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  #1  
Old May 6th, 2023, 03:41 PM
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Ursula K. LeGuin Month

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I'm going to scar you! Read my short story!
This month we'll be discussing the works of the American science fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin. She is dark, she is complicated, she is strange and visionary, and she is prolific, so you have a lot of options, if you are not sure where to plunge in. Here's a very good list of all Le Guin's works.

The Earthsea series was begun as a standalone novel, but expanded into a trilogy, and then a second trilogy was added. A Wizard of Earthsea introduces Ged, a young wizard in a world of archipelagos and opposites. The Tombs of Atuan tells the story of Tenar, a young female priestess in the same world, who meets Ged on one of his adventures. These novels were written for teens, but are wonderful for adults. Perhaps you have heard of the Hainish novels, more intense science fiction about an alterative human evolution, including the revolutionary The Disposessed and gender-bending The Left Hand of Darkness?

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If you've read all those already, or you are working on a limited time frame, try one of Ursula K. LeGuin's short stories. Some are as famous as her novels. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is just a few pages, but will possibly scar you forever.

Here's a ten minute clip of Neil Gaiman presenting her with a lifetime achievement award, and her acceptance speech. If you like an old lady being feisty and throwing punches about art, watch.

Here's a full hour PBS documentary about her, much of it in her own words, talking about genre and literature, breaking down walls, claiming your value.

And here's a moderated discussion between Ursula Le Guin and Donna Haraway, another feminist cyborg (remember Modest₋Witness@Second₋Millennium.FemaleMan₋Meets₋O ncoMouse?)

Join the discussion!

Did you read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"?
Did it scar you?
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Last edited by lostcheerio; May 6th, 2023 at 03:59 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2023, 10:11 AM
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All right! I'm here to be scarred by a wrinkled lady with a mischievous grin!

I read Left Hand of Darkness years ago, have one book of hers on hold at the library, and will read the short story as I wait for that book to come in.

Make it trippy, Ursula!
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Old May 13th, 2023, 03:16 AM
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I've never read anything by her before, so I'll take this as an opportunity to put her on my reading list. Not sure whether I'll get around to it this month, but I see our library has copies of Left Hand of Darkness.
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Old May 15th, 2023, 09:32 AM
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Hello all! I read Left Hand of Darkness years ago and loved it. It gripped me even as a younger reader with its characters and their world's unique traits.

Read the Dispossessed quite recently after I was in my class for Labor Studies and asked "What would Anarchism as a form of government or living actually look like?" A classmate recommended I read the Dispossessed. For a concept like "Anarchy" that gets thrown about as a burn it all downnnnn, it was a cool journey to experience the ideas of non-ownership, mutual aid and collective labor-- but also to see the human perversions of this model that could hinder it.

In that vein, my fave Ursula LeGuin quote:

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. 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, and very often in our art, the art of words.”
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Last edited by Smokefire12; May 15th, 2023 at 11:25 AM.
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Old May 15th, 2023, 05:07 PM
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Ok now I'm *really* interested in reading The Dispossessed. I read Left Hand of Darkness too, and also loved it -- although it seemed, as many of LeGuin's works do, very cold. I had a hard time with it, initially, but that was a long time ago. I wonder if all the grenades that have been tossed at gender definitions will open it up more now.
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Old May 20th, 2023, 09:19 PM
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I read Left Hand of Darkness, Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions too recently to read them again. I do have The Dispossessed, The Word for World is Forest, and The Lathe of Heaven, all unread. But I bought a nice single-volume edition of the Earthsea novels and stories recently, so I might reread them instead. Everything is so topsy-turvy in my life at the moment, I just need something comforting and familiar.

I don't know if I'll have anything particularly extraordinary to say, though, other than that Le Guin is a master storyteller. She keeps her plots lean, and has a relatively simple prose style. Once upon a time, most novels were like that, and rarely got much longer than 200 pages. Le Guin, Zelazny, Moorcock, Lieber. Even Arthur C Clarke kept his novels pretty lean. I won't say that I've NEVER read a longer book, but there is something to just telling a simple story with a beginning, middle and end.
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Old May 21st, 2023, 11:04 AM
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It all comes down to that doesn't it? A good story with a compelling character where you can't wait to find out what happens. Sometimes in sci-fi the *idea* can overwhelm the story, I guess. In fantasy too, the idea, the world, and all of the imagination that's gone into creating the context. But it has to serve the story or really be the story, or it doesn't belong on the page I suppose.

Having said that, I love long books and lavish world building.

And also -- reading your first paragraph, above, doesn't LeGuin have a deft way with titles? I don't love the character names in her novels (Ged?) but I love her titles.
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Old May 21st, 2023, 08:13 PM
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47Ronin, I do this, as well. Read familiar things for comfort in tumultuous times.
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Old May 25th, 2023, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lostcheerio View Post
Ok now I'm *really* interested in reading The Dispossessed. I read Left Hand of Darkness too, and also loved it -- although it seemed, as many of LeGuin's works do, very cold. I had a hard time with it, initially, but that was a long time ago. I wonder if all the grenades that have been tossed at gender definitions will open it up more now.
I always feel a little dirty for not liking the Hainish Cycle as much as I think I should. There are absolutely wonderful ideas in most of LeGuin's works. But I agree that somehow her novels feel a little apersonal to me. I suspect that's more a consequence of the expectations of hard science-fiction in the late-60s / early-70s, and not any fault against LeGuin. Some of her shorter works sit with me better. "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" is a really well-conceived take on the sentient forest / Gaia planet idea.

Regardless, everyone should read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", which is in my opinion one of the most significant and thought-provoking speculative fiction stories of all time. On a lighter note, it also reminds me not to take naming things in my gaming hobby too seriously -- after all, LeGuin's inspiration for the name Omelas was reading a road sign for Salem, Oregon in the mirror while driving.

Also, seriously, she has some of the best titles ever. Like those two short stories, or The Word for World is Forest (even if I thought that one was more than a little heavy-handed). They remind me of the verbose titles scattered among the early Star Trek episodes. Things like "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield". Those are largely contemporary with LeGuin's early writing; perhaps that style of titling was also a creature of the time?
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Old May 26th, 2023, 02:18 AM
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I read the Earthsea books for the first time last year. They're the first LeGuin stuff I've read at all so far. I only discovered her because of folks referencing Earthsea as an alternative to Harry Potter. One person referred to it as the "original magic school." And while I enjoyed the books and was happy to learn about her, that recommendation unfortunately distorted my expectations going into the first book. They did not spend very long at the school (which, I don't consider a bad thing. I just don't know why that one person described it like that, as if the school was the main setting like it is in HP.) Regardless, I believe each book in the series was better than the one before.

I haven't started reading anything else this month since the last book I finished. Busy packing for a move, but I look forward to reading more from LeGuin in the future.
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Old May 26th, 2023, 10:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drawn to Scale View Post
Regardless, everyone should read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", which is in my opinion one of the most significant and thought-provoking speculative fiction stories of all time.
I agree, it has that old school vibe, like Asimov's "Nightfall" comes to mind. And yet it's so deeply horrifying. I also think that it's a story that kind of sneaks up on you as you mentally return to it long after reading. I teach it in middle school when we read The Giver. And most of the kids have the response like... I'm glad I don't have to make that choice. And it's only really later that they realize, they kind of do.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2023, 02:42 AM
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Read Omelas in the train just now. While I understand the point of the story it didn't scar me because it doesn't become clear how this scapegoat thing is supposed to work (if it does) or why the people believe in it (if it doesn't work). Maybe I'll have better luck with some other stories by her.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2023, 11:15 AM
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I guess those questions are part of the point of it. Why does no one question it or rebel against it? What does "it works" or "it doesn't work" look like?

The story supposes that it does work for some reason, and suggests metaphorically that there is someone suffering for any level of peace and prosperity. What if it were a more direct cause/effect? What if that suffering was concentrated in one person, instead of dispersed over many? We turn a blind eye to a lot of stuff. The story kind of presents two options: accept it or walk away. Your questions are a third option: challenge it.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2023, 11:40 AM
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We can keep talking about Ursula K LeGuin as much as we want to, but I've just posted the book thread for June/July. Last year we took June and July to read a contemporary retelling of an Arthurian legend. This year we're experimenting with sticking to the same categories, and since Barbara Kingsolver just won a Pulitzer Prize with Demon Copperhead, a retelling of Dickens' David Copperfield, it seemed like a great choice. See you on the new thread!

Here is a link to the discussion thread for Demon Copperhead.
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Last edited by lostcheerio; Jun 3rd, 2023 at 11:40 AM.
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 09:40 PM
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I actually own this book and haven't read it yet. Time to dust it off and consume it.
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