Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Farewell Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, 10/21/1929–1/22/2018

Words are forever immortal, but the writers are not.
I always wanted to meet Le Guin. Just to shake her hand and thank her for the stories she wrote that I always enjoyed. Over the next few days, there will be far more eloquent testimonials written by friends and colleagues who knew her and are far better poised to talk about her influence on writing in the 20th century.
I can, however, talk about how she influenced my own writing.
Her influence shows where I try to create my characters. I put a lot more thought into them than I think I did when I first thought about becoming a writer.
Dragons are important in my stories. Le Guin’s dragons in Earthsea were not animalistic beasts, they were unreachable beings of thought. Only those who were special could approach a dragon. This concept plays heavily in Aggadeh Chronicles, where dragons will only interact with Nem Aster or those who are close to him.
Another aspect in her character creation was the universal racial ambiguity of her characters. To assume her characters are cis white males would be wrong. I’ve tried to avoid describing characters in my own stories so readers can ascribe their own perceptions to them; to make the characters appear as who the the readers think they are.
Her Lathe of Heaven has me always thinking about how my non-human characters should be. How they interact with humans, how they feel about interacting with humans. Or, for that matter, how humans will interact with them.
I have friends who come from all around the world. I have never lived outside of New England. So I am constantly listening to my friends from other parts of the world on how they’ve dealt with and adapted to American culture. The linguistic and social issues they’ve had to deal with.
Le Guin grew up with people from many cultures visiting her parents, so she was constantly exposed to different ways of looking at the same things.
Her stories always echoed this multicultural view; she never had a binary, black and white plot in her tales. There were never really any villains, the heroes were not always right. The grey area between the two had to be worked out to resolve the tension of the story.
There's a lesson in that for everyone.