The Queen is Dead
I've been devouring fantasy books for a long time. Ever since I read whatever happened to be at eye-level for a perpetually short 3rd grader in my school's library (enter Susan Cooper and Patricia C Wrede), to delightful encounters in real-life magic with the likes of George MacDonald and Niel Gaiman, I've been lucky to read the sorts of stories which move my heart and challenge my mind.
Today, in case you haven't yet heard the funeral bell's toll, a towering scifi/fantasy monarch has passed. Ursula K LeGuin has crossed the short wall of stones on into the vastness higher up and further in.
She penned The Wizard of Earthsea series, along with the heralded Left Hand of Darkness (which I only recently had the pleasure of finally reading), Steering the Craft (on Writing)... the list goes on and on... There are very few authors who move me. Who make me go quiet and long for somewhere else that never was. LeGuin rides high atop that list. Who make me feel the Other Wind on my cheek; who cast me into the labyrinth of myself, in the Dark, and lead me out by greater powers who have been there all along; who transport me to new planes of existence with pickles and boredom; and who inspire my spirit to tell my own stories - fearless and undaunted.
The first time I ever picked up an Ursula K LeGuin book, I had been searching for a new read (that eternal hunt). I think I was in college - probably a freshman or so - just starting out on my own literary endeavor with the first scribblings of what would later become Rienspel. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. One moment I was dreadfully lonely, sitting up late at night in my dorm, homesick for the southwestern air of Albuquerque as the thick silence of a midwestern ice storm set in outside... the next, there was an island, with steep clinging forests... and a wandering boy named... well... his true name doesn't really matter.
There are people at times in your life which you need so desperately you don't even know it. There are shades of you which you don't even know you're missing, until someone drops them by, seemingly on a whim.
LeGuin did that for me. Is still doing that for me, today.
Even now, as an author - she's helping steer the craft. In an award acceptance speech, she voiced what so many of us hard-scrabbling writers mutter under our breaths: that writing shouldn't be about profit margins and industry trends (and, in fact, is not). She reminded us that what people crave are good stories - the ones which stick with you. - not whatever corporate conglomerates in far away cities declare. There is freedom and balance in good, hard writing - both for the writer, and for the readers. It takes dedication to an art, and practice (lots of this). It takes being aware and self-aware. And it takes being painfully, terrifyingly honest with yourself and others. It takes being brave: launching your craft out into the unknown, come monsters or landfall.
You will be missed.
(and thank you.)