Ursula Le Guin Has Passed Away

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin, the legendary science-fiction and fantasy writer, passed away today at age 88. Her family made the public announcement this morning but did not disclose a cause of death.

Generations of writers have been inspired and provoked by Le Guin's writings. I certainly count myself among them, although I would only be, at best, a casual fan. The diehards will be more than happy to share their tales, and you should seek them out in the coming days and months.

Ghibli Freaks will remember the 2006 feature animated movie Gedo Senki, titled Tales From Earthsea in the West, and directed by Goro Miyazaki in the midst of a very public feud with his legendary father. Le Guin was personally approached by Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki to create an animated adaptation of her acclaimed Earthsea novels, promising that the father would pass the torch down to his eldest son, but carefully oversee the production and treat it like one of his own works. Things unfolded quite differently in the ensuing months, and Le Guin was left feeling slightly betrayed and alienated. Thankfully, a written letter from father Miyazaki repaired the breach, and the two were able to make their peace.

Fans of the Studio Ghibli movies will have a unique view of Earthsea because of the 2006 movie, famously uneven, uncertain, and overwhelmed by the ongoing family melodrama. The same fans will also observe that Goro-san showed himself in that movie, through its troubled central character, and through his interpretations of the novels. Like the father, the son did not create a "faithful" movie adaptation, which is what is expected today, but used the original work to explore larger themes and wider discussions. That some of these discussions became very personal and painful is a tribute to the artist's courage and determination.

When I think of Ursula Le Guin, I always think of an inner strength, a tough-minded resilience. She was strong and wise, after all, because she had to be. She practiced her art at a time when female sci-fi and fantasy authors were all but unknown. She forged her own path, sang in her own voice. She persisted. And so she fought, scrapped, struggled, succeeded, and became a living legend.

It is not an easy thing to become an author. It takes an almost obsessive stubbornness to create, to write and edit, to publish, to promote, to suffer acclaim and rejection and silence, and then go back to the writer's desk to go through the whole thing again. You must believe in your own worth, your own voice, just as you must believe that an audience is out there, waiting to hear your tales.

A giant has passed from our world. Her spirit is now on the next journey. We will miss her greatly, but we will wish her Godspeed. Thank you.

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