Ansible Forum: An Anarchist Short Fiction and Essay Collection- Omelas, Fifty Years On

Photo by Bob Price

What happens to the child?

Who does the child represent?

What are the limits and opportunities the allegory offers us?

Where did they go, the ones who left Omelas?

After a half-century, what is life in Omelas like for those who stay? And for those who left?

What does it mean to walk away? What should it mean? How has walking away been read and misread, and how could we re-imagine it?

Does anyone go back and save the child?

Why is the alternative to Omelas possibly harder to imagine than Omelas itself?

Invitation for new short works of creative anarchist fiction: It has been fifty years since Ursula K. Le Guin took us to Omelas with her 1973 short story about the ambiguous utopia and the child who suffers greatly for the pleasures of the many. In the decades since publishing “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” the essay has inspired countless discussions, classroom lessons, arguments, and Le Guin’s own work to expand the Hainish Cycle series of novels and short stories. We invite anarchist themed creative fiction and short essays that carry our imaginations through the many different questions and worlds that Omelas provokes and inspires, whether or not the work references Omelas and Le Guin directly or indirectly. We especially encourage submissions that lead to intersectional anarchist approaches and work by writers who make the insights and experiences of underrepresented identities accessible to a broad audience.

Pull at any thread, re-think canonical readings of the story, ditch the usual interpretations, offer a new path through the literary forest Le Guin planted, and tell a story that opens new ways of reflecting on Omelas. Of special interest are works of creative fantasy and science fiction that expand on and critique Le Guin’s original story, and reflective essays that spark a greater understanding of the questions Omelas raises. We also encourage work that gives readers a perspective on fictional and real-world examples of those who meet Le Guin’s challenge to “walk away” using creative strategies others might also adopt. Stories and essays that speak from and to the lives and experiences of systematically marginalized communities are strongly encouraged. Co-authored submissions welcome. 

Review and Circulation: Reviewers will select a final group of ~12 submissions to be be highlighted on The Anarres Project website, one per month throughout 2023. Authors of selected entries will be asked to provide an audio reading of their entry. Our intent is to publish submissions on the website in both print and audio format under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. If you are concerned about the Creative Commons license and/or if you have any questions about the Ansible Forum please contact: Christian Matheis at matheiscg@guilford.edu 

Submission Guidelines:

  • Written Length: approximately 3,000 words
  • Style: MLA preferred
  • Cover Page: at the beginning of your entry please include a cover page with the title of the entry and the following information for each author: author name(s), email address(es), bio(s) of 200 words or less, for each author
  • All submissions due by Friday, January 27, 2023
  • Upload your submission here: https://bit.ly/3TLvM3h 

Note: the submission form requires a Google/Gmail login. If you do not have a Google account please email your entry to Christian Matheis at matheiscg@guilford.edu 

The Word for World is Forest Symposium Program

Here is the program for the “The Word for World for Forest” Symposium on October 14, 2022 starting at 9am (Pacific Time).

Keynote Speaker:  Christian Matheis, Guilford College, 9am (Pacific Time)

“Devious as Nerves:  Teaching the Fine Balance of Reason and Dream”

Presenters:

10am (Pacific Time)

Sheryl Medlicott, Just Utopias, Bristol Utopian Book Collective

“The Word for World is Forest as Ecofeminist and Utopian Text”

Christopher Loughlin, Manchester University

“What You Fail to See: Exploring Visibility and the Politics of Solidarity Through Le Guin”

11 am (Pacific Time)

Ben Nadler, Hostos Community College, CUNY

“Dreaming as a Radical Act”

Sean MacCracken, Program Coordinator, CIIS Anthropology and Social Change Program

“Fake News by the Ansible: Dream and Delusion in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest”

The Symposium is free and open to the public. To recieve login information to attend the Symposium via Zoom, please fill out the registration below:

CFP: The Word for World is Forest Symposium, October 2022.

(Photo Credit: Maksim Isotomin, Unsplash)

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of Ursula K. Le Guin’s anti-war novella The Word for World is Forest.

Written during the Vietnam conflict, The Word for World is Forest depicts a distant world invaded by human beings who are desperate for natural resources. It tells the tale of an alien culture that resists the invasion, but is forever changed by the decision.

The Anarres Project for Alternative Futures calls for abstracts for a multidisciplinary virtual symposium that aims to bring together activists, organizers, and scholars to consider the ways in which Le Guin’s tale can help us to diagnose social injustices in the present moment, and to imagine the ways we can catalyze solidarities to achieve more just futures.

Rather than strictly academic discussions or literary critiques, we are looking for presentations that take Le Guin’s novella as a basis for understanding themes such as oppression, patriarchy and toxic masculinity, racial justice, resistance, colonialism/imperialism, nonviolence and armed struggle, environmental justice, intersectional solidarity in the world today.  We are especially interested in how the tale might help us develop strategies for mutual aid and community organizing against injustice today.

The symposium will be held on-line over Zoom on Friday, October 14, 2022.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words by midnight (Pacific Time) Friday, September 9, 2022 using the submission form below.

What was the best sci-fi of 2021?

By Joseph Orosco (December 29, 2021)

The TrekWars@OSU collective (Dr. Randall Milstein, Dr. Joseph Orosco, and Dr. Jason Scully) gathered together again to discuss the best science fictions stories of 2021.  We chose to talk about those sci-fi narratives that most impacted us in some way, either by engaging in innovative storytelling or by engaging us in thinking about future possibilities in new ways.

Our choices for best science fiction for 2021 were:

Randy Milstein:  The Nevers, Season 1

Joseph Orosco:  The Expanse, Season 6 and Doja Cat, Planet Her

Jason Scully:  DC Legends of Tomorrow

We all agreed that the science fiction product that most underwhelmed us was :  Dune 2021.

Along the way, we noticed that the theme of rendering care to young people was a growing theme in a lot of science fiction stories this year.  We also discussed whether science fiction in the last thirty years has been hemmed in by a cyber punk aesthetic (blended with a neoliberal capitalist reality) that makes it very difficult to imagine, in Jason Scully’s words, a future of “exuberance”.

Let us know what you think.  Did we miss something you think helps us grow a radical imagination (quite frankly–there was a lot)?  (You can also watch our Best of Sci-Fi 2020 here.)

What Does Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to Me?

By Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval (October 6, 2021)

Hispanic Heritage Month initially came into being in 1968 during the height of social unrest in the United States and around the world. 1968 was year that Chicanx high school students in East LA walked out of their classes to demand what we would call Chicana/o Studies today and that same year, more than five hundred people were killed in Mexico City who were pushing for democratic change in Mexico. 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the year that Dr. King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and the year so many other things happened.

Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15, the day that many countries in Latin America became independent from Spain. However, while one form of imperialism ended, a new form of imperialism soon emerged, with the United States becoming a new imperial power in the region. The U.S. intervened regularly in Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and many other countries, toppling democratic governments for decades. Our role in these countries generated tremendous instability, prompting many to flee here where they once again mistreated. Despite systemic racism and widespread discrimination, “Hispanic” peoples, who are often Indigenous and Afro-Latinx, have organized, fought back, and demanded change. Those people–along with so many more, including my grand-grandparents, who left Mexico during the Revolution in the early 20th Century–have transformed the United States–they often sacrificed their lives so their children could have a better life. Those dreams have been elusive for many, but change has occurred and it continues, as Latinx people continue to demand dignity and respect in all social institutions.

How can people continue to listen to and amplify and honor Chicanx/Latinx and Hispanic voices?

Latinx voices are still marginalized in our popular culture–on television and in Hollywood. Despite some advances, most newsrooms, television shows, and films do not highlight Latinx voices and actors. Moreover, the publishing industry still does not publish enough books by Latinx authors, despite the fact that amazing writers such as Cherrie Moraga, Reyna Grande, Sandra Cisneros, Roberto Lovato and many others continue to release tremendous books that raise consciousness and awareness about the broader Latinx community.

One must therefore be diligent and seek these authors, writers, and actors out–they are doing amazing work, sometimes on platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, and other outlets, but they are out there. Once you find them, you can “spread the word,” as we used to say.

Professors like myself can include new and older Latinx authors in their class syllabi. We can also focus on iconic Chicana artists such as Yolanda Lopez who recently passed away and was most well-known for her work on decolonizing la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Chicanx/Latinx voices do exist, but sometimes one must search hard to find them–and so once we do, we must talk about them with our students, family members, friends, and even strangers.

Who are some Hispanic/Latinx leaders that I admire?

I will mention two here. I have always been inspired by Salvadoran Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero became the leader of the Catholic Church in El Salvador in the late 1970s, just as the country was slipping into a violent, decade-long civil war. Monsenor Romero was installed as Archbishop because was a safe, apolitical choice; he was somebody who would not “rock the boat” or cause any waves. However, shortly after he became Archbishop, one of his closest friends was assassinated by a death squad who had ties to the military government and he started to speak out against repression and torture. Soon people were threatening to kill him, but Monsenor Romero said, “If I die, I will again in the Salvadoran people.” And he did–after he was assassinated in March 1980, his spirit moved people to seek out change in El Salvador and all around the world.

The second Latinx person who inspires me is Luisa Moreno. Moreno was a Guatemalan-born woman who was raised in an affluent family. She was also very light-skinned but had a transformation of sorts. She moved to Mexico City in the 1920s and then to New York City during the Depression in the 1930s. She became politicized and joined radical political organizations and labor unions. She once said, “One person cannot do anything; it’s only with others that things can be accomplished.” Moreno went on became very active in civil rights issues in Los Angeles, but the government targeted her as part of the Red Scare in the late 1940s and she was forced out of the country.

Moreno, along with other Chicana/Latina women, such as Lucy Parsons, Emma Tenayuca, Francisca Flores, Dolores Huerta, Antonia Fernandez, Magadalena Mora, Sylvia Rivera, and so many more inspire me as many of them struggled against all forms of injustice, namely, capitalism, racism, heterosexism, sexism, and imperialism.

Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval is Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.

We, the Workers, Will Build a Better World

By Zakk Flash (March 25, 2020)

We’re going to see some serious supply chain problems as my fellow “essential workers” and I fall sick.

Workplace protections have never been good in most industries; I’m grateful for the Teamsters collective bargaining agreement that I work under that gives me a bit more security. Unions are going to be a big part of what gets us through this.

That being said, the companies we work for aren’t doing enough to keep workers safe. As #Covid19 infects workers in logistics and transportation, there will be increasing bottlenecks in our supply chain.

While we hear that grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open during the pandemic, there is no guarantee that shelves will remain stocked. The stockers themselves, underpaid and unprotected, will face more and more risk of contracting the #Coronavirus.

Over two thirds of EMS personnel in New Orleans is currently isolated in quarantine. The hospital in my hometown is asking individuals to sew cloth masks for its employees. Workers around the globe are engaging in wildcat strikes to draw attention to their plight.

The situation, far from resolving itself by Easter, looks to only be getting worse.

There are, however, some truly bright lights.

The mutual aid projects that have arisen to provide comfort, material aid, and a real sense of community during an atomized and frightening time is saving lives. With staggering job losses and a shameful lack of action upon the part of the political class, purpose and progress become therapy.

From pantry programs and crisis nurseries for essential workers to videotaped book readings for quarantined children, folks are stepping up.

We have to continue to step up. We need to continue to support one another, while also holding our politicians accountable.

We need to demand an end to evictions and foreclosures, utility shut offs, and the like. We need Congress, the governors, and the president to get on the same page as the latest advice coming from top scientists studying this disease. We need manufacturing plants to switch their production lines from generating shareholder profits to producing masks, hand sanitizer, and the sorts of tools we’ll need to beat this virus.

It’s going to take an unbelievable amount of work. But we can do it if we stick together.

As the Spanish freedom fighter Buenaventura Durruti said during the Spanish Civil War:  “you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place.”

We can build a better world out of this. It starts with what you do next.

zf

Building Democratic Socialism in the US Requires the Long View

By Marc Cooper (March 4, 2020)

Sanders comes out of Super Tuesday an underdog (much to my dismay). While he needed to finish with a 200-300 delegate advantage to stay clearly and firmly in front, it is now projected that Sanders — under the best realistic finish in California– will finish about 25-30 delegates BEHIND Biden. Probably more as this is the best case scenario. This takes into account the three states of California, Maine and Texas where all the votes are not counted but can be reliably projected… at least roughly.

That said, and with no spin, the race is far from over though it is now Advantage Biden. Warren and Bloomberg are still wild cards that have no path to victory but who skew projections to some degree.

Nor is it in anyway clear if Biden can get a plurality let alone a majority of delegates to avoid a contested convention even if he continues a winning streak.

Bernie faces a stiff challenge now from Biden. But Biden also has to deal with Biden. I believe him a very weak and vulnerable candidate and only Heaven knows what SNAFU he can bring down on himself in the days and weeks to come. There is another debate coming soon and the key state of Michigan votes next week where Sanders might stage a comeback — or not. If you are a Berner, as I am, you must now redouble your efforts… no pouting, no complaining allowed. No resignation, no demoralization. Fueling a socialist to the presidency of the US is a Herculean task under any conditions, especially with Trump in office.

My humble suggestion to my fellow democratic socialists and other anti-Biden progressives: you MUST take the long view. It would be just short of a miracle to turn the political culture in this country around in just 4 yrs given there has been no significant socialist presence in the U.S. in a hundred years. So you continue your work for Sanders but you also understand that you are building something important for the future that might be years or decades away. Our immediate work is not finished with the primary. Next comes ousting Donald Trump. This does not make you a Biden Bot. It makes you a responsible citizen.

marc-cooper-2016

For more of Marc Cooper’s commentary, see his new newsletter.

The Era of Unbridled Cynicism: #Himtoo Movement Backlash

By Ana Castillo (October 15, 2018)

When catastrophic natural disasters devastate towns and islands & the president doesn’t bother to make an appearance with sincere condolences, instead chooses to attend campaign fund raisers and nationalist rallies, continues to mock minorities, the disabled and disenfranchised, routinely lies, dismisses abused women, and ignores the suffering of children, who practices nepotism, racism, misogyny, protects the wealthy and praises despots: and we tolerate it? We are a lost nation.

In this era, anyone who rises without any intention of acting upon (besides complaints on social media/forwarding fake chains and links, etc.) you must surely check your cynicism gauge. You may be lost, too.

ana castilo

White America’s Communication Problem

By S. (April 23, 2018)

Dear White America,
We have a communication problem. You are getting better at listening. In the past you’ve blamed us for not communicating to you in a manner that would facilitate you listening. We were too angry, too quiet, too loud, politically inconvenient, self-centered, stuck in victim mindset.

Finally, thanks to cell phone footage, you can see for yourselves what us black people know too well. You had to see it for yourselves to believe it. And you had to see it not once but multiple times, over and over, to truly understand. Now you get it. Black people are in danger from cops. Thank you. I am sincerely grateful at how far you’ve come in the last 15 years. But there’s still so much more work. There’s all the stuff that you don’t see, that you’ll never see. So we need you to listen. We need you to step up and intervene.

I knew Holly Hylton, I complained to you about her. You brushed me off and got annoyed at my discomfort. You blamed me for not having a better attitude, for not trying harder, for being a victim. I came to you because you were my friend. I was asking for support for your help in allowing me to process the racist and ugly way Holly treated me when I: *worked with her
*went to school with her
*bought coffee from her
*heard her sermon
*read her newspaper op ed
*watched her Oscar acceptance speech.

You said Holly didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t mean to, she has a good heart, I caught her on a bad day, she gives money to starving children every week, she has black friends, she grew up in a black neighborhood, she went to a BLM protest, she loves hip hop. You defended Holly against my claims of racism.

You interrogated me. You made me become a lawyer, a ballistics expert, a pathologist, an economist, a historian, a translator of cultures, and many more so that you could find the loophole in my feelings and prove that I’m wrong about Holly.

Holly’s reputation as a non-racist became more important to you than my emotional needs.

You denied me support and validation when I came to you vulnerable and needy. That’s not what friends do.

If you’re a true friend, you’ll listen, learn, and apply what you’ve learned. You’ll call Holly out before she calls the police on me. You’ll empathize with Holly so that you can better figure out how to communicate effectively with her. There will be social consequences to her actions based on what she and has not learned.

This is where the party ends, because I can’t stand here listening to you and your racist friend.

Philanthropy is Not Justice

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (January 10, 2018)

There is a nice section in Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace that runs like this:

“Both philanthropy and respect for the rights of the human being are duties; but the former is only conditional duty whereas the latter is unconditional duty, commanding absolutely, and whoever wants to give himself up to the sweet feeling of beneficence must first be completely assured that he has not transgressed this unconditional duty.”

______

Let me translate: A lot of do-gooders want to eat dessert before their dinner. They dine out on charity’s easy virtue, rather than think through and commit to what it means to secure rights for all in a free and equal society, and the inter-generational demands of racial justice. This is exactly how Athens, Georgia– the city of 10,000 self-satisfied white board members– has 500 non-profits and such abject, asymmetrical racialized generational poverty.

The grind of working out and guaranteeing rights is political work– with all of the attendant vulnerabilities of political work– with none of the flattery and “sweet feeling” of gratitude.

If you are in the game to make yourself feel good, rather than making yourself worthy of feeling good by doing good, you are doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason, and your skewed priorities not only have consequences, but they confuse everyone around you. That’s violence.

irami