Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's a SciFi/Fantasy Kind of Day


Image from the movie The Fantastic Planet

Via The Guardian: The stars of modern SF pick the best science fiction

To celebrate the opening of the British Library's science fiction exhibition Out of this World, we asked leading SF writers to choose their favourite novel or author in the genre

Kim Stanley Robinson's pick? The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

One of my favorite novels is The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K Le Guin. For more than 40 years I've been recommending this book to people who want to try science fiction for the first time, and it still serves very well for that. One of the things I like about it is how clearly it demonstrates that science fiction can have not only the usual virtues and pleasures of the novel, but also the startling and transformative power of the thought experiment.

In this case, the thought experiment is quickly revealed: "The king was pregnant," the book tells us early on, and after that we learn more and more about this planet named Winter, stuck in an ice age, where the humans are most of the time neither male nor female, but with the potential to become either. The man from Earth investigating this situation has a lot to learn, and so do we; and we learn it in the course of a thrilling adventure story, including a great "crossing of the ice". Le Guin's language is clear and clean, and has within it both the anthropological mindset of her father Alfred Kroeber, and the poetry of stories as magical things that her mother Theodora Kroeber found in native American tales. This worldly wisdom applied to the romance of other planets, and to human nature at its deepest, is Le Guin's particular gift to us, and something science fiction will always be proud of. Try it and see – you will never think about people in quite the same way again.

4 comments:

David Allen Waters said...

sounds brilliant.

Writer said...

Le Guin IS amazing! You should definitely check her out. :)

Sean said...

I love The Fantastic Planet, I'm still not sure I completely understand it but I love watching it. I was just thinking about it the other day.

Writer said...

Sean, I can't say I either lover or understand The Fantastic Planet, but I have an affection for it. It was the favorite movie of a former lover of mine.

Though I do plan on going to see it at the local art house theater when it plays this summer. :)