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Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great SF and fantasy writers of the past half century.

Over the years, I had the honor of meeting Le Guin a few times, but I cannot claim to really have known her as a person. Our encounters, such as they were, were all at conventions or Nebula banquets or writer's workshops, and they were all brief and forgettable.

But I certainly knew her work... as anyone who calls themselves an SF fan surely must. She was one of the giants. A gifted storyteller, dedicated to her art, she influenced a whole generation of writers who came after her, including me. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS ranks as one of the best science fiction novels ever written, in my estimation, and THE DISPOSSESSED and THE LATHE OF HEAVEN were splendid works as well. The original Earthsea trilogy occupies a similar lofty position in the fantasy pantheon (though it was badly served by its television adaptation).

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

The world is poorer today.


Alicia Holmes
Jan. 24th, 2018 09:59 pm (UTC)
I hate to be contrary on such a sad post, But I feel compelled to defend Hayao and Goro Miyazakis “Tales from Earthsea” adaption of her books as they are beautiful and I very much enjoyed them.

So sorry for the loss.
Jan. 25th, 2018 05:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Earthsea
I think Mr. Martin was more referring to the bad Syfy miniseries, since he said "television adaptation".
Alicia Holmes
Jan. 25th, 2018 07:51 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Earthsea
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he will respond?

She had a mixed opinion on Goros film herself, but overall did seem to generally enjoy it.

Unfortunately the immediate assumption that it was exactly like Disney got in the way of Miyazaki himself producing it. Under his immediate direction I agree with her completely that it would have been absolutely beyond spectacular. And she’s completely right for feeling the way she did. ( She had a post written about it on her site)
Jan. 24th, 2018 10:51 pm (UTC)
RIP Ursula

I was curious if you knew her very well, given that she was a long established Sci Fi/Fantasy writer. I guess the post above answers that.
Jan. 24th, 2018 11:30 pm (UTC)
Her passing was a loss-and while there are always writers, people who can engross you, really grab you, those are the ones you'll miss the most.

Hell, I still have pangs about Assimov.
Carey Wilson
Jan. 25th, 2018 12:21 am (UTC)
A Wizard of Earthsea
"A Wizard of Earthsea" was probably my favorite fantasy novel in Middle School. I still think about the shadow that the boy wizard spelled into existence. Haunting.

Edited at 2018-01-25 12:37 am (UTC)
Ryan Crippa
Jan. 25th, 2018 12:21 am (UTC)
"The original Earthsea trilogy occupies a similar lofty position in the fantasy pantheon (though it was badly served by its television adaptation)."

That sounds... familiar...

I MEAN... uh... Sorry for the sour grapes.

I remember reading (and absolutely loving) Left Hand of Darkness for a Sci-Fi and Fantasy Lit class a few years ago (your own A Game of Thrones was originally on the syllabus, but the original professor of the class who was a Medieval Classics expert had to bow out for the semester), and it really stuck with me. As of now, I've only read that and the first of the Earthsea books, but now I think I need to change that.
Jan. 25th, 2018 12:43 am (UTC)
I am so sorry to hear this, I love her book Buffalo Gals as well as the Earthsea Trilogy.
Jim Heneghan
Jan. 25th, 2018 12:57 am (UTC)
What makes a Golden Age?
People often say the golden age of Sci Fi was 19XX-19XX+10 or something. Where people say the golden age of fantasy is the early/mid 90s to now. I interpreted that (from my reading as a fantasy fanboy over those years) as writers went from just making up novel or interesting fantasy worlds to writers making up fantasy worlds and then crafting well written stories in well written worlds where actions have cause and effect that influence the characters in a realistic way. Also some writers wrote well written adult stories as well which also elevated Fantasy. What about the greatest generation of SF elevates their work over other generations of SF writing?

Edited at 2018-01-25 12:59 am (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2018 05:27 am (UTC)
Re: What makes a Golden Age?
One thing was that there wasn't as many choices as to what to watch or read and more people were reading. So, the people reading those authors felt a lot more camaraderie with each other and their fans and probably more fans were published writers.
Jan. 25th, 2018 06:30 am (UTC)
Generation gone...
Ah, good old times when one short story was enough to impress and forever influnce the young readers. For me it was "Rocanon's world" , still remember the pictures from Russian publication.
She was one of the great generation which pushed SF and fantasy into right direction, her "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" should be studied by every aspiring fantasy writer.
Jan. 25th, 2018 12:12 pm (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2018 03:10 pm (UTC)
As an adolescent fan in the late 60's and early 70's, I agree. Le Guin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS and THE DISPOSSESSED had a profound effect on me, especially on my social and political views. Zelazny and Delaney never failed to please. It was a good time to discover SF.

I should point out, lest some misinterpret your penultimate sentence, that Chip Delany is still with us and still teaching us about semiotics in a subtle way.
Cristian E. Navarro
Jan. 25th, 2018 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks George, and Thanks Ursula...:( We love. Saludos desde Argentina
Jan. 25th, 2018 05:19 pm (UTC)
I found out about this yesterday because an article about her passing was "Recommended by Pocket". I suppose it's not entirely unexpected, but it was a shock and it still makes me feel sad. She was such a personality in the realm of scifi/fantasy for so long, and it's not like she was finished doing things forever.
Gordon Landis
Jan. 26th, 2018 12:59 am (UTC)
Appreciation and regrets
I can't even begin to express my appreciation for her and her work. I'm pretty sure I'd be a different - and worse - person today if I hadn't read Earthsea, and Left Hand of Darkness, and From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, and so many more.

I met Ms. LeGuin once without knowing it, as a young teenager tagging along with my parents at a party. I'd brought a book with me - I brought one almost everywhere in those days - definitely SF of some sort, not hers. I left it on the floor behind a chair, and saw her pointing at it, and overheard her tell someone "that's what I write." I was too shy to join the conversation, and it was days later that I learned who the writer in the room was.

I will always wonder what I might have heard if I'd joined in that conversation, rather than waiting to grab my book when no one was looking, leaving the party quietly soon thereafter.
Williamjames Hoffer
Jan. 26th, 2018 01:43 am (UTC)
To Celebrate A Life
I leave approval of this post to the moderator as always but especially understand if it does not meet with approval. I do not mean to impose or stir things by this, but...

It seems to me we should be celebrating this wonderful person and her life. She was not taken from us at an early age. She was not left bereft by circumstances. She achieved greatness, recognition, and success in spite of the pervasive sexism of the time. I cannot be saddened at her passing seeing as how she spread so much wonder, thought, and pleasure. It is a joy to have been blessed with such a person. Grieve if you will. It is your right. But, think upon the good of this life well lived.
Jan. 26th, 2018 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: To Celebrate A Life
I said something similar to this in regards to the passing of Roy Dotrice, some time back. If I live into my 80s or 90s or 100s and have a good life, I would hope people would be happier for my good fortune and the things I have brought to the world rather than mourning something so inevitable as my death. True sorrow should be reserved for when people die early, having lived a life of despair and pain.

Valar morghulis. So it goes.
Jan. 26th, 2018 02:46 am (UTC)
I remember as a teen, when I hit the first passage in in The Left Hand of Darkness and the speakers sex was revealed and I felt so ashamed that I had assumed what sex they were from the dialogue. It was just such a mind blowing premise. I was sold, I couldn’t get enough of her writing. What a talent and what a fantastic example for women, a true justice warrior. She will definitely be missed.
Zu-Zu Lee
Jan. 26th, 2018 05:04 am (UTC)
“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”

Ursula K. Le Guin (Catwings, Earthsea trilogy) and Patricia A. McKillip (Riddlemaster triliogy, Forgotten Beasts of Eld) were my first adventures in fantasy. They were favorites from my mom's collection, well loved by two generations, I revistited both trilogies recently and am deeply sorrowed to hear of Ursula's passing. As a little girl with a wild imagination and a passion for reading & writing, these women were outstanding rolemodels, well ahead of their time. I see a lot of their influence and common themes in your writing, like they pulled me in as a child you have expertly trapped me in a world immortalized in prose, and reminded me that though many of the greats have fallen there are still greater adventures yet to come and worlds beyond our wildest imaginations to discover. I will have to explore more of Ursula's short fiction and sci-fi pieces, I have been thoroughly enjoying Sthephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection and your Dreamsongs anthologies.

"Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky."
Kristjn Gaukur Kristjnsson
Jan. 26th, 2018 01:03 pm (UTC)
I have only read her Earthsea books (the first book when it came out in Icelandic about 40 years ago), and the rest, decades later, when I figured out that this was a series. I loved those books.
Phillip Ortman
Jan. 26th, 2018 02:58 pm (UTC)
The first book I read of hers was The Tomb of Atuan as a child. I didn't realize it was the middle book in a trilogy, and spent much of it confused at first but her ability to create a world and wonderful characters that I still couldn't put it down. She definitely had an impact on me as my mind developed, and she will always hold a special place for me.
Jan. 26th, 2018 03:55 pm (UTC)
She was all about diversity!
I loved that her books featured characters of color!!!!
Jan. 26th, 2018 09:44 pm (UTC)
To Mourn or Not to Mourn
We mourn not for Ms. Le Guin for indeed her life was full, had meaning and left a body of work by which she will live on forever.

We mourn for ourselves as we shall not see her like again.

Rodrigo Gonzlez Tom
Jan. 28th, 2018 02:05 pm (UTC)
Author and translator.
As a Spaniard, I must remember her not only as a big author of fantasy and SF, but also as translator of great novels from other cultures (for instance: "Kalpa Imperial", by Angélica Gorodischer).
Jan. 29th, 2018 07:06 am (UTC)
RIP to a very talented lady.

I'd also like to point out that the first three DUNE novels by Frank Herbert were published in the 60s and 70s. If the 40s and 50s were the golden age of sci-fi, the 60s and 70s were the silver age.
Jan. 29th, 2018 06:39 pm (UTC)
Golden age must be wrong...
Shouldn't Golden Age be the other three: Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, and, you know, the Hugo, i.e. Hugo Gernsback?
Lisa A. R. Hoover
Jan. 29th, 2018 09:04 pm (UTC)
To Read
She has been on my "to read" list for a while - I am going to have to move her up the list.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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