Yesterday, the world lost a unique mind, a powerful voice, a passionate advocate.
Urusla LeGuin was a truly singular writer. It’s impossible to read one of her books and walk away unchanged. She set human problems and emotions and frailties and strengths against fantastic backdrops, and in doing so challenged us to face reality. She fought tirelessly for the legitimacy of science fiction and fantasy as literature, and for the legitimacy of those who wrote it. In her book on writing, The Wave in the Mind, she wrote, with her usual cutting wit, “To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think that imitation is superior to invention.”
She called on all of us to use our imaginations in her 2014 National Book Award speech. She warned us, “Hard time 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.” Then she took on the publishing industry – a large part of the audience that night – for its lack of imagination. “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… Books aren’t just commodities.”
In releasing the news of her death, her son called her a “peaceful warrior.” I can’t think of a better description of such a courageous spirit.
Yesterday, I lost one of my literary heroes. Thankfully, one whole shelf in my library is stocked with her books and short stories and essays. Her words will always be with me.