The Lady said, "I Want to be Alone".
September 16, 2020 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious to know about the body of work (literature and science) concerning those people who try to leave society to live their lives alone but society won't let them. I remember a book from college about a colony of women who migrate to another planet but know eventually, men will come. Also, movies where people go into space to get away from humanity but it either follows them or destroys them because they try.

On Earth, I'm not so much talking about Idaho separatists or the concept of Mormonism where adherents get their own planets. I'm thinking more of people who are mistrustful of or who have no faith in the human societal system and try to live alone but are just not allowed to. Not cults but more along the lines of people who've tried to form islands or countries to escape to (like Sealand or the person who tried to claim an unclaimed island in the Pacific and a neighboring sovereign country sent a boat with a band and claimed it while the U.N. did nothing to protect his claim). I know it's a tricky formula I'm mixing here, I'm trying to get an idea of how much human society treats us all like crabs in the same pot with a penchant that doesn't want any of us to get away from any of us.
posted by CollectiveMind to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if you're looking for nonfiction only, but if you're open to fiction with some anchors in real events/communities, Women Talking by Miriam Toews may fit this bill.
posted by superfluousm at 9:32 AM on September 16

The Ursula Le Guin short story Solitude (in various collections) is to do with a girl who grows up in a society whose culture is based around solitude, introversion and respect for personal space. Her mother is an anthropologist documenting the society, who eventually decides to take her children and move on. The girl, now a teenager, loves her solitary life and doesn't want to leave.

It's one of my favourite stories ever.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:44 AM on September 16 [5 favorites]

That book from college sounds similar but not quite like JoAnna Russ' short story When It Changed which also gets featured in the later novel The Female Man. (Difference being that the women were not a colony that migrated away from men.)

I don't think either of those are quite what you're after, but Russ' book We Who Are About To... matches, with a protagonist who doesn't want to participate in the survival and colonization of a planet after a spaceship crash but other members of the group want to force her to.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:53 AM on September 16 [3 favorites]

You might enjoy The Stranger In The Woods about a man who lived alone in the Maine woods for 27 years.
posted by jabes at 10:08 AM on September 16

Another Ursula K. LeGuin work, The Disposessed is about an anarchist sect who were many years ago banished/granted the planet's moon as a place to set up their own society separately, in peace, away from the main society of the planet -- but the two worlds end up re-intertwining anyway.
posted by mekily at 10:23 AM on September 16 [4 favorites]

In Nancy Kress's Sleepless series, the second book (note: may want to read the first book first to know what's going on) features a group of genetically engineered people who move to an orbital and actively try to secede from the United States. They are legally not permitted to do so.

Also, even if you want to secede from the rest of humanity by yourself, you are most likely to have problems with needing medical care (even if you're a doctor, you may not be able to operate on your own eyes in the woods....), needing supplies, etc. That in itself is a situation of not being able to escape needing help from others.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:08 PM on September 16

Wanting to be alone is basically the plot of Lolly Willowes. 1920s spinster moves to the country to get away from everyone, especially her family.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:37 PM on September 16 [3 favorites]

I remember a book from college about a colony of women who migrate to another planet but know eventually, men will come

I don't have any suggestions but I would REALLY love to know what book that was!
posted by bahama mama at 5:50 PM on September 16

This "oh no" cartoon is the first thing I thought of.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:29 AM on September 17

In science fiction, Anathem might count.
posted by eotvos at 9:23 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]

Some of James Tiptree, Jr.'s work might appeal to you, albeit with a feminist slant: "The Women Men Don't See", "Houston, Houston Do You Read?" Alienation from society, and how the individual reacts to it, is very much one of the major themes of her work. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is the collection to get.
posted by Bron at 9:28 AM on September 17

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