Ursula K. Le Guin seemed immortal to me. And of course, she is, as long as her work persists, as long as her work continues to resonate with readers, encouraging them to imagine otherwise.
Many fans, appreciators, disciples (and so on) have written about Le Guin in the days since we found out she passed away. I don’t have anything profound or significant to add. But I can offer my own experience with her writing as one more example of her worldview-changing power.
I happened upon my first Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea – thanks to an audiobook recording and a librarian who ordered it for the public library shelves. And I discovered a kind of fantasy that presented new and strange things as well as different ways of perceiving them.
Thanks to Le Guin I re-saw and re-thought diversity (The Lathe of Heaven), gender (The Left Hand of Darkness), and politics (The Dispossessed) and much more, all while expanding my sense of what science fiction is and could be.
As much as I deeply value Ursula Le Guin’s novels, it may be her short stories that still resonate with me most. Two, in particular, I learned to value even more after choosing them for a course on popular narrative. They’re as poignant now as they must have been when they were written. Maybe even more (I could not possibly tell).
If you haven’t read it, do. If you’ve read it already, read it once more. And once you think you have an interpretation, reread it and rethink it again. And then watch this video by SubRosa and reread “The Ones Who Walk Away…” another time.
After you read and reread it, think about “Sur” in relation to adventure and heroics. And think about, among other things, what makes a deed or action heroic, remarkable or grand, about what it means to discover and what it means to see…
Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin.
The map featured at the top of this post comes from www.ursulakleguin.com/Index-Maps. It is “The Map in the Attic” referred to in and usually published with “Sur.”