A couple of months ago I was complaining to some friends that I’d lost a favourite book. I’d Googled the title but couldn’t find it. This made me doubt my own memory and wonder if the book actually existed. If the hard copy had been lost, and there’s no record (digital or otherwise) it might as well have never existed.
It had the same title as another more recent book, which was gobbling up all the Google juice.
Then last weekend in a happy moment I discovered it in the attic. I hadn’t lost it at all (nor had I lost “The Terror of St Trinians” which was in the same box, but that’s another story).
Like many books about the future, R.C. Churchill’s “A Short History of the Future” tells you more about the time it was written than the actual future. It’s not futurology either. Rather it takes some of the dystopian and satirical writing about the future from the period 1949 to 1955 and turns it into a bogus chronological history. It’s a parody of history.
It also feels like a very English attempt to deal with anxieties stirred up by George Orwell’s “1984” – published only a few years before. In 1955 (when Churchill’s book was published) Orwell’s nightmare vision of a global, totalitarian, communist state probably felt as though it might be close to actually happening. So Churchill attempts to deal with this fear by placing it as part of a timeline that includes other science fiction of the period: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Aldous Huxley’s “Ape and Essence” which I confess I have not read (Huxley’s “Brave New World” is not included in Churchill’s book).
It’s as if Churchill is saying “the world of Airstrip One is terrifying, but even this will pass”.
So as result of this blog post the book now has a slightly bigger digital footprint.
Until the oil runs out, the electricity is switched off, all the screens go blank and the internet vanishes.
In which case, I’ll still have the book.