Photo Credit: Laura Anglin
For her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin received the 2014 National Book Award medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. When NWU asked her about her reaction to the news, she said: “I'm honored by this medal, and delighted that the National Book Foundation is giving it to a writer best known for writing kinds of fiction often not regarded as literature. I'll wear it with pride in the continuing campaigns against Google's attack on copyright and Amazon's attempt to censor authors and publishers who refuse to kiss the feet of Bezos.”
Q & A W/ URSULA K. LE GUIN
Le Guin, who is an NWU member, will celebrate her 85th birthday on October 21st. She lives in Portland, Oregon and, as of 2013, had published 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, 12 books for children, six volumes of poetry and four essay collections. Her honors and awards include the Hugo, the Nebula, a National Book Award and a PEN-Malamud. Recently we asked Ursula to answer some questions about the writing life.
NWU) What’s your writing schedule?
UKL) If I have something to write, I prefer to write it in the morning, in my study. But if I have something to write, I'll write it whenever and wherever I can.
NWU) What's the best writing advice you ever got?
UKL) “Why can’t you have kids and write books?” My best friend Jean said that to me when we were about 22.
NWU) Which of your books has proved most prescient?
UKL) "Prescient" sounds too much like fortune-telling! Several of my sf novels, such as The Word for World is Forest, The Dispossessed, and The Lathe of Heaven, show the terrible effects of overpopulation and exploitative capitalist technology on species diversity, the climate, etc., but I wasn't prescient—scientists have been warning us about all that for 50 years now, all you had to do was listen to them. (Which a lot of us still aren't doing.)
NWU) What books are on your bed stand right now?
UKL) Shigeru Mizuki, Showa: A History of Japan (a graphic history/autobiography -- amazing!) Mary Jacobus: Romantic Things. Two volumes of Rilke. Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle (to re-read for the nth time, so I can write an introduction for a new edition, yay!)
NWU) To what extent do you believe science fiction should offer a social critique, or serve as a lens through which to examine contemporary issues in science and technology?
UKL) I don't like to say that any kind of fiction, any art form, "should" do anything but be true to itself. However, by its nature, sf offers a different perspective on contemporary life (not just science and tech), and often hints that change is desirable, and possible.
NWU) Despite decades of fine work by many female writers such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Octavia Butler and yourself, to what extent do you think the field of science fiction is still something of a “boy’s club”?
UKL) For the people who want it to be a boys club, that's what it is. For grown-ups, it's a lively part of contemporary literature. These days it has no more problems with gender assumptions than the rest of literature has, but unfortunately, that's a good deal.
NWU) Why are you a National Writers Union member?
UKL) Because writers need solidarity against exploitation as much as any other workers do, and have particular issues that take knowledge and adroitness to handle