BABEWORLD READING GROUP: The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

The_Carrier_Bag_Theory_of_Fiction_-_Ursu

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K Le Guin, lead by Elena

  • the human aspect- not sure if we agree that heroes are the driver of a story, necessarily- people in the modern day enjoy watching people do mundane everyday activities- i.e. ASMR videos, or the TV show Gogglebox
  • the container as the most important human invention
  • collecting and storing v.s. the spear and violence
  • you harvest something but you need to get the excess home, the excess that you cannot eat then and there
  • the container being more important than what is inside
  • if capitalism is the container- there might be one or two good things inside the container, but the container still needs to be changed/remade
  • oppressive systems and structures could be seen as containers
  • the work we make, as marginalised groups, might not be as meaningful or important if not for the “containers” we are in
  • are we submitting to the container by being part of it, by taking part- i.e. being working class and going to uni- are we becoming part of the problem (container)?
  • can we spread the knowledge and power we have acquired?
  • are we forgetting and leaving behind our original communities (containers)?
  • you carry everything with you- you are the container for your memories, experiences, ect
  • personally I think this text needs to be handled carefully lest it be spun and used for TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) rhetoric with the undercurrents of how the container is inherently female (Read: womb, the act of harvesting, home, childcare) juxtaposed with the spear- violence, thrusting, penetrative, adventure, male
  • I am not saying this text is inherently transphobic, just that we need to discuss these interpretations and be aware of them
  • this text is a product of the times- in the 80s Science Fiction was dominated by men, the “hero” role of fighting aliens, so as a woman Science Fiction writer at the time this must have been how she felt trying to write her stories at the time
  • Also in that era trans people had much less of a voice and presence, which is important to note
  • “It is the story that makes the difference”
  • the idea that people only want to see the extremes- easier to turn into a narrative, to simplify something and make it easier to digest, but doesn’t show the full nuance and scope of a situation. It is easier to visualise a hero saving a village than a mum feeding her kids, and you don’t have to learn from it or put yourself in it- because no one is that extreme
  • It’s easier to focus on one or two individuals rather than the whole system they are propping up and are part of- i.e. the current Dominic Cummings scandal- what he did was wrong and he should be fired, but the media focusing on him means that we aren’t looking at the wider issues- that the whole political party in power are corrupt and doing a huge amount of terrible things, that getting rid of him won’t really make that much difference to the bigger picture, he would just be replaced by someone else equally (or more) corrupt
  • the human connection can be really important; it can make a story feel more real, more relatable, you are more likely to learn something
  • “It is a strange realism, but it is a strange reality”
  • science fiction as an extension or mirror to reality, rather than a mythological tale of heroism
  • the book or novel as a container for a story, rather than a spear travelling in a linear direction
  • not relating to this violent hero narrative and deciding to create your own narrative
  • you don’t always have to be the hero of the story, you can be a villain, or just a person- not a hero or a villain, just a human being
  • the best stories are where things go wrong, or you expect something to happen and it doesn’t (or not quite in the way you planned/thought) and where life happens
  • life is messy and doesn’t always have a clear conclusion, needing a conclusion can be reductive
  • the world will always need saving somehow, there will always be things that need to change, there is no clearly defined finish line in real life

Anna Suggested this podcast, linked below:

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