Should a real life disaster strike, consumers of fictionalized accounts from Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead to Cormac McCarthy's The Road may wellShould a real life disaster strike, consumers of fictionalized accounts from Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead to Cormac McCarthy's The Road may well despair for humanity's survival.
Watch any disaster movie and assume chaos and panic.
This book offers a welcome antidote.
"...human beings are at their best when much is demanded of them..."
"...human beings, and this cuts across all societies...rise to the occasion."
"...human beings respond with initiative, orderliness, and helpfulness; they remain calm; and suffering and loss are transformed when they are shared experiences."
Researching real life disasters from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, author Solnit examines how real people respond in disasters — and offers the phrase "disaster utopia."
It's an optimistic, but well-documented, assessment of the humanity, helpfulness, and calm people display when a crisis brings them together. People assist each other. Disasters uncover a sense of community and purpose and survivors often recall those times of earnest cooperation with pleasure.
Survivors of the San Francisco earthquake reported:
"Never in all San Francisco's history, were her people so kind and courteous as on this night of terror."
"While the crisis lasted, people loved each other."
Of course, disaster response is not all light and roses. Base impulses surface in a disaster as well as benevolent ones.
However, it's not usually the masses in the majority that cause the trouble. Solnit instead points the finger at those in charge. She explores the phenomena of "elite panic," in which those "in charge" do more harm than good by trying to keep control. She cites examples of authorities who hinder volunteers, further their own agendas, and who out of fear of "mobs" and "looting," brutally put protection of personal property ahead of the protection of human life.
Since our beliefs about how we will behave under stress influence disaster response, the field of disaster sociology's discovery that we can count on each other in a crisis is pivotal.
In a disaster, our first responders will likely be our neighbors.
There's an anarchist theme to Solnit's discoveries that decentralized, rapidly-formed communities frequently rise above bureaucracies and governments in a crisis. However, rather than forwarding the rather depressing idea that we need a disaster to bring out the best in us, the book leans toward the conclusion that the structure of our current day-to-day society breeds inordinate competition and isolation and restrains our social natures.
"The ruts and routines of ordinary life hide more beauty than brutality."
"...human beings are gregarious, cooperative animals who need no authority to make them so; it is their nature."
"...just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, so human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful, and imaginative after a disaster..."
Pairs well with: Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature
Of note: • research by biobehavioral scientists Shelley E. Taylor and Laura Cousino Klein offers an alternative view to the fight-or-flight stress response "...women in particular often gather to share concerns and abilities...the 'tend-and-befriend' pattern."
• Sociologist Enrico Quarantelli, in more than 700 studies of disasters found, "cooperative rather than selfish behavior predominating" and few instances of panic.
This is a fascinating and informative book, which I should never, ever have given to my Dad as a Christmas present.
Firstly, although father is not advThis is a fascinating and informative book, which I should never, ever have given to my Dad as a Christmas present.
Firstly, although father is not adverse to fact dense books, he is a slow and careful reader and this book is a long slog.
Secondly, while this book has an uplifting premise and the word "angels" in the title, it's filled with gore, vileness and gruesome records of atrocity.
Dad, I read this book so that you wouldn't have to.
Pinker expects his readers to be resistant to the idea that violence is on decline (just look at the news!), so he bolsters his position. His argument begins with the idea that far from being angels now, we have forgotten the devils we used to be: murdering children, torturing women, and likely to stab each other over dinner.
It's a history of homicide, democide, genocide, ethnocide, politicide, regicide, infanticide, neonaticide, filicide, siblicide, gynecide, uxoricide, matricide, and terrorism by suicide. Ugh!
Also, people in the past (use say 1910 as a barometer) were morally stupid, and even, by today's standards, somewhat retarded.
Cold comfort. All this is depressing, as Pinker admits, "After reading eight chapters (the book is 10!) on the horrible things that people have done to each other and the darker parts of human nature that spurred them, you have every right to look forward to a bit of uplift in a chapter on our better angels."
It's accurate to say that the final chapters are "a bit" of an uplift. Pinker says he wrote this book as an answer to the question, "What makes you optimistic?" Judged by this book, he is unlikely to be accused of being a Pollyanna.
He does, however, counter some of our factually mistaken and scientifically unsupported pessimism.
• There's not an inevitable cycle towards war and catastrophe. It's even statistically improbable and there's a trend away from it. • We're not ruled by a violent bias toward predation, dominance, and vengeance. Human nature also includes peaceful traits, which evolution seems to be selecting for, of compassion, fairness, self-control, and reason. • Things aren't getting worse. They are getting better. "The forces of modernity — reason, science, humanism, individual rights — has brought us benefits in health, experience, and knowledge as well as a reduction in violence."
The data is coldly reassuring, while Pinker assesses, "The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species."
Pinker cautions against forces that favor violent outcomes such as ideological and utopian thinking and warns us of the dangers of pluralistic ignorance, when people, "...endorse a practice or opinion they deplore because they mistakenly think that everyone else favors it," and punish dissenters.
He suggests forces that favor a pacifying effect: art and literature (fiction, satire, first-person accounts, and reportage); democracy (electing smart and open-minded leaders, establishing policies, norms, and taboos); feminization; and "rights" movements (human, civil, homosexual, women's, and animal and, in general, "...a commitment that other living things, no matter how distant or dissimilar, be safe from harm and exploitation.") as well as, "conditions of democracy, prosperity, decent government, peacekeeping, open economies".
His approach is rational, moderate, and a counterpoint to authors who find that humanity's increasing traits of empathy and compassion are a source of improvement and inspiration.
Rather, Pinker points to our increasing powers of abstract reasoning and understanding of the economic benefits of cooperation. He's quite enthusiastic about this in his way.
Pairs well with:The Expanding Circle by Peter Singer, The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin; The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal; and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong.
Of note: This is a nice vocabulary expanding book: putsches, suzerain, altricial, eschatological, obloquy, parlous, autarkies, atrocitologists, frugivores, prelapsarian, armentarium, equipoise, immiseration, hagiographic, bafflegab
A sobering note: The kind of arguments used today in discussions of abortion, animal rights, stem cell research, and euthanasia were earlier (and horrifically) used to justify infanticide (the merits of which people also used to debate!):
"In 1911 an English physician, Charles Mercier, presented arguments than infanticide should be considered a less heinous crime than the murder of an older child or an adult: 'The victim’s mind is not sufficiently developed to enable it to suffer from the contemplation of approaching suffering or death. It is incapable of feeling fear or terror. Nor is its consciousness sufficiently developed to enable it to suffer pain in appreciable degree. Its loss leaves no gap in any family circle, deprives no children of their breadwinner or their mother, no human being of a friend, helper, or companion.'"
Quotes: "...as long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular." — Oscar Wilde
"...biology and history suggest that all else being equal, a world in which women have more influence will be a world with fewer wars."
"Though nothing can guarantee that virulent ideologies will not infect a country, the vaccine is an open society in which people and ideas move freely and no one is punished for airing dissenting views, including those that seem heretical to polite consensus."
"One could say that for every presidential IQ point, 13,400 fewer people die in battle, though it's more accurate to say that the three smartest postwar presidents, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, kept the country out of destructive wars."
"But it is just as foolish to let our lurid imaginations determine our sense of probabilities. It may always be something, but there can be fewer of those things, and the things that happen don't have to be as bad. The numbers tell us that war, genocide, and terrorism have declined over the past two decades — not to zero but by a lot." ...more
As someone who wrote part of her graduate thesis on feminist literary utopias, I loved this book. It joins and chronicles the conversation about feminAs someone who wrote part of her graduate thesis on feminist literary utopias, I loved this book. It joins and chronicles the conversation about feminist science fiction. I found it irresistible, and picked it up at WisCon 35, the feminist science fiction convention. Published by Seattle's feminist sf Aqueduct Press, the book is on the 2010 Tiptree Award Honor List. As well as a good read, I admit it is also sheer fun carrying around a book titled The Secret Feminist Cabal.
The book pairs well with Justine Larbalestier'sThe Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction and Daughters of the Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (both on my bookshelves and highly recommended) and Pamela Sargent's Women of Wonder anthologies (on my wish list). It also points to Aqueduct Press and Tachyon Publications for more fantastic feminist sf reading.
I most enjoyed the chapters: "Birth of a Sub-Genre: Feminist SF and its Criticism" (about the emergence of the writing and including a discussion of utopias); "Another Science "Fiction?"? Feminist Stories of Science" (about women in science); and "Beyond Gender? Twenty-First Century SF Feminisms" (which includes discussion of the Tiptree Award, its judging process, and its texts).
It includes discussion of some of my favorite books including Nicola Griffith's Ammonite, Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood (formerly Xenogenesis trilogy); and Joan Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean as well as The Carhullan Army (which I just read with Seattle's Feminist Science Fiction Book Club).
I already had a long feminist science fiction reading list, but after reading this I also added Sheila Finch's Triad, Judith Moffet's The Ragged World, and Theodore Roszak's The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein. And I moved Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, and Gwyneth Jones' Life to the top of my to-read list.
Comments: I noted how in her critique, Merrick points out that WisCon is not a "utopian feminist space" with regard to some of the short fallings of the genre and conversation particularly with regard to race. As a newcomer, I described my own my first WisCon as rather utopian Why WisCon? A Quest: Utopia Found!.
Merrick raises the discussion of whether the Tiptree Award is still needed to raise awareness of women's writing and feminist contributions to the field — Are women more well known and accepted in the field making this special recognition unnecessary? My own answer is an emphatic, "Yes, it's still needed." Even as an avid reader, as a young woman growing up in a small town, it took me a long time to find the reading I connected to and this conversation. The award helped. Also, it brings attention to more challenging and interesting texts which might otherwise be overlooked.
Quotes: "Inspired by the transformative visions of the 1970s utopias...feminism was meant to transform sf and its future visions," - Helen Merrick, The Secret Feminist Cabal
"...'the language of love' that 'current science lacks and a utopian science would discover'" — Hilary Rose
"A feminist science will acknowledge subjectivity in its methods; it will look at problems not just analytically but also holistically; it will aim for the complex answer as best and most honest; and it will be decentralized and organized cooperatively. In all these ways, a feminist science is utopian, since these conditions, values, and goals do not describe contemporary science." — Jane Donawerth
"alternatives to sex role stereotyping are central to the utopian visions of feminist writers" — Pamela J. Annas
"Science fiction may be a place where feminists go to dream of utopia or plot revolution but it is also a source of pleasure." — Helen Merrick, The Secret Feminist Cabal
"It is the utopian mode of thinking that separates science fiction from the other categories of popular feminist fiction..." — Carolyn Heilbrun
I was interested in reading Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666) as an early example of feminist science fiction — a precursor to Mary ShelleI was interested in reading Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666) as an early example of feminist science fiction — a precursor to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) — and an oft-cited example of early utopian, speculative and interstitial fiction.
Editor Kate Lilley calls The Blazing World, "...a narrative of the liberty of the female soul and the emancipatory possibilities of utopian speculation and writing specifically for women."
It starts off with an intriguing story. A woman who is abducted and then shipwrecked lands in a fantasy world populated by bear, fox and bird-men and becomes their Empress. It made me think of China Miéville's Bas Lag fantasy world populated by a mish mash of animal and insect men, so I was gratified to find that Miéville references Cavendish in his books Kraken and Un Lun Dun and to find this article "Trans-speciation: From Margaret Cavendish to China Miéville" by Amardeep Singh at The Valve, A Literary Organ.
The middle of the story lost interest for me. There is a long section of back and forth dialogue with philosophical discourse between the Empress and her various subjects (bird, bear and fish-men etc.). Without the effort of a closer reading or knowledge of 17th century discussions of the day, I found this hard to follow and skimmed much of it. In his introduction to a sample of the work in The Faber Book of Utopias, editor John Carey calls The Blazing World "tedious and rambling" and this section in particular "loquaciously unenlightening."
However, the end caught me up again in Cavendish's marvelous meta discussion. She appears as a character in the story and discusses creating worlds in fiction with the Empress.
The "and other writings" are two stories that appeared in Cavendish's publication Nature's Pieces (1656) "The Contract" and "Assaulted and Pursued Chastity." "The Contract" reads a bit like a fairy tale romance with the protagonist rather more empowered but the happily ever after marriage ending intact.
"Assaulted and Pursued Chastity," was fascinating. Our heroine, (Miseria, Affectionata, Travelia — her name changes throughout) goes to extremes to protect her virtue. She shoots a prince, takes poison but is revived, and then dresses as a man and escapes aboard a ship.
It was a great choice by Lilley to include these two works. They gave me a greater appreciation for The Blazing World and better understanding of Cavendish's perspective.
Cavendish is a fascinating personality and prolific writer. At a time in which it was rare for women to publish and sign their works, Cavendish put herself forward as an author. Like the Lady Gaga of her time, she was an eccentric in dress and action who sought and achieved fame. She wished for her writing to make its mark and has succeeded with writers from Virginia Woolf to China Miéville, if critically, noting her contribution. I'm a fan — and interested in learning more about her life, work, and the era in which she lived.
Pairs well with: China Miéville's Un Lun Dun, Perdido Street Station and The Scar; Virginia Woolf's The Common Reader and A Room of One's Own; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland; and The Faber Book of Utopias.
Quotes: "But your creating Fancy, thought it fit To make your World of Nothing, but pure Wit. Your Blazing-world, beyond the Stars mounts higher, Enlightens all with a Celestial Fire." — William Cavendish
"...although I have neither power, time nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather than not be mistress of one...I have made a world of my own: for which no body, I hope, will blame me, since it is in every one's power to do the like." — Margaret Cavendish
"What a vision of loneliness and riot the thought of Margaret Cavendish brings to mind! as if some giant cucumber has spread itself over all the roses and carnations in the garden and choked them to death." — Virginia Woolf on Margaret Cavendish in A Room of One's Own
"Nevertheless, though her philosophies are futile, and her plays intolerable, and her verses mainly dull, the vast bulk of the Duchess is leavened by a vein of authentic fire. One cannot help following the lure of her erratic and lovable personality as it meanders and twinkles through page after page. There is something noble and Quixotic and high-spirited, as well as crack-brained and bird-witted, about her. Her simplicity is so open; her intelligence so active; her sympathy with fairies and animals so true and tender." — Virginia Woolf on Margaret Cavendish in The Common Reader
Of note: Cavendish has also been claimed as an early animal advocate and opponent of animal testing. ...more
Eat vegetables — Dean Ornish, Joel Furhman, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, and John McDougalLive longer and healthier via diet and lifestyle.
Eat vegetables — Dean Ornish, Joel Furhman, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, and John McDougall.
Volunteer, maintain strong social ties, act in love and compassion—Mother Teresa, Karen Armstrong, and Dame Cicely Mary Saunders.
Add John Robbins'Healthy at 100 to the cannon of books/voices urging us to eschew the Standard American Diet (SAD) and live longer in great health. In addition, Robbins' makes a case against our society's toxic ageism. We should be able to look forward to growing old and enjoy our maturity — not fear it. How to dance at 100? The tenets are: eat plants, be active, volunteer, and love and be loved.
Healthy at 100 provides examples: of long-lived, healthy utopian cultures — Abkhasia, Vilacamba, Hunza, Okinama (often in remote, isolated or island locales); many extraordinary people such as triathlete, vegan, cancer survivor Ruth Heidrich; and inspiring stories of the Chicken Soup for the Soul variety (some of them are actually from the Chicken Soup series). Robbins also makes his case with philosophical quotes and hard science.
Sections of the book end with long lists of Steps You Can Take. Noted: • When you are interacting with people who don't eat the same way you do, never be ashamed of the steps you are taking toward greater health. Let your enthusiasm and love of life be contagious. • Give away everything that is cluttering your life. Have nothing in your house that is not useful or beautiful. • Celebrate your birthday every year by doing something you've never done before. • Become a hospice volunteer. • Celebrate death days as well as birthdays.
"A society's quality and durability can best be measured by the respect and care given to its elder citizens." — Arnold Toynbee
"Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest." — Marilyn Ferguson
"I want to drink to women all over the world...for them not to work too hard and to be happy with their families." — K. Lasuria
"Food should nourish life — this is the best medicine." — Okinawan proverb
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects." — Herman Melville ...more
"...this world is a place that is both beautiful and scary, inspiring and frightening, full of wonder and full or danger; and that we can make it work"...this world is a place that is both beautiful and scary, inspiring and frightening, full of wonder and full or danger; and that we can make it work." - editor Jetse de Vries
I am passionate about the idea of optimistic sf and also wish to write stories that envision a positive future so I've been very interested in this fantastic project (following its progress online) and was pleased to be able to purchase the book on Kindle.
Alas, however, as of this time, I have not been hooked by the stories I've tried. Perhaps, the Kindle is not ideal for browsing this anthology. ...more
Brilliant! Brilliant! But what is this book about?
How we treat our pets? Specieism and animal rights? Democracy? A utopia where the slaves revolt andBrilliant! Brilliant! But what is this book about?
How we treat our pets? Specieism and animal rights? Democracy? A utopia where the slaves revolt and create their society in the hills? What happens after an alien invasion? Classism? Are we the ruling class or the revolutionists? Are we the ones who can't walk or the ones who can't see? Cultural conditioning. The dangers of adaptation. Privilege. What it means to be free. Balance of power? A coming of age story: falling in love? Familial love? Kindness. Friendship. Finding your voice?
And what are these alien creatures? Horses? Dogs? Humans? Primates. Monkeys? Muppets? Could I draw a picture of Charley or Little Master? Would it look the same as yours?
A strange, subversive little book. Question everything. Enjoy! ...more
While A Crystal Age (1887) follows the classic structure of a nineteenth century utopia (a visitor arrives in an idyllic society), its focus on the prWhile A Crystal Age (1887) follows the classic structure of a nineteenth century utopia (a visitor arrives in an idyllic society), its focus on the protagonist's (Smith's) culture shock makes it a darker, less polemic version. Smith's failure to adapt to the strict mores of the pleasant, but alien, society he lands in, and his unrequited passion for one of the utopians, turns this into a utopian tragedy.
The utopian vision centers on harmonious appreciation of nature (animals works beside humans in telepathic connection and there's a ritualistic observance of the annual blooming of the rainbow lilies). The society also takes great care over their clothes, music, and large communal houses. They work a short day, eat vegetarian food, and express platonic love for an extended family. Brief periods of isolation are the punishment for disobedience. Lying, overworking, damaging property, and being unappreciative of natural beauty are the worst crimes.
Smith takes great pleasure in the environment he finds and the culture's beauty and refinement entices him. He falls in love at first sight with one of the utopian women and tries to gain acceptance into society, in part, to win her hand. However, instead of being shown about the utopia, lectured, and introduced to its differences and expectations — a utopian trope — Smith is adrift. The utopians are slow to recognize him as an outsider and he is shunned and shamed when he ignorantly offends their culture. To get along, he finds he must keep his past and questions to himself. No one will take pains to explain the mores of society to him and he must learn to read their language before he can educate himself.
By the time he understands the price the utopians have paid for their peaceful life — a purely platonic existence for all but the Mother and Father of a household — it is too late. He passionately loves a woman who cannot reciprocate his feelings, in a society that does not recognize them. He remains torn between the desirability of the utopia and his roots. While there is some hint that, had he waited to learn more, things may have worked out differently, ultimately the character's misunderstanding of his environment leads to his demise.
Pairs well with Charlotte Perkins Gilman's (1915), John Carey's The Faber Book of Utopias ...more
Written in 1905, H.G. Wells' unusual fiction/non-fiction hybrid describes his ideal world state.
"Our business here is to be Utopian, to make vivid anWritten in 1905, H.G. Wells' unusual fiction/non-fiction hybrid describes his ideal world state.
"Our business here is to be Utopian, to make vivid and credible, if we can, first this facet and then that, of an imaginary whole and happy world...It is no doubt an optimistic enterprise."
A Modern Utopia, has elements of a classic utopia (a stranger visits an ideally structured, considered society, explores, and returns home), but Wells undertakes his visit to Utopia with unapologetic, intentional philosophical discourse.
"It will be evident to the experienced reader that by omitting certain speculative and metaphysical elements and by elaborating incident, this book might have been reduced to a straightforward story. But I did not want to omit as much on this occasion. I do not see why I should always pander to the vulgar appetite for stark stories," said Wells in his introduction to the book.
Wells' Utopia is also not the classic small, isolated enclave, but rather an entire world set in alternate "space." In A Modern Utopia, the Utopia is the reality and the world we live in is the dream; the nightmare we remain in by inaction and feeble will (imagine that after Neo took the pill in The Matrix he awakened into a cleaner, smarter, more humanely ordered society instead of one at war with machines).
"Utopia, where men and women are happy and laws are wise, and where all that is tangled and confused in human affairs has been unraveled and made right."
What makes a society Utopian, in Wells' view, is similar to many other utopian authors: equality, vegetarianism, liberalism, and a more collaborative and less ego-driven society. Attaining Utopia is a collective act of will that requires individuals to care about humanity, work to structure society and see beyond their own ego-driven interests. (Pairs well with:Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, 2010, in which religious scholar Karen Armstrong makes a similar argument.)
"If we are to have any Utopia at all, we must have a clear common purpose, and a great and steadfast movement of will to override all these incurably egotistical dissidents."
Since Wells' wrote A Modern Utopia society seems to have made strides towards his vision including: longer life spans, reduced inequality by race and sex, a healthier, fairer system of employment, and a more connected global society.
Unique ideas in Wells' Utopia include: a class structure topped by a "samurai" level of enlightened ascetics; the allowance for group marriages of three or more persons; regular pilgrimages made by individuals into the wilderness alone to recharge and reflect; and the absence of pets (they are deemed unsanitary).
Wells uses the foil of a botanist skeptic (see the aforementioned "incurably egotistical dissidents") who follows his protagonist around Utopia and is generally dismissive. The botanist is an ego-driven character interested only in himself and his own passions.
"I do not like your Utopia, if there are to be no dogs," the botanist.
"They have extended the level of years far into the seventies, and age, when it some, comes swiftly and easily. The feverish hurry of our earth, the decay that begins before growth has ceased, is replaced by a ripe prolonged maturity."
"Were the will of the mass of men lit and conscious, I am firmly convinced it would now burn steadily for synthesis and peace."
"I am amazed, I have been amazed as long as I can remember, and I shall die, most certainly in a state of incredulous amazement, at this remarkable world." — a Utopian
"In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughter-houses." — a Utopian ...more
This fantastic compendium of snippets of essays, fictions, speeches, and poetry written by thinkers from 1490 B.C. to 1998 imagines what the world couThis fantastic compendium of snippets of essays, fictions, speeches, and poetry written by thinkers from 1490 B.C. to 1998 imagines what the world could be. The visions are diverse: serene and tormented, heavenly and horrific.
Exploring works from Plato in 360 B.C. to Michio Kaku in 1998, by political figures from Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler, and by philosophers from Thomas Hobbs to Karl Marx, provides a chronological narrative of how utopian ideas have changed over time and been influenced by the events and dialogue.
The editor John Carey provides analysis that helps put the reading into historical context and in view of what is known of the author's life. His comments are objective and useful, but not dispassionate.
Recommended for anyone interested in utopian (or dystopian) literature as a reader or writer and for anyone working for social change.
Read this if you have works by the authors of famous utopian/dystopian fictions on your reading list: Francis Bacon, Edward Bellemy, Elizabeth Corbett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Samuel Butler, or Marge Piercy. The anthology also provides some insight into the utopian thought of writers including Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Voltaire, and John Milton.
Notable: "Sanctuaries for Sadists," The Marquis de Sade's version of utopia, Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1795 (notably disturbing); "Samoan Fibs," Coming of Age in Samoa, 1929 (Margaret Mead was lied to); "Women in Cages," Swastika Night, 1937 (Katherine Burdekin imagines the Nazi regime's enslavement of women); and "What Women Want," (a sampling of women's responses when asked the question in 1995 at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women).
Quotable: "To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray — these are the things that make men happy; they have always had the power of doing these, they never will have the power to do more. The world's prosperity or adversity depends upon our knowing and teaching these few things: but upon iron, or glass, or electricity, or steam, no wise. And I am Utopian and enthusiastic enough to believe, that the time will come when the world will discover this." — "The Really Precious Things," John Ruskin Modern Painters, 1856 ...more
Quote-tastic "What one likes most about the universe is its wild improbability."
"People, he was beginning to understand, are at once the beneficiariesQuote-tastic "What one likes most about the universe is its wild improbability."
"People, he was beginning to understand, are at once the beneficiaries and the victims of their culture."
"I do muscular work, because I have muscles; and if I don't use my muscles I shall become a bad-tempered sitting addict."
"What do you say to people who are dying?...We help them to go on practicing the art of living even while they're dying. Knowing who in fact one is, being conscious of the universal and impersonal life that lives itself through each of us — that's the art of living, and that's what one can help the dying to go on practicing. To the very end. Maybe beyond the end."
"What heavenly lusciousness, what a supermango!"...more
**spoiler alert** In Calvino's The Baron in the Trees an eighteenth century Italian boy takes to the trees and refuses to come down. Neither love nor**spoiler alert** In Calvino's The Baron in the Trees an eighteenth century Italian boy takes to the trees and refuses to come down. Neither love nor war dissuade Cosimo from living out his life in his arboreal element. Even when attacked by pirates and carried out to sea he stays aloft in the ship's mast. His romances with Ursula and Viola fall way to his commitment to the trees — his truest love. "I hold dear the forest in which I live..," says Cosimo, the ultimate tree-hugger. The story is an homage to a past thick with trees when arboreal roofs sheltered humanity and "a monkey could have left Rome and skipped from tree to tree until it reached Spain, without ever touching earth." It regrets the lumbered future and the advent of the indiscriminate ax wielded by "careless generations, of improvident greed" when "no Cosimo will ever walk the trees again." With few plot points pushing the story forward, the novel becomes an extended fairy tale, 200 plus pages engaged in the creation of a mythical being. Cosimo's life becomes as legend within the novel. The "tree-climbing man of Ombrosa" is included in "the Chapter of Monsters, between the Hermaphrodite and the Siren." Cosimo, an extraordinary rebel, creates his own personal utopia, a life in trees. He writes "the Constitution of an Ideal State in the Trees, the imaginary Republic of Arborea" and his epitaph reads, "Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo - Lived in trees - Always loved the earth - Went into the sky." ...more
**spoiler alert** A classic utopia (i.e. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, Thomas More's Utopia), an emissary travels to an isolated society and com**spoiler alert** A classic utopia (i.e. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, Thomas More's Utopia), an emissary travels to an isolated society and comments on the conditions.
The ideas for a reshaped society in Ecotopia reminded me of an environmental science textbook I read in the 90s at Western Washington University. They aligned with my own philosophical and regional biases. It would be interesting to hear other perspectives. The overall atmosphere of Ecotopia as well as the society described felt reminiscent of Burning Man.
For writers: Ecotopia presents some point of view challenges. The protagonist, journalist William Weston, must be objective, critical and skeptical of the new ideas he encounters, but often the author's bias and familiarity shows through. This is not a heavily plotted novel, but it builds to the main character's meeting with the Ecotopian president, which creates some tension. The protagonist also undergoes a transformation making a clear arc from outsider to Ecotopian (he literally undergoes a blood transfusion). The character's emotional breakdown and subsequent "break through" builds to an intense, emotional scene. ...more