Discussing Ursula K. Le Guin on Arena

(Photo by Elieen Gunn)

I have the distinct honour of appearing on RTÉ Radio 1’s cultural show Arena this evening to discuss the life and career of American writer Ursula K. Le Guin on the first anniversary of her death. It will be broadcast between 7 pm – 8 pm.

By the time I was reading sf and fantasy fiction as a teen Le Guin was already a giant in the field, and her presence as a remarkable storyteller and thinker offered me a role model when women were getting scant attention.

Later in college I read her critical writings and was impressed with her insight and thoughtfulness. What’s obvious was her courage and her forthrightness in speaking out when she noticed an injustice or forsaw potential harm. It strikes me that she was a direct person who spoke her opinion clearly, and no doubt her disinterest in couching her viewpoints in niceties unsettled some listeners.

There’s a lot of material about Le Guin online, including some useful video interviews.

Here’s an early interview, where she discusses Creatively and her approach to writing and science fiction.

And I particularly like this interview with Bill Moyers about the Lathe of Heaven.

As someone who engages with myth, and the mythic resonances that remain with us today, I also enjoy this quote from Le Guin:

True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. “You must change your life,” he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life. “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction” (1976)

We are lucky that Arwen Curry brought out a documentary called Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin in June last year (which I haven’t seen yet, but looks terrific). She saw a late cut of the film in December 2017 before she passed away on 22 January 2018.

You can listen to my segment on Arena online.