Librarian of Alexandria


As for elitism, the problem may be scientism: technological edge mistaken for moral superiority. The imperialism of high technocracy equals the old racist imperialism in its arrogance; to the technophile, people who aren't in the know/in the net, who don't have the right artifacts, don't count. They're proles, masses, faceless nonentities. Whether it's fiction or history, the story isn't about them. The story's about the kids with the really neat, really expensive toys. So "people" comes to be operationally defined as those who have access to an extremely elaborate fast-growth industrial technology. And "technology" itself is restricted to that type. I have heard a man say perfectly seriously that the Native Americans before the Conquest had no technology. As we know, kiln-fired pottery is a naturally occurring substance, baskets ripen in the summer, and Machu Picchu just grew there.


"Newton's Sleep" can be, and has been, read as an anti-technological diatribe, a piece of Luddite ranting. It was not intended as such, but rather as a cautionary tale, a response to many stories and novels I had read over the years which (consciously or not—here is the problem of elitism again) depict people in spaceships and space stations as superior to those on earth. Masses of dummies stay down in the dirt and breed and die in squalor, and serve 'em right, while a few people who know how to program their VCRs live up in these superclean military worldlets provided with all mod con plus virtual reality sex, and are the Future of Man. It struck me as one of the drearier futures.


I hope the story doesn't read as anti-space travel. I love both the idea and the reality of the exploration of space, and was only trying to make the whole idea less smugly antiseptic. I really do think we have to take our dirt with us wherever we go. We are dirt. We are Earth.

—Ursula K. Le Guin