**Next (& final!) meeting at IFP on Sunday afternoon, 6 January 1 – 4pm**
Ursula K. Heise X Ursula K. Le Guin
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies Homo sapiens under Least Concern, as ‘the species is very widely distributed, adaptable, currently increasing, and there are no major threats resulting in an overall population decline. … Humans are present in numerous protected areas throughout their range,” including not only all continents on Earth but also the International Space Station (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/136584/4313662 ).
‘It’s the story that makes the difference … Lest there be no more telling of stories at all, some of us out here in the wild oats, amid the alien corn, think we’d better start telling another one, which maybe people can go on with when the old one’s finished. Maybe. The trouble is, we’ve all let ourselves become part of the killer story, and so we may get finished along with it’, Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Carrier-bag Theory of Fiction’ (1989)
In Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (2016), Ursula K. Heise writes that global biodiversity databases such as the IUCN Red List can be understood as a new variant of the modern epic or world text, a cultural form of storytelling emerging from ‘an encyclopedic, centripetal impulse that reaches back to the Enlightenment and seeks to inventory the entire known world’. Considering database aesthetics, science fiction and other narrative modes, she asks ‘how might we acknowledge the realities of large-scale species extinction and yet move beyond mourning, melancholia, and nostalgia to a more affirmative vision of our biological future?’
In this final meeting we’ll consider encyclopedias, elegies and epics, and of course eat cake.