Verso publishes a new anniversary edition of Thomas More’s radical vision
Thomas More's Utopia, with contributions from China Miéville and Ursula K. Le Guin
Thomas More’s Utopia, with contributions from China Miéville and Ursula K. Le Guin (Verso, 2016)

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia. Despite its advanced age, More’s compelling vision of a perfect society remains a quintessentially modern aspiration. Utopia is hailed as ‘astonishingly radical’ by contemporary political thinkers, and the text continues to offer inspiration and renewal for writers, artists, and filmmakers.

The perfect island of Utopia is a dream of societal harmony and order, not unlike the Biblical garden paradise or Plato’s Republic. More’s early modern work is considered a canonical text of Western literature and culture, providing a template to which we might one day aspire. But Utopia is also a perplexing and troubling text. More’s explorer protagonist, Raphael Hythloday, is presented as a companion of Vespucci on his voyage to the New World, which binds the utopian dream to the European invasion and colonization of America. It is no coincidence that there are slaves on the island of Utopia. Despite its associations with liberal thought and communal happiness, the island of Utopia has a rigid societal hierarchy and strictly-regulated communal laws. (more…)

4th Estate releases beautiful contemporary editions of Ballard’s novels and short stories

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4th Estate have collaborated with the artist Stanley Donwood, known for his work with the rock group Radiohead, to produce a series of luminous, beautiful, surreal, and contemporary designs for 21 of J.G. Ballard’s works. Donwood is known for the way he playfully manipulates the signs and symbols of modern life, in colour and collage, and his signature style is ideally suited to Ballard’s aesthetic. The new editions, which come complete with a series of illuminating introductions, will welcome a whole new generation of readers to Ballard’s fantastical and prophetic worlds. Extremely impressive.

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Zak Bronson on Salvage: #1 Amid This Stony Rubbish
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Howl’s Moving Castle (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
In his novel Railsea (2013), China Miéville portrays a postapocalyptic world littered with endless layers of leftover consumer waste. Salvors pick through mountains of junk, hoping to uncover secrets from the pre-apocalyptic world. Cut off from the past and lacking any framework for understanding these objects, characters are left sifting the rubble, picking through the remnants of history, and taking what is useful while discarding the rest. As one character explains, “you don’t uncover the past if you’re a salvor: you pick up rubbish.” Railsea provides an example of what Miéville and Evan Calder Williams have termed salvagepunk, a genre of postapocalyptic fiction that ranges from the post-oil catastrophe narratives of the Mad Max series to the collage aesthetic of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). In these works, characters attempt to survive by picking through the waste of the Earth, combining and repurposing objects and ideas from the past based on their value within hostile environments.

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