R.I.P. Ursula K. Le Guin


Damn. I am sad to see her go.

I’ve only just begun reading her and she’s already proven a rich influence on my thinking and even may have sparked my newfound futurist fictional writing path in the last year. The Dispossessed was one of Readers Underground’s early book clubs. I read it a year after that, to profound effects.

If anyone would like to share about how Ursula K. LeGuin’s work has affected them, this is one thread in which to do so. Let us pay honor to this visionary thinker who, though passed from this mortal coil, remains woven in to Cosmos’ collective genius.


I just found out, too. I backed a Kickstarter campaign that aimed to develop a documentary about her life. They have reprinted one of her poems on the site, a gorgeous text (Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by Arwen Curry » and the fine thread falls behind her — Kickstarter). LeGuin was one of the first science fiction writers that I read who really shook up my world, and I have reread The Dispossessed at least four times. Her Wizard of Earthsea books also were quite extraordinary, I’ve been thinking a lot about the second one lately, The Tombs of Atuan, because of the unusual way she deals with religion. Several of her more recent books have also had a profound effect - Searoad, Four Ways to Forgiveness, The Telling, and her Annals of the Western Shore. She defined a gendered science fiction before anyone else had even thought about it (the phenomenal Left Hand of Darkness), she was utopian rather than dystopian, another thing I admire about her enormously, and she wrote about non violence in ways that are still unpopular (The World for World is Forest). And she has spent the last several years promoting young writers and stewarding a more critical stance in the relationship between literature and society. She is the second death of a public figure in recent times that has left me speechless (the other being Leonard Cohen).


So I finally tracked down the video of the first discussion you folks had of the Dispossessed (Discussing The Dispossessed — Hangout #1 - #3 by madrush) - it had some marvellous moments of insight, and acted as a true tribute to this writer the day she left us. Thanks to all who participated, in both the video (@Jeremy, @natalie, @jzahrt, @Tom, @madrush, @Marika, @jcalz216) and the forum discussions (@rbruce11, @samiyam44, @Spacious ) ! Some time contamination!


Thanks for sharing the discussion video! I hope to find the time to watch it. :slight_smile:

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December of the Dispossessed” was literally the first “happening” on this forum. It was our “beta test,” before the “Winter of Origins” reading of Gebser. The book moved, inspired, and challenged me (in the best possible ways) profoundly—as have the other works of hers I’ve read, which is only a fraction of what I still hope to read in this lifetime! It is no exaggeration to say that Le Guin’s voice, ideas, and spirit are woven into the genetics of this project from the beginning. Her presence in the world will be missed, and today I am sad…but her influence is, and will continue to be, incalculable.

More than sad, I feel grateful for the gifts she has left us in her work, and the example she has set in her public appearances and social commentary. I feel joyful that we get to continue to read her books. They are truly a treasure!

There is so much I would like to share…I hope we can host a talk on, or reading of, one of her books soon (Left Hand of Darkness, anyone?). But for now, here is a lovely tribute I heard this morning. I’m sure there will be more.


My favorite quote from her.

" All young people are beautiful. The old can be beautiful, too, but they must earn their beauty."

She has certainly earned hers. I will light candle this evening, for this great artist and have a nice glass of wine and listen again to her brilliant recitation of her translation of The Way of the Tao


This is sad news indeed.

I have to admit to being more familiar with Earthsea than with the science fiction (though I do love both). There are images from the Earthsea books that I think about regularly. A few that come to mind:

  • I love the language-based theory of magic she uses. You have to know how to name something to be able to weave spells about it. And spells are something like non-true statements that become true because there can’t be untrue statements in the language of making.
  • I love the different cultures of the Earthsea world. I read once that while Tolkien built his world on historical linguistics, LeGuin built her’s on anthropology.
  • The story of how people split into humans and dragons is so beautiful. Hopefully not spoiling anything, but the idea that some people decided to make and own things and so became human, while others chose a more wild freedom and so became dragons is so compelling. Made even better by the idea that when humans learned to imagine things that didn’t yet exist, they forgot the original language of which the world is made. I haven’t read it in a while so I might be slipping up the details, but it’s still evocative.

I have been rereading A Wizard of Earthsea, and came across what I think is my favorite quote of Le Guin’s : « the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do. »

I’ve been thinking that her ideas about Balance, that doing magic in one location may lead to disruption in another, describes very much our modern world and our use of so-called enabling technologies. Given the popularity of the series, you’d think people would be more attuned to the truths of this than they are. But perhaps they were during the reading and then forgot afterwards. I wish we could find ways for people to remember her lessons in their daily and work lives…


Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is world-premiering this week. :stars:

Cool, this was the film I backed on Kickstarter. The whole thing started while she was still alive.

Here is a wonderful tribute to Leguin. I had tears streaming down my face for the first part, but then they changed to guffaws.