Ursula K. Le Guin has died. I’ve written about her and her books a lot on this blog through the years. She meant the world to me as a writer, as a reader, and as a person. She shaped me, and influenced my writing in ways I can’t even really put into words. I read the original Earthsea trilogy as a young teen, and those books, but especially The Tombs of Atuan, struck me like lightning, changed me like magic. Beautiful prose that was powerful and somehow simple even in its complexity. Characters that felt alive. A world of magic and dragons that still felt rooted in the real world: earth, dirt, water, farming, life.
In later years, Le Guin revisited Earthsea and found new depths, new perspectives. Her short story collection Tales from Earthsea, and Tehanu, are as masterful and powerful as anything she wrote in her younger years.
Of all her amazing science fiction books, my favourite is The Dispossessed. I love the way this book explores two societies, two different political systems, and how society and how we live shapes us and is shaped by us.
There is a lot to say about what she meant to the field of speculative fiction, but right now, what I feel most is just a sense of loss. I’ll be reading Tehanu and The Tombs of Atuan today, just to comfort myself.
I highly recommend her book on writing, Steering The Craft. Some quotes:
- “An awareness of what your own writing sounds like is an essential skill for a writer. — Narrative writers need to train their mind’s ear to listen to their own prose, to hear as they write.”
- “Plot is a marvelous device. But it’s not superior to story, and not even necessary to it.”
- “We don’t have to have the rigid structure of a plot to tell a story, but we do need a focus. What is it about? Who is it about?”
More about Le Guin:
- Read a great interview with Le Guin in Interview Magazine.
- Another great interview at Den of Geek.
- 5 (or 10) must-reads by Ursula K. Le Guin.