Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An interview with Ursula le Guin

Ursula  le Guin is one of my favorite science fiction writers. She recently gave an interview with an online science fiction magazine.  Ever since she came out with The Left Hand of Darkness, a tale about a planet where the beings there change sex for a very brief time and then go back to being "a-gendered" ,I've liked her. Unlike many science fiction authors, she hasn't been afraid to explore themes few others will take on. And while the ratio of female to male science fiction writers has gotten better(there are more female ones now, than when I was growing up), there are still fewer female than male authors, and many, though not all,of the female ones tend to write pure "fantasy". 


For the record, LeGuin is old-fashioned enough to dislike "sci-fi" as a descriptor. She insists on "sf".  Personally, I think both are acceptable, but then, I'm younger than LeGuin. 


I like LeGuin for several reasons:  As I said, she takes on social themes that not all writers of the genre do.  Particularly at the moment, there doesn't seem to be much "social" science fiction writing going on.  That is,there is a lot of "hard" science fiction, e.g. very "techy" stuff set in dysfunctional futures, or there are endless Tolkien fantasy clones, set in medieval-like worlds without any of the quirkiness or unpleasantness of the real thing. And then there are some interesting novels set in the future,where some horrible bioengineered plague of one sort or another  spreads over the planet. Some of these books are very well written, and well-thought out.  Robert Sawyer and Greg Bear come to mind. But almost no one writes about imagined societies that have  what might be called social structures "alternative" to the kinds we see on earth today.  One partial possible exception is Julie Czerneda.  In some of her books,she describes aliens with more or less "fantastic" social arrangements. But unfortunately, in the last book of the one series I read, it turned into space opera, and I gave up.  Basically, I don't like space opera very much.


Also, LeGuin is humane.  She really cares about the societies she makes up, and tries to see them, no matter how apparently unpleasant, as people. This is especially true in her "younger readers"series, like Earthsea. Furthermore, the people she imagines are not necessarily "European looking"(which, European looking though I am, I really appreciate). This is rare, and it seems  LeGuin has made a deliberate attempt to do this. I believe she was one of the pioneers in the field, in doing this. Unfortunately, making heroes and heroines of people not "like us" is still fairly rare, though non-European "supporting casts"  are more common now, than when I was growing up.


Finally, though her writing, she continues to speak out and reflect on society as we know it,and society as it might be -- some day. Unlike some science fiction writers, her writing is easy, and not "edgy", but still has an "edge" to it, that is well worth exploring, especially for ideas that perhaps have not yet been entirely articulated. I say hooray for this.  I am in awe of this.  Besides, isn't that what science fiction/s-f/sci-fi is supposed to do?  I wish I could say I do the same in my writing, but alas,I don't. Or at least I don't think I do.  I'm a different sort of writer. But again, aren't all writers, no matter what genre they write in,different in some subtle way,from one another?


Something to ponder,

Anne G

No comments: