Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018
I found out today that the world has lost Ursula Le Guin, on January 22nd. I'm generally not much touched by the deaths of famous people. There is sadness, certainly, but it's usually just a vague feeling, an abstract kind of sadness, felt with the mind rather than the body. These are not people I know. Hearing of the death of Ursula Le Guin has affected me far more strongly than usual. I don't know her, but I feel like I have a relationship with her through her words. To know that her brilliant mind is no longer at work has brought a real and very heartfelt sadness.
Perhaps more than any other writer, Le Guin showed me what words make possible - the creation of whole other worlds, authentic and consistent and vital. Her Earthsea is a far more profound creation than Tolkien's Middle-earth. In her science fiction and fantasy writing, she always saw beyond the simplistic battle of good versus evil. Her literary universe was far more complex and much more interesting. The worlds she created allowed her to play with very big ideas, throwing light on how best to live our human lives by showing other possible constructions for societies.
It's a surprise that there haven't been more film and television adaptations of her work. Perhaps that's because her narratives are too complex and ambiguous, her worlds too realistically formed. Perhaps she was simply ahead of her time. She's been such a big part of my own literary life that I have no real feel for how generally well known she is as a writer. I'd love to know who else out there has some of these books on their shelves.
Le Guin was a visionary. I think her time is still to come. I suspect that film and television may introduce Earthsea to a whole new generation. It deserves to be more famous than the worlds of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. I'd like to think that we're ready for more authentic, more inclusive narratives at this time in our history.
Ursula Le Guin, thank you for so much pleasure and inspiration. Your words live on, and have more vitality than ever.
PS As a resident of Portland in Oregon, it's no surprise that she's been blipped before now. And I'm sure you can guess the identity of the blipper responsible?