The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

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The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Omphalos » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:44 pm

Image

Upton Sinclair's The Millennium is by most definitions not really science fiction. To most it is a semi-autobiographical propaganda tool that Sinclair used to advocate for his own version of socialism and communal lifestyle. But since it's also a future history that relies on a few technological changes, and is dotted with examples of far-out technology, it has found a home here in my SF reviews. Penned originally in 1907 as a four-act play after a fire destroyed the Sinclair's communal home (Helicon Hall, which created a great scandal during its year of operation) into which Sinclair had plowed the entirety of the fortunes he earned from the publication of The Jungle, The Millennium: A Comedy of the Year 2000 resounds these days as the final sputtering words of a great social reformer as he began his long, long slide into obscurity and ridicule. Simultaneously idealistic and absurd in tone, it is a very typical socialist propaganda piece in that it only shows what is wrong with everyone else's way of life, and never bothers to explain how the happy little socialists who live in their worker's paradise deal with the problems that always seem to crop up behind their own walls, such as apathy, laziness and greed. The 1924 rewrite - the version I read for this review - went quickly, and although it managed to draw me in for the day it took me to complete, I can't say that it would have been able to recapture my attention had I had to put it down for more than an hour or two...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review.
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby SandChigger » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:41 pm

Hmm... interesting, but I think I'll pass. :|


(By the way, you know that thing you do with sparing on the apostrophes in contractions? You should have done it again, but didn't, in the last line. ;) )
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Omphalos » Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:03 pm

SandChigger wrote:Hmm... interesting, but I think I'll pass. :|


(By the way, you know that thing you do with sparing on the apostrophes in contractions? You should have done it again, but didn't, in the last line. ;) )


Thanks.
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-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:01 pm

The American Utopian movements are a very interesting fertile breeding ground of ideas and stories. Heinlein came out of his tradition which makes reading his works all the more interesting.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Omphalos » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:48 am

Robspierre wrote:The American Utopian movements are a very interesting fertile breeding ground of ideas and stories. Heinlein came out of his tradition which makes reading his works all the more interesting.

Rob


How so Rob? Just influenced by it, or he wrote in it?
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:29 pm

Definitely influenced by it and he used numerous utopian tropes in his writings. "For Us The Living," the lost first novel, was a blatant utopian novel that he later mined for bits and pieces in his later works.

I need to check the notes in the biography again, Patterson had some info on what Heinlein was consuming that helped shape his writings.

Also, http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=7559 Patterson giving a talk and taking questions at the Cato Institute.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:53 pm

Starship Troopers only ever made sense to me after Omph mentioned to look at it as a utopia piece.
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Omphalos » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:35 am

A Thing of Eternity wrote:Starship Troopers only ever made sense to me after Omph mentioned to look at it as a utopia piece.


That is the only one I considered Utopian, though I have not read much of Heinlein past that save for a number of the juveniles and some short stories. I would not have thought that he wrote in that mode often. As it happens, Ive got a few collections of his to go through. Ill have to keep that in mind as I do.
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Serkanner » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:12 am

Omphalos wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:Starship Troopers only ever made sense to me after Omph mentioned to look at it as a utopia piece.


That is the only one I considered Utopian, though I have not read much of Heinlein past that save for a number of the juveniles and some short stories. I would not have thought that he wrote in that mode often. As it happens, Ive got a few collections of his to go through. Ill have to keep that in mind as I do.


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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:45 pm

These titles have very strong utopian elements

For Us the Living
Beyond this Horizon
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
The Door Into Summer
Friday

Many consider Farnham's Freehold to be satire.

Others of his works have nits and pieces of utopian elements in them, if you read For Us the Living you will see just how many different elements he used over and over in his works, including the juveniles.



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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Omphalos » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:10 pm

The only two of those I've read are Moon and Friday, and I read Friday long, long ago. I would not say that Moon has "strong" utopian elements. It has Utopian tendencies, because the ulitmate goal is to build a society with a libertarian approach to relations with Earth and some unique cultural traits. The characters certainly know what they want, and how to define their society, but they are not there yet, and they aren't really ready to start the baby steps towards it. The war has to end first, then the utopia building could start.

Good idea though. Certainly food for thought.
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Hunchback Jack » Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:51 pm

Haven't read any Heinlein in a long time; probably at least 20 years. Read pretty much everything I could find then, which was most of what he wrote.

Didn't see the satirical aspect of Farnham's Freehold at all at the time, but then I may not have been capable of doing so. I liked Moon a lot, though.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby D Pope » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:32 pm

Heinlein wrote:When identification becomes a requirement, it's time to leave the planet.

It's better than the story it came from but still one of my favorite comments on societies, utopian or not.
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:44 pm

I just finished the ebook version of "Take Back Your Government!" with notes from Jerry Pournelle. Interesting take on being a politician and the notes from Pournelle were at times comical. He only did notes for half the book and then used them to push his own agenda, often contradicting the point Heinlein was making. I enjoy a bunch of Pournelle's work but fuck, the man's politics are less than palatable.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby TheDukester » Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:54 pm

Robspierre wrote:Many consider Farnham's Freehold to be satire.

That would actually be a relief, then. Because, otherwise, it is unspeakable, KJA-esque hackwork. I threw it across the room after 50 pages.
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:46 pm

TheDukester wrote:
Robspierre wrote:Many consider Farnham's Freehold to be satire.

That would actually be a relief, then. Because, otherwise, it is unspeakable, KJA-esque hackwork. I threw it across the room after 50 pages.


It's not his best satire by far, it was written during the height of his prepare for nuclear destruction phase. There is also a lot of emotional baggage in the book, Heinlein to an extent, seemed to of used the novel to purge his second marriage to Leslyn for good, Farnham's wife many is a stand in for Leslyn during her bad drinking days.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby TheDukester » Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:09 pm

As usual, excellent background, Rob-O. I just know I had a gut-level reaction to what I saw as a bad book. I just sincerely hated it.

But that's been one of my few bad experiences with Heinlein. In fact, some of his stuff ranks very highly on my personal list(s), with Starship Troopers being my favorite-est book ever and Moon in my top 10. Most other Heinleins I put in the "definitely a worthwhile read" category.

I'm beginning to become intrigued by the history of the man, too. He's always just been sort of there to me ... the guy with 10,000 books. He appears to be a pretty interesting cat.
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:18 pm

BIll Patterson just sent off to Tor the corrections for the trade paperback edition of the first volume of the biography. I highly recommend you pick up a copy when it does come out in trade form.

I pop into the Heinlein Society forum from time to time, lots of good info there and I really need to start ordering back issues of Patterson's Heinlein Journal, a lot of information concerning Heinlein's life was first published there, like his first, very short marriage that lasted less than a year, information about his second marriage to Leslyn, as well as scholarly articles about his works.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby SandChigger » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:44 pm

Robspierre wrote:seemed to of used

Oh, Robbo, lad, sometimes you make me weep! :(

;) :lol:
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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:02 pm

Make you weep? It bloody hurts after spending the entire day with kids who refuse to capitalize, who use text and IM speak, and firmly believe commas, like, and you know, should be applied with a machine gun. To pull the same boneheaded crap they do has me with egg on my face.

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Re: The Millennium, by Upton Sinclair

Postby Robspierre » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:04 pm

Dukester, here is the bit form one of the threads,
As for Leslyn=Grace, it's just not that simple. Ginny said once Grace was a combination of a number of women they knew, and the alcoholic wife (and drug using wife) was a fairly common experience in the fifties culture.

There may be some emotional non-fiction in the book, in the duty Hugh feels towards Grace, and in his leaving her when his duty is done; Heinlein spent years trying to help Leslyn out of her alcoholism, and finally left when he realized he could not save Leslyn from herself. When suicide becomes a power tactic in a marriage, it's time to go.


My memory was off a tad, but the residue from his second marriage still lingered with Heinlein long after the divorce.

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