Den of Geek, a very good website for those of us who like being geeks (who doesn’t?), has an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin that is an absolute must-read if you’re into fantasy and science fiction, if you like Le Guin as an author, and if you’re interested in the meaning of books and literature in our culture and our world.
I’ll share two quotes to give a flavour of the thing, but it’s very much worth it to read the entire piece.
First, one of her answers dealing with snobbish attitudes towards fantasy and science fiction. (She discusses this at length in the interview, including how Margaret Atwood’s publisher basically forbade her from calling her science fiction books, science fiction.)
You’ve spoken and written very cogently for decades about the snobbery that imaginative literature – science-fiction and fantasy – has from the literary establishment. Do you think we’ll ever reach a point when those snobbish attitudes don’t exist?
Some people have to be snobs, don’t they? They can’t exist without looking down on something. There will always be such people, but tomorrow the fashion could change and then we’ll be looking down on realism!
The good thing is that in my life, we really have come quite a long way to return to sanity in admitting that imaginative literature is probably the oldest kind of storytelling and will always be with us – thank goodness – and that realism is just one kind of way of writing fiction, but not necessarily the best. Certainly not automatically the best, which is what the snobbery thing was to do with. If it was realistic it was inherently better than anything imaginative and therefore the silliest realist was better than Tolkien. Well, it just, it won’t wash, as we say.
And a second quote, that really resonates with me, about the difference between the books that make an impression on you as a young person, vs. the books that make an impression on you when you’re older. I strongly agree with her here: the things that affect you when you’re a child or a teenager, shape your life and your thinking in a very different and (I believe) more profound way than the things you read later in life.
My question then is, do the books that you eat now nourish you as much as the ones you ate when you were a child and a teenager?
Oh, no no. That’s such a good question. Things that kids read and the thing that hits the kid as a kid gets into their bones. The things I read now get into my head, sure enough. I think about them. I might read something and it’ll turn into a poem next month or something, but that early stuff, that becomes a part of your whole being in a different way, and you can’t get rid of it.
Read the whole interview at Den of Geek.