Friday, February 16, 2018

A Hero's Journey - Ursula Le Guin

 “People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” - Ursula K. Le Guin. Image by David Lupton. 
On January 22, Ursula K Le Guin passed away. It felt to me like the library at Alexandria burned to the ground. The only thing that helps is knowing I can read and reread her books for the rest of my life.  She has taken so many of us on a hero's journey, and lived her life as nothing less.

Photo by Eileen Gunn

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin inspired millions of readers and writers, not only with her magical storytelling but her 'revolutionary' ideas. She blasted through genre and gender biases at a time when few women wrote speculative fiction (save under a nom de plume) and speculative fiction was not considered remotely worthy of literary recognition. Le Guin, with a handful of other writers, changed all that.

"There are very real differences between science fiction and realistic fiction, between horror and fantasy, between romance and mystery. Differences in writing them, in reading them, in criticizing them. Vive les différences! They’re what gives each genre its singular flavor and savor, its particular interest for the reader — and the writer.

But when the characteristics of a genre are controlled, systematized, and insisted upon by publishers, or editors, or critics, they become limitations rather than possibilities. Salability, repeatability, expectability replace quality. A literary form degenerates into a formula. Hack writers get into the baloney factory production line, Hollywood devours and regurgitates the baloney, and the genre soon is judged by its lowest common denominator…. And we have the situation as it was from the 1940’s to the turn of the century: “genre” used not as a useful descriptor, but as a negative judgment, a dismissal." - Ursala Le Guin in conversation with Michael Cunningham

"I felt obliged for so many years to protest, to rant about those distinctions — genuine and useful ones — being misused as value-judgments. Now the judgmentalism is dropping out of them, and that’s great. I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to rant. Whew!"

When I first read the Earthsea books as a child, my eyes opened to new possibilities, a future where I could aspire to write. Living that future now is a privilege I wouldn't be experiencing without Ursula Le Guin and other authors who helped along the way.

She set so many examples. One was for dealing with rejections - how not to give up. Her words and advice kept me from crumpling at those first checks. You can read a rejection letter she received from an unnamed publisher for her submission of The Left Hand of Darkness. Enlightening!

“Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 

Who remembers the wonderful film, The Jane Austen book club? The character Grigg, played by Hugh Dancy, is open to reading Austen. He doesn't care if it's a 'girly' genre or old. He's interested. Curious. But when he tries to share his love for SF and Fantasy with Jocelyn, Maria Bello's character, she scoffs at him, even though she'd never read any herself. He asks if she's heard of Ursula Le Guin. "What a wonderful writer she is," he says. Eventually, Jocelyn tries out this genre author and falls in love... with both Grigg and Le Guin!

Maria Bello and Hugh Dancy in The Jane Austen Book Club
The year the film came out, 2007, Powers was published, a young adult novel that follows the adventures of a runaway slave with amazing powers of memory. The book won Le Guin her sixth Nebula award for best novel. She was shortlisted with Terry Pratchett for Making Money, Cory Doctorow for Little Brother and Ian McDonald for Brasyl. You can read more about her achievements here.

“Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky.
—The Creation of Éa” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 

Read more on Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929 – 2018 at Helen Lowe's Blog, and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Journey well, Ursula Ursula Kroeber Le Guin.

Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2018 The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

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