Hello darlings,

Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to take part in this reading group!

As I mentioned on IG, I've been reading a lot of sci-fi written by women and POC in the 60-80s lately. What really struck me in all of these books is the subtle shifts in storytelling dynamics — the hierarchies are more flat, with the environment taking an active part in the stories just as much as the characters. The characters themselves are often not "heros" as we are used to thinking of them; they get tired and stop, they surrender or persevere, rarely prevailing.

Having read Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing, both thinking in entanglements rather than systems (systematic thinking has been default for me so far: social-system, eco-system, political-system), I recently watched Adam Curtis' All Watched Over (mentioned below), which discusses the origins of this idea of Systems in 'Nature'.

Thinking of nature as an agent in sci-fi stories and tracing the problems and origins of systematic thinking back TO nature kind of blew me away. I'm thrilled you guys were interested in these themes too, and I hope you'll find this multimedia reading list enriching.

Reading/Listening & Watching

In a Haraway/Tsing fashion, I've prepared an entanglement of material we could discuss, led by Ursula Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest. I think this is a good place to start as it is first of all a short novel (just about 100 pages), available as a PDF and in audio forms, and explicitly discusses colonialism and the environment as also stated by the author. I also think it's a great read regardless of any analysis.

In addition to Word for World, I would suggest we watch the second episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace by Adam Curtis. It discusses a systematic perception of nature-as-equilibrium defined in the 60s, and narrates how that science affected economical, sociological, and therefore colonial methodologies. I think it's particularly interesting since this research was conducted not long before Word for World was written, has since been debunked, but to this day still practiced as if true.

Finally, a short essay (~10 pages) titled Re-reading Ursula  K. Le Guin’s SF: The Daoist Yin Principle in Ecofeminist Novels by Amy Chan Kit-Sze both frames the novel and contradicts the film nicely, bringing an Eastern analysis of the book and discusses balance, female and male energies, ideas of progress and un-progress, doing and non-doing.

Date & Time

I propose we meet Thursday, April 28th at 6pm BST — we have London, Berlin, Chicago and Tel Aviv time zones represented in this group (and many more nationalities, so cool!) so I hope that time works for everyone. Please reach out to me if there are any issues with the date or time. If this seems to work for everyone I'll go ahead and send an invite with a link, and for those of you in London you're very welcome to join me in my studio and we can have a mixed-reality discussion.

Links