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Welcome to my monthly book club. The non-virtual version of “When George Orwell Played for Crystal Palace.” is meeting next week and we will be looking at our favourite poets and poems, as well as making recommendations of books to read in this genre.

In this online edition I wanted to share with you some quotes from two authors who have made a significant impact on the world of science-fiction. One of them might be more obvious than the other.

They are P.D. James and Ursula Le Guin. You might think of P.D. James as being predominately a crime writer and this is probably a fair assessment but one of my favourite science fiction novels is by James, called The Children of Men, adapted into a movie of the same name starring Clive Owen.

As I walked to the newsagents this morning to fetch a newspaper and to exercise an knee injury, I tried to put the trill of headlines about the state of the world out of my mind, and I walked past the old oak, its leaves shivered and sang at me. Then over this rustling melody I heard that wonderful sound of children laughing and playing in the park.

What a terrible world it would be without the sound of children playing, I thought to myself. And this is essentially the premise of Children of Men, there are no children left, no sound of them playing, nothing to allow humankind to go on, no hope. I prefer the book to the film as it also explores themes of fascism and how we view older people in an era of dwindling resources. A debate that could be pertinent to today’s global outlook.

“Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast.”
― P.D. JamesThe Children of Men

Ursula Le Guin died this week leaving behind a legacy of thought provoking literature spanning, children’s books, science-fiction, fantasy and beyond. Like all the best science fiction writers she was interested in universal truths and her visions of the future have proven to be prescient.

Her novel “Left Hand of Darkness.” Showed us a society where all people were equally male and female. Published in the 60’s this was decades before the Transgender movement. And in a week where it was announced that the Y chromosome might be dying out (don’t worry guys we’ve got another 4.5 million years left)*, we can view her work as an important moment in the history of the discussion around gender roles and sex.

Le Guin was a smart and witty presence in the literary world and was concerned about peace and freedom. She viewed herself as a feminist and I will leave you with two brilliant quotes and examples of her compassion, humour and eloquence.

“Why should a free woman with a college education either fight machoman or serve him? Why should she live her life on his terms? I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated.” – Left-Handed Commencement Address at Mills College 1983

“If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.” – Prospects for Women in Writing, speech given in Portland, Oregon, 1968. Quotes from Gillian Flaccus article in the I newspaper. 25th January 2018.

 

*The I newspaper. Darren Griffin and Peter Ellis.

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