Tag Archives: Le Guin

Feature Friday: Imagine a New Story

I have talked a lot about creativity in problem solving and about the visual arts this month, but ART, the capital “A” art, isn’t just limited to painting or sculpture or photography. Art can be anything that we make, build, or dream. It is in dreaming that we lay the foundations for our future. It is in creating that we bring that dream into the world. We each have the power to write our own story, even rewrite the stories we’ve been told we need to conform to. So many of those old stories aren’t working anymore. It’s time to find a new way. Imagine the stories we can write together. Imagine the kind of world we could build.

And although I have shared this before, it is worth repeating.

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and who can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom.”

Gathering Resources

Some days, especially days when you’re trying desperately hard not to come down with the full-blown bronchitis that is knocking at the doors of your lungs, the only prep you can manage is getting to the pharmacy or grocery store to pick up cough syrup or chicken broth. But maybe, just maybe, if you go before you get too tired you can also swing by the library on your way there and pick up a couple of books at the Friends of the Library bag day sale. Which brings me to some actual prep advice for the day:

Library sales, thrift stores, and garage sales are great places to find low cost books and videos–prep or otherwise.

Library Book Sale Finds

In this case, I basically paid 13¢ per book, which for any book would be a steal. But given that the survival book alone retails for $24.95, I’d say it was an especially good deal. Bonus: I also picked up a couple of Le Guins, plus a few others I’ll write more about tomorrow.

Remembering Freedom

Today, one of my personal literary heroes summed up perfectly something I have been struggling to articulate–about this blog, about science fiction, and in particular apocalypse fiction, about writers and artists in general. About why we are the ones that will save the world.

I think that hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom.

Ursula K. LeGuin

I can’t remember the first time I read Le Guin’s work. Perhaps it was college, in a sci-fi lit class–The Left Hand of Darkness–the only book written by a woman that we read. What I do remember, distinctly, viscerally, was what that book did to me. Beyond the writing, which was stunning, beyond the setting, which was amazing, beyond completely changed the way I looked at gender. And it was this: it opened a door that I didn’t even know had been closed–a door through which I might some day become not just a writer, but a science fiction writer.

She was the first in my triumvirate of strong women sci-fi warriors: Le Guin, Butler, Atwood. In each case, it still astonishes me that it took me so long to find them. In each case, I am incredibly grateful that I did. Within each, I found not just a universe of amazing stories, but dreamers, teachers, activists, and more. And so, of course I was overjoyed to learn that yesterday, author Neil Gaiman presented Ursula Le Guin with a National Book Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award:

In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.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.

National Book Foundation press release

LeGuin is one of 9 women and only two science fiction authors to win this award which began in 1988. The other was Ray Bradbury (2000).*

Here is her acceptance speech.

* I also want to give a nod to Stephen King who, though he is considered a horror writer, has made forays into the realm of apocalypse fiction and therefore walks the borderlands adjacent to science fiction. He won the award in 2003.

The History of the Future

Dreaming the future, imagining the past, that’s what writers do. And apocalypse stories? They’ve been penned since early recorded history. Gilgamesh, Noah and his ark, the Dharmasastra. But what about science fiction, which has become a sort of parent category for modern-day apocalypse fiction?

According to a recent article on BBC’s iWonder:

Science fiction emerged nearly 300 years ago during a time of great advances in science. Since then authors have tried to make sense of their world by imagining what the future will look like.

Post-apocalyptic societies, alien invasions, robots and environmental catastrophes have all played out in this genre which is still popular today.

Dr. Caroline Edwards, “Writing the Future,” BBC.co.uk

The first example cited? Gulliver’s Travels, written in 1726 by Jonathan Swift, which includes a section feature a flying island populated by scientists.

The complete list features 20 sci-fi luminaries including three of my favorite: Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Margaret Atwood. The Left Hand of Darkness. The Parable of the Sower. The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not just a history lesson, it’s a kick-ass reading list.