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Jeet Heer on Twitter: "1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction."
"1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction.

2. Le Guin was the daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber & Theodora Kracaw, two extremely distinguished anthropologists, in the tradition of Franz Boas.

3. Boas, of course, was a major figure in moving anthropology away from hierarchical judgements & trying to understand cultures on their own terms.

4. If we ask, what was the science of Le Guin's science fiction, the clear answer is anthropology: the ability to imagine & populate societies with rules very different than our own.

5. Le Guin's anthropological imagination of course went hand in hand with her feminism, since part of what she imagined was societies without contemporary gender binary.

6. On the whole, with a few noble exceptions, early 20th century American science fiction & fantasy was profoundly xenophobic, in ways both subtle & profound.

7. It wasn't just the bug-eyed monsters, but also that many SF writers had a hard time imagining future or alien societies that didn't just replicate norms of 20th century America.

8. Of E.E. "Doc" Smith, one of the great pioneers of space opera, @john_clute wrote that his work had "a lunatic insensitivity to lifeforms (i.e. Jews)...not found in small America circa 1930."

9. John W. Campbell, a foundational editor of sf who shaped field for decades, had a rule that no alien species could be smarter than humans (by which he meant white people, since he rejected stories with black heroes).

10. Even someone like Heinlein, more cosmopolitan than most pulp writers, struggled with diversity. He often had people of color in books but they thought, acted & sounded like middle class white Americans.

11. Le Guin was part of a great shift in science fiction, often called New Wave, which had many dimensions (literary, countercultural, feminist) but was also a move from xenophobia to xenophilia.

12. It's interesting that the move from xenophobia to xenophilia all involved writers who, at an early age, had encounters with non-western cultures.

13. Aside from Le Guin there was Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith) who grew up in China & Alice Sheldon (a.k.a. Alice Tiptree) whose mom was a travel writer & who spent youth traveling in Africa & elsewhere.

14. Cordwainer Smith claimed he dream in Chinese (Mandarin, I think). Mind you, he used his cultural sensitivity to dubious ends (he was a CIA expert on psychological warfare). Still, it informed his fiction

15. And Sheldon/Tiptree (also CIA!) had ties to Africa that were redolent of colonialism, as in this photo when she was a child. But her adult work was a critique of colonial hauteur.

16. Slightly tangential but Le Guin's anthropological science fiction was bastardized by Hollywood: both Return of the Jedi & Avatar are riffs on Le Guin's The Word For World Is Forest.

18. To conclude, if we want to situate Le Guin historically, she's part of the great shift in s.f. where there is a move to genuinely imagine alien cultures and to imaginatively live inside them."
ursulaleguin  2018  jeetheer  anthropology  sciencefiction  scifi  alfredlouiskroeber  theodorakracaw  franzboas  eesmith  alicesheldon  alicetiptree  colonialism  cordwainersmith  newwave  femism  johncampbell  fantasy  xenophobia  aliens  robertheinlein 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — How to graciously say no to anyone
"A couple of years ago, I was getting sent this article, “Creative People Say No,” at least twice a day. The idea was that creative geniuses say “no” to a lot of requests (like, a psychology professor researching processes of creative genius) in order to get their work done, so if you want to be a creative genius, you have to say no a lot so you can get your work done.

A bunch of people asked me what I thought about it, and I said, “It’s good advice for the rich and famous. Creative people say yes until they have enough work that they can say no.”"
no  advice  austinkleon  ebwhite  robertheinlein  carlsandburg  rejection  raw  zyzzyva  howardjunker  edmundwilson  bernardshaw  evelynwaugh  grouchomarx  sayingno  ianbogost  time  attention  correspondence  letters 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The True Literature of California is Science Fiction
[Also posted here: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2014/01/kim-stanley-robinson/ ]

"Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including The Three Californias, a trilogy of novels about southern California; the Mars Trilogy; 2312, a novel about climate change; and his most recent novel, Shaman.

Robinson is one of California's best-known and well-loved, living science fiction writers. A prolific writer, author of two trilogies and several other novels, he is one of the few science fiction novelists who still dares envision utopia—not the static and socially constrained utopias of Thomas More or Edward Bellamy, but dynamic, complex, multicultural societies that always have to struggle for and reflect on their own futures.

Robinson earned a Ph.D. from UC San Diego, where he worked with the legendary postmodern literary scholar Fredric Jameson and wrote his dissertation on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He cares deeply about California and is actively involved with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Robinson is also a generous conversationalist. When not holed up at home in Davis, California, working on his next book, he can often be found out in the world these days talking about climate change and political change, and thinking out loud with scientists, activists, writers, and readers about the future.

We spent a leisurely afternoon conversing with him at his garden writing table in Davis. This interview was originally published on Boom: A Journal of California and was conducted by Boom's editors."



"So, Pacific Edge was my attempt, a first attempt, and I think it's still a nice vision of what Southern California could be. That coastal plain is so nice. From Santa Barbara to San Diego is the most gorgeous Mediterranean environment. And we've completely screwed it. To me now, it's kind of a nightmare. When I go down there it creeps me out. I hope to spend more of my life in San Diego, which is one of my favorite places. But I'll probably stick to west of the coast highway and stay on the beach as much as I can. I'll deal, but we can do so much better."



"Do you love where you were when you were growing up? Well, yes—especially if you had good parents, a happy childhood, a beach. But I've found you can actually outlive nostalgia itself. I didn't know you could do that, but I have."



"I like thinking California is one place. It's big. It's various. It's an entire country. It's an entire planet."



"California is a terraformed space."



"California could maybe handle sea level rise better than a lot of other places. Its coastline is not a drowned coastline like the East Coast, so although the Delta would be in big trouble, most of the California coastline is steep enough to take a lot of the projected sea level rise—although the beaches will be in trouble. Right here we're about fifty feet above sea level. So the maximum sea level rise projected for the next couple centuries would remain a ways over there to the south."



"I've run into young environmental philosophers who say, "Be realistic, Stan. We're headed for a five-degree rise in temperature; we have to adapt." But this I think is a pseudo-realism. Think about mass extinction: how do you adapt to that? It would drive us down; we might not go extinct too, but we would suffer so badly. No. We need mitigation. We need to fight the political fight. We need a carbon tax; we need everything except giving up. To say we've lost the battle already is just another science fiction story. It's saying that we will lose. But beyond 2013, nothing has happened yet. Path dependency is not the same as inevitability.

People are way too chicken when faced with the supposed massive entrenchment of capitalism. It's just a system of laws, and we change laws all the time."



"My story here is that from the very start science and capitalism were very tightly bound together, like conjoined twins, but were not at all the same, and indeed were even opposed systems of thinking and organization. They were born around the same time, yes; but if you regard them as identical, you're making a very bad mistake. Capitalism's effect on humanity is not at all what science's effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism's technical wing, then you're saying we're doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it's come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It's a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative.

We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."



"I think we're a working utopian project in progress, between the landscape and the fact that California has an international culture, with all our many languages. It's got the UC system and the Cal State system, the whole master plan, all the colleges together, and Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. It's some kind of miraculous conjunction. But conjunctions don't last for long. And history may pass us by eventually, but for now it's a miraculous conjunction of all of these forces.

So I love California. Often when I go abroad and I'm asked where I'm from, I say California rather than America. California is an integral space that I admire. And we're doing amazing things politically. I like the way the state is trending more left than the rest of America. And San Francisco is the great city of the world. I love San Francisco. I think of myself as living in its provinces—and provincials, of course, are often the ones who are proudest of the capital. And many of my San Francisco friends exhibit a civic pride that is intense, and I think justified.

So there's something going on here in California. I do think it's somewhat accidental; so to an extent, it's pride in an accident, or maybe you could say in a collective, in our particular history. So there's no one thing or one person or group that can say, ah, we did it! It just kind of happened to us, in that several generations kept bashing away, and here we are. But when you have that feeling and it goes on, and continues to win elections and create environmental regulations, the clean air, the clean water, saving the Sierra, saving the coast: it's all kind of beautiful. Maybe the state itself is doing it. Maybe this landscape itself is doing it."
kimstanleyrobinson  california  sandiego  scifi  sciencefiction  2014  interviews  literature  landscape  raybradbury  robertheinlein  ursulaleguin  philipkdick  frankherbert  jackvance  poulanderson  robinsonjeffers  ecotopia  ernestcallenbach  history  climatechange  capitalism  environment  globalwarming  politics  change  nostalgia  johnmuir  law  legal  policy  santabarbara  orangecounty  sanfrancisco  utopia  diversity  jonchristensen  jangoggans  ursulakheise 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Quotes: Heinlein - Specialization is for Insects
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

[via: http://www.kottke.org/09/07/core-human-skills ]
education  specialization  psychology  generalists  robertheinlein  specialists 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Caterina.net: Obsessions and Spare Time Pursuits
"I've often quoted this, from Robert Heinlein: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." ...quoted most recently in 2003, in another blog post about obsessions, and whether or not it is possible to know a lot about one thing without knowing less of another"
caterinafake  generalists  specialization  specialists  obsession  passion  motivation  learning  administration  management  interviews  jobsinterviews  lifestyle  quotations  via:preoccupations  robertheinlein 
january 2009 by robertogreco

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