The story

Edward Bellamy - History


Edward Bellamy was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1850. Educated in local schools, he studied at Union College in Schenectady, New York for one year before traveling in Europe. After his return to the United States in 1869, he studied law and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar, but never practiced. He began writing for the New York Evening Post, then the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union. In 1880, he and his brother founded and edited the Springfield Daily News, but Bellamy left the paper two year later to focus on literature. He wrote short stories for magazines, many being published in the posthumous collection The Blind Man’s World and Other Stories (1898), as well as novels, such as The Duke of Stockbridge (1876), Six to One: A Nantucket Idyll (1878), Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process (1880) and Miss Ludington’s Sister (1884).
Bellamy’s interests turned toward social reform, and he devoted two years to the writing of his most famous work, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888). In it, he created a utopian socialist society with a planned economy, peace and security. While Bellamy supported a "Nationalist" dogma, he decried Marxian socialism and class warfare. The book sold about a million copies, and people across the country created Nationalist clubs to discuss the book and the implications of its philosophy. In 1891, in order to further promote his Nationalist ideals, Bellamy founded the New Nation, a weekly newspaper, in Boston. Because of declining health, however, he had to give up the paper in 1894, and he spent his remaining years writing a sequel to Looking Backward -- Equality (1897). Bellamy died in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, on May 22, 1898.


Looking Backward

Assorted References

…chiefly for his utopian novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887.

…Edward Bellamy, in his novel Looking Backward (1888), envisioned a planned society in the year 2000 in which technology would play a conspicuously beneficial role. Even such late Victorian literary figures as Lord Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling acknowledged the fascination of technology in some of their images and rhythms.

Place in

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) was both an indictment of the capitalistic system and an imaginative picturing of a utopia achieved by a collectivist society in the year 2000. Howells’s Traveler from Altruria (1894) pleaded for an equalitarian state in which the government regimented men’s lives. The…

…animated the best-selling utopian novel Looking Backward (1888), by the American journalist Edward Bellamy. In England the Anglican clergymen Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley initiated a Christian socialist movement at the end of the 1840s on the grounds that the

…his enormously popular utopian novel Looking Backward (1888). In Bellamy’s utopia, men and women alike were drafted into the national service at the age of 21, on the completion of their education, where they remained until the age of 45. Bellamy’s reformed society had thus, as his protagonist Julian West…

this line included Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), in which a Bostonian awakes from a mystical sleep in the year 2000 to find industry nationalized, equal distribution of wealth to all citizens, and class divisions eradicated—a process that Bellamy called Nationalism. Bellamy Nationalist clubs sprang up nationwide to discuss his…


Primary Sources

(1) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857. "What!" you say, "eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means nineteen fifty-seven, of course." I beg pardon, but there is no mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the present year of grace, 2000.

These statements seem so absurd on their face, especially when I add that I am a young man apparently of about thirty years of age, that no person can be blamed for refusing to read another word of what promises to be a mere imposition upon his credulity. Nevertheless I earnestly assure the reader that no imposition is intended, and will undertake, if he shall follow me a few pages, to entirely convince him of this. If I may, then, provisionally assume, with the pledge of justifying the assumption, that I know better than the reader when I was born, I will go on with my narrative. As every schoolboy knows, in the latter part of the nineteenth century the civilization of to-day, or anything like it, did not exist, although the elements which were to develop it were already in ferment. Nothing had, however, occurred to modify the immemorial division of society into the four classes, or nations, as they may be more fitly called, since the differences between them were far greater than those between any nations nowadays, of the rich and the poor, the educated and the ignorant. I myself was rich and also educated, and possessed, therefore, all the elements of happiness enjoyed by the most fortunate in that age. Living in luxury, and occupied only with the pursuit of the pleasures and refinements of life, I derived the means of my support from the labor of others, rendering no sort of service in return. My parents and grand- parents had lived in the same way, and I expected that my descendants, if I had any, would enjoy a like easy existence.

But how could I live without service to the world? you ask. Why should the world have supported in utter idleness one who was able to render service? The answer is that my great-grandfather had accumulated a sum of money on which his descendants had ever since lived. The sum, you will naturally infer, must have been very large not to have been exhausted in supporting three generations in idleness. This, however, was not the fact. The sum had been originally by no means large. It was, in fact, much larger now that three generations had been supported upon it in idleness, than it was at first. This mystery of use without consumption, of warmth without combustion, seems like magic, but was merely an ingenious application of the art now happily lost but carried to great perfection by your ancestors, of shifting the burden of one's support on the shoulders of others. The man who had accomplished this, and it was the end all sought, was said to live on the income of his investments. To explain at this point how the ancient methods of industry made this possible would delay us too much. I shall only stop now to say that interest on investments was a species of tax in perpetuity upon the product of those engaged in industry which a person possessing or inheriting money was able to levy. It must not be supposed that an arrangement which seems so unnatural and preposterous according to modern notions was never criticized by your ancestors. It had been the effort of lawgivers and prophets from the earliest ages to abolish interest, or at least to limit it to the smallest possible rate. All these efforts had, however, failed, as they necessarily must so long as the ancient social organizations prevailed. At the time of which I write, the latter part of the nineteenth century, governments had generally given up trying to regulate the subject at all.

(2) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

The questions which I needed to ask before I could acquire even an outline acquaintance with the institutions of the twentieth century being endless, and Dr. Leete's good-nature appearing equally so, we sat up talking for several hours after the ladies left us. Reminding my host of the point at which our talk had broken off that morning, I expressed my curiosity to learn how the organization of the industrial army was made to afford a sufficient stimulus to diligence in the lack of any anxiety on the worker's part as to his livelihood.

"You must understand in the first place," replied the doctor, "that the supply of incentives to effort is but one of the objects sought in the organization we have adopted for the army. The other, and equally important, is to secure for the file-leaders and captains of the force, and the great officers of the nation, men of proven abilities, who are pledged by their own careers to hold their followers up to their highest standard of performance and permit no lagging. With a view to these two ends the industrial army is organized. First comes the unclassified grade of common laborers, men of all work, to which all recruits during their first three years belong. This grade is a sort of school, and a very strict one, in which the young men are taught habits of obedience, subordination, and devotion to duty. While the miscellaneous nature of the work done by this force prevents the systematic grading of the workers which is afterwards possible, yet individual records are kept, and excellence receives distinction corresponding with the penalties that negligence incurs. It is not, however, policy with us to permit youthful recklessness or indiscretion, when not deeply culpable, to handicap the future careers of young men, and all who have passed through the unclassified grade without serious disgrace have an equal opportunity to choose the life employment they have most liking for. Having selected this, they enter upon it as apprentices. The length of the apprenticeship naturally differs in different occupations. At the end of it the apprentice becomes a full workman, and a member of his trade or guild. Now not only are the individual records of the apprentices for ability and industry strictly kept, and excellence distinguished by suitable distinctions, but upon the average of his record during apprenticeship the standing given the apprentice among the full workmen depends.

"While the internal organizations of different industries, mechanical and agricultural, differ according to their peculiar conditions, they agree in a general division of their workers into first, second, and third grades, according to ability, and these grades are in many cases subdivided into first and second classes. According to his standing as an apprentice a young man is assigned his place as a first, second, or third grade worker. Of course only men of unusual ability pass directly from apprenticeship into the first grade of the workers. The most fall into the lower grades, working up as they grow more experienced, at the --periodical regradings. These regradings take place in each industry at intervals corresponding with the length of the apprenticeship to that industry, so that merit never need wait long to rise, nor can any rest on past achievements unless they would drop into a lower rank. One of the notable advantages of a high grading is the privilege it gives the worker in electing which of the various branches or processes of his industry he will follow as his specialty. Of course it is not intended that any of these processes shall be disproportionately arduous, but there is often much difference between them, and the privilege of election is accordingly highly prized. So far as possible, indeed, the preferences even of the poorest workmen are considered in assigning them their line of work, because not only their happiness but their usefulness is thus enhanced. While, however, the wish of the lower grade man is consulted so far as the exigencies of the service permit, he is considered only after the upper grade men have been provided for, and often he has to put up with second or third choice, or even with an arbitrary assignment when help is needed. This privilege of election attends every regrading, and when a man loses his grade he also risks having to exchange the sort of work he likes for some other less to his taste. The results of each regrading, giving the standing of every man in his industry, are gazetted in the public prints, and those who have won promotion since the last regrading receive the nation's thanks and are publicly invested with the badge of their new rank."

(3) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

"I judge, then, that there has been some notable literature produced in this century."

"Yes," said Dr. Leete. "It has been an era of unexampled intellectual splendor. Probably humanity never before passed through a moral and material evolution, at once so vast in its scope and brief in its time of accomplishment, as that from the old order to the new in the early part of this century. When men came to realize the greatness of the felicity which had befallen them, and that the change through which they had passed was not merely an improvement in details of their condition, but the rise of the race to a new plane of existence with an illimitable vista of progress, their minds were affected in all their faculties with a stimulus, of which the outburst of the mediaeval renaissance offers a suggestion but faint indeed. There ensued an era of mechanical invention, scientific discovery, art, musical and literary productiveness to which no previous age of the world offers anything comparable."

"By the way," said I, "talking of literature, how are books published now? Is that also done by the nation?"

"Certainly."

"But how do you manage it? Does the government publish everything that is brought it as a matter of course, at the public expense, or does it exercise a censorship and print only what it approves?"

"Neither way. The printing department has no censorial powers. It is bound to print all that is offered it, but prints it only on condition that the author defray the first cost out of his credit. He must pay for the privilege of the public ear, and if he has any message worth hearing we consider that he will be glad to do it. Of course, if incomes were unequal, as in the old times, this rule would enable only the rich to be authors, but the resources of citizens being equal, it merely measures the strength of the author's motive. The cost of an edition of an average book can be saved out of a year's credit by the practice of economy and some sacrifices. The book, on being published, is placed on sale by the nation."

"The author receiving a royalty on the sales as with us, I suppose," I suggested.

"Not as with you, certainly," replied Dr. Leete, "but nevertheless in one way. The price of every book is made up of the cost of its publication with a royalty for the author. The author fixes this royalty at any figure he pleases. Of course if he puts it unreasonably high it is his own loss, for the book will not sell. The amount of this royalty is set to his credit and he is discharged from other service to the nation for so long a period as this credit at the rate of allowance for the support of citizens shall suffice to support him. If his book be moderately successful, he has thus a furlough for several months, a year, two or three years, and if he in the mean time produces other successful work, the remission of service is extended so far as the sale of that may justify. An author of much acceptance succeeds in supporting himself by his pen during the entire period of service, and the degree of any writer's literary ability, as determined by the popular voice, is thus the measure of the opportunity given him to devote his time to literature. In this respect the outcome of our system is not very dissimilar to that of yours, but there are two notable differences. In the first place, the universally high level of education nowadays gives the popular verdict a conclusiveness on the real merit of literary work which in your day it was as far as possible from having. In the second place, there is no such thing now as favoritism of any sort to interfere with the recognition of true merit. Every author has precisely the same facilities for bringing his work before the popular tribunal. To judge from the complaints of the writers of your day, this absolute equality of opportunity would have been greatly prized."

(4) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

There is no such thing in a civilized society as self-support. In a state of society so barbarous as not even to know family cooperation, each individual may possibly support himself, though even then for a part of his life only but from the moment that men begin to live together, and constitute even the rudest of society, self-support becomes impossible. As men grow more civilized, and the subdivision of occupations and services is carried out, a complex mutual dependence becomes the universal rule. Every man, however solitary may seem his occupation, is a member of a vast industrial partnership, as large as the nation, as large as humanity. The necessity of mutual dependence should imply the duty and guarantee of mutual support.

(5) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

Human history, like all great movements, was cyclical, and returned to the point of beginning. The idea of indefinite progress in a right line was a chimera of the imagination, with no analogue in nature. The parabola of a comet was perhaps a yet better illustration of the career of humanity. Tending upward and sunward from the aphelion of barbarism, the race attained the perihelion of civilization only to plunge downward once more to its nether goal in the regions of chaos.

(6) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)

As for the comparatively small class of violent crimes against persons, unconnected with any idea of gain, they were almost wholly confined, even in your day, to the ignorant and bestial and in these days, when education and good manners are not the monopoly of a few, but universal, such atrocities are scarcely ever heard of.

(7) Edward Bellamy, Equality (1897)

"I think you are right," I answered. "I used to give in to the talk about the pricelessness of the right of suffrage, and the denunciation of those whom any stress of poverty could induce to sell it for money, but from the point of view to which you have brought me this morning I am inclined to think that the fellows who sold their votes had a far clearer idea of the sham of our so-called popular government, as limited to the class of functions I have described, than any of the rest of us did, and that if they were wrong it was, as you suggest, in asking too high a price."

"But who paid for the votes?"

"You are a merciless cross-examiner," I said. "The classes which had an interest in controling the government--that is, the capitalists and the office-seekers - did the buying. The capitalists advanced the money necessary to procure the election of the office-seekers on the understanding that when elected the latter should do what the capitalists wanted. But I ought not to give you the impression that the bulk of the votes were bought outright. That would have been too open a confession of the sham of popular government as well as too expensive. The money contributed by the capitalists to procure the election of the office-seekers was mainly expended to influence the people by indirect means. Immense sums under the name of campaign funds were raised for this purpose and used in innumerable devices, such as fireworks, oratory, processions, brass bands, barbecues, and all sorts of devices, the object of which was to galvanize the people to a sufficient degree of interest in the election to go through the motion of voting. Nobody who has not actually witnessed a nineteenth-century American election could even begin to imagine the grotesqueness of the spectacle."

"It seems, then," said Edith, "that the capitalists not only carried on the economic government as their special province, but also practically managed the machinery of the political government as well."

"Oh, yes, the capitalists could not have got along at all without control of the political government. Congress, the Legislatures, and the city councils were quite necessary as instruments for putting through their schemes. Moreover, in order to protect themselves and their property against popular outbreaks, it was highly needful that they should have the police, the courts, and the soldiers devoted to their interests, and the President, Governors, and mayors at their beck."

(8) Edward Bellamy, Equality (1897)

"It occurs to me, doctor," I said, "that it would have been even better worth the while of a woman of my day to have slept over till now than for me, seeing that the establishment of economic equality seems to have meant for more for women than for men."

"Edith would perhaps not have been pleased with the substitution," said the doctor "but really there is much in what you say, for the establishment of economic equality did in fact mean incomparably more for women than for men. In your day the condition of the mass of men was abject as compared with their present state, but the lot of women was abject as compared with that of the men. The most of men were indeed the servants of the rich, but the woman was subject to the man whether he were rich or poor, and in the latter and more common case was thus the servant of a servant. However low down in poverty a man might be, he had one or more lower even than he in the persons of the women dependent on him and subject to his will. At the very bottom of the social heap, bearing the accumulated burden of the whole mass, was woman. All the tyrannies of soul and mind and body which the race endured, weighed at last with cumulative force upon her. So far beneath even the mean estate of man was that of woman that it would have been a mighty uplift for her could she have only attained his level. But the great Revolution not merely lifted her to an equality with man but raised them both with the same mighty upthrust to a plane of moral dignity and material welfare as much above the former state of man as his former state had been above that of woman. If men then owe gratitude to the Revolution, how much greater must women esteem their debt to it! If to the men the voice of the Revolution was a call to a higher and nobler plane of living, to woman it was as the voice of God calling her to a new creation."

"Undoubtedly," I said, "the women of the poor had a pretty abject time of it, but the women of the rich certainly were not oppressed."

"The women of the rich," replied the doctor, "were numerically too insignificant a proportion of the mass of women to be worth considering in a general statement of woman's condition in your day. Nor, for that matter, do we consider their lot preferable to that of their poorer sisters. It is true that they did not endure physical hardship, but were, on the contrary, petted and spoiled by their men protectors like over-indulged children but that seems to us not a sort of life to be desired. So far as we can learn from contemporary accounts and social pictures, the women of the rich lived in a hothouse atmosphere of adulation and affectation, altogether less favorable to moral or mental development than the harder conditions of the women of the poor. A woman of to-day, if she were doomed to go back to live in your world, would beg at least to be reincarnated as a scrub woman rather than as a wealthy woman of fashion. The latter rather than the former seems to us the sort of woman which most completely typified the degradation of the sex in your age."

(9) Benjamin Flower, Progressive Men, Women and Movements (1914)

Edward Bellamy possessed a charming and lovable personality. There was nothing of the militant reformer about him, although he was a man who held steadfastly to his convictions. Looking Backward was followed by a number of social visions and romances depicting the happiness, development, and progress of peoples from the Fraternal State. Later appeared Bellamy's Equality, a work on which he spent much time and thought, in the hope of answering the numerous objections to his social schemes as outlined in Looking Backward.

(10) Stanley Buder, Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and the Modern Community (1991)

Bellamy's utopia was addressed to a middle-class readership aspiring to a fuller social life, one free of insecurity over bills or concern with status and downward mobility. They desired genteel amenities, attractive surroundings, and more leisure, but not a life of idleness or luxury. Looking Backward is consumer oriented and devotes little attention to either the details of the factory system of 1887 or the new industrial technology of the year 2000. It, however, describes in great detail the process of distribution-use of credit cards, the ordering of goods from large warehouses and their delivery by means of pneumatic tubes.

Bellamy also envisioned an environmental setting suitable for his new social order. His Boston of the year 2000 is a small city of parklike appearance. Neat, unostentatious homes filled with conveniences face broad treelined boulevards. Conveniently located public laundries and central dining halls relieve the drudgery of housework and end the isolation of domestic life. Dominating the city are handsome and commodious public buildings of classical architecture and gleeming whiteness which provide the center of community life. Needless to say, slums, saloons, and the excitement of crowds or the enticement of loitering before shop windows have been eliminated. An efficient, ordered life is what Bellamy's future promised. The author ingeniously combined state control in matters of production and distribution with private initiative in the arts to project what he regarded as a truly satisfying and liberal society.

(11) Edward W. Younkins, Taking a Look at Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (2011)

Edward Bellamy&rsquos popular novel, Looking Backward 2000-1887, is frequently cited as one of the most influential books in America between the 1880s and the 1930s. This novel of social reform was published in 1888, a time when Americans were frightened by working class violence and disgusted by the conspicuous consumption of the privileged minority. Bitter strikes occurred as labor unions were just beginning to appear and large trusts dominated the nation&rsquos economy. The author thus employs projections of the year 2000 to put 1887 society under scrutiny. Bellamy presents Americans with portraits of a desirable future and of their present day. He defines his perfect society as the antithesis of his current society. Looking Backward embodies his suspicion of free markets and his admiration for centralized planning and deliberate design.

Looking Backward is a promotional argument and an attempt to informally educate the American public through the medium of the romantic novel. From this perspective, it is like Ayn Rand&rsquos monumental Atlas Shrugged (1957) - both present blueprints for the future and have been potential sources for social change. Looking Backward launched a national political movement based on a system of scientific and systematic socialism as readers of the day embraced Bellamy&rsquos novel. By the early 1890s, there were 165 Bellamy Clubs. In Looking Backward, Bellamy called his ideology &ldquonationalism,&rdquo and never used the term &ldquosocialism.&rdquo This ideology viewed the nation as collectively activated in the pursuit of sustenance and survival. As a philosophy of collective control of the nation&rsquos economy, its goal was to rationalize the functions of production and distribution. To this day, many American intellectuals have been attracted to such a system of economic paternalism.

Julian West, a thirty-year-old privileged aristocrat in 1887 Boston, is the main character and narrator of Looking Backward. Having been born into an upper class family, he thought himself to be superior to the working masses and believed that he deserved his privileged life. West is the third generation of his family to have a great deal of money. He is set to marry Edith Bartlett when a house he is having built is completed. Strikes had delayed the completion of West&rsquos house and he, therefore, simply viewed labor conditions as an annoyance due to the setbacks in its construction. He looked at strikes with anger and disdain. West was unconcerned about the great divide between the rich and poor and the gaps between social classes.

On May 30, 1887, Decoration Day, Julian attends ceremonies celebrating and remembering Civil War veterans with Edith Bartlett and her family. He suffers from a sleeping disorder, and upon returning home, he retires to his soundproof and fireproof underground sleeping chamber. In the secluded vaulted bedroom, Dr. Pillsbury, a trained mesmerist, puts Julian into a deep trancelike sleep. Only Dr. Pillsbury and Julian&rsquos servant, Sawyer, knew how to wake him. That night the house burns down and Julian is assumed to have died in the fire along with Sawyer. Edith also thought that Julian had perished. Even she did not know about the sleeping disorder, the hypnosis, and the sleeping chamber. The basement vault is not discovered and West is left undisturbed to sleep for 113 years with his organs and functions in a state of suspended animation.

In the year 2000, Dr. Leete, a retired physician, discovers the vault and Julian&rsquos ageless and uncorrupted body (he has not aged a day) when he is excavating for a new laboratory. The excavation reveals the hidden cellar and West&rsquos perfectly preserved body. When Julian awakens he meets Dr. and Mrs. Leete and their daughter, Edith, and he finds himself in very unfamiliar territory - the 20th century is vastly different from the 19th. Throughout the rest of the novel West questions Leete about the changes that had occurred. As a spokesman for the 20th century and for Bellamy&rsquos ideas on social reform, Dr. Leete systematically and rationally answers Julian&rsquos questions and responds to his concerns. In turn, West serves a spokesman for Bellamy&rsquos 19th century audience. It is through West&rsquos eyes that the reader views the contrasts between the old order and the new utopia.


Looking Backward from the Future

When Edward Bellamy published his utopian novel Looking Backward in 1888, he would never have referred to it as science fiction. How could he? Although by the 1860s Jules Verne had begun to produce the speculative adventure novels&mdashJourney to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and many others&mdashthat have long been regarded as among the earliest science fiction, there was no label to apply to what Bellamy was doing. Verne called his books Voyages Extraordinaires, which is certainly part of science fiction&rsquos visionary appeal. Like H.G. Wells, whose novels The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898) are also considered proto&ndashscience fiction, or even Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley (her 1826 novel, The Last Man, takes place in a future world decimated by plague), Bellamy was staking out a territory that had yet to be determined. Projections about technology and the future came face-to-face with contemporary anxieties to create a genre that has since grown so pervasive that many readers take its narratives for granted as the stuff of cliché.

Science fiction, however, has always offered more than is expected. Set in 2000, Looking Backward imagines an America that has done away with war, poverty, and taxes, as seen by a time traveler named Julian West. Like a latter-day Rip Van Winkle, West falls asleep in 1887 and awakens 113 years later to a world transformed. He meets a guide who reveals the advances of this society, in which people retire at 45 and businesses have been nationalized. In its time, Looking Backward was a sensation it sold 400,000 copies in the first decade after its publication and led to the creation of hundreds of so-called Nationalist Clubs in the United States. What this suggests is that the response to the book&mdashand its relevance&mdashhad less to do with the world it imagined than with the one in which it appeared.

FUTURE SHOCK

Like so many speculative writers, Bellamy invoked the future as a way of reflecting on issues that concerned him, personal and otherwise. A consumptive who once spent a year in Hawaii on a rest cure, he gave up a career in journalism because of its physical demands. Equally important, he was writing in a time and place, late-19th-century America, that had been hit with economic and political disruptions, from the depression of the 1870s to the Haymarket Riot of 1886. For Bellamy, the novel was less a set of prognostications than an extrapolation of the present. Indeed, for all its utopian tendencies, Bellamy&rsquos fiction did not save him he died of tuberculosis at the age of 48, a decade after Looking Backward appeared.

The novel takes place in Boston, but its influence transcends a single time or place. For one thing, Bellamy&rsquos description of the future&rsquos architecture (&ldquoI was in a vast hall full of light,&rdquo he writes, &ldquoreceived not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above&rdquo) inspired Los Angeles&rsquos Bradbury Building, with its atrium and great glass ceiling, which suffuses the interior spaces with natural light. The construction of that building, in 1893, might also be seen as a gesture of science fiction, an attempt to think again about the present and to imagine how we might live in a different way. This is what science fiction is always doing, framing possibilities, positive and negative, conjecturing about what may happen by recasting or reframing where we are. Growing up in Manhattan in the 1970s, I moved through a city that was degraded: dirty, crumbling, overcrowded, illuminated by glaring rape lights. It makes sense that I was drawn to the gritty science fiction of the era, the work of writers who were also reckoning with a version of that experience, what it meant to live in this particular time and place.

This, of course, is the necessary mechanism of all fiction, its &ldquobuzz of implication,&rdquo to borrow E.M. Forster&rsquos phrase. How could science fiction be any different? It is the fiction as much as the science, after all, that gives the genre its weight. In novels such as Thomas M. Disch&rsquos 334, which takes place in the 2020s and revolves around the residents of a public housing project on New York&rsquos Lower East Side, and Robert Silverberg&rsquos Dying Inside, narrated by a precognitive who is losing his second sight, I encountered an urban landscape, a set of circumstances, that I recognized.

Both were published in 1972 and offer arcs of quiet desperation framed by cultural decay. Call it science fiction as projective social realism, although what else does the genre, at its most incisive, provide? &ldquoThey talk about the end of the world,&rdquo Disch writes, &ldquothe bombs and all, or if not the bombs then about the oceans dying, and the fish, but have you ever looked at the ocean? I used to worry, I did, but now I say to myself&mdashso what. So what if the world ends?&hellip The end of the world. Let me tell you about the end of the world. It happened fifty years ago. Maybe a hundred. And since then it&rsquos been lovely. I mean it. Nobody tries to bother you. You can relax. You know what? I like the end of the world.&rdquo

LIVING AT THE END OF THE WORLD

It&rsquos stunning to read Disch&rsquos line about liking the end of the world at this moment, in a time that feels similarly fraught, and realize we are living in a version of the future he sought to represent. The same is true of Harry Harrison&rsquos 1966 novel, Make Room! Make Room!, which imagines 35 million people living in New York City by the end of 1999. Each of these books is a kind of anti&ndashLooking Backward, projecting less utopia than its antipode. And yet, it was ever thus. Twenty years past the time frame of Looking Backward, in the decade of 334, we are faced not with fewer problems or solutions, but rather with divergent ones. Disch&rsquos riff on the end of the world resonates not because the world isn&rsquot ending (the world is always ending in one form or another) but because it is ending in a different way. We occupy the present ourselves. What this means is that Disch&mdashlike Bellamy or Harrison&mdashwasn&rsquot trying to foretell the future he was speculating, as does any writer, about who we are and how we live. &ldquoHe was thirty-eight years old,&rdquo Philip K. Dick writes in his Hugo Award&ndashwinning 1962 novel, The Man in the High Castle, &ldquoand he could remember the prewar days, the other times. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the World&rsquos Fair the former better world.&rdquo

The Man in the High Castle remains among the touchstones of the genre, although it takes place not in the future but in an alternate present, in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (The book is the source of the television series of the same name.) America is divided into German and Japanese protectorates, with the Rockies as a buffer. But even that is more conditional, more elusive, than we might expect.

Late in the novel, Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese official in San Francisco, finds himself in Portsmouth Square, where he falls into a reverie when he returns, he is no longer in his history but in ours. &ldquoWhat is that?&rdquo he asks, gesturing at the rising shape of the Embarcadero Freeway, which is not under construction in his world. The sequence is brief, only a few pages before Tagomi&rsquos city snaps back into place. What it underscores, however, is a divide that animates Dick&rsquos writing, the blurry border between artifice and authenticity. Which world is genuine? That of the novel or the one in which we read?

The answer, Dick insists, is both, or neither, or, more accurately, it depends. For Tagomi, the slip is a reminder that the relationship between reality and illusion is always shifting back and forth. Yes, the San Francisco of the novel is a fiction, but it is also infiltrated by the city as it actually exists. This movement is highlighted by the fact that, outside the novel, in the San Francisco of today, the Embarcadero Freeway has been gone for 30 years now. It is not predictions we are after, then, but possibilities.

ALTERNATE HISTORIES

Dick was hardly the first novelist to traffic in alternate histories The Man in the High Castle, he claimed, was influenced by Ward Moore&rsquos 1953 novel, Bring the Jubilee, in which the Confederacy wins the Civil War. Nor was he the last Harry Turtledove, for one, has made a career of such books (among them, an entire series in which the South was victorious), and non-genre writers such as Philip Roth (The Plot Against America) and Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen&rsquos Union) have dipped into the territory as well.

What Dick brought, however, was a healthy countercultural edge, honed by his experiences coming of age in Berkeley, where he lived until decamping for Orange County in 1972. In The Man in the High Castle, this emerges in the novel&rsquos use of the I Ching, or Book of Changes, the ancient Chinese text popularized in the West by psychedelic explorers and artists including Terence McKenna and John Cage. Not only do the novel&rsquos characters turn to the oracle (as Dick calls it) throughout the novel, but so did the author in the composition of the work. The strategy interjects a breath of randomness, of serendipity, into the marrow of the narrative. Tagomi&rsquos slip, for instance&hellipthrough this lens, it becomes more than a plot point it&rsquos an indicator, a signpost, a reminder of the unknowability of everything.

The perspective is in line with Disch or even Silverberg, their ironic irreverence. So, too, J.G. Ballard, a key figure in the British new wave science fiction of the early 1960s, whose 1970 collection, The Atrocity Exhibition, was pulped before publication by its would-be American publisher, Doubleday, because of a story called &ldquoWhy I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,&rdquo which includes sexual fantasies about the then&ndashgovernor of California, as well as &ldquoa unique ontology of violence and disaster.&rdquo If such content seems relatively tame now, well, that&rsquos the whole idea, isn&rsquot it? If science fiction isn&rsquot predictive, it is still imaginative it is written in the present to the future, a way of envisioning how and where we want to live.

For Ballard, this had to do with the erotics of violence, the seething rage beneath the surface of suburban calm. &ldquoIn a totally sane society,&rdquo he once wrote, &ldquomadness is the only freedom.&rdquo The statement explains a lot. &ldquoWhy I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan&rdquo was the subject of a 1968 obscenity trial in Britain when Ballard was asked by his attorney why the story was not obscene, he replied, &ldquoOf course it was obscene, and intended to be so.&rdquo Needless to say, he did not appear as a witness in his own defense.

And yet, the ultimate expression of Ballard&rsquos countercultural sensibility may be another story from The Atrocity Exhibition, &ldquoThe Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race,&rdquo inspired by Alfred Jarry&rsquos &ldquoThe Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race,&rdquo a masterpiece of turn-of-the-century French symbolism. Like Jarry, Ballard pushes the boundaries not only of genre but also of accepted narrative. &ldquoWithout doubt Oswald badly misfired,&rdquo he writes, just a few years after the murder of the president. &ldquoBut one question still remains unanswered: who loaded the starting gun?&rdquo

COLD WAR KIDS

Such a sensibility, with its social commentary, is not specific to the 1960s it emerged, rather, more than a decade before, driven by the political uncertainties of the Cold War. Ray Bradbury&rsquos Fahrenheit 451 (published in 1953 and written on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA&rsquos Powell Library) was inspired by the author&rsquos concerns about McCarthyism. &ldquoI was writing about what I was beginning to notice,&rdquo he told me in 2002. &ldquoAbout how we were encouraging people to be dumb.&rdquo

The theme emerges in the novel&rsquos main character, Montag, who is a fireman&mdashhere, someone who burns books, which are regarded as dangerous&mdashuntil he grows curious enough to take a risk and read. &ldquoIf you don&rsquot want a man unhappy politically,&rdquo Bradbury writes, &ldquodon&rsquot give him two sides to a question to worry him give him one. Better yet, give him none.&hellip Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of &lsquofacts&rsquo they feel stuffed, but absolutely &lsquobrilliant&rsquo with information. Then they&rsquoll feel they&rsquore thinking, they&rsquoll get a sense of motion without moving. And they&rsquoll be happy, because facts of that sort don&rsquot change.&rdquo

For us, living in a moment marked by bots and fake news, that passage seems uncomfortably prescient, as if Bradbury were anticipating our world. But again, and essentially, he was reflecting what he saw. His vision feels relevant, perhaps, because things don&rsquot change that much. We live on the verge, at the mercy of our best and worst impulses, as we have always done. The future, like the present, is not fixed but fluid it is what we make.

Jack Finney weaves a related message into his 1955 novel, The Body Snatchers, another allegory of the McCarthy era, set in Mill Valley and adapted for the screen four times. Likewise, Harlan Ellison, whose 1967 story &ldquoI Have No Mouth and I Must Scream&rdquo is set in an apocalyptic future where the Cold War has gone hot and the handful of human survivors are kept in captivity by sentient machines. &ldquoThe Cold War started,&rdquo he writes, &ldquoand became World War Three and just kept going. It became a big war, a very complex war, so they needed the computers to handle it.&rdquo

Here, Ellison is responding to a pair of perceived threats: nuclear annihilation and AI. The future he imagines is not utopian but bleak. The theme, the thread, is a common one, a story in which humanity outsmarts itself. Such a point becomes explicit in Damon Knight&rsquos &ldquoShall the Dust Praise Thee?&rdquo&mdasha three-page story originally published in Ellison&rsquos groundbreaking multiauthor anthology Dangerous Visions (1967)&mdashin which God returns to Earth for the day of wrath only to discover that humanity has already destroyed itself, but not before leaving the deity a pointed message: &ldquoWE WERE HERE. WHERE WERE YOU?&rdquo

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Apocalypse, however, can arrive in a variety of ways. This is what we are learning now. Who needs nuclear war or rogue machines when we have pandemics and environmental collapse? It&rsquos enough to make one doubt the efficacy of any utopia.

At the same time, all but the direst dystopian fantasias involve at least a whisper of survival, which makes them if not optimistic necessarily then forward-looking, at least. Octavia E. Butler&rsquos story &ldquoSpeech Sounds&rdquo&mdashfor which she won her first Hugo Award, in 1984&mdashimagines Los Angeles after a pandemic survivors are left mostly unable to communicate. The narrative describes the efforts of a lone woman, Rye, to travel from downtown to Pasadena, a journey that would once have been an afterthought. Along the way, she meets a man who agrees to drive her, before he is killed in a random flash of violence. &ldquoShe had found and lost the man so quickly,&rdquo Butler writes. &ldquoIt was as though she had been snatched from comfort and security and given a sudden, inexplicable beating. Her head would not clear. She could not think.&rdquo And yet, what else can she do? The same act has left two children orphaned, and she has no choice now but to care for them. In losing one connection, one companion, she has found two more.

That&rsquos an important moment, suggesting that the key to survival is perseverance, which is the whole idea. We cannot protect ourselves from what will happen we can only imagine how we might respond. In science fiction, that imagining becomes both personal and collective: the story of how Rye survives but also how we all do. The art of possibility again, a genre that, even at its most apocalyptic, is also transformative, relying on disruption as aesthetic charge. In her 1985 novel, Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin describes an agrarian society in Northern California called the Kesh, living centuries from now. The seas have risen and the grid has collapsed, but the book, framed largely as a collection of myths and songs and other artifacts, becomes a celebration of adaptability.

Like the futuristic society in Looking Backward, the culture Le Guin portrays has done away with industry and greed. It does not, for the most part, wage war. But it does have technology, left over from the before time, which it has adapted to its needs. The vision is similar to that of Kim Stanley Robinson&rsquos Pacific Edge (1990), the third novel in his Three Californias trilogy, which also imagines an environmentally conscious utopia built on the detritus of the former world. The future as an extension of the present. A world in which cataclysm and climate change lead to possibility. If you don&rsquot believe it could happen, just look out your window, where, through the intercession of the lockdown, the air in California is now as clean as it has been in years. Who could have foreseen that? But this is where we are now, in a present&mdashas strange as any science fiction&mdashthat was once an unpredicted future, as, of course, the future always is.


Edward Bellamy - History

Bellamy, E. (1888/1997). Looking backward . New York, NY: Dover Thrift Edition.

Edward Bellamy wrote his utopian novel largely in response to the growing crisis he recognized between workers and bosses that resulted in bloodletting such as the 1886 Haymarket Riot. Like most social reformers of his day, he warned that 'man's inhumanity toward man' would lead to social collapse. He rejected the notion that social inequity is innate to the human condition. Moreover, he rejected the notion that progress, "was a chimera of the imagination, with no analogue in nature" (p. 31). [Note: all quotes are from the Signet Classic edition]. Bellamy's Parable of the Coach illustrates most powerfully the sense that humanity, driven by hunger, forces brothers and sisters to claw against one another in a vain attempt to gain a seat atop a social transport careening toward disaster.

In the twentieth century of Bellamy's imagination, Nationalism - the Great Trust - offers a response to rampant individualism. The unified nation led by a single capitalist cures labor crises by completing the inevitable convergence of human industry: "The great city bazaar crushed its country rivals with branch stores, and in the city itself absorbed its smaller rivals till the business of a whole quarter was concentrated under one roof, with a hundred former proprietors of shops serving as clerks" (p. 53). This Great Trust is more than a government. The new nationalism results in nothing less than a fraternal fatherland:

While we will explore the implications of this fatherland on individual freedoms more fully in future conversations, let us examine four key themes to this new order: (1) centrality of public life, (2) equality of labor, (3) elimination of money, and (4) scientific socialism. Thereafter we'll examine three themes of national socialism in Looking Backward .

The centrality of public life

The centrality of public life refers to the notion that value in human relationships may be found in mutual cooperation, not individuality. Given the troubling economic times of the 1880s, this sentiment can hardly seem revolutionary. Rather, it might have appeared as a necessary salve to the crises of public life. The results of this centrality of public life emerge only when contrasted with the relative austerity of private life:

As Bellamy further illustrates in his image of nineteenth century drudges carrying hundreds of thousands of individual umbrellas to avoid the rain, the citizens of Boston 2000 have constructed mechanical and social umbrellas that cover each individual. Referring again to Bellamy's parable of the coach, we turn to a second theme of Looking Backward , the equality of labor.

In Looking Backward, shared labor is the engine of social order.

The role of labor in this imaginary society may best be compared to Thomas More's Utopia. Recall in that idealized notion of public life how each individual must work to gain the fruits of social labor. Moreover, labor confers the rights of citizenship and, as a corollary, brings a certain degree of suspicion on those who do not work in their assigned places. However, in Bellamy's Looking Backward , the joys of harmonious concert, not the fears of reprisal, are what motivate the workers of his industrial army: "The worker is not a citizen because he works, but works because he is a citizen" (p. 100). The value of labor in Boston 2000 is not lost on women either. Aside from the needs of motherhood, women are also required to fill the ranks of the industrial army. However, given that Bellamy's is a Victorian utopia, certain sexual inequities manage to endure.

In contrast to the subtle sexism that remains in his utopia, money cannot be found in Bellamy's Looking Backward . In its place, a system of wealth distribution ensures that all labor is valued equally.

All citizens who work receive the same credit. Naturally, some work is deemed more difficult than others. The role of government, therefore, is to adjust working conditions (hours, vacations, and the like) to ensure that no necessary job goes unfilled because of its excessive difficulty. Even so, no worker earns any more credit than another and none can exploit the stored labor of his colleagues. With the elimination of wealth, Boston 2000 enjoys relatively no crime or social disorder.

The optimism necessary to imagine this perfected society emerges from scientific socialism, the assumption that a well managed society marked by machine-like efficiency can ensure equality and improvement in the human condition. Scientific socialism is a response to the excesses of individualism as perceived by nineteenth century social reformers. Why, they asked, should the technical specifications necessary for perfected government be left to human will and idiosyncrasies? Can we not leave technical matters to machines, or at least to governments that function like machines?

We visit Edward Bellamy's imaginary Boston with the optimistic notion that human will is not predetermined, that human destiny is not etched in stone. Unlike John Winthrop's Puritan Boston that tried to reconcile God's will with human ambition, Looking Backward places the fate of humanity in its own hands. Once we have learned to fashion better machines and build better cities, we can rebuild human souls: "the conditions of human life have changed, and with them the motives of human action" (p. 57). As we will soon discover, of course: the ability to so radically reshape the human condition brings with it tremendous risks. To that point we now turn.

Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward envisions an optimistic form of national-socialism. Nationalism refers to an all-inclusive state, a father-land who cares for its people. Socialism refers to liberation of the individual potential. This form of government seeks to represent the will of the people writ large. In place of laws, banks, and artificial customs, an individual in this new age is directly represented by the state. As with More's Utopia, even the family is merely a temporary liaison between individual and state.

Bellamy, of course, died long before the most horrifying implications of his idealized public life came to pass. Twentieth century experiments with fascism, communism, and other forms of collectivism, seem eerily similar to Bellamy's optimistic text. In his forward to the Signet Classic edition of Looking Backward , Erich Fromm outlines three common critiques of Bellamy's utopia - it is undemocratic, mechanized, and static. As we will see, these critiques are not just philosophically grounded they reside in history as well.

Looking Backward is Undemocratic

In a manner similar to Plato's Republic , Edward Bellamy rejected what he saw as rampant individualism - the selfish impulse of people, companies, and governments to pursue their own interests to the detriment of human happiness. Universal suffrage, by extension, was merely institutionalized mob rule in Bellamy's eyes. The United States of the idealized future has dispensed with most legal and political offices - even as it has retained many of the names of its former self. Thus, a president may be found in the year 2000, but he does not answer to public whims. Rather, the president emerges as a general from the industrial army, selected from its retired ranks. All voting is limited to retired citizens who, like college alumni, have no vested interest in the impact of their decisions save the overall benefit to their alma mater. After all, as Dr. Leete explains, discipline would be ruined "if the workers had any suffrage to exercise, or anything to say about the choice. But they have nothing" (p. 133). To contemporary ears, this dimension of Looking Backward may seem troubling. However, the vote has been replaced by a much more enticing reward: the assurance that government is run by experts.

Looking Backward is too Mechanized

This notion of government-by-experts assumes a perfected form of bureaucracy in which all decisions are made with efficiency and precision. Consider Bellamy's description of central government: "The machine which they direct is indeed a vast one, but so logical in its principles and direct and simple in its workings, that it all but runs itself" (p. 129). To some critics, the result is a system in which human beings act as machines. Throughout the book, references to the efficiency of scientific government compare perfected human institutions to machines: "Supply is geared to demand like an engine to the governor which regulates its speed" (p. 162).

Certainly, this vision would have appealed to nineteenth century readers who grew tired of continual financial and political strife that followed the seemingly inept leadership of their public officials. The question, however, remains about the role of ethics and humanism within the mechanical government. One answer found in the twentieth century was fascism - a political system strangely foreshadowed by Bellamy:

As we see merely less than four decades after Bellamy's utopia is published, Europeans who have grown tired of economic misery will adopt the same mechanized response and pay a terrible price.

Looking Backward is too Static

The underlying paradox of Bellamy's novel is his desire to envision perpetual improvement within a stable society. To be sure, Dr. Leete depicts an age of innovation after the supremacy of the Nationalist party:

Such a new age naturally follows the scientific socialist notion of a utopia of progress. This utopia posits an individual who has been freed of the Great Chain of Being and the vicious cycles of hunger and human depravity. Yet, upon realizing this worker's paradise, what change may follow? One may find significant insight in Dr. Leete's discussion of Congress in the year 2000.

The Nationalized United States, leading a world of utopian nations toward the inevitable path of human improvement, has not yet mastered nature. Dr. Leete speaks of occasional natural disasters that may slow production. He accounts of changes in popular taste and even the rare occurrence of crime (generally blamed on genetically deficient families). But the future of his world looks pretty much the same as its present: "the material prosperity of the nation flows on uninterruptedly from generation to generation, like an ever broadening and deepening river" (pp. 162-163).

This organic metaphor may seem strange, given the mechanistic proclivities of Ballemy's Looking Backward . However, as we will explore later in the semester, most idealized forms of public life hide a machine under their well-tended gardens. In this utopia: "Let but the famine-stricken nation assume the function it had neglected, and regulate for the common good the course of the life-giving stream, and the earth would bloom like one garden, and none of its children lack any good thing" (pp. 216-217). Looking Backward offers a compelling vision, one that was adopted by millions of Americans and a host of utopian movements prior to the First World War. However, even as we long to stroll Bellamy's wide boulevards and look upon his grand buildings, we must also look backward unto the world that actually followed the path envisioned by the utopian's fanciful dream.


LOOKING BACK AT 'LOOKING BACKWARD': WE HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE AND IT DIDN'T WORK

NEAR the end of the last century Edward Bellamy wrote ''Looking Backward'' - a '⟺nciful romance,'' as he called it - in which he risked daring predictions about life at the end of our own century. We are still reading his durable classic, but time has revealed to us what it hid from him: the appalling implications of his prophecies.

Bookstore owners who began to stock the novel in January 1888, exactly 100 years ago, did not suspect they were holding a rarity - the first edition of a book that would stay triumphantly in print for a century. At the height of the Gilded Age, with flunkies fitted out in livery, dudes wearing diamond stickpins and American heiresses searching for husbands among the shabby dukes and earls of Europe, a book about a future society in which privilege had disappeared did not seem pertinent. Yet in hindsight it appears that the novel could not have been more perfectly timed. America had become volatile. Enormous trusts were fixing prices and controlling whole industries. Laboring men, fighting for shorter hours and more pay, clashed in the streets with paid private armies. Big-city bosses were inventing the modern system of graft. Anarchists were cooking dynamite in tenement kitchens. To that uproarious stage Bellamy delivered a script of future stability and prosperity. His hopeful message attracted an audience eager to believe he had found the nostrum for all of society's ills. ''When the Golden Century arrives,'' a California reader wrote Bellamy, ''your name will receive the homage of the human race of that period as being the only writer of the 19th Century capable of seeing, feeling and portraying 'the better way.' '' By the end of 1891 sales had approached half a million copies, making it the biggest best seller of its time.

Edward Bellamy, who was born in 1850 and died in 1898, had started out as a journalist, and went on to write short stories and several novels that attracted attention - though none captured the imagination of the public as much as ''Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887.'' What had the Gilded Age enthralled about that book was an entertaining time-travel story with an upbeat ending. It is told by Julian West, a Bostonian who goes to sleep by hypnotic means in 1887 and wakes up in his city 113 years later to discover that the old society and its attendant evils have been swept away. By A.D. 2000 the universal reign of brotherhood has arrived. War has disappeared - and so have advertisements, retail stores, servants, garbage, political parties, public corruption, state governments, lawyers, armies and navies, jails, professional athletes, labor unions, banks and money. Crime, insanity and suicide are rare. Social distinctions have dissolved in a comfortable equality. The state manages all industrial activity and provides jobs for everyone. People retire at the age of 45 and spend the rest of their lives in leisure. Harmony between the sexes has become perfect, everyone is educated and intelligent, public spirit has overcome selfishness. All the people share the wealth equally and want for nothing in a society free of the conflicts that characterized all previous human history.

''Looking Backward'' does not come crammed with action-packed adventure. Through most of the book Dr. Leete, in whose house West is staying, sits in the drawing room and explains the 20th century to his guest. 'ɻut with no state legislatures, and Congress meeting only once in five years,'' West asks, ''how do you get your legislation done?'' ''We have no legislation,'' replies Dr. Leete, ''that is, next to none.'' It is not needed because ''the fundamental principles on which our society is founded settle for all time the strifes and misunderstandings which in your day called for legislation.'' In this catechistic form the physician discourses on how the society operates without money, and how the selfish individualism of 1887 has given way to a humane collectivism. The state's takeover of all production - the critical event of Bellamy's scenario - occurred early in the 20th century, and is already a distant event when Dr. Leete interprets it for his house guest. As Leete explains it, capitalism had continued to swallow competition in bigger and bigger trusts until it consolidated itself into 'ɺ final monopoly.'' The government intervened to absorb all enterprise in The Great Trust, the all-embracing industrial giant of the state. This formation of ''one great business corporation'' occurred absolutely without violence.

OF course, Bellamy's book draws on a long tradition of Utopian writing with which it shares some characteristics. From Plato in ''The Republic'' to

Thomas More in ''Utopia,'' thinkers and visionaries have imagined societies perfectly organized for the greater happiness and welfare of all. But Bellamy's utopia responded to specific American conditions, particularly the growing rift between the rich and poor which was his impetus for writing the book. In fact, the book is titled ''Looking Backward'' because the narrator, from the vantage point of the future, looks back on his own time, which is depicted as a garishly ugly era.

Debate about Bellamy's premises enlivened gas-lighted parlors for years fellow authors wrote sequels by the dozen, while others came up with fictional rebuttals. But both his detractors and defenders assumed that Bellamy had attempted to write a forecast of the 20th century, and that eventually ''Looking Backward'' would have to answer to the historical record.

Over the next half-century airplanes, automobiles and electrical power - none of which figured in Bellamy's predictions - remodeled the world. The distance between rich and poor nations did not close as he promised, it widened. War was not banished tanks and poison gas escalated its destructive power. Capitalism proved more flexible and canny than Bellamy suspected. Crime did not vanish it became organized into gangs that machine-gunned one another in feuds over bootleg liquor. Advertising did not disappear it came over the airwaves. The early 20th century looked nothing like the scenario Bellamy had written for it.

STILL the book went through printing after printing. Clubs were created to propagate the author's words. Bread lines, hard times, labor unrest and looming war clouds in the 1930's only made Bellamy's utopia look more delectable than ever. President Roosevelt called one of his books ''Looking Forward.'' Lewis Mumford, Upton Sinclair and Norman Thomas acknowledged Bellamy's influence on their own political thinking. Vernon L. Parrington devoted a chapter to Bellamy in his thick tome, ''Main Currents in American Thought.'' In 1935 Charles Beard, John Dewey and Edward Weeks compiled a list for Columbia University in which each of these respected intellectuals independently chose ''Looking Backward'' as the most important American book of the preceding half-century.

From the first, the appeal of the novel rested on Bellamy's assurances that the utopian society could be brought about without violent revolution. In the 1890's it found its most receptive audience among the ''rosewater revolutionaries'' who belonged to what was called, with the frankness of the age, The Better Classes. Caught between the might of the owners on one side and the growing militance of desperate workers on the other, these genteel professionals would listen to radical solutions, but regarded Socialists and Anarchists as bomb-throwing wild-eyed foreigners.

Claiming that his solution transcended the narrow class interests of working-class revolutionaries, Bellamy labeled himself a Nationalist and his political ideas soon became the principles of a short-lived Nationalist Party. He had never mentioned socialism in his book, and the vast changes of the future were referred to as reforms.

But in the 1930's Bellamy was appropriated by the American Socialists. Like their rosewater counterparts of the 1890's, many Depression intellectuals - ''parlor pinks'' to their adversaries - hoped for radical but legal reform. They thought their program could be accomplished inch by inch, that socialism could insinuate itself into a society and take over bloodlessly. Like Bellamy, they believed that a just society would follow if the government took charge of production and made everyone economically equal. They could no longer accept the horse-and-buggy notion that he had accurately predicted the future or that letting trusts grow undisturbed into the Great Trust was desirable. But they could use ''Looking Backward'' as propaganda to further their equally benign and selfless Socialist cause.

Bellamy's aim was not propaganda. He had written what he called a forecast, and believed that inexorable evolutionary laws would force society into the shape he foresaw. But if his painless, semi-automatic solution to the dissonances of public life now seems vacuous, many of his prophecies nevertheless eventually came true. The details were wrong, but the kind of society he depicted was created in the 20th century. ''Looking Backward'' is a truly prophetic novel, although its utopia -as the author did not realize - had poisonous implications. A century after its publication, we see more clearly the toxic products of Bellamy's altruistic outlook.

The first prototype for the utopian spokesman is Dr. Leete. From his armchair he tells us that the world outside is in 'ɺn era of unexampled intellectual splendor,'' and ''of mechanical invention, scientific discovery, art, musical and literary productiveness to which no previous age of the world offers anything comparable.'' Not only is this society perfect, but all the other characters Julian West speaks to fully agree with Leete. As in most utopias, there is no room, or need, in this one for divergent views.

Dr. Leete is a picture of a committed totalitarian -and an unctuous one as well. ''Our women,'' he tells West, ''have risen to the full height of their responsibility as the wardens of the world to come, to whose keeping the keys of the future are confided. Their feeling of duty in this respect amounts to a sense of religious consecration.'' Bellamy has surpassed mere prediction of the future: he has forged in Dr. Leete's lines the dull clank of totalitarian prose. ''No conceivable motive but justice could actuate our judges,'' he tells West. Therefore, there is no need for jury trials, which were necessary in the evil days of yore when the bench depended on tenure and could be corrupted. In fact there is really no need for laws at all. No need either for parliamentary assemblies, or labor unions, or any other institutions that might intervene between Man and the State. Since society's problems have been finally solved for all time, the main purpose of newspapers is to publish notices of awards and promotions. All literature basks in wholesome brightness. The People always agree unanimously about everything. This sounds familiar to a 20th-century reader Leete is describing various wonders of the approaching one-party state apparatus.

Even when ''Looking Backward'' was first published, some reviewers gagged on Bellamy's Industrial Army. Bellamy hoped to extend military dedication to all aspects of life, so that everyone would live in a spirit of self-sacrifice for the state. All he asked of the people was their will, power of choice, freedom of movement and the erasure of any pluralistic tendencies among them, the more completely to immerse them in a top-down paramilitary structure. During a long explanation of how the system works, Julian West asks whether service in the Industrial Army is compulsory. ''It is regarded as so absolutely natural and reasonable that the idea of its being compulsory has ceased to be thought of,'' his host explains. Bellamy's utopia has found the ultimate solution to the problem of force: total voluntary compliance.

In the late 19th century the pseudo-scientific philosophies that created fascism were brewing in various retorts. Bellamy's notebooks and other published stories show that his quirky brain was helping to think to birth a new kind of government, call it Nationalist as he did Socialist, as did Depression intellectuals or Fascist, with which it has striking similarities. All of them are totalitarian. In such a state, a party apparatus - the only legal party - controls the means of production, the media of expression, and an extensive secret police system. Bellamy's other writings play with such ideas. He outlined stories about ''the breeding of superior souls'' and societies in which the state regulates matrimony to improve the species. In one of his short stories, ''To Whom This May Come,'' a visitor finds a South Sea island where language has disappeared. Everyone is able to read the minds of others. Bellamy suggests that privacy is a psychological form of selfishness and a source of disharmony. ''How shall I describe the delightful exhilaration of moral health and cleanness,'' the story's narrator exults, ''the breezy oxygenated mental condition, which resulted from the consciousness that I had absolutely nothing concealed!'' This could become the slogan of the Thought Police.

The story that most clearly depicts Bellamy's view of humanity is ''The Blindman's World,'' a tale of an earthling who journeys to a planet whose inhabitants have no memories. They know everything that will happen and forget everything that has happened. They have no anxieties and nothing to mourn. It is a brilliant and facile story that contains the sugary center of Bellamy's collectivist vision - a contented populace. Bellamy believed that memory, change, experience, all that bestows upon us our own flavor, only makes us discontent and grieves us.

''Looking Backward'' is a sentimentalized dream version of a Total State - a world where everyone has a nice day. Early reviewers mocked its insipid perfection - who would want, they laughed, to live in such a boring society! But Bellamy's confectionary style beguiled many Depression Socialists and liberals, who pictured his utopia in images of happy workers singing in chorus on the way home. In their innocence they were endorsing a society more terrible than any concocted by George Orwell or Anthony Burgess, with a people so domesticated that they could no longer think of differing with the edicts of the Industrial Army.

BELLAMY produced a dream of the future that constituted one of history's first blueprints for a totally planned economy. Did he ever realize the implications of that dream?

Probably not. Like all dreams, his operated outside of what Freud called the reality principle. Could he have imagined the details accurately, he might have found the true history of the 20th century too much to bear - especially if he were to see the pernicious influence of dreams such as his. For Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain and Hitler's brown-shirt Germany with its National Socialist Party - a blond-beast version of Bellamy's pompous and ineffective Nationalist Party - and the Soviet Union of the last few decades all contain elements of that totalitarian system he championed in which social change is dictated from above for the masses, who are considered incompetent to make it for themselves. As Arthur Lipow put it in his thoughtful 1982 study, 'ɺuthoritarian Socialism in America,'' Bellamy's politics produces a society of the ant heap.

After a century we still find readable Bellamy's slick classic, and we can cherish his penchant for equality, but we are repelled by the hostility toward diversity buried within his vision of a society of perfect harmony. He confided to his notebooks that he wanted to produce a society in which the growth of affections would be discouraged, so that people could give their full devotion to ''the ideal.''

But Bellamy's utopia, were it ever to be completely fulfilled, would develop gangrene, for societies change and grow through conflict. His design for total organization would produce a social order most Americans would find intolerable. In too many places, history transmuted his tidy and inoffensive dream into a 20th-century nightmare. Edward Bellamy was a kindly fellow who would have been horrified that a monster like Adolf Hitler would approximate his ideas. But innocents often make great mischief. Yeats reminds us that in dreams begin responsibilities. HEAVEN ON EARTH, OR HELL?

''If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.'' The famous prophecy from Orwell's ''Nineteen Eighty-Four,'' a novel in which Edward Bellamy's utopia meets its polar opposite, rings across the years as if to refute ''Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887.''

''Looking Backward'' is the opening salvo of a long argument, conducted through fiction in our century, about whether total state control will produce heaven on earth, or hell. The argument has given rise not only to the utopian novel but the anti-utopian or dystopian novel. In our time, the dystopian novel has predominated, as writers have caught on to the implications not only of Bellamy's utopia, but utopian visions altogether. In a line that stretches from Yevgeny Zamyatin's ''We'' through Aldous Huxley's 'ɻrave New World'' to Orwell, the dystopian novel depicts humankind's oppressed future.

With the rise of science fiction, novelists began to set their dystopias in other galaxies or in alternate universes as well as in the near or distant future. The postwar rise of the computer produced the dystopian arch-villain: the supercomputer, insatiable in its lust for data about the lives of its clients, empowered to decide how many babies America will need next year sorted by sex, race, class and hair color - an electronic, dehumanized, sexless God-figure of the Total State. Among the first to warn earthlings of these cybernetic perils was Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in his 1952 novel ''Player Piano'' - the first statement in his tenacious campaign against ''the divine right of machines, efficiency and organization.''

According to H. Bruce Franklin, the author of 'ɿuture Perfect,'' a study of 19th-century American science fiction, the anti-utopian novel is far less common in Eastern Europe. There, writers ''tend to accept a socialist future,'' he said. ''Their interest is in the problems that appear within the future, which is basically good but has serious problems, not a future which is socialist and therefore bad.''

Dystopian novelists tend to be wary of socialism, progress, the blessings of technology, a volatile ecosystem and the kind of unchecked power delineated in Bellamy's novel. Some of them have created their dystopias by turning the assertions of ''Looking Backward'' inside out. Despite their apparent differences, Orwell's and Bellamy's states enjoy total voluntary compliance from their docile citizens Bellamy's and Vonnegut's states organize and control everything. Though Bellamy created a utopia free of argument, the controversy he began continues a century later, in the pages of fiction.


Edward Bellamy - History

Only Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur sold more copies during the 19th century. Published in 1888, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, 2000-1887 sold more than a million copies. When the book appeared, the nation was still suffering from a financial contraction in 1883 and the aftermath of the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing in Chicago.

The book's main character, Julian West, lives in Boston in 1887, a time of wrenching poverty, labor strikes, and ostentatious wealth. One night, while he is in a hypnotic trance, his house burns and the servant, the only person who knows about the underground chamber, dies. He is not awakened until the year 2000. By then, all companies have merged to form one giant trust. Less attractive jobs are made more desirable by shorter hours. At the age of 45, all men and women retire.

Politicians and corruption have disappeared. So too have lawyers, since in a society without want or inequality, there is no need for laws. War has also been abolished. A world body regulates international relations and nations' "joint policy toward the more backward races, which are gradually being educated up to civilized institutions."

The Atlanta Constitution feared that the novel might bring "a new crusade against property and property rights in general."


Edward Bellamy - History

The History of Pismo-Oceano Dunes

My parents started coming to Pismo to off-road on the dunes in 1963, two years after I was born. Before that, they had kept to our local dunes at Marina Beach, in the Monterey Bay area. See my Dune Buggy Page for more information and photos of that area.

This history of Pismo-Oceano Dunes takes a historical perspective, starting as far back as I can find history on, and is broken up into relevant periods. The uses of the dunes have changed drastically in some parts, but remain the same in other parts.

The dunes were inhabited by local Chumash Indians long before Europeans arrived. In the dunes area now, there is evidence of Chumash presence in the form of "Middens," which are no more than old trash dumps piled high with clam and shellfish shells. It's amazing how one civilization's trash becomes another's treasure. After the Europeans arrived and chased the natives out of the area, "Pizmo," as it was called back then, became a playground for the new residents of California. It was one of the very few places where the beach was flat and hard enough to get a horse and buggy along the seashore. Most other beaches are too soft and steep to safely take a wheeled vehicle anywhere close to the water's edge. But the flat sands of Pizmo were great for family outings, because the whole family could pile into the wagon and go to the water. Below is a photo, from the early 1900's, of a family on such an outing. Ladies didn't generally ride horses back then, so they would either have to walk across the soft sand dunes, or ride in a buggy to the seashore.

The next photo seems to be taken closer to Arroyo Grande Creek. It is a family on an outing in the dunes. Note the lack of foredunes. Most people don't know this, but the foredunes that so many people claim as wonderful, natural environment, are not natural at all, but were the result of plantings by citizens, companies like the railroads, and government agencies over the years. The native species of plants in this area don't resist wind and blowing sand very well, and in the early days, European Beach Grass and Highway Iceplant were planted all over to keep the sand from blowing inland. These non-native plants take root in sand very well, and cause the sand to build up behind them. This buildup causes the foredunes to get even bigger than they would with native vegetation. So, the large foredunes often seen in old photos are not natural occurrences, but rather are the result of non-native plantings.

Nineteen-hundred five marked a point when people really began to make changes to Pismo and Oceano Beaches, and the point at which people began to use internal combustion to get down the beach and around the dunes. There is a large hill right along the ocean that marks what my parents called the "Three Mile Limit," or the beginning of the Sand Highway. This hill is called "Pavillion Hill" because in the early 1900's, a dance pavillion was built right on top of the large dune. Below is a photo of that building.

Also, the flat sands of Pismo were the site of speed trials, just as the beach in Daytona, Florida, was used. Not only were cars driven on the beach for pleasure, they were also raced. Motorcycles were part of the mix as well. Below is a photo of a race car, with driver and mechanic.

While the racers were using the wet, flat beaches, others were in the soft stuff, having fun! Below is a photo of an early off-roader, having fun in the dunes.

As automobile ownership increased in the early part of the century, so did its use on Pismo and Oceano Beaches. Below is a photo from approximately 1915, showing cars on the beach.

As was done just about anywhere in the country, people would take the bodies off old cars to make them lighter, and drive them off-road. The Pismo-Oceano-Guadalupe Dunes area was no exception. Some of the people who were around then have told about how they would drive around the dunes with their old Model-T's. If there was a way to move around, innovators would figure out how to do it!

And, indeed, they DID bring their Model T's to the beach!

Because they were invited!

Note that "Automobiling on the sand" is the FIRST activity mentioned in this brochure from the early 1900's, advertising "Pizmo" as a tourist destination.

After World War II, the introduction of the 4 wheel drive Jeep and its use in wartime by lots of troops created a rise in interest in off-roading. People were using not only 4 wheel drive vehicles, but body-less cars were popular as well. These vehicles were allowed access to all areas of the dunes and beach complex, from the north end of Pismo Beach, all the way to Mussel Rock, or "Devil's Slide," at the south end. Pismo, Oceano, and Guadalupe all had multiple access points, and dune buggies and jeeps abounded in all the surrounding communities. People enjoyed riding on the open dunes, which with no fences to contain the duners and their spirit, gave a feeling of freedom.

My parents started duning in 1957 at Marina Beach, in Monterey Bay. I was born in 1961, and they started coming to a really neat, new place called "Pismo" in 1963. They flat-towed (tow bar, no trailer) their dune buggies, and slept in tents on the beach. Back then, it was a 4-5 hour drive from Salinas, because most of Highway 101 went right through the middle of all the little towns, and much of the drive was on two-lane roads.

Below is the cover of the October 1968 Four Wheeler Magazine. As you can see, my mother wrote in where my dad was during this drag race competition. Yeah, we were there!

Below is a copy of the December 1971 isssue of Four Wheeler, showing all the people at the drags. You can see the campers in the area now closed. There sure were a lot of people there!

Below is a photo of our campsite, probably in the mid 60's. Ours was the yellow Ford pickup with the camper shell. I remember the trips so well. we kids would ride in the camper shell, which had no pass-through. it was the days before sliding rear window glass. and we had little notecards with messages pre-written in case we needed to communicate with Mom in the front. "Bathroom" and "Sick" were a couple I remember.

What a lot of people don't realize is how primitive camping was back then. There was no state park, and therefore, no bathroom facilities. If you didn't have a bathroom in your camper, you went out behind a dune to do your business. Our club would bring a communal toilet to the dunes. It consisted of a tubular framed toilet seat over a hole in the ground. This was surrounded by an open-topped privacy enclosure. Each time you put some solid waste into the hole, you would cover it with a little bit of sand. Most people had dune buggies, which were beginning to use special tires, and thus required trailers. If you towed a dune buggy, then you could not tow a travel trailer. This meant that most people camped in tents, or if you had some money, a slide-in camper. Not very many people had motorhomes in the 60's, so they were an extremely rare sight.

The photo below seems to be in the late 60's, judging by the dual tires on the water pumper dune buggy, and the proliferation of slide-in campers. The lady in the foreground is Elaine Meade, currently of Lemoore, CA.

In the photo below, I'm not sure who all the people are, but it was a pretty typical sight on a three-day weekend.

Below is a photo from February 1970. My late father is on the left, and my brother's dune buggy is in the background. The woman is Ida Martin, the man in the black hat is Bill Door, and the nutcase in our mother's straw hat dressed in all black (about 20 years ahead of the fashion curve) on the right is my older brother, Fred. -)

If you're an astute viewer, you'll also notice the clamming fork in the lower right corner of the photo.

And, we even have been immortalized in Life magazine! Below is the cover of the September 1971 Life Magazine, which covered the myriad ways in which Americans recreate outdoors.

Below is the first page of the article. Yep, we got first page in Life Magazine! The caption at the right reads:

"Just southeast of Pismo Beach, Calif., the constantly changing terrain of the Nipomo sand dunes (right) lures huge crowds of thrill-seeking buggyists who park their campers (far right), then move out."

The story text reads, from the beginning, "Escape, of course, is the whole idea. Granted more and more long weekends to spend as we please, our urge and aim is to go where we can commune with, and maybe reckon with, the elements. How? As fast and as far as our legs and wheels and wits can carry us. Where? The options are dumbfounding. We could join 100,000 other dune-buggy fanciers, like those shown gathered at far right, for a weekend's race over hills of sand."

The photo was taken from an airplane on the July 4, 1971 weekend. We knew about where we parked, and found our camper in this photo. Click the photo below for a large scan of the camp shot. Were YOU there that weekend in 1971?

Below is a photo of our campground, Thanksgiving of 1972. We had just purchased our very first ATC 90. That is me on the left, and my older sister Cindy is at the controls. At this point, we had been using the 63 Dodge pickup and the 65 El Dorado slide-in camper since about 1966-67. Pop had his dune buggy on a trailer, and we would put the motorcycle and ATC inside the camper during the drive.

People today are always amazed when we point out the big hill south of Pismo, and tell them we used to ride up on "Devil's Slide." Below is what it looked like from the top of Devil's Slide, looking back north to Guadalupe Dunes and Pismo. It was not easy getting to the top of Devil's Slide, if you went up the far southern portion of it. I rode the ATC shown above up Devil's Slide in about 1975. I made it up the longer lower part ok, but the steeper upper part was too steep, and I had to push the ATC up around the southern end of it. You had to be careful not to get stuck in this area, because if you slid down too far on the southern end, it was a sheer cliff of about 200 feet to the ocean.

And what follows is from the October 1971 issue of Four Wheeler. The photo is taken from the bottom of Devil's Slide. Big hill, isn't it!


The photo below is from September of 1976, and shows a little more variety in the campers being used by that time. Four-wheel drives had started becoming popular, and with a Bronco to drive around with, you could tow your camp trailer to stay in. Also, ATC's were getting more popular, and you could put them in your pickup bed, and still tow your camp trailer. This photo shows a worm track built around some foredunes. Notice that nobody has helmets or flags, and one pair of kids is riding double, all of which are forbidden today.

I just found this postcard at a thrift shop, and it's FANTASTIC! What it shows are the thriving businesses at the Pier Avenue ramp back in the old days when you could drive your off-road vehicle right up to the gas pumps at what is now Angello's Towing and Rentals. I believe this postcard to be from the late 60's. If you look closely, there are tracks coming off the diagonal sand ramp in front of the rental properties on Strand Way, right about where the photographer is standing. This access was a very heated point of contention from some of the rental property owners who felt the current diagonal ramp was not a traditional access point to the beach. This photo proves them WRONG. I have fond memories of riding ATC 90's right up to Bill's, the orange building on the left, for an ice cream sandwich every day. Can you imagine the amount of business that could be done here if off-roaders could ride right up to the gas pump or store on Pier Avenue?


And here is a photo of our good friends from the Five Cities area.

Dan and Evelyn Tallman were fixtures at the beach, and you could alway spot them by the purple clothes, the purple dune buggy, the purple pickup truck.

Anyhow, Dan and Evelyn are at the mouth of the Arroyo Grande Creek right after a storm when a lot of driftwood has been deposited on the sand. I'd say the photo is from the early 70's. Dan recently passed away, and Evelyn is a greeter at the local Wal-Mart Sunday through Wednesday in the mornings and early afternoon. If you're ever there, tell her "Hello!" and that you saw her photo on my website.

Dan and Evelyn were members of the local dune buggy club, the Dune Riders. Every Dune Rider would carry these cards, and when they met you or pulled you out of the river or got you unstuck, they'd hand you one of these cards. Pretty neat that folks would do that for free!

Below is an aerial photo of Pier Avenue, from a long, long time ago, probably the 50's. If you click the photo, a larger version will come up. it's big, but worth the wait for the download.

There are a few very interesting, very important things shown in this photograph.

First is the lack of vegetation in the dunes surrounding Pier Avenue. This is a natural condition! The vegetation that is there now is NOT NATURAL, AND SHOULD NOT BE THERE.

If you will notice to the south of the street, just before the wooden ramp, there is a parking lot. This shows that there has been vehicle access right in front of the Strand Way homes for many years, and that the current diagonal sand ramp is a traditional access.

It also appears that Strand Way is not even paved, nor does it even intersect with Pier Avenue.

If anyone notices things that are significantly different in this photo than they are today, I'd appreciate hearing from you!

Here is the another old aerial photo of the Strand area of Oceano. Below is a far away shot. Click the photo to see a big close-up of the Strand. You will be amazed at how few homes there are on the Strand, yet there are CARS ON THE BEACH!

Very interesting, isn't it! Makes you wonder why all the fuss over cars on the beach, versus homes on the Strand, when the cars were there LONG before the homes were.

In 1982, everything changed. ATV's had become wildly popular, and people were riding them all over the place. Just in the San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara County area, you could ride at the Morro Bay Sand Spit, Pismo Beach from as far north as you could go, all the way to Devil's Slide in the south. All of the Guadalupe Dunes were open, as were the beaches outside Lompoc. There were more than 18,000 acres of sand available for riding in Pismo, Oceano, and Guadalupe. Entrances were available at Pismo, Grover City's Grand Avenue, Oceano's Pier Avenue, Nipomo's Oso Flaco Lake, and Guadalupe's Main Street. Some of it was private land, though, and occasionally, riders would sue landowners when they got hurt on those private lands.

In 1982, acting from pressure exerted by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, California State Parks fenced off the portion they had purchased from PG&E, and made the Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the very first official vehicular recreation area in the State of California. State Parks owns 3,600 acres of land at this park, and has erected fencing all around the park to keep off-roaders limited to a 1,500 acre area. A few years ago, the park was renamed Oceano Dunes SVRA, because of its proximity to the town of Oceano. Pismo is actually a few miles north of where vehicles are now allowed to drive.

Below is an official map of the area, provided by State Parks. Click on the map for a larger version. It's big, but is very detailed, and really gives you a lot of information. It is very worthwhile to wait for the download of the larger image.

The riding area is in yellow, but State Parks owns a considerable amount of land which off-roaders have paid for with entrance fees and Green-Sticker money, but are unable to use, due to its being set aside as wildlife habitat. Most notable of these areas is the Oso Flaco Lake area, which for a while was open to horses and sand skiers, but has since been taken over by the Dunes Conservancy, which built a boardwalk that you can't walk off of, and stopped horses, dogs, and sand skiers from using the land.

Here are some interesting statistics, from State Parks:

ODSVRA size: 3,650 acres
Area available to off-roaders: 1,500 acres
Area CLOSED to off-roaders, managed for wildlife habitat: 2,100 acres
ODSVRA has 6 miles of beach. This is less than 0.5% of the length of California's coastline.

Attendance: Approximately 1,100,000 per year
51% from California's Central Valley
20% from Los Angeles area
12% from San Luis Obispo County
17% from all over the U.S. and the world

On average, visitors spend two days and one night in the area when visiting the park.

Visitors spend an average of $72 per day in San Luis Obispo County
Visitors generate nearly $110,000,000 in revenue each year for county businesses.

The beaches from Pismo to Oso Flaco Creek are divided up for various uses. From Grand Avenue north, no vehicles are allowed. From Grand Avenue to Pier Avenue and then past Arroyo Grande Creek, Mile Marker 2 designates the southern boundary of the street-legal vehicle beach. Your vehicle must have street legal plates and equipment to operate from Grand Avenue to Marker 2. Once south of Marker 2, all vehicles, street licenced and off-road-stickered, are allowed. This riding area goes south to Marker 8, which is still quite a bit north of Oso Flaco Creek. South of Marker 8, the beach is closed to all vehicles, but can be accessed by foot or horse.

The main way to access the SVRA is at the end of Pier Avenue in Oceano. Years ago, there were wooden ramps at the end of Grand Avenue and Pier Avenue, to help motorists get from the pavement to the wet hard sand near the water. In 1983, we had terrible storms, and the three photos below show what is left of the Pier Avenue ramp. The concrete block bathroom is still there, at the north side of the parking lot.

Below is a photo I took in 1991. It shows the Pier Avenue ramp with about three trucks on it. The newer condos at Pier and Strand are under construction. You can see some sort of walkway on the right, and some vegetation replanting in progress. If you have been to this place lately, you will notice that there is considerably more sand here in this 1991 shot than there is currently. This is likely due to heavy storms in the late 90's combined with normal sand depletion.

Speaking of heavy storms, here is a photo from the early 90's, showing Arroyo Grande Creek coming out much farther south than normal. If you have been to Pismo, you will recognize Pole 2 as the northern boundary to the off-roading area, and you know that the creek is quite a bit farther north! I was the last one across, and the water splashed up and over the hood of my 72 Ford F250! It was worth it though, as the sand was smooth, and there was nobody out there!

The photo below is the same day, but after the tide went out.

This is what the off-road area looked like while the tide was still in. Only three trucks made it across that morning!

Currently, our favorite recreation area is in peril of being closed by those who do not like responsible forms of recreation, specifically, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Center. I have always been a champion of the local dunes, which are used by many different recreationists, from off-roaders to fishermen, to horse riders, all of which will be banned if the extreme environmentalists get their way. Ever since moving here in the late 80's, I have responded to local editorials calling for the closure of the beach and dunes to vehicles. I, like many users, falsely believed that the dunes would never be closed. Now, these very strong and wealthy organizations have taken to using the Endangered Species Act to eliminate this popular form of recreation, simply because they do not like it.

Please take a minute to visit Friends of Oceano Dunes, a non-profit organization of people who promote equal access to these dunes for people to use.

IF you use the Oceano Dunes SVRA, you need to become involved in the fight to keep it open!

This is THE page for ATC 90 stuff, especially the early flotation tire machines.

Maps of the dunes, tide, reservation, and towing information here!

Join the California Off Road Vehicle Association to help keep Pismo open!

This page is sponsored by my company, Gerard's Car, ATV, Cycle Books & Videos, featuring all types of reading and viewing material for motorized transportation.


Bellamy’s Pledge

The Pledge of Allegiance is neither a sacred American tradition nor a patriotic duty, but a relatively recent piece of propaganda penned specifically to eradicate the memory of America’s revolutionary heritage and to indoctrinate the American people into believing lies about their history. If General George Washington ever heard the Pledge, he would not have put his hand on his heart, but rather drawn his sword.

The author of the Pledge was Francis Bellamy, a self-described “Christian Socialist” from Boston. Bellamy’s cousin and collaborator, Edward Bellamy, wrote a novel called “Looking Backward,” in which a man time-travels from 1888 to the future to discover that America has become a socialist utopia: equality is enforced and the entire economy is controlled by the government. Bellamy served as a Baptist preacher for awhile, but was stripped of the cloth for teaching the heresy that “Jesus was a socialist.”

In 1892, Bellamy wrote his Pledge. Recognizing that public schools controlled the impressionable young minds of future generations, Bellamy campaigned with the National Education Association to introduce his message of blind obedience to an omnipotent central government to the classroom.

By 1942, the Pledge was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress, though the Nazi salute which Bellamy recommended accompany its recitation was replaced it with the hand over the heart – less offensive, perhaps, but no less worshipful of a gesture.

Bellamy explained that his motive in composing the Pledge of Allegiance was to indoctrinate the American people into accepting the centralized nation-state into which Lincoln and the North had brutally and bloodily hammered the Founding Fathers’ decentralized republic of sovereign states:

The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches.

Webster, the acknowledged inspiration of the Pledge of Allegiance, stood in stark opposition to early American patriots like Jefferson, Henry, Lee, Randolph, Taylor, and Calhoun, some of whom were heroes of the Revolutionary War. His theory of “one nation, indivisible” was concocted around the late 1820s as a pretext for the North’s neo-mercantilist/proto-fascist agenda of taxing the South to protect Northern industries from competition while spending the proceeds in the North. Before the dawn of this fabricated ideology, however, the divisibility of the Union was freely and fairly acknowledged on both sides. For example, facing the prospect of the North seceding in protest of the expansion of Southern territory, President Jefferson remarked, “If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation to a continuance in the Union, I have no hesitation in saying, ‘Let us separate.’” According to Jefferson, “It is the elder and younger son differing. God bless them both, and keep them in the Union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.”

By the end of his life, Jefferson despaired at the tremendous growth of federal power (Bellamy was giddy at the prospect), and concluded that Southern secession may ultimately be liberty’s only hope:

I see with the deepest affliction the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing toward the usurpation of all rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic and that by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power…We must separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers.

Around the same time, President John Quincy Adams, although an early acolyte of Webster, realized that the interests of the North and South were diverging, and that secession – if not technically rightful under Webster’s tortuous constitutional constructions – was not only natural, but also necessary:

Thus stands the right. But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint.

Although as different as two men can be, the magnanimity of Jefferson and Adams on the divisibility of the Union stands in stark contrast to the malevolence of Lincoln and his malignant war party. Alexander de Tocqueville, a French intellectual who studied Antebellum American society, concluded, “If the Union were to enforce by arms the allegiance of the federated States, it would be in a position very analogous to England at the time of the War of Independence.” De Tocqueville continued:

The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the federal government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.

Despite the triumph of force of arms over consent of the governed in the War of Southern Independence, Bellamy feared that the war was not yet won in the minds of Americans. America’s strong culture of individualism and heritage of republicanism – deeply rooted in the rebellious South – still posed a threat to the new world order which Bellamy envisioned. The Pledge of Allegiance was his insidious attempt to complete the Northern subjugation of the South by replacing the memory of the Founding Fathers’ love of liberty with loyalty to the government – now an “indivisible nation” forged in blood and iron. Yet, according to the Declaration of Independence, governments existed solely to protect the liberty of the people, and could and should be dissolved if they ever betrayed this duty. While most Founders were bitterly opposed to the idea of a “nation” over a republic, believing that the vertical as well as horizontal separation of power was an important part of their system of checks and balances, an “indivisible” government – a totalitarian concept which was never even broached in their time – would have been an utter outrage. After all, the American Colonies had individually seceded from the British Empire as “free and independent States,” and were individually recognized as “free, sovereign, and independent” in their peace with the King. “Each State,” concurred the Articles of Confederation, “retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” The sovereignty of the states and divisibility of the Union was well-recognized and respected prior to the Constitution.

As a condition of ratifying the Constitution, a majority of the states from the North and South explicitly stipulated that they retained their sovereignty. As John Randolph of Roanoke colorfully illustrated years later, “Asking one of the States to surrender part of her sovereignty is like asking a lady to surrender part of her chastity.” Virginia’s assertion of state sovereignty was the most comprehensive: “We the Delegates of Virginia…do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.” In other words, if the federal government ever abused the powers with which it had been entrusted by the states, then the states were free to reclaim those powers for themselves. In a long list of proposed amendments to the Constitution, Virginia’s foremost was what would ultimately be adapted into the Tenth Amendment – what Jefferson considered the “foundation” of the Constitution: “First, that each State in the Union shall respectively retain every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this Constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of the Federal Government.” Indeed, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were adopted to reassure the states that they retained their sovereignty in the Union, affirming that the absence of any enumerated rights should not be misconstrued as a denial of those rights, and that the states reserved unto themselves any rights which they did not delegate to the federal government. As James Madison claimed in the Federalist Papers, “The new Constitution will, if established, be a federal, and not a national constitution.” Elsewhere, Madison referred to the “sovereign power” of the “distinct and independent States.” The ratification of the Constitution depended upon the preservation of the sovereignty of the states and divisibility of the Union.

When the epic political, economic and cultural conflict between the North and the South culminated in secession, the Confederacy avowed that it was faithfully following in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers:

The declared purpose of the compact of Union from which we have withdrawn was to ‘establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.’ When, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, it had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot box declared that so far as they were concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist. In this they merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable of the time and occasion for its exercise, they as sovereigns were the final judges, each for itself.

– President Jefferson Davis, First Inaugural Address, 2/18/61

Strange, indeed, must it seem to the impartial observer, but it is nonetheless true that all these carefully worded clauses proved unavailing to prevent the rise and growth in the Northern States of a political school which has persistently claimed that the government thus formed was not a compact between States, but was in effect a national government, set up above and over the States. An organization created by the States to secure the blessings of liberty and independence against foreign aggression has been gradually perverted into a machine for their control in their domestic affairs. The creature has been exalted above its creators the principals have been made subordinate to the agent appointed by themselves.

– President Davis, Message to Congress (Ratification of the Constitution), 4/29/61

Bellamy, proving that history is indeed written by the victors over the vanquished, penned his Pledge with the hope that these revolutionary truths – dire threats to his vision of a central government reigning supreme over a united nation – would be forgotten forever. Might merely settles questions of force, not of right, and while a lost cause can rise again, a lost memory may never be redeemed.

About James Rutledge Roesch

James Rutledge Roesch lives in Florida. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, as well as the author of From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States' Rights in the Old South. More from James Rutledge Roesch


An Analysis of Formal Education in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward

In protest against the ruthless capitalism of the late nineteenth century, Edward Bellamy wrote Looking Backward , a novel of social reform. In his book, Bellamy transported a wealthy, young, nineteenth-century Bostonian, Julian West, on a fictional journey to the Year 2000. West, Bellamy's fictional citizen of 1887, witnessed the wonders of the new social order, an industrialized utopia. The citizens of this new world had abolished profit, greed, competition, and poverty under the leadership of a national industrial army. This familiar theme has been recounted in numerous social and literary histories. Despite the literary imperfections and unsophisticated style of this work, many readers have looked beyond it as a mere period piece and viewed it as an influential document of American utopianism.


Watch the video: Looking Backward Introduction (November 2021).