Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014. “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… …Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human 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.” – speech excerpt Copyright © 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin
This past week, I had the fortune to take part in two fascinating and separate discussions about the future. One was a dialogue with poets and writers envisioning our province’s economy in 2030. The other was a conference workshop with teachers and communicators exploring the role of imagination in environmental education. Both involved reflecting on the types of futures we want and identifying potential hurdle to those futures. These stimulating sessions of “collective dreaming” got me thinking about the role stories can play in the envisioning process. Naturally science fiction, a genre that deals specifically with potential futures, came to mind. To me, writing science fiction is a daunting challenge – worlds have to be constructed, political issues have to be addressed, and technologies have to be incorporated into society in ways that are both fantastical and plausible. I think a science fiction author who can create complex, believable, and captivating stories is one who has thought deeply about the human condition and the future of humanity, and is probably someone worth listening to.