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Douglas Thompson: The Utopia of Us Anthology. Pre-Order Available Now!

Author Douglas Thompson
Douglas Thompson on The Utopia of Us

The Utopia of Us anthology is now available for pre-order! Editor Teika Marija Smits has brought together 15 incredible writers and their stories, directly inspired by We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

It is a charity anthology, and given Russia's current war with Ukraine, royalties from the book will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

If you pre-order directly from the Luna website, you will also receive a discount. Check it out!

Today we'd like to introduce you to Douglas Thompson and the story "In Praise Of TwoState – Epiphanies – The Morning After".

About the author:

DOUGLAS THOMPSON is a former Chair and Director of the Scottish Writers Centre and has published more than 20 short story collections and novels from various publishers in the UK, Europe and the Americas, including The Brahan Seer from Acair Books (2014) and most recently Stray Pilot from Elsewhen Press (2022). He won the Herald/Grolsch Question Of Style Award in 1989, 2nd prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2007, and the Faith/Unbelief Poetry Prize in 2016. John Clute’s entry for Douglas Thompson in the encyclopaedia of Science Fiction states: “Thompson is an author of wild imagination who seems able to contain it, and who may write some important fiction as a consequence of that.

Douglas on the story:

I first read Zamyatin’s We in 2008 in a holiday house on Scotland’s West Highland coast near the village of Poolewe. The location is noted for Inverewe Gardens, a real living utopia of a kind, a semi-tropical botanic garden somehow cultivated by a Victorian eccentric on a rocky peninsula as barren as the moon before he got there. It was rather a clapped-out old house, covered in cobwebs. On rainy days I would sit in the house’s breezy “conservatory” with a tartan blanket on my lap, until at nightfall when the weather cleared and the roads quietened I would lift my binoculars and spy the mystical red shapes of small groups of deer coming down to drink from the river. We captivated me, for its clarity and vitality.

One of my strongest reactions upon finishing the book, apart from exhilaration at having read something so strong and perfect, was anger at George Orwell. It seemed apparent to me that the man had shamelessly ripped the book off while having, I would later discover on the web, the temerity to level criticisms at it in his own review published in The Tribune in 1946. I read 1984 at school and had always felt dissatisfied with it. A towering piece of political satire it may be, something that has changed the very language of democratic debate, but it has never actually been in my opinion, a good novel. Its understanding of human relationships is too paltry, its empathy with the mundane and emotional: grudging. To me it is a book cold with the political calculation of the very theorists that Orwell seeks to deconstruct.

I re-read We last year, the same copy, the same translation. I was surprised that it struck me as almost a different book from how I’d remembered it. Much less serious, more flippant and exuberant, like watching some kind of Flash Gordon movie from the era of silent films. Where 1984 is plodding, stolid and deeply depressing, We manages to be full of life and humour. But the target of its satire: Soviet-style command-economies with their eyes set on conquering the moon, are increasingly passing from memory. Therefore I set my own brief thus:

While other writers shall, I expect, postulate future societies in mind-bending detail, I wish to offer a contrasting flavour: our own contemporary society retold as if it is already a futuristic dystopia. In the hope that such an approach may echo Zamyatin’s original intentions of socio-political satire of the regime under which he found himself.

As Ursula Le Guin demonstrates in her essays and novels like The Dispossessed: at least in Communist societies people knew they were being oppressed and could think around it in their private thoughts. The worst and subtlest terror of the so called “free world” is that the censorship becomes internalised. We do it to ourselves under the onslaught of social media, which is much more effective for the state and ultimately more endangering to the quality of our intellects.

TOC of The Utopia of Us
TOC of The Utopia of Us

More on the anthology:

The year 2024 marks the centenary of the first publication of We, the direct inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984, and many other novels, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano.

Strikingly, the Russian novel was first published in English, and in the US. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1988 that it was published in the author’s native country. Clearly, this was a book that the people in power in the Soviet Union wanted erased. Yet it ushered in a new genre – the future dystopia – and in doing so gave birth to the many dystopian novels and films which have found their way into our popular culture.

Setting aside what its publication history says about Russia’s past, it also happens to be a beautifully written and page-turning novel, and one that is still currently relevant since it speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human. In short, the centenary of this wonderful novel should be, and needs to be, celebrated, and how better to do that than by a globally minded, independent press, publishing an anthology of science fiction stories inspired by We?


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