Hastings, Milo

Tagged: Author

(1884-1957) US nutritionist, editor – for many years involved in magazine projects with Bernarr Macfadden – and author, sometimes on agricultural subjects; The Dollar Hen (1909) is a nonfiction text about hens. With striking accuracy, his Future War sf stories centre on conflict between either Japan or Germany and the rest of the world. The first of them, "In the Clutch of the War-God: The Tale of the Orient's Invasion of the Occident, as Chronicled in the Humaniculture Society's 'History of the Twentieth Century.'" (July-September 1911 Physical Culture), though technically a Yellow Peril tale, effectively espouses the cause of eugenical Japan against a bigoted USA, which in 1950 loses a war but becomes healthy.

Beginning in 2041, the far more impressive City of Endless Night (June-November 1919 True Story as "Children of 'Kultur'"; rev 1920) describes a Germany partly defeated after centuries of warfare, but remaining impregnable Underground within a great extended dome (see Cities) which shelters the three hundred million residents of Berlin. Here an anti-Semitic proto-Nazi Dystopia has taken shape, with under-races genetically distinguished from one another (and from the sybaritic ruling class) by a ruthless breeding programme (see Eugenics); thought-control is universal. The imagery of this striking novel links it with to various dystopian fictions of the period, from Yevgeny Zamiatin's We (written 1920; published 1924) to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). Perhaps even more interesting is Hastings's clear ambivalence about the modernizing radicalism of twentieth-century transformations of urban life, clearly satirized in his novel.

Earlier, however, he had been an enthusiastic supporter of the concept of "Roadtown" – a miles-long house-wide autonomous railroad-cum-horizontal-skyscraper for living – promulgated by its creator, Edgar Chambless, in Roadtown (1910), a Utopia which attracted the support of Thomas A Edison and others (see Transportation). Roadtown was, of course, never constructed – the nearest though boneless equivalent may be the American strip mall – but Hastings's grotesque Berlin shares its haunting, transformative, modernizing impulse. The suggestion that City of Endless Night was an influence on the German Expressionist cinema, especially upon Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926), gains credibility when both the novel and the film are seen as half in love with the deathliness they depict. [JC]

see also: History of SF; Politics.

Milo Milton Hastings

born Farmington, Kansas: 28 June 1884

died Tarrytown, New York: 25 February 1957

works

  • City of Endless Night (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920) [early version appeared June-November 1919 True Story as "Children of 'Kultur'": hb/nonpictorial]

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