franzboas   2

Jeet Heer on Twitter: "1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction."
"1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction.

2. Le Guin was the daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber & Theodora Kracaw, two extremely distinguished anthropologists, in the tradition of Franz Boas.

3. Boas, of course, was a major figure in moving anthropology away from hierarchical judgements & trying to understand cultures on their own terms.

4. If we ask, what was the science of Le Guin's science fiction, the clear answer is anthropology: the ability to imagine & populate societies with rules very different than our own.

5. Le Guin's anthropological imagination of course went hand in hand with her feminism, since part of what she imagined was societies without contemporary gender binary.

6. On the whole, with a few noble exceptions, early 20th century American science fiction & fantasy was profoundly xenophobic, in ways both subtle & profound.

7. It wasn't just the bug-eyed monsters, but also that many SF writers had a hard time imagining future or alien societies that didn't just replicate norms of 20th century America.

8. Of E.E. "Doc" Smith, one of the great pioneers of space opera, @john_clute wrote that his work had "a lunatic insensitivity to lifeforms (i.e. Jews)...not found in small America circa 1930."

9. John W. Campbell, a foundational editor of sf who shaped field for decades, had a rule that no alien species could be smarter than humans (by which he meant white people, since he rejected stories with black heroes).

10. Even someone like Heinlein, more cosmopolitan than most pulp writers, struggled with diversity. He often had people of color in books but they thought, acted & sounded like middle class white Americans.

11. Le Guin was part of a great shift in science fiction, often called New Wave, which had many dimensions (literary, countercultural, feminist) but was also a move from xenophobia to xenophilia.

12. It's interesting that the move from xenophobia to xenophilia all involved writers who, at an early age, had encounters with non-western cultures.

13. Aside from Le Guin there was Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith) who grew up in China & Alice Sheldon (a.k.a. Alice Tiptree) whose mom was a travel writer & who spent youth traveling in Africa & elsewhere.

14. Cordwainer Smith claimed he dream in Chinese (Mandarin, I think). Mind you, he used his cultural sensitivity to dubious ends (he was a CIA expert on psychological warfare). Still, it informed his fiction

15. And Sheldon/Tiptree (also CIA!) had ties to Africa that were redolent of colonialism, as in this photo when she was a child. But her adult work was a critique of colonial hauteur.

16. Slightly tangential but Le Guin's anthropological science fiction was bastardized by Hollywood: both Return of the Jedi & Avatar are riffs on Le Guin's The Word For World Is Forest.

18. To conclude, if we want to situate Le Guin historically, she's part of the great shift in s.f. where there is a move to genuinely imagine alien cultures and to imaginatively live inside them."
ursulaleguin  2018  jeetheer  anthropology  sciencefiction  scifi  alfredlouiskroeber  theodorakracaw  franzboas  eesmith  alicesheldon  alicetiptree  colonialism  cordwainersmith  newwave  femism  johncampbell  fantasy  xenophobia  aliens  robertheinlein 
january 2018 by robertogreco

related tags

2018  alfredlouiskroeber  alicesheldon  alicetiptree  aliens  anthropology  colonialism  cordwainersmith  disciplines  eesmith  fantasy  femism  geography  interdisciplinary  jeetheer  johncampbell  newwave  robertheinlein  sciencefiction  scifi  theodorakracaw  ursulaleguin  xenophobia 

Copy this bookmark:



description:


tags: