Pro-government propaganda in science fiction novels

Jules Verne was one of my favorite writers when I was a kid. I always read the abridged version of his books, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but they still managed to capture the essence of spirit of his futuristic tales.

A while back I came across an obscure novel of his, Master of the World. Apparently it was his last novel and one he wrote while in poor health.

It shows.

Believe me. As an author myself, I was picking apart the entire story from the first page. Terrible narrative. Few actual scenes. Little description. A lack of character depth. The antagonist is shown at the very end of the novel and only for a brief period. His motives are one dimensional and the climax is so anti-climatic it’s as if Verne wrote it in the midst of his dying breaths.

The worst, however, is the protagonist. Not only is he a meddling, intrusive, officious Washington D.C. cop, but he espouses the most blatant pro-State propaganda of any Verne novel I’ve read.

The story involves a series of mysterious incidents in America, one of which is a vehicle that goes at high speeds across the roads – so fast it cannot be stopped.

This is the extent of the owner’s crime. They have robbed no banks, killed no innocent people, waged no war against peaceful neighbors. All he does is drive a fast vehicle.

Yet this is too much for the narrator, whom Verne writes as saying this:

It was said to be a supernatural car. It was driven by a specter, one of the chauffeurs of hell, a goblin from another world, a monster escaped from some mythological menagerie, in short, the devil in person, who could defy all human intervention, having at his command invisible and infinite satanic powers.

But even Satan himself had no right to run at such speed over the roads of the United States without a special permit, without a number on his car, and without a regular license. And it was certain that not a single municipality had given him permission to go two hundred miles an hour. Public security demanded that some means be found to unmask the secret of this terrible chauffeur.

Such is the attitude of the State and its proponents. The crime is not one involving a victim, but the lack of permission. No one gave you permission to fly, to sail, to drive so fast. You need our blessing before you can introduce innovation and ingenuity.

This is why the State dislikes inventors who are outside their control. They create inventions that have the potential to transform society and alter the State’s ability to control its citizens.

For example, we may have yet to see the full influence of 3-D printers, particularly its impact on gun-control legislation.

Whenever we hear government and its proponents of fear-mongering when something new is invented or a new idea is introduced, we can be sure their true concern isn’t for law and order and public safety, but for control and power.

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