Enlarge / Ursula Le Guin at home in Portland, Oregon, December 15, 2005. (credit: Dan Tuffs/Getty Images)
Before Donald Trump ever uttered a word about building a wall, author Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away on Tuesday, wrote of a world that had built one—a wall that divided two ideologies:
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
—from The Dispossessed
I read Le Guin’s The Dispossessed when I was 16. While the author’s six-part Earthsea book series had a lasting effect on me as well—it influenced, among other things, my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns—The Dispossessed came at a time when I was starting to become more aware of how science fiction could be political and social allegory as much as great space adventure. Newly displaced from the city I had spent most of my life in and settling into a new town, I spent the months before my senior year of high school at the library and used book stores.
I largely spent my nights holed up reading books my parents assumed were light summer reading: Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Samuel R.
Delany’s Dhalgren, Asimov’s Foundation books, and various forms of Vonnegut. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, a book I would read later, further demonstrates how completely Le Guin synthesized earth-bound philosophical questions with interplanetary travels.
The Dispossessed held a mirror up to American capitalism and culture in the form of the planet Urras and contrasted it with the anarchist-syndicalist “utopia” of the Odo on Urras’ moon, Anarres. Of all the books I read in my youth, that one stirred the greatest amount of internal debate.
I was politically aware before, in the way teenagers who go to model Congresses and stage mock presidential debates are politically aware.
But the “extremes” of The Dispossessed were a direct assault on what I had been taught about the way the world works, while at the same time foreshadowing language I would hear from all political sides later in life.
Read 4 remaining paragraphs