Ideas

Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

IDEAS remembers Ursula K. Le Guin
Author Ursula Le Guin is seen in a 1972 photo. Le Guin, the award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer who explored feminist themes and was best known for her Earthsea books, died peacefully Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon. She was 88. (The Oregonian via AP)

"There's a great fear of the imagination. It's a dangerous thing. It's out of control, it's subversive." – Ursula K. Le Guin

American writer Ursula K. Le Guin was often described as a fantasy or science fiction writer. But she always preferred to be known simply as a novelist. Whatever the label, the scope of her impact and influence was massive.

Her imagination, her strength of literary vision, and her passion for dramatizing her thought experiments in writing — all infused with an uncompromising humanist sensibility — have left their mark on readers, and on later generations of writers, including Salman Rushdie, and on her contemporaries, like Margaret Atwood. Ms. Atwood both wrote an obituary for The Guardian, and appeared in the two-part series we broadcast in April 2004, called The Word for World Is Imagination.

In the series, contributor and playwright Kelley Jo Burke imagines herself on a boat, which travels to the archipelagos of thought described in Le Guin's writings, and guides listeners through Le Guin's landscapes of the mind.

Kelley Jo travelled to Le Guin's home in Oregon to interview her over two days. Kelley Jo still recalls her favourite moment as she was chatting with Ursula and her husband. She'd used word "anomic" (the adjective form of "anomie", meaning a spiritual or existential freefall) and both Ursula and her husband immediately exclaimed "Derivation!", and pounced on dictionary of word origins, searching for Greek and Latin roots of the word. And once it was all sorted out, a general sense of contentment filled the room. In Kelley Jo's words, Ursula Le Guin was an "endlessly curious person, endlessly enchanted by the word… She was a writer first. And so fiercely proud of it."

Other writers and scholars featured in the series: Mason Harris of Simon Fraser University, author and editor Candas Jane Dorsey, novelist Elisabeth Vonarburg, and novelist Nalo Hopkinson.

The series was produced by Ideas Senior Producer, Dave Redel.

Regina writer and producer Kelley Jo Burke explores the work, methods, and magic of Ursula K. Le Guin -- one of speculative fiction’s most important, and mindful writers. Encore, from April 2004. 54:22
Regina writer and producer Kelley Jo Burke explores the work, methods, and magic of Ursula K. Le Guin -- one of speculative fiction’s most important, and mindful writers. Encore, from April 2004. 54:22

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