At last the long drought is over for parched readers of revolutionary sci fi. Mason’s venture into fiction is fast and funny, clever and surprising. Rare Earth, set in China, offers a chaotic montage of present-day gangster capitalism, post-Stalinist brutality and cultish contemporary tribes. The pace, poetry and rude laughter of the book befit a savage hyperreality of the present global capitalist system, in which visions of justice and progress, consigned to the past, become extraterrestrial visitants.
The book’s central character, the sexist drunkard journalist Brough, is in China to find and record the truth. Uncool but heroic, he treks across wastes of radioactive sand and meets veterans of Tiananmen, rising up in their gulag only to be murdered and return again as spectres and portents. Mason’s story follows bumbling, ridiculous young lovers and a prostitute turning in corrupt officials, while the honest detective wavers on which side to take between repression and liberation. I sensed a new angle on radical storylines first glimpsed in Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and Frederik Pohl – masterly company for a first time novelist, though it’s no accident this is a men-only list.
The book’s attitudes to women are filtered through old fashioned male characters; females are viewed with combined antagonism and reluctant admiration. Brough’s younger woman boss – posh but brave – continually undermines his attempts to uncover the story and is instead beholden to higher powers: the Chinese rulers, the useful hedge-fund boyfriend and the New York media gatekeepers with their imperative to keep things shiny and uncontentious onscreen.
But any accusations of misogyny miss the point. Reviews that have focused on the boozing and bonking in the book only underline my belief that most of our current cultural gatekeepers could not recognise a revolutionary possibility if it biffed them on the nose. Paul Mason’s edgy writing does justice to this world we try to live in – with its devastating resource wars, its pervasive sex industries, its ever-mutating subcultures – whirling around like the hyperconductive minerals that power our labile communications universe. Revolutionary times make revolutionary fiction.
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi