Tuesday, August 28

Ursula K. Le Guin On Academic Criticism & Philip K. Dick

Ursula K. Le Guin On Acedemic Criticism & Philip K. Dick
Ursula K. Le Guin

This is from Ursula K. Le Guin's interview over at Wired.

On Academic Criticism
Wired: There’s been a large amount of academic criticism devoted to your work. Do you ever read any of that, and is there any that you think is particularly noteworthy?

Le Guin: Well, I read some of it. A lot of it’s kind of written for other academics, you know? But there are certain writers, like Brian Attebery or Jim Bittner, who I think really understand my work, and sometimes can explain it to me. “Oh, is that what I was doing? Hmm, never thought of that,” you know.
On Philip K. Dick
Wired: I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick, and when I attended the Clarion writers workshop, Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler assigned each of us a book to read that they thought would resonate with us, and the book that they assigned me was The Lathe of Heaven, which they described as an homage to Philip K. Dick, and I’ve always wondered if that’s true?

Le Guin: Oh yeah, definitely. You know, I couldn’t write a Phil Dick book, but I could steal some of his tricks, in a way. Pulling reality out from under the reader all the time, changing reality on them, the way he does. Well, I did it through dreams. Phil would have done it another way. But yeah, homage to Phil Dick is right.

Wired: Did you know him at all?

Le Guin: We talked on the telephone, and we corresponded some, but we never actually met. Except, we must have met in high school, because we were at Berkeley High School at the same time, but nobody I know remembers him. He is the unknown man from my class at Berkeley High.

Wired: Well, that’s sort of funny, because in a lot of his stories — one that comes to mind is Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said — it’s about a guy who suddenly nobody knows who he is anymore. I wonder if that was autobiographical in any way?

Le Guin: Oh, must be. [laughs] I don’t know. I’m rather proud of the fact that I was defending Phil Dick’s work early on, when he was not being paid much attention to and never kept in print. And I kept saying, “This guy is really good. This guy is writing completely original stuff. You know, it isn’t conventional, it isn’t run-of-the-mill. It’s different, but it’s really interesting.” And of course Phil picked up on that, and you always like it when another writer likes your stuff, you want to know that writer, so he may have written me or me him, and we talked some. I got a little bit bossy and told him that the women in his novels were kind of predictable. I didn’t think he’d really pay any attention, but he did. Apparently he really tried to think about the way he’d been handling women in his fiction. That touches me. You know, he didn’t have to pay any mind to anything I said.

Wired: Do you remember what year that was, that people would look for that sort of change in his fiction?

Le Guin: I think the novel where he tried to write women differently was VALIS. So it’s kind of late. We’re getting into the novels after he had that sort of revelation thing he had, and began writing a rather different kind of book.
Read the rest of her interview here: Ursula K. Le Guin: Still Battling the Powers That Be

It astonished me to learn that Ursula K. Le Guin's publishers were putting pressure on her to make her books "more like Harry Potter". Can you imagine! I suspect even J.K. Rowling would be scandalized.

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Photo credit: Marion Wood Kolisch


  1. Am I allowed to say that the editor who told Le Guin to write like Rowling is a dick? No? Then I won't.

    "Stupid is as stupid does." -- Forrest Gump

    1. * shakes head * I can't understand why anyone would say that to Ursula K. Le Guin.

      Like the quote!


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