Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” Defies Genre

Teaching Ursula Le Guin’s famous, resonant little tale, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (the final word of which I had apparently pronounced incorrectly for years) taught me something in turn: that rigid genre classification sometimes hurts more than it helps. Le Guin’s story asks as much about ethics as it does about how we—and even the author herself—may instinctually define certain works.

“People ask me to predict the Future,” Ray Bradbury wrote in an essay in 1982, “when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it.” According to Theodore Sturgeon, Bradbury had already expressed this sentiment around 1977, though others attributed it to the author of Dune, Frank Herbert. Regardless of who originated the phrase, the start of Bradbury’s essay—which presents a set of highly optimistic technological and societal goals for the world post-1984 (the year, not the novel)—reminded me of something Ursula ...

The Real Magic of Moebius’ Edena

“Science fiction is great,” the French artist Jean Giraud—better known as Moebius—wrote in a reflection on The Airtight Garage, the comic from the late 1970s often considered his masterwork, “because it literally opens the doors of time and space.” He might as well have been talking about the revelatory feeling of viewing his art. It certainly sums up my feelings upon first reading his masterpiece, Edena. In a 1996 lecture to Mexican art students, Moebius drew connections between illustration and all the other arts. “There must be a visual rhythm created by the placement of your text,” Moebius informed the students. “The rhythm of your plot should be reflected in your visual cadence and the way you compress or expand time. Like a filmmaker, you must be very careful in how you cast your characters and in how you direct them.” He then compared drawing to composing ...