…shown here by Joyce Carol Oates and Melissa Lafsky. It’s perfectly natural for a class of people who generally tend to include a short story like The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas* in their lists of ‘good’ science fiction.
Which is another way of saying that I’m not surprised that those two authors are being partisan in weighing the balance between justice for an innocent, and pushing an ideological agenda. I just wish that they’d stop pretending that they can reconcile doing it and being feminists, in any meaningful sense of the term.
*For the non-nerds reading this: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a Hugo-winning short story from the 1970s, and easily the single most depraved work of science fiction to have ever won that award. Wikipedia’s summary will show you why:
In the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are smart and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the secret of the city: the good fortune of Omelas requires that an unfortunate child be kept in filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens know of this on coming of age.
After being exposed to the truth, most of the people of Omelas are initially shocked and disgusted, but are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact and resolve to live their lives in such a manner as to make the suffering of the unfortunate child worth it. However, some few of the citizens, young or old, silently walk away from the city, and no one knows where they go. The story ends with “The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”
I despise this story not for its portrayal of the people who accepted that devil’s bargain; as somebody once said, “Evil is easy.” I despise this story for its declaration that the only possible moral alternative to the systematic torture of a small child for the sake of a larger society is to walk away. As opposed to, say, taking a convenient stick and beating senseless whoever tried to stop you from dragging a child out of Hell.
Then again, this story was written in 1974 – which is to say, before we were reminded that monsters can be fought, too.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.