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15 Things You Might Not Know About Brave New World

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Aldous Huxley’s 1932 classic Brave New World is arguably one of the most inventive novels published in the 20th century. In case you haven’t taken a trip to Huxley’s World State in quite some time, here are a few interesting facts about the novel’s inspiration and the legacy it spawned.

1. IT STARTED OUT AS A PARODY.

Before creating his most famous work, Huxley was mostly known as a satirist. His early novels Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, and Those Barren Leaves had served as send-ups of the avant-garde communities of the 1920s. When he began work on the project that would ultimately become Brave New World, Huxley was envisioning a loose and affectionate parody of the Wellsian utopia in the science fiction works of H. G. Wells, notably A Modern Utopia, Men Like Gods, and The Sleeper Awakes.

2. HINTS OF BRAVE NEW WORLD CAN BE SEEN IN HUXLEY’S FIRST NOVEL.

While the author’s debut novel Crome Yellow was by no means a dystopian parable, the satire gave Huxley a chance to form the ideology he would later explore. At one point in Crome Yellow, the story’s resident cynic, Mr. Scogan, enchants his company with a diatribe about a future strikingly similar to that which Huxley would come to create for Brave New World:

An impersonal generation will take the place of Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world.

3. A BOAT TRIP SHOWED HUXLEY A KEY CREATIVE INFLUENCE.

Sheer luck led Huxley to a major inspiration for Brave New World. On a boat traveling between Singapore and the Philippines, Huxley happened upon a copy of Henry Ford’s 1922 manifesto My Life and Work. Ford would go on to be a major character—something of a deity—in the society Huxley created in Brave New World.

4. SAN FRANCISCO PROVIDED FURTHER INSPIRATION.

Though he was born and raised in a small market town in Surrey, Huxley was affected by a visit to the United States in the 1920s. San Francisco’s youth culture made an especially large impact on the author. His indignation over what he saw as epidemics of consumerism and promiscuity in the city would inform Brave New World’s key themes. Disapproval of the California lifestyle notwithstanding, Huxley ended up moving to Hollywood in 1937.

5. AN ENGLISH CHEMICAL PLANT MADE ITS MARK ON THE NOVEL.

Along with the philosophies of Ford and the freewheeling lifestyle of San Francisco, Huxley found an unlikely muse in the Billingham Manufacturing Plant in Stockton-on-Tees, North East England. The author visited this industrial giant and was struck by how it was an "anomalous [oasis] of pure logic in the midst of the larger world of planless incoherence." The factory was set up by a businessman and politician named Sir Alfred Mond, 1st Baron Melchett, who would lend his name to the story’s Resident World Controller of Western Europe, Mustapha Mond.

6. AN INDIAN SCIENTIST HAS BEEN CREDITED WITH INFLUENCING BRAVE NEW WORLD'S SETTING.

While Huxley considered his principal literary influences to be H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence, many scholars agree that the writer’s scientific leanings can be traced to Indian-British physicist, geneticist, and biologist J. B. S. Haldane. One can find specific forerunners to the science fiction concepts of Brave New World in Haldane’s 1924 text Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, which engages topics like transhumanism (that is, the synthetic control of human genetics and evolution) and in vitro fertilization.

7. HUXLEY WROTE THE BOOK QUICKLY.

After interacting with all of these influences that went into Brave New World, Huxley set to work writing his story in 1931. He completed the novel in just four months.

8. GEORGE ORWELL ACCUSED HUXLEY OF PLAGIARISM ...

Orwell, known best for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, opened this discussion in his Tribune magazine review of the 1923 novel We by Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin. Orwell penned the review in 1946, stating that, "Aldous Huxley's Brave New World must be partly derived from [We]. Both books deal with the rebellion of the primitive human spirit against a rationalised, mechanised, painless world, and both stories are supposed to take place about six hundred years hence." Huxley claimed to have had never even heard of We until long after he had finished writing Brave New World.

9. ... AS DID KURT VONNEGUT, THOUGH IN A MUCH FRIENDLIER WAY.

Condemning the originality of his own 1952 debut novel Player Piano, Vonnegut admitted to casually swiping the general premise from Brave New World. He softened the blow of his self-directed castigations, however, by asserting that Huxley had done the very same with Zamyatin’s We. As Vonnegut told Playboy in 1973, "I cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We."

10. THE BOOK HAS BEEN BANNED IN MULTIPLE COUNTRIES.

The prevalence of casual sex in Brave New World has earned the wrath of many conservative governments. The novel was banned in Ireland and Australia in 1932, with the latter maintaining its censorship for five years. In 1967, India banned Brave New World, likening the work to pornography.

11. IT SPARKED A LAWSUIT IN MARYLAND.

In 1963, Maryland public school teacher Ray Elbert Parker was fired from his job following—and, he believed, as a result of—his inclusion of Brave New World in his class curriculum. Believing his sudden dismissal to be a violation of his rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment, Parker took the issue to district and later circuit courts. The untenured teacher’s efforts were to little avail, however, as both courts wound up ruling in favor of the Board of Education.

12. BRAVE NEW WORLD CAME UNDER RENEWED FIRE IN 2010.

Although a controversial text in the years following its publication, Brave New World gradually escaped public heat, dropping out of the top tier of the American Library Association’s Most Frequently Challenged Books list throughout the 1990s. In 2010, however, the novel reclaimed its contentious place when a Seattle family objected to its depiction of Native Americans. Brave New World ranked as No. 3 on the ALA’s Top 10 Challenged Books that year, and No. 7 on the following year’s list. By 2012, it had dropped from the Top 10 altogether once more.

13. AS TIME WENT ON, HUXLEY BECAME MORE AND MORE AFRAID OF HIS PROPHECIES COMING TRUE.

Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited, published in 1958 following an upswing in American counterculture and the author’s own attraction to Hindu Vedanta, was a work of nonfiction detailing Huxley’s apprehensions over a rapidly approaching overhaul of society by the values and practices illustrated in his 1932 original. Huxley even attempted to propose a de facto "call to arms" to reduce the likelihood of a dystopian reality.

14. THE 1980 FILM EMPLOYED AN INTERESTING NAME CHANGE.

The central female character in Huxley’s novel is named Lenina Crowne, an allusion to Vladimir Lenin and romantic dramatist John Crowne. In the first TV movie adaptation of the book, broadcast on NBC in 1980, Lenina’s last name is changed to "Disney."

15. BRAVE NEW WORLD HAS INSPIRED SEVERAL UNIMAGINATIVELY TITLED TELEVISION EPISODES.

Looking for an easy title for an episode of TV? Huxley wrote your book. The title "Brave New World" has been applied to a number of popular series’ individual television episodes, with varying degrees of thematic appropriateness. Shows to use the phrase at one point or another include seaQuest 2032, Boy Meets World (for its series finale), One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, The Vampire Diaries, and Fringe.

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Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sylvia Plath's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Is Up for Auction
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

A Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that was awarded posthumously to Sylvia Plath in 1982 for her book The Collected Poems will be auctioned on June 28. The Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions says bidding for the literary document will start at $40,000.

The complete book of Plath’s poetry was published in 1981—18 years after her death—and was edited by her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. The Pulitzer Prize was presented to Hughes on Plath’s behalf, and one of two telegrams sent by Pulitzer President Michael Sovern to Hughes read, “We’ve just heard that the Collected Plath has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations to you for making it possible.” The telegrams will also be included in the lot, in addition to an official congratulatory letter from Sovern.

The Pultizer’s jury report from 1982 called The Collected Poems an “extraordinary literary event.” It went on to write, “Plath won no major prizes in her lifetime, and most of her work has been posthumously published … The combination of metaphorical brilliance with an effortless formal structure makes this a striking volume.”

Ted Hughes penned an introduction to the poetry collection describing how Plath had “never scrapped any of her poetic efforts,” even if they weren’t all masterpieces. He wrote:

“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.”

Also up for auction is Plath’s Massachusetts driver’s license from 1958, at which time she went by the name Sylvia P. Hughes. Bidding for the license will begin at $8000.

Plath's driver's license
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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