The Prescience of Ursula K. Le Guin

It may be time to revisit Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards for her Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

“Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”

Indigenous Futurisms

Miriam C. Brown Spiers’s scholarly essay “Reimagining Resistance: Achieving Sovereignty in Indigenous Science Fiction” popped up in my email this morning. As I dug around on the web for more information about indigenous science fiction I came across a really cool new media SF piece titled TimeTraveller™ (You can watch the episodes here.)

In her post about indigenous futurisms Denise Wong gives some background to help put TimeTravellerTM into context.

“The movement towards self-determination in cyberspace by Indigenous communities is best illustrated by the CyberPowWow project (1996) produced by Mohawk artist Skawennati Fragnito and a group of Aboriginal artists and writers. The project eventually led to the creation of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) community, which seeded Skawennati’s TimeTravellerTM, a nine-episode machinima film series created in a virtual environment. The protagonist, Hunter, is a young Mohawk man who uses a fictive TimeTravellerTM edutainment system to travel between the 22nd century and moments of historical conflict dating back as early as A.D. 1490. He encounters the female Mohawk character Karahkwenhawi who also journeys through time using TimeTravellerTM. The two characters not only interact with a breadth of characters in the past, present, and future, but their presence becomes a part of the reality on screen.”

A substantial portion of Spiers’s essay is given over to an analysis of Trail of Tears by Blake M. Hausman.

“A surrealistic revisiting of the Cherokee Removal, Riding the Trail of Tears takes us to north Georgia in the near future, into a virtual-reality tourist compound where customers ride the Trail of Tears, and into the world of Tallulah Wilson, a Cherokee woman who works there. When several tourists lose consciousness inside the ride, employees and customers at the compound come to believe, naturally, that a terrorist attack is imminent.

“Little does Tallulah know that Cherokee Little People have taken up residence in the virtual world and fully intend to change the ride’s programming to suit their own point of view. Told by a narrator who knows all but can hardly be trusted, in a story reflecting generations of experience while recalling the events in a single day of Tallulah’s life, this funny and poignant tale revises American history even as it offers a new way of thinking, both virtual and very real, about the past for both Native Americans and their Anglo counterparts.”

I added that, and Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction by Grace L. Dillon, to my “buy soon” list