From Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places Ursula Le Guin (1989)

On how science fiction faces the issue of nuclear war

p. 102 “The Post-Holocaust story must be in part rehearsal, or acting out, variously motivated. One motivation is unmistakeably desire. Rage, frustration and infantile egoism play out the death wish: Let’s press that button and see what happens! Another motivation is fear, the obsessive anxiety that keeps the mind upon the worst that could happen, dwelling on it, in the not entirely superstitious hope that if we talk about it enough maybe it won’t happen. Rationally controlled, this fear motivates the cautionary tale: Look what would happen if -! So don’t! And the stories where people flee Earth altogether would seem to be pure wish fulfilment, escapism…. A great many have come from America and England … across the Iron Curtain writers seem not to write about World War III… perhaps … feel it ethically wrong to write about nuclear holocaust, because by doing so they would trivialize and familiarize the ultimate act of evil. … for the ultimate selling job on ultimate violence one must read those works of fiction issued by our government as manuals of civil defense in which, as a friend of mine puts it, you learn that there’s nothing to be afraid of if you’ve stockpiled lots of dried fruit.”

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