Looking Backward

Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel, Looking Backward 2000–1887, describes a futuristic society in the year 2000 to which the main character, Julian West, travels from the year 1887. He does this via suspended animation, the major mode of time travel in in early science fiction writings. In the book, West awakes in an America transformed by a non-violent revolution that abolished private property in favor of state ownership, thus eliminating social classes and social ills such as war, poverty, crime, and labor strife.

 scifi lookingbackward01

Looking Backward was a commentary on late 19th century issues and in it Bellamy sought to imagine solutions to real problems.  Following its publication, the book inspired numerous sequels and commentaries, as well as a real political movement through the establishment of Nationalist Clubs intended to realize Bellamy’s vision of the future. Among the book projects inspired by Looking Backward was a collaboration between journalist George Parson Lathrop and inventor Thomas Edison.

 scifi lookingbackward02


Read about the literary response to Bellamy’s book see Justin Nordstrom, “Looking Backward’s Utopian Sequels: ‘Fictional Dialogues’ in Gilded-Age America,” Utopian Studies 18:2 (2007), pp. 193-22