A new documentary on the fantasy and science fiction author Usula K. Le Guin explores the evolution of her writing and the ideas that shape and define her work. Source: Bust.
“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
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
Images of Don DeLillo, Alice Munro, Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, Zadie Smith, Stephen King, Philip Roth, Alice Walker and more — Literary Hub
In an episode of A Phone Call From Paul, Paul Holdengraber talks to legendary writer Ursula K. Le Guin about the blurring of fact and fiction, the problem with celebrities, and the anxiety of influence. [Source]
This year marks the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia. Despite its advanced age, More’s compelling vision of a perfect society remains a quintessentially modern aspiration. Utopia is hailed as ‘astonishingly radical’ by contemporary political thinkers, and the text continues to offer inspiration and renewal for writers, artists, and filmmakers.
The perfect island of Utopia is a dream of societal harmony and order, not unlike the Biblical garden paradise or Plato’s Republic. More’s early modern work is considered a canonical text of Western literature and culture, providing a template to which we might one day aspire. But Utopia is also a perplexing and troubling text. More’s explorer protagonist, Raphael Hythloday, is presented as a companion of Vespucci on his voyage to the New World, which binds the utopian dream to the European invasion and colonization of America. It is no coincidence that there are slaves on the island of Utopia. Despite its associations with liberal thought and communal happiness, the island of Utopia has a rigid societal hierarchy and strictly-regulated communal laws. (more…)
“Following on from their horror classics series selected by Guillermo Del Toro, Penguin US is publishing six hardcover science fiction and fantasy classics this fall with introductions from Neil Gaiman, and (more importantly!) brilliant typographic covers by Brooklyn-based Spanish designer Alex Trochut. Available in October, the finished covers will be foil on uncoated paper over board.”