25 January 2018 - Science Fiction Author Ursula K. Le Guin Dies at 88
Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88
Gerlad Jonas (The New York Times, 23/01/2018)
Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.
Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months.
Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.
Ursula K Le Guin by David Mitchell: ‘She was a crafter of fierce, focused, fertile dreams’
David Mitchell (The Guardian, 25/01/2018)
I only met Ursula K Le Guin the once, and her first words were a sly, “Oho, David, so this is an assignation!” She had a wicked smile and, as the Irish say, a face full of devilment. It was 2010, and we’d been left in a nondescript office of a bookshop in Portland, Oregon. I was in town to give a reading at the end of a US book tour. Quite how my American publicist had persuaded the unbiddable Ursula – who, doing the maths, was 80 – to give up a perfectly good evening for the sake of a passing British novelist, I have no idea; yet there she was.
Meeting your idols is a risky business – as Flaubert notes, the gold paint tends to come off on your fingers – but my 90 minutes chatting with Ursula only convinced me that the gold was genuine. She was not a glad sufferer of fools, it was clear, and you’d not want to cross her, but her graciousness that afternoon was unflagging. I gushed, of course. I told her how her Earthsea books had, as a boy, shown me how I wanted to spend my life – crafting worlds as real, as full and as irresistible as hers, or die trying. (Ursula observed that you could get away with princes and wizards in the 1960s and 70s, but by the 21st century they had become “cute”.) I told her how The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness struck me not merely as classily written novels where nuanced characters explore worlds both like and unlike ours, and survive not by force but by wit, cooperation and sacrifice. More than this, they dream into existence new ways for people to live. In old money, they are visions. (What could any author say to that except: “You’re welcome”?)
Margaret Atwood: We lost Ursula Le Guin when we needed her most
Margaret Atwood (The Washington Post, 24/01/2018)
When I finally got the brilliant and renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin all to myself on a stage in Portland, some years ago, I asked her the question I’d always been longing to ask: “Where do the ones who walk away from Omelas go?” Tricky question! She changed the subject.
Omelas is one of Le Guin’s fictional “thought experiments”: a perfect city where everyone has a lovely time, but everyone also knows that the city’s fate rests upon a single child who is kept in a dungeon and horribly mistreated. Unless this happens, the city will fall. Think slavery in the world of ancient Greece and Rome, think the antebellum South, think people under colonial rule, think England in the 19th century. That miserable child in Omelas is a close relative of the poverty-stricken but threatening children who clutch at the skirts of the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” Their names are Ignorance and Want, and they are very pertinent today.
Farewell Ursula Le Guin – the One who walked away from Omelas
Christopher Benjamin Menadue (The Conversation AU, 25/01/2018)
Author Ursula Kroeber Le Guin has been the subject of critical debate, analysis and discussion for generations. She died this week at the age of 88.
Le Guin published her first paid work April in Paris in the September 1962 issue of the magazine Fantastic Stories of the Imagination - and I am the proud owner of an original copy. I am a lifelong Le Guin fan, but also an academic exploring how science fiction is a cultural artefact that acts as a lens on changing attitudes and specific issues of its time. For me, Le Guin hit the sweet spots of her time powerfully and frequently.
Le Guin explored what it is to be human, faults and all, and the impact and influence of her work is undeniable in the world of fantasy and science fiction.