Photo: Duarte Amaral Netto

Utopia’s Extinction: the Anthroposcenic Landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin

Jonathan Hay

University of Chester

Abstract| In the Anthropocene epoch,the utopian prospect which has structured civilizational development throughout recorded history is extinguished almost entirely. Our anthropocentric fantasies of dominion over the natural world have proven harmful not only to the biosphere we inhabit, but to the continued existence of our own species. Instead, new conceptualizations which foreground the role of humanity within its environment must take precedence. Intricate portrayals of humanity’s interdependence within its planetary environment—and illustrations of the damage that our daily lives inflict upon the natural world—have long been apparent in the Science Fiction genre. By emphasising the importance of fostering and recognizing our species’ symbiotic relationship with its natural world through practices of daily life, the Anthroposcenic landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Science Fiction textsexert a posthuman vision which refutes anthropocentric ideologies, and decenters the notion of progress as an eschatology. Accordingly, this article closely analyses three texts of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle which particularly exemplify her Anthroposcenic objective; The Word for World is Forest (1972); Planet of Exile (1966); and City of Illusions (1967). These texts extrapolate the Anthropocene epoch into a cosmic paradigm, and so demonstrate the extinction of utopian potential it personifies vividly.

Keywords | Anthropocene, Science Fiction, Le Guin, Posthumanism.