1984?

Hello SE friends, Gwen with you today, and I’ve an unusual topic to share. It was generated by recent comments made by neighbors, friends, and family members.

Have you heard folks mention 1984? Not the year, but the book or the movie? Rarely a day passes that I don’t hear references to George Orwell’s book as somehow related to current events. I’ve heard it so many times that I finally decided to watch the movie as a refresher. Well, that scared the living daylights out of me! It also made me wonder if Orwell knew that his concerns might be relevant years after his book was published.

This line of thinking prompted questions about writers who predicted future events or solved crimes. Writers like you and me. What is it about this avocation that opens doors to the future?

Let’s look at a few examples.

  • George Orwell’s book 1984 was published in 1949. Of his own admission, he wrote to warn readers about totalitarianism. The story involves high tech surveillance. And of course, there’s the Party (Big Brother) who watches and controls free thought. Cameras are everywhere. Interestingly, just before he died, Orwell gave a final warning which is recorded and available on YouTube. He ended his warning with, “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one. Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”
  • Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was published in 1932. And like Orwell’s masterpiece, the book foretells of a dystopian society that on the surface appears utopian but quite the opposite is true. Similar to Orwell’s work, psychology is used to control people as does technology.
  • Jules Verne is known for his science fiction. He accurately predicted several events and inspired multiple discoveries. His electric submarines in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (1869) and the space travel in From the Earth to the Moon (1867) are just two examples that have helped shape our present reality.
  • H.G. Wells’ Men Like Gods (1923) predicted wireless communication and in other books he mentioned television, audio books, and airplanes. As early as 1896 in The Island of Dr. Moreau, Wells wrote of the dangers of genetic engineering if improperly handled.
  • Morgan Robertson’s book, The Wreck of the Titan: or Futility, was published in 1898. It is the story of an “unsinkable” ocean liner that sets sail in the month of April and hits an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. The 2,987 passengers and crew died because there were not enough lifeboats on the ship. In April 1912, the unsinkable Titanic hit an iceberg. 1,533 people died because there weren’t enough lifeboats. Robertson also published a short story in 1914, Beyond the Spectrum, in which Japan attacked the U.S. Navy in Hawaii. This came true on December 7, 1941.

Visionaries? Maybe. But I suspect there’s an additional answer. Writers focus on details that many do not see. In a way, they are like investigative reporters who dig deep and actually solve crimes. The efforts of  Gilbert King (Beneath a Ruthless Sun) and that of Christine Pelisek (The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central) were extraordinary in that regard. Both went the extra mile and in the process, they used tools familiar to many writers.

What tools?

  • They studied newspaper clippings,
  • Interviewed locals,
  • Traveled to the sites,
  • Reviewed anything written on the topic, and
  • Spent countless hours trying to find “the” answer and bring it to life.

Sound familiar? There’s one more aspect that I think is core. These reporters summoned the courage to write about something that no one else wanted to touch. I believe they are not alone. I think all serious writers are courageous at heart. And I wonder, have you discovered truths hidden to most?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about writers opening doors to the future. And I’d especially like to know if you’ve stumbled upon the unexpected through your writing journey.

Stay well, my friends. Till next time…

100 thoughts on “1984?

  1. Fascinating post., learned so much. …Thanks.
    Living miles even from the nearest village, I miss out on CCTV surveillance , but a recent personal experience – at one remove, – alerted me to the ease with which people can be ‘ disappeared’ – especially if vulnerable. Re-reading The Woman in White 19th, , and The Scapegoat, 20th. I’m thinking about 21st C possibilities…

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    • Thank you, Esther, for adding further considerations to this discussion. I’ve not read either book, but I’m thinking that I should. It’s a curious time and it’s wise to be aware of “possibilities” as you suggest. All the best to you!

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  2. I think the minds of writers are fascinating and often understated. I question, perhaps, if the imagination of the writers step into the future and bring back what they’ve found on the other side. At least with works such as, “1984”… there weren’t even screens as we know them today when this novel was written… and yet, the parallels are unmistakable! Real-life foreshadowings, in hindsight, can be so eerie. Thank you for sharing and thank you for provoking deep thoughts this morning! 🙂

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    • I’m so pleased to meet you through this post. I agree with you — the parallels are unmistakable. As a group, I think writers pay attention to the little things and those glimpses often tell a different story than the common narrative. They also research their materials, putting pieces of the Life puzzle together. Thank you for visiting and sharing so deeply. Blessings to you and yours. 💗

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  3. Great summary of the types of books talking about our world today! I heard that George Orwell may have even been on the board which was planning these things. Not sure of its whole truth as I haven’t investigated for myself, but if true, it gives a chilling explanation of how it was so accurate!

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  4. Lovely to have come across your blog and this post Gwen. For writers there is a lot to do with focus and persistence, of sitting and trying to transfer as much on to pages without holding back that passage, ultimately allowing the universe to tell or give an upcoming indication or in any other form. It is very true.

    Thanks for Writing.
    Narayan x

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    • Thank you, Narayan, for visiting and sharing aspects of your wisdom. I’ve gone to your website and traveled through most of the pages, all of which left me very moved by your journey. I’m honored that you appreciate the post and I’m very happy to meet you. Blessings…

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  6. Thoughtful post Gwen. I enjoyed it. I just wondered if many had read the (in my opinion) superior precursor. Jack London’s The Iron Heel. Politics in the west now echo both volumes. No disrespect to Eric but Mr London’s novel is superior methinks…

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  7. I do believe that timeless writers are isolated from the present in the spaces that they write in, mentally but sometimes physically too. This is something I’ve been trying to do on my blog for a few months, stuck in my room and rarely going out. I noticed that I had become comfortable with almost letting go in front of paper, letting this other entity almost possess me. Because what I wrote about and what I drew was always a part of me that I’d never known to exist. I think it is possible that writers who predicted the future where seeing it in themselves first and in the future world as an extension. We are all humans after all, writers or not.

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    • Very insightful, Stefan. And when we start to see ourselves through another lens, a world unfolds that we did not know existed. COVID has few gifts, but this is one — many of us found lost pieces of ourselves and in doing so, found the same in others. Thank you for sharing so deeply.

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  9. This is an insightful post, Gwen. Timely. I, too, hear the 1984 references almost daily. I’ve read the book a few times. I have a copy in my collection. It is though-provoking to see where we are in our place in time. But I’m also seeing Biblical prophecies unfolding. God used prophets to warn the people. Perhaps He’s using writers these days. Excellent post.

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  10. Hi Gwen, an interesting post. I’ve read all of these books except the last one about the Titanic. I think it is true that writers often take the current situation and project it forward, giving consideration to research and expectations. I would add The Stand by Stephen King with its pandemic and Dead Zone with its Trump style president.

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    • Thank you, Robbie. I haven’t read the books you’ve mentioned, but they certainly sound pertinent. Interesting times, right? There’s definitely much to question and examine. All the best to you and thank you again. 😊

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  11. You’ve certainly hit a nerve here, Gwen! I hadn’t come across Octavia Butler before, but I did go through a spell as a teenager where I read a lot of dystopian fiction by the likes of Orwell, Huxley, Verne and co. I’m with Liz on the lying of politicians (plenty of examples here in the UK and in the US) and the use of persuasive language by them and others – such as L. Ron Hubbard – is even more shocking now that we have the reach of social media. I do worry about the harvesting of our information and you only have to look at the incredibly long list of ‘vendors’ when trying to change your cookie settings, to know how valuable it is to them. In 2016, I started a book about the corruption of the social care and health system here but had to shelve it when my mother’s dementia took a grip. I picked it up again at the end of 2019 and some of the predictions were already coming true or were being considered. I did joke that the intelligence services were using my ideas as prospective policies. The book starts in 2017 but spans the next 38 years during which unpalatable decisions are made about the care of those with dementia and an aging population, the awarding of contracts to those more interested in making a profit than good practice, the manipulation of media, state sposored cyber attacks, and general all-round corruption. It was carthartic to write but distressing as well. Someone who writes superb dystopian fiction is Terry Tyler who understands what drives people to do the things they do. When I’m reduced to despair, I think of the unsung heroes throughout history who do the right thing regardless of the costs. I think the majority of people are like this. It gives me hope. xx

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    • Thank you for sharing this, Trish. Corruption seems everywhere present and it is as frightening as it is heartbreaking. Thank goodness for the unsung heroes — all those who speak the truth and work for the betterment of society. This quiet majority is beginning to stand up. You are right, they give us hope. 💗

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  12. Gwen, Octavia Butler did this in her 1993 Parable Series. It’s a two-part tale that she called her “what if…” story. The ideas were so scary to her that she refused to write a third or fourth book. The tale depicts a futuristic world of global warming, the rise of fascism, growing corporate influence, and unimaginable inequality. In the second book, a violent movement is being whipped up by a new Presidential candidate, a Texas senator and religious zealot, with a platform to “Make America Great Again”. Your post was very thought-provoking and caused me to remember this. Thanks for a very interesting read.

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  13. Fascinating post, Gwen. It was interesting to read about those books that “came true” in a way. I think part of it is just that human behavior is so predictable on the whole. But your comments about meticulous research is important too, I think. By studying the details of a past event, we can apply the principles to something in the future. New predictions are born. 🙂

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  14. I look at some things, especially technology, since that’s the field I worked in, and wonder, “what could go wrong with that?” So many of our technical advances could easily go off the rails. I can’t predict the future, but I don’t think there’s much that will surprise me. I have read all the books you mentioned, Gwen, and I agree, strangely prescient. This was a great post.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, Dan. These days I watch, listen, and wonder about what our tomorrows will be like. Well-chosen words, “strangely prescient”! I think writers like yourself pay attention in ways that others may not. Hopefully, that innate skill will help us all move forward. Thank you again. 😊

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  15. I’ve come across something along the lines that poets ask the questions which philosophy must answer, which sometimes leads to science stepping in with a practical application (after all, science began as “natural philosophy”). I do think that asking the “what if” types of questions are the important first step, and as writers that is what we do 🙂

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  16. I think when writers ponder the future, they can focus on the good things that could happen and the bad things, too. Human nature can go both ways. And has. And then they let their imaginations soar. Sci-fi writers have warned us about what could go bad for a long time. Climate change. Asteroids hitting the earth. Clones and mutations. Drugs. It’s all fertile ground for “what if.” And a good writer can make it fascinating. Interesting post.

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  17. I have been wanting to reread 1984 and will have to do it soon. I think you are right about how writers not only look at a subject with different eyes but research and see patterns. Unfortunately any warnings have gone unheeded, but it always makes for a thought provoking read, at least for me. I’ve always tried to offer a hopeful future but never know where the what ifs and research will go. Wonderful post, Gwen, thank you xo

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    • Thank you, Denise. Like you, I try to offer a hopeful future when I write, and that is not always easy to do. But…in spite of the craziness, I truly do believe we will emerge stronger and more loving. 💗

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    • I think you’re right, Liz. Thank you! I’ve only recently become aware of that path, which is sobering. I guess I had my head in the sand. Now I question everything. 😊

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      • Although I’ve read 1984, the work of Orwell’s that made the biggest impression on me was his essay “Politics and the English Language.” It addresses how politicians use langague to avoid taking responsibity for misdeeds past or contemplated. Of course now, they just outright lie.

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    • Thank you, Noelle. I don’t know who’s writing about our tomorrows, but I suspect there are many who are busy to that end. It will be fun (maybe) to read about it in the past tense. 😊

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  18. Gwen, I am unfamiliar with Morgan Robertson’s book, The Wreck of the Titan: or Futility, but your post makes me want to look it up and read it. I also didn’t realize The Island of Dr. Moreau was so old. That’s a particular favorite of mine.
    I do think writers have the imagination to visualize future events, sadly not all of them bringing benefit. I tended to read more “futuristic” novels in my younger years, but reading one today definitely gives me pause and opens the mind for speculation.
    It’s strange—when I was younger I devoured books about the future. Now, as an older adult, I love reading books about the past. Hmmm.

    Great post today!

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  19. A great post, Gwen, disturbing and unsettling as it is. You’ve asked questions that will haunt me now, though some of them, I’d already been thinking about, since I pay very close attention to what’s going on in the world today. 1984, indeed. Scary stuff.

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  20. This blog post fosters some deep thought, Gwen. Did these men ‘know’ these things, or were they just imaginative and as you say courageous? I don’t know the answer, but as I read this, I immediately thought of your and John’s book, “The Contract.” Are we given missions and allowed to return to earth to complete them? Perhaps. And then “The Eternal Road” is another that popped into my head. I do believe our journey continues when we leave these bodies, but the way John depicts it gives pause. Perhaps. Great post today. Thank you for sharing, Wen!

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    • Thank you, Jan. We wonder about similar things, and as writers, we tend to bring those questions into our stories, where we can provide our imagined answers. 💗

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    • The movie still haunts me, Jill. I read 1984 in high school but I don’t think I learned anything when I was a teenager. The movie definitely gave me shivers — and nightmares. 😊 Thank you for visiting, most appreciated.

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    • Thank you, Joan. When I started exploring this topic, I grew in respect for serious writers. Whether they are futuristic or not, writers are committed to revealing deep truths in relationships and society. What a powerful, beautiful gift. 😊

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  21. Thank you for all these very interesting examples, and for mentioning this topic as well. As we can see, there was not only George Orwell, and it was less prophecy as collecting and interpreting open availlable information. What secret services are now calling OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). Especially Orwell’s 1984 is giving some dejavu’s. xx Michael

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  22. I think Yvette beat me to it. I’ve often wondered if a creative mind wrote of an atrocity, then a demented mind stole it and brought it to fruition. If we never wrote it, maybe it would never come to pass because scientists wouldn’t conceive of it. Nothing we could do about icebergs, of course, but many of the other “advances” are a combination of creative vision and scientific overreach. Was that creative vision organic in the scientist, or was it sparked by something read in a fictional tale? Chilling to think about.

    Fascinating post, Gwen.

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    • It is “chilling” to think about. That mysterious interplay of intuition or creativity with actual events certainly gives one pause. Thank you for sharing this, Staci. 😊

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  23. Great post, Gwen! Your examples are fascinating. I’ve always wondered: does one predict the future, or does the writing of the imagination make others want to create what isn’t yet in existence? Is the prediction actually the inspiration? The saying, “What you think about, you bring about,” comes to mind. Things that make you go hmmm…. 😉

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    • I’ve wondered similarly, Yvette. And I’ve also wondered if by digging deep we tap into the collective unconscious. You are right, it’s fascinating to consider and could be weighty for the writer. Thank you for bringing this up. 😊

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