Library.