All posts filed under: Fiction

Ekostories from fiction.

Ekostories Reconnect: A Wizard of Earthsea

I think it was the sheer awfulness of this cover that persuaded my eleven-year-old self to pick A Wizard of Earthsea out of the class bookbox during reading period. Expecting a time wasting filler like so many others before, I had no idea at the time that I had just stumbled upon one of my most treasured and revisited stories in my life. Bless that ugly cover! Unlike the cover art, Ruth Robbin’s small but intricate illustrations that marked the beginning of each chapter made a positive lasting impression on me. So, as tribute to Robbin’s drawings and in time for BBC Radio 4’s recent dramatization of what is regarded as one of the seminal fantasy series of the 20th century , I present my sgraffito Wizard of Earthsea ceramic coasters! “It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry. From that time forth he believed that the …

Dispossessed Laguna Miscanti - Antofagasta Chile

Crossing the Wall: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed

My honeymoon with The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia was an intense and extended one. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nebula and Hugo-winning novel proved immensely alluring to me – its rendition of post-capitalistic civilization; its probing into the nature of revolution and power; its look at the possibility for change. The novelty and power of its ideas captivated me so much that I devoured an essay collection dedicated to them, and The Dispossessed quickly became one of my favourite novels of all time. When I recently returned to the story through the audiobook narrated by Don Leslie, I found the infatuation that had so arrested me had faded. The ideas, once so vivid and vital in my mind, had lost their lustre, becoming old-hat and common sense. At the same time, I began to notice the novel’s shortcomings, despite my best efforts not to: There was an awful lot of exposition, its real world parallels were obvious and dated, and Le Guin’s prose, while still beautiful, contained neither the mythic flourish of The Left Hand of Darkness nor the …

Ants on Bullhorn Acacia

Antspeak and Rocktalk: The Author of Acacia Seeds

Last week I explored Amy Leach’s creative non-fiction and its appeal to wonder and imagination. This week, I would like to turn to fiction and highlight a fantastical tale that does the same. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Author of Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Therolinguistics takes place in the future, but does not dwell on new technologies or societies. Exploring the secret languages of things large and small, Acacia Seeds instead tasks my imagination to envision a wholly different way of relating to the world, to see familiar beings in a new light, and to expand my moral horizons to consider the greater community of which humanity is a part of. Deliciously satirical and ethically provocative, Acacia Seeds is one of my favourite works to read and reread, and a wonderful little Ekostory to celebrate Earth Day 2014.

Direction of the Road

It’s All Relative: Le Guin’s Direction of the Road

Last entry on The Botany of Desire explored the social and natural histories of common everyday plants, revealing how they have shaped our values even as we altered them for our own purposes. It serves as a reminder that our connection with the non-human world is not a one-sided affair; it is instead more akin to a partnership. Ignorance of this fact is a chief cause of ecological degradation and existential distress. As we wall ourselves off from the rest of the living world, we become detached from the consequences of our actions have on the surrounding community. To see the world from a non-human perspective helps us reconnect with the world: It can generate awareness and appreciation for other life. It can also cultivate empathy and facilitate big picture thinking. But we as humans are prisoners of our own bodies and experiences. Barring becoming accomplished nature-whisperers, communication and communion with other life forms is difficult, if not impossible. How then can we cross over to view the world from the other side? One way …

Tiptree Love is the Plan Death Wordle

Love is the Plan the Plan is Death!

I usually have to think to come up with catchy titles for my entries, but the work has been done for me this week. Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is a Nebula-winning short story written by James Tiptree Jr., a pseudonym of Alice Sheldon. A trailblazer in fusing “hard” science fiction which focused on science and technology with the sociological and psychological ideas of “soft” science fiction, Tiptree was also a master in exploring the vantage point of the other, the female, and the alien. I first came upon her work in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and was captivated by the mastery of her prose and the bleakness of her tales.  Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is my favorite story out of that compilation. Unlike the utopian future of the Star Trek universe, Tiptree’s science fiction stories tend to be dark and pessimistic, often exploring the inexorable force of biological determinism and the futility of existence as self-aware individuals. Her tales force me to wonder: Are …