Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday.
She was a light, a powerhouse, a women of subtlety and fire.
She created worlds that opened up our minds; we sailed on dragon wings to Earthsea. She showed us the left hand of darkness. She immersed us in her realms in such aesthetically transcendent and literary ways that she changed our perception of science fiction. Of stories. She showed us what they can do.
And she showed us ourselves.
All of our bigotry, despair, and pain; but also our light, our truth, and our love for one another. On other planets and in different times, she revealed who we are in moments that were stripped down, bare, and aching.
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
We’d find ourselves staring into the dragon fire and wondering who we are — and who we could be. We’d wonder about love, about gender, about race, about class. We’d see so much pain in other worlds and want to change it in ours.
Nobody can do anything very much, really, alone.
She reminded us that we need each other. But she didn’t settle into the thought like a tea cozy on a fancy table. She lit a flame. For artists, she wanted more. Expected more. Demanded more.
And for me, being a woman SFF writer, trying to write a world bigger than I can understand, I heard her call to not be lazy. To do the work. To practice. To try.
We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
Will it be easy? No, art never is, and neither is life. You have this vision in your head — this picture — of what you want to create, but it changes as you work, and you often fail. Her eyes don’t come to life. Her cheeks sag. The dragon’s snout is too defined.
But still, you press on, knowing the need for the practice, the work. Remembering all you’ve learned and all the ways you’ll fail again.
But still, you press on.
that stone is heavy in the hand
On toward something, not an end, not some grand masterpiece. But toward a practice. A better world imagined in the stones. You see it there, even as the words dissolve on the paper or the pencil erases the line.
You’ll work on it the next day, and the next. If not this one, then another, all leading back to the work, the vision, that you can create a brighter world, and that your stumbling still draws you forward.
Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.
Shine on, Ursula.