Evil shadows, aliens, sorcerers, dragons and more. Your guide to Ursula Le Guin’s fantasy
American author Ursula K Le Guin, known for award-winning classics like The Left Hand of Darkness and A Wizard of Earthsea leaves behind a legacy of more than 60 works across novels, poems, essays, plays and more. Here’s your guide to this popular sci-fi writer.books Updated: Jan 24, 2018 18:42 IST
The American sci-fi and fantasy author who passed away yesterday of prolonged illness at 88, leaves behind a legacy of more than 60 works across novels, poems, essays, plays, children’s books, works in translation, and fiery speeches gleefully excerpted online by fans.
Oh, like Philip Pullman?
She’d hate to be compared to anyone. But she has inspired Salman Rushdie and Neil Gaiman. Think of the depth and rage of Philip Pullman, with more philosophy and sci-fi: Evil shadows, alien races, parallel universes, interplanetary conflict, sorcerers and dragons. And no, not like George RR Martin or JK Rowling.
Read more about Ursula K Le Guin here
Isn’t there a Playboy connection?
There is. Le Guin submitted a short story to the magazine in the 1960s. Most of the characters were men, so the editors assumed she was a man too. Imagine their surprise. Playboy published her story, Nine Lives, under the byline UK Le Guin – so as not to let readers know. They asked for a bio too. Here’s what she sent: “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.” They printed it too!
So where so I start?
If you’re not much a sci-fi reader, pick up the EarthSea books – a literary upgrade on regular adventure-fantasy stories. The first novel is about a wizard who develops special powers and even goes to a wizard school, so you’ll wonder why Rowling never mentions Le Guin as an inspiration. But the connection ends there. The book is about finding a balance between good and evil, not vanquishing it. There’s a bit of sitting around and thinking, there’s plenty of focus on the power of words (knowing the true names of things is part of being powerful) but it’s a wonderful change from hollow action-packed plots.
And if I love hard sci-fi?
You’ll love The Left Hand Of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven and A Fisherman Of The Inland Sea. All wildly imaginative and meaty enough to spark discussions on anthropology, futurism, dystopia and cultural studies. If you end up loving the writing itself, consider her work Words Are My Matter, a book about writing.
Aren’t there shortcuts? A movie, perhaps?
You’ll want to steer clear of the SciFi Channel’s 2004 miniseries which is a cheesy, breezy lift of the plotline without the underlying complexities of the book. But consider Tales from Earthsea, the 2006 Japanese animated film directed by Gorō Miyazaki (son of Hayako of Studio Ghibli). It combines the plot and characters from the EarthSea books, with some depth. And of course YouTube is full of her feisty acceptance speeches for various awards received.