Gregory, Owen

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of the unidentified UK author (?   -?   ) of Meccania, the Super State (1918), a Dystopia in the mode of the Scientific Romance which describes a mechanical, rigidly class-ridden society – "Enlightenment" totalitarianism taken to its logical extreme – as recorded by Ming Yuen-hway, a Chinese visitor in 1970, about a century after its founding. Though never so stated in the text, Meccania is clearly analogous to Germany; the original dustjacket copy, several examples of which have fortunately survived despite the British Library, makes this explicitly integral to readers' understanding of the tale: "Meccania is the Super-State, Germany, seen from a new angle of vision ..."

Meccania has remained intact since World War One; the war begun by Meccania, which it may have lost, is sufficiently different from our world that Meccania can be thought to take place in an Alternate History. Visitors' access is through a circumambient no man's land; once disinfected and given license to tour, they remain under constant supervision of "guides". The world discovered to them is more than simply totalitarian, for the State itself is conceived as being in effect a conscious principle of order (see Hive Minds), a state of centralized control symbolized by innumerable statues of Prince Mechow, Meccania's founder after the death of Prince Bludiron [ie Bismarck] and the defeat of the socialist Spotts [ie Marx]; these statues dominate the capital, Mecco, itself built in circles around a central monolith, the design of this ideal City closely resembling Tommaso Campanella's City of the Sun at the heart of his Civitas Solis (1623). The population is divided into seven Colour-Coded classes [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. A central government body, the Time Department, governs all subjects according to strict criteria of efficiency; this is a clear parody on Gregory's part – perhaps the first, but certainly the most telling – of contemporary Taylorism, the time-and-motion scientific-management doctrines espoused by Frederick Taylor (1856-1915). Communally-written dramas are presented weekly on a mandatory basis, with titles like "Efficiency, Inefficiency and National Self-Consciousness." Sex and general matters of hygiene are governed by a barbarous system of Eugenics, with euthanasia frequently resorted to; women (see Women in SF) are ostensibly free to choose the fathers of their children, usually selecting members of the military caste. Concentration camps are numerous.

Meccania interestingly preludes the portrait of a dystopian Germany in Milo Hastings' City of Endless Night (June-November 1919 True Story as "Children of 'Kultur'"; rev 1920) and the fascist architectonics of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926). Like later, great Dystopias by Aldous Huxley and Yevgeny Zamiatin and others, it refracts with utter clarity the trauma afflicted upon Western civilization by World War One. The author's identity has not yet been uncovered. [JC]

see also: History of SF; Politics.

"Owen Gregory"

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