Saturday, September 26

Louis Michael: Heroes from a hero

- January 29, 2018


On Tuesday 23rd January 2017 one of my heroes died. Ursula Le Guin was a fantasy and science fiction writer who began publishing work from 1959, and continued all the way up until she died. In that long career rather than simply managing to stay relevant she went on to become a legend in her own lifetime, and with good reason. The numerous fantastically vivid and striking worlds that Le Guin constructed became synonymous with her name, and inside these richly textured universes would she weave the most beautifully lyrical stories that could span epic proportions in her elegantly effortless prose. She was a woman of boundless talent, and the world is undeniably better off for the work she has left behind as her legacy.

Le Guin was one of the first authors I ever fell in love with, and that love will only continue to grow as I do. I remember curling up as a young kid with A Wizard of Earthsea, a book I’d picked out from a trip to the fantasy section at Waterstones — which was a veritable nirvana for me at that age. I devoured that book. I can still clearly remember how enraptured I was by Le Guin’s refreshingly original take on all the fantasy tropes I was becoming so desensitised to. In her stories the wizards were not old men with wispy white beards, they were hardened islanders with ruddy bronze skin. And Ursula’s imagination was not lazy enough to expect the reader to be content with simple magic words; no, her magic had deep and ancient spiritual rules that bound together the fabric of her universe and remained loyal to an ubiquitous internal logic. I soaked it all up obsessively.

It’s books like Ursula’s that represent the true transformative potential of fictional literature. All too often is fiction brushed off as escapism, ultimately irrelevant and a waste of time as it does not pertain to reality. But dare to allow yourself to read the first chapter and instantly you’ll be pulled deeper, into all the layers of subtext that have the unique quality of reflecting the real world from angles we have never seen before.

Do yourself a favour and don’t take my word for it, discover her worlds for yourself.

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