January 24th, 2018

South Park Self

darkness the right hand of light

Generally I actually like getting older, I'm an improved version of the younger me in many ways, but I hate getting older when all my icons inexorably die. We've just lost Ursula le Guin. When I grow up even older and have improved even further to the point where I can overcome all the multitudes of blockages which are preventing me from actually writing fiction in any real, public sense, she's the writer I want to be. She is the archetypal proponent of "thought experiment" science fiction, her work upheld by a steel backbone of intellectual enquiry and rigorous world-building.

I can't overestimate the effect Left Hand of Darkness and Lathe of Heaven had on me in undergrad, the way they colonised my thinking and pried open my assumptions with crowbars. I also identify very strongly with the elements of restraint, dispassion, almost calm which characterise her writing, and which I hope on good days characterise mine; in a lot of ways the snowscapes of Left Hand exemplify the aspects of her work which feel cold until you realise the seething life and driving passions under the surface. And Earthsea, of course, is formative for the genre as much as for many of its readers. I owned the first three Earthsea novels as a child, I vaguely remember acquiring them, expensively and new, from a surprisingly enlightened Zimbabwean bookshop when I was a young teenager, in those skinny volumes with the slightly stylised art-deoish covers, and the man half changed into a hawk. I read them with a sort of fascinated inadequacy, realising how much was going on under the surface, returning again and again to them to try and work out what it was.

I cried when the Tumblr posts came over my feed. However natural and graceful an exit this was on a fully lived life, however much the work of her hands will endure, she is a great loss.

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