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+5 votes
I am looking for fantasy novels that have anarchist themes.  I have tried searching the webs but mostly just sci-fi comes up. I want like dragons and magic not space and dystopias.


So I have read a good amount of Le Guin, but not Tehanu which is on my list. I have Also peeked at the stuff Moorcock does, but it all looks very moralistic.  The fantasy genre seems ripe for stories like Q. Peasants and heretics overthrowing kingdoms. Or Princess Mononoke,  The forest spirits and magical animals attacking civilization.  I just don't know what authors were writing any of that.  Any ideas?

edited for tags
by (200 points)
edited by
NOT wheel of time.
what do you think about "magical realism"?

7 Answers

+3 votes
i would check out the earthsea series by ursula legiun, its not necessarily explicitly "anarchist" but, its leguin, so....
by (2.3k points)
i think the original earthsea books (a trilogy) were written before she found her anarchist legs. but tehanu (a fourth and MUCH later book) is her revisiting the world with a different perspective.
and look at lawrence busting out the old school! moorcock is indeed a great choice, and it looks like the only one, after a cursory search. but there you go, fantasy is just not as cool as science fiction! ;)
+2 votes
Michael Moorcock
by (570 points)
I really enjoyed the reprinting of Michael Moorcock's essay "Starship Stormtroopers" in Anarchy magazine !
+3 votes
It's an unfortunate tendency that a lot of fantasy settings tend to be centered around a fictionalized version of feudal-era Europe, in which the various rulers are either "benevolent" (in which case the protagonists are in their service, fighting against an external "evil" threat to the nation) or "malevolent" (in which case the protagonists are exceptional rebels or outlaws with some unique factor that allows them to flaunt or rebel against their morally-evil ruler in favor of a morally-good ruler or some other "legitimate" form of government). There's a lot of black-and-white morality, or a few shades of gray at best, and not a ton of social and political allegory like you often find in sci-fi.

BUT ANYWAY, TO MAKE THIS AN ACTUAL ANSWER: "The Lord of the Rings" could be considered as having some anarchist themes, also considering Tolkien identified as an anarchist at some points in his life.

There's also "The Secret World of Terijian", although that's sort of a modern-fantasy take on things. Also I'm not sure if you can still find that book anywhere.

The "His Dark Materials" series at least focuses around children rebelling against the authority of God (and possibly authority in general, since it's basically an inverted re-telling of Paradise Lost).
by (8.7k points)
Thanks I've read all of those and you're right they are great.  I wonder if any writers have taken to the trajectory of those text's more.
not anarchist, and arguably a mix of genres, but china mieville was a fun read. and i wouldn't call him science fiction. maybe steam punk. eh. but interesting anyway.
Ooh, actually, now that you mention China Mieville - City of Saints & Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer, and the other books in that mythos, are definitely worth a read I think. There's a lot of dark and strange things, occasionally touching on a backstory involving some terrifying consequences of colonialism. I remember reading it years ago and finding a lot of interesting ideas inside - not explicitly or necessarily anarchist, but way better than practically any other fantasy novel I'd picked up.
+4 votes
i thnk samual r delaney might be the closest thing i can think of to what you're looking for, although joanna russ would arguably work for you too. they both have both science fiction and fantasy novels, and neither identify as anarchist, but both of them have anti-authoritarian and chaos-appreciating topics. and SRD in particular is brilliant.
by (53.1k points)
+2 votes
not an 'anarchist book' but Robin Hobb (from tacoma) has written four related trilogies that focus on the contrast between ordered civilization and primitive magic along with how human based societies relate to other species (ie.. dragons). Specifically I would suggest you start with her Soldier's Son Trilogy which is the only stand alone trilogy and then work your way into any of her other three trilogies.

I found all her books to have interesting pieces that I enjoyed not just for her writing style but for how they subtly hinted at her own feelings on life, society and our current way of living.

All of her books are available in paper back and easy enough to lift from your near by barnes and nobles.
by (200 points)
+1 vote
In french, there is many short stories or little novels that were published on an almost confidential draft and never translated into english.

All I know in English (for what appears to me to have some anarchist themes) :

- Ursula Leguin "The dispossessed" on the two planets, and especially Anares that offers a kind of example of anarchist and non-patriarcal society, and that confronts what should be the values of such society and how it challenge the world of the other planet, closer to our actual world.

- Alan Moore and David Loyd's "V for vendetta" comics, just because it had to be mentionned. Nothing in common with the royal stinker for glue-addict that much people know as "the film".

- "The Plague" by Albert Camus, for its reflections about individual, against prejudices, racism and borders.

- Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy". I don't know if this guy is anarchist, but he took part to several anarchist bookfairs and he is a big fan of Phil K Dick (who is to me a reference for anarchists on novels and science-fi - even he didn't proclaim himself an anarchist). And his trilogy is really amazing. At least, I only read "Red Mars" and started "Green mars". But the first book is about a kind of anarchist communist violent revolution in the ghettos of Mars colonies. Crazy book ! More generally you find in his books many stuff that clearly fit with anarchist themes as state power and conspiracies, many explicit critics of capitalism and big corporations, stories including transexual or genderfluid people, ecological disaster, reflexions on scientific methods and technology, etc...

Don't have any Idea for the moment.
by (2.2k points)
Oh, If you meant by "fantasy" the genre of  "heroic fantasy" as Tolkien style I guess I didn't answered the question correctly. Even "Mars Trilogy" should be compared as something as "science fiction fantasy". ;-)
+1 vote
Well, if an anarchist fantasy novel is a fantasy novel written by an anarchist then William Morris might qualify. Certainly he was very close to an anarchist (although he specifically said he was not one), and one of the pioneers of fantasy.
The Wood Beyond the World (1894) and The Well at the World's End (1896) are two of his better known. They seemed quite old fashioned when I read them (which is perhaps not surprising), and the content didn't seem particularly anarchist. It is intersting that one of the pioneers of the genre was William Morris.
by (420 points)