Author Spotlight: Ursula K. Le Guin

When I find an author I really like, I immediately start buying as much of their work as I can find, or rather, as much as I can afford. Every month I will write a little something on one of my favorite authors and hopefully encourage others to try them out as well. At the beginning of this month I finished the final installment in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle series of novels and short stories. To commemorate the occasion, I’ve decided to write my first Author Spotlight about this amazing author.

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Born on October 21st, 1929, Le Guin reigns in my heart as one of the queens of fantasy and science fiction. Though her works do nothing to rival other authors of her genres in terms of word count, Le Guin manages to do so much more with her stories than string together an engrossing plot. She builds entire worlds, entire planets, entire cultures, within the span of 100-300 pages. Not only does she build them, but she fills them with life. She creates multidimensional and sympathetic characters to drop into these worlds and explore them. As these characters explore these worlds and grow, Le Guin touches on aspects of our, the readers’ lives, and makes us think. Whether we’re thinking about gender roles and how much we rely on the strict, immobile definitions of sex and gender in The Left Hand of Darkness or the assumed normality of ownership in The Dispossessed. Le Guin presents concepts we take for granted and flips them on their heads so we can observe these concepts from a more objective and speculative point of view.

Yes, she is kind of a hero of mine. Can you tell?

For a reader unfamiliar with Le Guin, I recommend starting with her Hainish Cycle books. These are also good for a reader who is interested in science fiction but not familiar with it, or if you’re a fan of literary fiction who’d like to try something new, her style would be perfect for you! Note that her Hainish Cycle series has no specific order. It is chronologically jumbled and can be read in any order the reader wishes. I read the series almost entirely in order of publication because I found that the easiest path to take, but choose whatever is best for you.

Le Guin’s simple and yet meaningful use of language is inspiring to me as a writer. She doesn’t rely on so much flowery language nor does she pack her writing full of details. She writes exactly as much as she needs to create her worlds and tell her stories, nothing more. I would like to end this Author Spotlight with a quote from the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness, a novel I recommend with utmost confidence:

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find- if it’s a good novel- that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we’re changed.

The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.

The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.

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