11 March 2010

"We left no footprints" Suggested SF Essay

READ IT HERE:"We left no footprints"
IN:Feminist SF: The Blog
Genre: SF Essay

Suggested Science Fiction reading is a little different this time. This time it is an essay, in fact two essays, about an excellent piece of historical fiction by Ursula K Le Guin. The story is "Sur", and it is about a group of South American women who plan and execute an expedition to the South Pole. What makes this expedition even more difficult is that women in that time and in that society are kept so ignorant of the world that one of them doesn't even know enough to realise that she is pregnant.

The story's feminism shows in a lack of competition. One memorable line concerns the fact that many women who are asked to join the expedition must turn down the opportunity due to their family responsibilities. The narrator (if my memory serves me right) remarks that they would not have wanted the sort of people who would shirk their responsibilities to join the journey.

Another aspect of the women's attitude is that they go to see the South Pole purely for the journey's own sake. They do not need to mark the event with flags, or prove that they have been there, and when they leave, they have lived so simply and cleanly that they "...left no footprints even."

Yonmei, inspired by a photographic exhibition, has written a very readable essay about journeys to the South Pole, and includes a link to another essay, Analysis of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Sur: A Summary Report of the Yelcho Expedition to the Antarctic,   by Abdulwahab Khaleefa at Ursula K. Le Guin's website where there is also much else to explore.

Yonmei's essay is therefore a twofer, but I can offer a third by referring you to my own essay on Le Guin and the movies of her fantasy novels about Earthsea in Steam Engine Time 11.

Morva Shepley

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