15 Things You Might Not Know About Brave New World

alaina buzas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
alaina buzas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / alaina buzas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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. Brave New World 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, like A Modern Utopia, The Sleeper Awakes, and especially Men Like Gods.

2. Hints of Brave New World can be seen in Aldous 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 Aldous 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 book 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 for Brave New World.

Though he was born and raised in a small market town in Surrey, England, 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 California in '30s.

5. An English chemical plant made its mark on Brave New World.

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 might have lent 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 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 (a word coined by Aldous's brother, Julian, which means the synthetic control of human genetics and evolution) and in vitro fertilization.

7. Aldous 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…

George Orwell, known best for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, opened this discussion in his Tribune magazine review of the 1924 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.

Commenting on the originality of his own 1952 debut novel Player Piano, author Kurt 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. Brave New World 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. Brave New World 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, Aldous 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 adaptation of Brave New World 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.

A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2021.

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