Letter to The Oregonian, published February 1, 2017:
A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work. We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined — and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are “alternative facts.”
Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them. The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.” The sun rises in the east. To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.
A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact. Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction. He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous. In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible. — Ursula K. Leguin
I’m so old, my introduction to LeGuin was a third or fourth printing of the Ace Double Rocannon’s World, which I picked up because I was a major Andre Norton fan. When I discovered sf fandom in college, there were still malefen ready to explain that LeGuin wasn’t really an sf/fantasy writer — just a nice older lady who wrote “safe fairy tales for school librarians”. That was before The Left Hand of Darkness became… canon.
Ursula K. LeGuin, outside category, walked away from the sanitized, “civilized” communities of every literary genre she touched. She never explicitly set out to lead the rest of us away from those settled mental landscapes, but anyone walking with such determination and sparkle will always attract a following among the curious and the discontent…
She taught me that age was experience and not something to be afraid of. So much so that I wanted to be in my 40’s even then, living a life of creativity and adventure.
— Beth LaPensée (@odaminowin) January 24, 2018
From the Grey Lady:
… Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Several, including “The Left Hand of Darkness” — set on a planet where the customary gender distinctions do not apply — have been in print for almost 50 years. The critic Harold Bloom lauded Ms. Le Guin as “a superbly imaginative creator and major stylist” who “has raised fantasy into high literature for our time.”
In addition to more than 20 novels, she was the author of a dozen books of poetry, more than 100 short stories (collected in multiple volumes), seven collections of essays, 13 books for children and five volumes of translation, including the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and selected poems by the Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral. She also wrote a guide for writers…
“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly,” she told The Guardian in an interview in 2005. “Little kids can’t do it; babies are morally monsters — completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.”
The writer’s “pleasant duty,” she said, is to ply the reader’s imagination with “the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.”…
An Ursula K. Le Guin quote from 30 years ago, from her commencement speech to Bryn Mawr in 1986:
"We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains."
— laura olin (@lauraolin) January 23, 2018
Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, in the Washington Post:
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…
A wealthy city sustained by the mistreated — this is what the ones who are walking away from Omelas are walking away from. My question was therefore: Where in the world could we find a society in which the happiness of some does not depend on the misery of others? How do we build Omelas, minus the tortured child?
Neither Ursula K. Le Guin nor I knew, but it was a question that Le Guin spent her lifetime trying to answer…
Lovely little memento from John Wray, also in the NYTimes:
Four years ago, on a midsummer Sunday, I rang the doorbell of an unassuming Victorian perched on the north slope of the Forest Park neighborhood of Portland, Ore., and waited for Ursula Kroeber Le Guin to come to the door. I’d grown up with — and in no small part, because of — her writing, from “Earthsea” to “The Left Hand of Darkness” to “The Dispossessed” to “Lavinia,” and the moment felt appropriately otherworldly. Not everyone is lucky enough to find himself ringing the doorbell of one of his literary heroes, let alone with a decent chance of being let in, and I was somewhat dumbstruck at the privilege. My host, when she came to the door, was decidedly less solemn.
“Come on in, Wray,” she said. “You get here all right? Good. Watch out for that [expletive] cat. He’s a terrorist.”…
Fittingly for a writer of speculative fiction, Ms. Le Guin’s house seemed larger on the inside than it was on the outside. I entered cautiously, and not only because of the cat. I was there to spend a long weekend conducting an interview with her for The Paris Review, the highbrow literary journal known for its in-depth conversations on the craft of fiction, and I’d had to lobby the editor for a month to get him to consider featuring a writer whose work was so tinged with genre. Ms. Le Guin, however, was distinctly beyond caring what literary New York thought of her — if the thought, in fact, had ever crossed her mind…
From Buzzfeed, back in December, “13 Pieces Of Indispensable Wisdom From Ursula K. Le Guin”:
… “I got a questionnaire from Harvard for the sixtieth reunion of the Harvard graduating class of 1951 […] Question 14: ‘Are you living your secret desires?’ Floored. I finally didn’t check Yes, Somewhat, or No, but wrote in ‘I have none, my desires are flagrant.’”…
“I began quite a while ago to resist declarations of literary greatness in the sense of singling out any one book as The Great American Novel, or even making lists of the Great American Books. Partly because the supposed categories of excellence omitting all genre writing, and the awards and reading lists and canons routinely and unquestioningly favoring work by men in the eastern half of the United States, made no sense to me. But mostly because I didn’t think and don’t think we have much idea of what’s enduringly excellent until it’s endured […] Art is not a horse race. Literature is not the Olympics. The hell with The Great American Novel. We have all the great novels we need right now — and right now some man or woman is writing a new one we won’t know we needed till we read it.”…
— Letters of Note (@LettersOfNote) March 8, 2017
At io9, “Scifi and Fantasy Creators Share Memories of Ursula K. Le Guin, the Woman Who Changed the Literary World”.
Ursula felt very strongly about the importance of Indigenous voices in science fiction, and she gave my mom validity in academia by contributing to her first anthology, which later led to her being able to put together Walking the Clouds. https://t.co/7a0wUpZCE6
— Beth LaPensée (@odaminowin) January 24, 2018