dystopia n a society that is dominated by a totalitarian or technological state. Now common in science fiction, two of the best-known examples are Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).


As the Penguin Science Fiction series moved from the Marber grid to windowed black covers so the mantle of modern art passed to « Penguin Modern Classics ». The series had been launched in 1961 for works of twentieth-century literature that were deemed to have acquired classic status, and the first sf novels to be admitted were Brave New World and The Island of Doctor Moreau. The latter was a curious choice since it was not, strictly speaking, a twentieth-century novel and nor was it a classic compared to The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but presumably Moreau was due for a reprint and calling it a classic would not harm sales.

ALDOUS HUXLEY Brave New World, 1961 Brave New World (1052) by Aldous Huxley

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 1961 with a cover illustration by Denis Piper.
MORE COVERS >>
H G WELLS The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1962 The Island of Doctor Moreau (571) by H G Wells

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 1962 with an introduction by Charles Prendick.
The cover illustration is by Charles Raymond.
MORE COVERS >>

The selection strategy was not the only curious thing about these early Modern Classics for with little, if any, consistent use of colour, the series was distinguished by its somewhat quirky covers. This reinstated a division into horizontal bands for the author's name, the title and artwork, and then the imprint with the logo in a box. It was not unpleasant, but the use of line drawings and an antiquated typeface made the covers seem old-fashioned and Facetti wanted a modern look.

A few years later he got his way and switched the covers to a Marber-style grid on which he could continue as curator to Penguin's ever-growing, frequently fascinating, and often eclectic gallery of twentieth-century cover art. The Island of Doctor Moreau was dropped but Brave New World remained and was joined by two other dystopian classics on Penguin's backlist, along with a first appearance in Penguin of Yevgeny Zamyatin's totalitarian nightmare We.

ALDOUS HUXLEY Brave New World, 1966 Brave New World (1052) by Aldous Huxley

1966 reprint. The cover shows Mechanical Element (Elément mécanique, 1924) by
the French artist Fernand Léger, at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris.
MORE COVERS >>
GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1969 Nineteen Eighty-Four (972) by George Orwell

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics 1969. The cover shows The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters (1942) by the English painter and war artist William Roberts,
at the Salford Art Gallery in Manchester, England.
MORE COVERS >>

The pairing of Huxley's Brave New World with the rivets, tubes and interchangeable machine parts of Fernand Léger's Mechanical Element was straightforward enough given Léger's misguided belief in the ability of the Machine Age to create a utopian society. Likewise Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, which retained the William Roberts painting that had first graced its cover three years earlier. But it was the reissue of David Karp's One that again revealed Facetti's genius. The cover brief had presented him with a challenge to 'find a painting in which man is reduced to a mere unit' and his response was nothing short of inspired. For insofar as a book may be judged by its cover, the pairing of Karp's master- piece with People in the Sun by the American artist Edward Hopper has perhaps been equalled but never bettered.

DAVID KARP One, 1972 One (1459) by David Karp

Reissued in Penguin Modern Classics August 1972. The cover shows a detail from
People in the Sun (1960) by Edward Hopper, at the Smithsonian American Art
Museum in Washington D.C.
MORE COVERS >>
YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 1972 We (3510) by Yevgeny Zamyatin

First published 1924 (in English).

Published in Penguin Modern Classics October 1972. The cover shows
Suprematist Composition (1916) by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.
MORE COVERS >>

The publication of One and We as Modern Classics coincided with Facetti's departure from Penguin in 1972. However, a footnote to Facetti's dystopian gallery was added in 2008 with the appearance in Penguin's revamped Modern Classics list of Anthem, a 1938 novella by the Russian-born American philosopher and writer Ayn Rand >>

In fact sf had made one other contribution to Facetti's Modern Classics but it was tucked at the back of a book of short stories and neither the title nor the author's name hinted at sf. Rudyard Kipling is of course famous for The Jungle Book but he also wrote two influential sf stories, With the Night Mail in 1905 and As Easy as ABC in 1912. The first is set in the year 2000 and describes an overnight transatlantic flight on one of many dirigibles that ferry passengers and freight around the world. The story also introduces the Aerial Board of Control, or ABC, a supranational organization that governs the world's air traffic 'and all that that implies' for nations are 'only too ready to shift the whole burden of public admin- istration on its shoulders'. The somewhat dystopian consequences of this are then revealed in the second story, which was reprinted in 1971 when two volumes of Kipling's short stories were published as Penguin Modern Classics.

RUDYARD KIPLING 'As Easy as ABC'. In: Short Stories Volume 1, 1971 Short Stories: Volume 1 (3281) by Rudyard Kipling

As Easy as ABC and nine other stories, first published as a collection in Penguin Modern Classics 1971. The cover shows a detail from Outskirts of a Town (circa 1907) by Philip Wilson Steer, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

The year is now 2065 and nations have become nanny states which the ABC oversees in a manner akin to what the nineteenth-century French philosopher Alexis de Toqueville termed 'soft despotism'. The world's population has been reduced to a few hundred million and is falling fast for 'crowd-making' is 'against human nature', while individuals and communities are strongly isolationist and regard much that was once considered sociable as an 'invasion of privacy'.