Brenton Nichol's Reviews > Famous Utopias

Famous Utopias by Francis Bacon
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Aug 12, 09

bookshelves: speculative-fiction, science
Read in July, 2009

I had to use the Interlibrary Loan service to find a book that contained Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, the second work on my list of early proto-science fiction that I am reading to kick off my survey of science fiction literature (the first being More's Utopia). This volume came up in my search, and as an added bonus had another early utopian novel with early SF themes, Tommaso Campanella's City of the Sun.

Bacon's work is an incomplete manuscript that, I presume, if finished would have contained descriptions encapsulating all aspects of his fictional society, much like Utopia. However, the manuscript that does exist is almost entirely taken up by descriptions of the scientific college on New Atlantis, which employed what was essentially the Baconian Method, a precursor to our modern Scientific Method. The fictional house of science is in all ways superior to any other culture's or society's on earth, and this is where the progenitorial nature of the work becomes apparent, in regards to the rise of science fiction centuries later.

City of the Sun was closer to Utopia in being a complete synopsis of a fictional society, though the city described here was a few shades closer to repugnant totalitarianism than More's world. However, like Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's society sought knowledge of and harmony with nature to a higher degree than any society that did exist on earth in the 1600s, and once again this is why it factors into my survey of science fiction. These early portrayals of mankind seeking progressive scientific understandings of their world and universe would bloom into a juggernaut of a literary genre in the 20th century.

This review, along with my review of More's Utopia, kicks off my survey of science fiction literature, and if you wish you may track my progress on my blog, www.bnichol.com.
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