Reminder that Ursula K LeGuin is America's greatest living writer
It's Ursula K LeGuin's birthday and Tor has a very slight ode to her genius.
She is willing to dig into stories that most people glide over. Where most people, even speculative fiction writers, simply accept a gender binary and move on with their day, Le Guin wrote The Left Hand of Darkness, entire book dealing with people who only become gendered for a few days a month. Those genders are random, unexpected, and for the duration of those days you work with what you’ve got. In The Dispossessed she explores the construction of language and the meaning of utopia. The Lathe of Heaven looks at social ills and one man’s attempt to heal them with his dreams – which often proves disastrous. And in the Earthsea books she gives us a world whose only land is an extensive archipelago, so rather than writing a straightforward magical coming-of-age story as Ged becomes a wizard, she tells us how the land and sea build a foundation for Ged’s society. In one of her most recent books, Lavinia, she takes a minor character from the Aeneid and makes her the focus of the entire story, which turns increasingly surreal, as Lavinia herself seems to know she’s a character in a story. For half a century she's been using science fiction and fantasy to tell us what we are, and more importantly, tell us what we could be.