Her name was Ursula Le Guin: Born in Berkeley, California, Oct. 21, 1929, daughter of noted anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. But her name is known for her novels, many in the field of science fiction, which weaved new worlds from the shards of this one, her books often thinly veiled commentaries on the evils of imperial war and the fevers of militarism.
Among her works: The Word for World is Farce, a 1969 allegorical work that took on the Vietnam War; The Dispossessed, 1971, which imagined an anarchistic global resistance to the depredations of the rich; and another 1971 work, The Lathe of Heaven, an excerpt of which reveals its flavor. Le Guin writes, “He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the bombers to kill the babies to make the world safe for children to grow up in.”
Le Guin’s work didn’t just thrill readers of science fiction. In the rare air of philosophy, her work appeared to probe questions about the deep nature of neoliberal society. In her book The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Le Guin creates a world where all is well, except for in a dark fetid closet where a little child suffers alone. Somehow, her very torture grants societal well-being to the residents of Omelas.
Philosopher Elizabeth Povinelli opens her book Economies of Abandonment with Le Guin’s harrowing vision as the basis of her opening introduction, entitled “The Child in the Broom Closet” — an allegory of this modern West and neoliberalism, which rests upon the invisible violence of capitalism and its monstrous appetites.
Ursula Le Guin won the coveted Hugo Award for her science fiction excellence.
From a prison nation, this is Mumba Abu-Jamal.
Mumia’s commentaries appear in collaboration with Prison Radio.
Photo: Ursula Le Guin. Credit: Euan Monaghan/Structo.