Friday Roundup: Ursula K. Le Guin on Racism, Anarchy, and Hearing Her Characters Speak

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I love the work of Ursula K. Le Guin, and in this I’m not alone. Though she’s primarily known as a science fiction (SF) writer, her admirers include literary heavyweights like David Mitchell, Salman Rushdie, and the fabulous Zadie Smith, who said that “Le Guin writes as well as any non-‘genre’ writer alive.” In this interview, reposted from Structo this week on LitHub, you’ll find nothing more than UKL being UKL, which is always pretty brilliant.

In particular, I appreciate her thoughts on fictional utopias–how she realized that anarchy, as a philosophy, did not have its own utopian novel. So she wrote The Dispossessed, easily one of my favorite SF novels.

She also says some cool things about how sometimes, as an author, a story can come to you because you hear it–either a first line or a character’s voice or perhaps both. I experienced something like that myself with my SF novel Kublai (though, in the end, I will probably throw out the original beginning; it’s definitely a work in progress).

Every writer knows that beginnings are a special kind of magic–a process I think of as “piercing the veil.” If a story is a big undifferentiated field of associations, a beginning (however it comes to you) is a point, and from a point you can draw a line–and from there, you’re off and running, trying to keep up with the thing as it rolls along down an increasingly steep incline.

Or maybe that’s just me!

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