Four Utopias, Four Dystopias

A Future of Oppression and Forced Prostitution
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood (1985)

The Premise: It’s the near future, sometime before 2195, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Radicals have assassinated the U.S. presiden

A Future of Terror and Total State Control
“We,” by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
The Premise: It’s the 26th century, and a brutal war has erased most of the world’s population. The nation of One State, headed by an absolute ruler calle

A Future of Innocence and Happy Americana

Celebration, Florida; 1996 to present
The Premise: A community, planned down to the smallest detail, designed by the Disney Corporation, the entertainment conglomerate that gave the world Disneyland, the &ldq

A Future of Amnesia and Constant War

“1984,” by George Orwell (1949)
The Premise: “1984,” the ultimate dystopian novel, is set in the grim nation of Oceania, which is constantly at war with a revolving roster of enemy states.

A Future of Equality and Prosperity in B.C.’s Gulf Islands

Sointula, B.C., 1901-1905
The Backstory: In the late 1890s Finland was struggling against the oppressive forces of Russian expansion. Fleeing their home, many Finns came to coastal Brit

A Future of Crimelessness and Technologic Advance

Minority Report (2002), directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick
Premise: In Washington D.C., in 2054, technology has reached an almost mythic pinnacle. Murder is virtual

A Future of Peace and Balanced Progress

“Island,” by Aldous Huxley (1962)
Premise: On the fictional island of Pala, a culture has found a better life: a balance between Western technology, Buddhist philosophy, and reverence for nature.

A Future of Equality and Fruitful Labour

New Lanark, Scotland, early 19th century
Premise: Social reformist Robert Owen, angry at the misery of the workers in the Industrial Revolution, converts a cotton-mill village a model utopian community. Machin

Utopia: (n.) An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.
Dystopia: (n.) A society characterized by human misery.

One man’s meat is another’s poison. That goes for the imagination, too. This month, as Nick Rockel looks ahead 30 years at the environmental fate that awaits British Columbia, we look back at eight of the great and terrible future visions that art and real life have produced.