Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin

“Principles and beliefs associated with Taoism were […] central to Le Guin’s imaginative fiction: non-action, living harmoniously with the self and the universe, respecting the natural rhythms of life. The ying-yang symbol of the balance of opposites is reflected in the “equilibrium” which holds everything together in Earthsea. As Master Hand says: “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” The same symbol is a powerful metaphor in the harmonious symmetries of The Left Hand of Darkness: male and female, hot and cold, fear and courage.

These elements make Le Guin’s worlds less binary, less based on conflict and resolution, and more mystical, spiritual and – ultimately – refreshingly different to expected norms in science fiction and fantasy. My students often arrive at the surprising realisation that “nothing much happens” in The Left Hand of Darkness. Equally, the Earthsea books don’t focus so much on the standard fantasy trope of defeating a Dark Lord in a great battle, but on changing attitudes and prejudices. The slower pace of Le Guin’s books are part of their success. In a world of fast rhythms and small attention spans, this is a major achievement.”

— Dimitra Fimi, The Conversation

ursula_k__le_guin_by_taros

Last night, I put the finishing touches to a lecture I had prepared on the work of American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. It was focussed on her feminist additions to the Earthsea series of popular fantasy novels. I then visited Twitter, and was confused to see  Le Guin’s name at the top my feed. With mounting dread, I saw her name was the number one trending topic worldwide. I scrolled down to see my timeline was flooded with notifications about her death, at the age of 88, among family and friends. It was a surreal moment, and it occurs to me now that her death marks the end of an era in modern and contemporary literature.

Recommended Reads: Hari Kunzru on Ursula K. Le Guin • Ursula K. Le Guin, Whose Novels Plucked Truth From High Fantasy, Dies At 88 (NPR) • Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88 (The New York Times) • The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Yorker) • Ursula K. Le Guin, The Art of Fiction No. 221 (The Paris Review) • 20 Author Photos: Then and Now • Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin on Celebrity Culture and Fiction vs. Fact • Ursula K. Le Guin on Racism, Anarchy & Writing