George Orwell published 1984 sixty-four years ago yesterday, which makes that great novel around 10 years older than I am. Orwell then passed away at age 46 —- largely as a result of the personal struggle to produce that book —- and so he was 8 years my junior when he died. Those two facts just about cover any valid comparison I would ever presume between myself and this author or his work.
A lot of novels have been held up against Orwell’s 1984, including my first one. While it’s a fine compliment, I’ve yet to find a book for which that’s actually an apt comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I really love Circumference of Darkness, but to call any contemporary work of fiction “a modern 1984!” is to overlook the truly timeless nature of the original. There’s simply no need for a modern 1984; that novel is and always will be as current as tomorrow.
Among other things, my book (finished in ’04) predicted the rise of a technocratic surveillance state in the aftermath of 9/11. (Don’t look now, but that’s well underway.) Orwell’s book, on the other hand, documented a fundamental drive toward tyranny in the hearts of those who seek power, and painted a vivid picture of the world these people would create if given the chance. The technology that’s bringing Big Brother into our lives is a recent development; the tyrants have always been with us, and always will be.
Update: The EFF produced a timeline of these recent surveillance developments. I hesitated to include the link earlier since their site was getting hammered, but heavy traffic makes a statement of its own, so here you go: Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying