Have I said this before? I like science fiction. I like imagining different possibilities. What parts of humanity are permanent? What parts have evolved by chance? What values are intrinsic to sentient societies, and what are merely necessitated by social order and control?


And that’s why I like Ursula Le Guin. Her book The Telling revolves around a woman named Sutty, who works as a researcher for an intergalactic group called the Ekumen (Now I’ll try to make it sound more ethnic studies and less nerdy). The premise is, the Ekumen has massive amounts of technology and acts as a  loose peace keeping alliance between its member planets. If this is sounding like a gentle kind of colonialism to you, then you’re thinking what I’m thinking. You’re also thinking what Le Guin is thinking.


A researcher cannot enter another community as an observer. His/her mere presence changes things. A country/planet/government cannot assert control or resources, well meaning or otherwise, without changing the society that it means to help. Outside forces change a place irreversibly. The consequences of those changes are what the book explores. Hint? There’s no such thing as benign colonialism. But you already knew that.


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