This week: Ursula Le GuinEdited by: eyestar-on and off!
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Hey folks! I am happy to pop in as your guest editor for this edition. I was rereading "A wizard of Earthsea" and in seeking a topic for this note, I found out that the iconic Ursula Le Guin, passed on in January of this year!
Many fantasy and sci fi authors shared tributes as she was known to be a pioneer in this genre...back when more realistic fiction was considered more literary! So, kudos to her genius and independence are in order.
"We read books to find out who we are."
When asked who she measured her writing against she said,
"Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. And then, when I finally learned to read her, Virginia Woolf. Shoot for the top, always. You know you’ll never make it, but what’s the fun if you don’t shoot for the top?"
"A very good book tells me news, tells me things I didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, yet I recognize them — yes, I see, yes, this is how the world is. Fiction — and poetry and drama — cleanse the doors of perception. "
"As for “Write what you know,” I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them."
"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality."
Ursula Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin, born Ursula Kroeber in October 21, 1929 in Berkely California, died this year at 88. A world renouned pioneering woman author who pushed the boundaries of genre, especially in Fantasy and Sci-fi, and influenced those who would write fantasy to aspire beyond what form allowed.
She grew up in the depression and read mythology, sci-fi magazines and participated in discussions with her 2 brothers and her parents who were anthropologists. She went to Radcliffe College after the war in a time when Women were not allowed all the privileges of male students nor even in the world treated as equal intellegence in some quarters. She was well educated at Columbia U. She studied French, Italian and got Masters in Romance Literature. She won the Fullbright Fellowship to study in Paris. She was an expert anthropologist and influenced greatly by anarchism and taoist thought.
Ursula married Charles Le Guin in Paris and had three children, and later 4 grandchildren. She taught history at Portland State University.
Her first novel "Rocanna's World" was out in 1966 and in 1968 the first book of her "Earthsea" cycle was published. "A Wizard of Earthsea" was followed later by two more books in the series as well at her famous Science fiction books "The Left Hand of Darkness", "the Dispossessed," and "Laithe of Heaven" among others. She had more than 50 novels, poetry, short stories,literary fiction and even a translation of the Tao te Ching. She won Hugo and Nebula Sci-fi awards for "Left Hand of Darkness" and "Dispossessed" and her "Farthest Shore" won a National Book Award for Children's literature.
She was outspoken and a rebel in her time for standing for women writers and for breaking into the male dominated Sci-Fi world as well as being an influence in raising the Fantasy genre to High Literature, where for a long time it was not considered worthy as other genres. In 1987, she turned down an offer to do a blurb on a sci-fi anthology with an all male authorship and in 2014, when given the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters , recognizing 40 years of defying "conventions of narrative, language, ... transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction".She shared it with fellow sci fi and fantasy authors who she felt had been "excluded for years from literature" as literary honours always went to "so called realists'. She also won the World Fantasy award for lifetime achievement, made a “grand master” of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers.
She believed it was the writer's "pleasant duty" to inspire the reader's imagination with the "best and purest nourishment" and knew how to draw folks into her YA adventures and wry philosophical tales.
She wrote of utopian worlds that were not perfect but explored cultures and tried to have balance and compassion as key elements to solving issues. She used a blend of logic and intuition and was one of the first SF writers to show that good science fiction worldbuilding should have a believable social component to make it more real, adding cultural exporation to the genre.
When asked when she wanted to be a writer, she stated that she was always one, and certainly her collections prove the point as does the fact that she wrote right up to the end of her life, though the latter peices were just for herself.
She died in Oregon In January this year and was honoured by many people.
I have always enjoyed reading her works and yet had no idea of the role she played in changing the face of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It does make sense given the times she wrote in as a feminist and futurist, with strong opinions and hope for the future shown in her works.
Perhaps we can join Stephen King is his tribute: "Not just a science fiction writer; a literary icon. Godspeed into the galaxy," he wrote on Twitter.
Anyone out there a Le Guin Fan? Ever read her stories? Do you have a favourite? Was she an influence on your imagination?
Or was another author your inspiration? Love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading.
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Thank you kind readers of my last newsletter "Fantasy Newsletter (April 4, 2018)"
Write 2 Publish 2020
"One of my favorite movies is Han Christian Andersen with Danny Kaye. I can still sing some of the songs. They told the story in a memorable way. Many ballad songs tell a story and because we are wired to remember music and rhyme they stick with us for years. Just learn Bible verses in song or put music to facts you have to remember. They stick with us for years. ABC's anyone? "
"I enjoyed reading more about Hans Christen Andersen, truly a poet for the ages. :)"
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