I’m delighted to announce the publication of a special issue of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology on Radical Speculation and Ursula K. Le Guin. This is the proceedings of a morning of talks at the Tiptree Symposium on Le Guin’s work in 2016: four talks (by Tuesday Smillie, Aren Aizura, micha cárdenas, and Joan Haran), have been developed into extended essays, and two (by adrienne maree brown and Grace Dillon) have been transcribed and lightly edited for publication.
These pieces are compelling, moving, invigorating, transformative, and accessible, for those new to Le Guin as for those who know her work intimately. Here’s the part of my intro that explains the issue’s germination:
In the writings collected here, two of Le Guin’s most influential books––1969’s The Left Hand of Darkness and 1974’s The Dispossessed––are taken up and transformed, becoming the basis for six speculative meditations on contemporary political worlds.
The occasion for each of these reflections was the second Tiptree Symposium at the University of Oregon, an event in early December 2016 that celebrated Le Guin’s illustrious and influential body of work. The assembled audience was composed of academics and feminist science fiction fans alongside Oregon students and faculty; Le Guin herself participated during the first day. As a group, we were collectively wrestling with the raw wound of the November 2016 election result. We were thinking and talking much about the rise of the new American fascism and its kindred global movements, while also sitting with what then appeared to be small lights of fragile hope coming from the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline ruling (on which work was halted the day after the symposium, in a decision that would later be reversed by the White House). We drew what energy we could from the ongoing, enduring energies of protest and the work of transformative change.
The capacity of Le Guin’s science fiction to provide resources for activist world making was the focus of the symposium’s second morning. Joan Haran and I, each tasked with organizing a panel, independently sought reflections on The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. These two panels, along with the conversation that followed them, turned out to be perhaps the most compelling set of talks I have ever attended. It was a serendipitous gathering of creative thinkers focused on taking up the tools Le Guin provides and adapting them to use for thinking, working, and living in and through a terrifying, complicated historical moment. And it felt like the crystallization of a world I have been trying to build––through inchoate and conscious, individual and collective means––for a good deal of my life.
Please read, teach, share, and dwell on these writings; let’s carry on building these worlds together.
- #tiptree16 and science fiction for transformative change
- NWSA panel “What Do Trigger Warnings Trigger?” Featuring more speakers than the program announces!