With all this talk about walls, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed is a timely masterpiece for science fiction. Her novel chronicles the physicist Shevek who travels from the utopian but inhospitable planet of Anarres for the earthly Urras where the landscape is verdant but capitalism and hierarchy dominate society’s mores. Rather than present a fable filled with hyperspace travel, exotic alien species, and intergalactic threats to peace, Le Guin utilizes the freedom of the genre to experiment with societal alternatives rather than provide our society with brash escapism.
Shevek’s home planet of Anarres is an anarchist culture where possessive pronouns are nonexistent, play and work are indistinguishable, and nothing has a monetary value. But even this perfect world starts to reveal its limitations in the exclusionary practices of those who resist the planet’s groupthink. Shevek is seen as a threat to this egalitarian order where individual success is considered egoizing, and Shevek rebelliously heads to the nearby Urras to complete his theory on physics and time hoping that in his search for individual fulfilment he may also be able to save his community from becoming as close-minded as Urras’ propetarians. His odyssey to this vibrant planet finds freedoms never known to his people but at costs that precipitate global wars, amplify class privation, and objectify women with contemptible intensity. Urras’ focus on division rather than unity, possession instead of community forces Shevek to reevaluate his theory, his values, and what it means to communicate when the space inbetween may preclude ever being understood.
Somehow, The Dispossessed manages to stuff Daoism, anarcho-syndicalism, quantum mechanics, vehement feminism, ecological tension, philosophical dualism, memorable characters, and hella good writing without ever sounding pedantic, patronizing, or preachy. It’s an accessible page-turner of a saga that tastefully retains the intrigue of novel ideas, technology, and locales without the need to flip back to the appendix every few pages. For those that can’t stand science-fiction’s monolithic world-building but want an exploration of societal and political themes in a strange land, look no further!
This episode features the track "Dryspellcaster" off the brand new EP, its a secret, from Montana rockers FUULS.
Wastoid Cooper Malin did the graphic for this episode!
Podcast produced by Phillip Griffin.
Next episode we'll be talking about The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson!
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