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Always Coming Slayers

For various reasons I was browsing AO3 last night, and noticed that there was Always Coming Home fanfic. This was surprising. If you don't know ACH, it's mostly fictional anthropology by Le Guin, of some future, post-post-apocalyptic, Pacific Northwest society, living in harmony with nature and itself and all that. There's a bit of story interleaved through it, of the Condor People re-inventing armies and warfare and how everyone else deals with that, but mostly it's pure 'study', like the appendices to the Lord of the Rings without the LotR itself. Somewhat interesting, though I don't think I ever read it through. Anyway, there's a shortage of characters and conflict, so what do you write fic of?

All of the fics turned out to be one series, linked above. A series crossover with... Slayers. The novel/anime Slayers. Lina Inverse and all. If you asked me to name anime/manga that at least fit the mood of ACH, I'd go with Mushi-shi. Kino no Tabi. YKK. Aria, even. Not Slayers. I'm sure Lina would be considered mentally ill, or "backwards-headed", by the locals.

That, in fact, provides much of the conflict: not so much fighting as talking. The gang turn to be chasing a prophecy/oracle that they needed to get something from the City of Mind, so they're adventuring in the ACH lands, which from their own POV is the far Outlands. (In return, they seem to be from within the Cyst.)

This particularly caught my attention, since the City of Mind... well, so, ACH is mostly about this anarcho-primitivist society, right? For hundreds of pages. But buried somewhere in the book is a few pages, or half a page, not much, about the City of Mind... an AI civilization/network busily exploring and cataloging the universe at a good fraction of the speed of light, and incidentally providing communication/library/satellite services to its an-prim progenitor-cousin humans back on Earth. Rather useful services, in fact: I think the army was dealt with partly by tracking its movements on satellite imagery and using that to run away more effectively. I'm a sucker for robots and AI in general, not to mention Culture-like AI civilizations, but also it was weird that this lovingly described primitivist society is dependent on high tech support they're culturally ill-equipped to even understand, let alone maintain on their own.

Well, Le Guin is famous for a couple of ambiguous utopias (The Dispossessed and "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas"), I guess this can be another one. Embrace the contradictions inherent in the system, or whatever.

As for the fics themselves, I found them pretty engaging. I have seen some Slayers, but I think you might be able to enjoy them even if you don't know much about Slayers or ACH. Seven pieces, not too long -- 2000-6000 words each.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/454763.html#comments



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2016 07:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for the pointer - I'll have to look. ACH is one of my favorite books; I treasure my signed first edition.

The far future of ACH is one of widespread environmental pollution and resource depletion; the City of Mind provides the Condor people with plans for all sorts of weapons, once they figure out how to ask for them, but they just don't have the resources to support them. Their attempt to build an army of conquest leads to revolts in their subject territories, and that's that. Not necessarily realistic, but it's typically Le Guin.

As for the Kesh, their approach is an Amish-like one of carefully considering what technologies they think are appropriate, using those, and ignoring the rest. They know about electricity, and build small wind- or water-powered generators, and make electrical cable, which they use to power lights and washing machines for laundry. The City is useful to them for things like weather forecasting and communication - trading parties in other lands use the City terminals to send messages back to the Valley, and the City's user interface language, TOK, is used as a lingua franca by communities all over far future California.

The "anthropological" parts of ACH describe the Kesh, but the protagonist of the principal story, Stone Telling, is the daughter of a Kesh woman and a Condor man who happened to be passing through one year on a scouting and road-building expedition; when her father returns when she is an adult, she follows him back to the Condor lands (the area around the Lassen volcanoes) and experiences their militaristic patriarchal culture, before returning to the Valley (the Napa valley) after the Condors' ill-conceived war.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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