John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar

The 1968 sci-fi that spookily predicted today – BBC

In the first of BBC Culture’s new series on fiction that predicted the future, a look at the work of John Brunner, whose vision of 2010 was eerily accurate.

As a child, Brunner devoured HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, and was captivated by the sci-fi genre (Credit: Topfoto)

In his 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar…he peers ahead to imagine life in 2010, correctly forecasting wearable technology, Viagra, video calls, same-sex marriage, the legalisation of cannabis, and the proliferation of mass shootings. Equally compelling, however – and even more instructive – is the process by which Brunner constructed this society of his future and our present.

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Stand on Zanzibar

The Hugo Award-Winning Novel Kindle Edition by John Brunner

Norman Niblock House is a rising executive at General Technics, one of a few all-powerful corporations. His work is leading General Technics to the forefront of global domination, both in the marketplace and politically—it’s about to take over a country in Africa. Donald Hogan is his roommate, a seemingly sheepish bookworm. But Hogan is a spy, and he’s about to discover a breakthrough in genetic engineering that will change the world…and kill him.

These two men’s lives weave through one of science fiction’s most praised novels. Written in a way that echoes John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy, Stand on Zanzibar is a cross-section of a world overpopulated by the billions. Where society is squeezed into hive-living madness by god-like mega computers, mass-marketed psychedelic drugs, and mundane uses of genetic engineering. Though written in 1968, it speaks of 2010, and is frighteningly prescient and intensely powerful.


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