Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88.
I don’t even know how to begin to process this news.
For me, she was more than Bowie or Prince – but no need to compare, either.
In Left Hand she taught us all about relational, relative gender by inventing characters who become sexed as a result of the person they were with, so the male King of a kingdom had, in a previous relationship, given birth to her own children.
She taught me everything we all already know about trees but have failed to imagine. In Direction of the Road, she writes as an oak tree :
If they wish to see death visibly in the world, that is their business, not mine. I will not act Eternity for them. Let them not turn to the trees for death. If that is what they want to see, let them look into one another’s eyes and see it there.
And in Earthsea she taught us about power and ethics and how to live despite everything.
She taught us what it means to only ever be a ‘bad man’ because we are women; that is, she uses the ‘bad man’ idea to explain that we are all of us people, but some of us are automatically bad at being what we are supposed to be because of gender and its caste.
Her clarity of mind – that bright, steady, lamp of intellect she yielded alternately like a laser or a search light – made so much visible that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Such a huge loss, such an inspiration, influence, mentor-from-a-distance; she taught me how to hold my head up as a woman who writes and that has been invaluable.