VIDEO: Ursula Le Guin: On Conventions of Narrative, Language, Character, and Genre
Ursula Le Guin: Born October 21, 1929; died January 22, 2018. Rest in Peace. Le Guin’s books have become part of our collective ways of knowing are: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Beginning Place. We celebrate and honor Le Guin’s legacy and her visionary writing.
Listening to Le Guin: “Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now”
The award was “in recognition of her transformative impact on American literature” and the official announcement included the following tribute to Ursula:
For more than forty years, Le Guin has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction. Among the nation’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin’s fully imagined worlds challenge readers to consider profound philosophical and existential questions about gender, race, the environment, and society. Her boldly experimental and critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and children’s books, written in elegant prose, are popular with millions of readers around the world.
Garn Press applauds Ursula Le Guin for her vision, and fortitude, and for being a role model for both writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy. Le Guin’s imagining of worlds so different from our own opens up the possibility for us to imagine the world as it might be otherwise.
In her acceptance speech Ursula Le Guin was fearless in her criticism of the publishing industry. Here is the transcript:
To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.
Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014.
In 2000 the U.S. Library of Congress made Le Guin a Living Legend, and in 2004 the panel for the Edward Award stated that she “has inspired four generations of young adults to read beautifully constructed language, visit fantasy worlds that inform them about their own lives, and think about their ideas that are neither easy nor inconsequential.”
Le Guin’s books have become part of our collective ways of knowing are: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Beginning Place. We need Le Guin and her visionary writing now more than ever before.