Welcome to the second part of my look at Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. For a synopsis of the book, please check out the first part of this piece.
“Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the left hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.” – Tormer’s Lay, p.233-234 Some stories enter our lives as flings, escapist tales that thrill and delight but leave little lasting impact. Others are more serious fare, demanding commitment and care. The going can be frustrating and difficult, if we are receptive and the tale rings true, we can find ourselves changed in some subtle way. After all, a good story, like a good relationship, has the power to help us learn about ourselves and grow in ways we could never discover alone. I wasn’t too impressed the first time I read The Left Hand of Darkness, arguably the most influential science fiction novel of the twentieth century. The beginning was glacial in pacing (pun intended if you’ve read the book), the alternating narration was jarring, and the linear narrative I expected from the genre was constantly interrupted by …
Several weeks past, I attended a workshop on the use of storytelling for effective social engagement. Sitting at my table was a doctoral student interested in better ways to communicate concepts of ecological economics to the public. As we chatted about the various metaphors embedded within conventional economics, particularly around growth and development, I started thinking about stories that focus on the challenge of communication and the power of metaphor. Searching my mind for examples, I found myself returning once more to the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation for inspiration, this time to an episode titled Darmok.
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.
Welcome to the conclusion of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Exiting the Hidden Garden, Nausicaä realizes that Ohma has gone on by itself to Shuwa. A group of wormhandlers tracks her down and swears fealty to their new guardian deity. Surrounded by loyal subjects willing to do her bidding, Nausicaä realizes that she is no different than the first Dorok emperor, who centuries before went off to Shuwa to “save humanity.” ~