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kottke.org posts about Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin documentary on PBS

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

If you’re in the US, most PBS stations will be showing the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin on August 2nd, so that’s your Friday night sorted.

Features interviews with the author, her family and friends, and the generation of sci-fi and fantasy writers she influenced, like Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Chabon, as well as gorgeous animations illustrating her work as she reads.

One comment I noted when she passed in 2018:

One of the many, many things Le Guin gave us was a subtle one: that the “science” in science fiction could also be the social sciences, and that, indeed, without it, no science fiction could be entirely complete.
Catherynne Valente on Twitter

And this great thread by Jeet Heer, including:

Le Guin was part of a great shift in science fiction, often called New Wave, which had many dimensions (literary, countercultural, feminist) but was also a move from xenophobia to xenophilia.

I loved this from her Rant About “Technology” which, sadly, seems to have gone offline when that site was redesigned.

Technology is the active human interface with the material world.

… But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources.

And of course this great acceptance speech when she received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

(Via Eliot Peper / Neil Gaiman.)

Ursula K. Le Guin and “gender ghetto” of the Golden Age of science fiction

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2018

Science fiction great Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday at age 88. Le Guin was the subject of this long New Yorker piece from a couple of years back, but I’d like to also direct your attention to a short piece Le Guin wrote for the magazine in 2012. In it, she describes how her editor submitted a short story of hers to Playboy under the name of U.K. Le Guin and then informed them after it was accepted that the writer was a woman. Playboy then requested to run the article under her initials so as not to frighten their male readership.

Unwilling to terrify these vulnerable people, I told Virginia to tell them sure, that’s fine. Playboy thanked us with touching gratitude. Then, after a couple of weeks, they asked for an author biography.

At once, I saw the whole panorama of U.K.’s life as a gaucho in Patagonia, a stevedore in Marseilles, a safari leader in Kenya, a light-heavyweight prizefighter in Chicago, and the abbot of a Coptic monastery in Algeria.

We’d tricked them slightly, though, and I didn’t want to continue the trickery. But what could I say? “He is a housewife and the mother of three children”?

I wrote, “It is commonly suspected that the writings of U.K. Le Guin are not actually written by U.K. Le Guin, but by another person of the same name.”

Game to the last, Playboy printed that. And my husband and I bought a red VW bus, cash down, with the check.

Yessss. BTW, if you’re wondering where to start with Le Guin, both the NYPL and Jo Walton at Tor recommend A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness, the description of which reads:

A lone human ambassador is sent to Winter, an alien world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters…