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An Interview with Ursula Le Guin / Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory The following interview took place on June 7, 1982, in Ursula K. Le Gain's home, a lovely two-story house located in one of Portland's older neighborhoods. From the dining room window, there was a postcard view of the Columbia River, the many bridges and highways that crisscross it, and of the smoky Portland skyline. Following some initial difficulties in figuring out how to work the pull-top tabs on three beers, Ms. Le Guin settled us in her living room for an afternoon-long discussion which frequently was punctuated by the flow of the household around us. Ursula Le Guin is probably as responsible as any other living writer for changing our notions ofwhat science fiction andfantasy are capable ofdoing. As with the works ofItalo Calvino, ].L. Borges, Philip K. Dick, and Stanislaw Lem, Ms. Le Gain's fictions defy genre definitions. Typically they are a sophisticated blend ofmyth, fable, political inquiry, and metaphysical parable, with all elements carefully controlled in terms of their anthropological implications. Hers is art that takes us on a circular journey to the future and back again, for not only is Le Guin a wonderful spinner offantastic tales, she is also able to make us take note of the words and cultural assumptions with which we construct our present. What Le Guin does perhaps better than any other writer is to create a world apart from our own and then explore its premise, its prevailing metaphor, to its fullest implications. Once that's accomplished and we put down her fiction to take up those fictions around us that order the "real world," we are left with her craft's insidious aim: to make us examine with alien eyes our commonplace truths. Although she was writing novels and short stories during the 1950s, it wasn't until the early 1960s that Ursula Le Guin found in science fiction a publishing home. From the time ofherfirst published novel (Rocannon's World in 1964) onward, Le Guin has been both highly prolific and widely praised. Her fourth novel, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards (Le Guin is the only writer to have won both of these prestigious awards twice, having won four Hugos and two Nebulas) and immediately established Le Guin as an important writer in the field. Her Earthsea trilogy—A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1972), and The Farthest Shore (1972)—has been compared with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and is often considered her most successful work to date; it also garnered for Ms. Le Guin the first stirrings of mainstream recognition, winning the Newbery Honor Book Citation (for The Tombs of Atuan) and the National Book Award for Children's Literature (for The Farthest Shore). The Dispossessed (1974), which again won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, reflected her increasing understanding of physics and her growing interest in anarchism as a political theory. Although the 1970s saw Le Guin continue to publish science fiction and fantasy successfully, there also began appearing various mainstream 64 ¦ The Missouri Review works of fiction (The Orsinian Tales, 2976, and Malafrena, a novel, 1979), poetry (Wild Angels, 2975), and essays (The Language of the Night, 2979). Her other major works include: The Lathe of Heaven (1971), The Wind's Twelve Quarters (stories, 2975), The Eye of the Heron (1978), and The Beginning Place (2980). McCaffery: As an anthropologist, your father spent a great deal of his professional career trying, in a sense, to recreate other peoples' cultures. Is that one of the attractions of science fiction for you—that it allows you to reconstruct, imaginatively, other cultures and get outside your own? Le Guin: Yes. Science fiction allows me to help people get out of their cultural skins and into the skins of other beings. In that sense science fiction is just a further extension of what the novel has traditionally been. In most fiction the author tries to get into the skin of another person; in science fiction you are often expected to get into the skin of another person from another culture...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 64-85
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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