Speaking of the Fantastic III: Interviews with Science Fiction Writers
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Compton, Robert J.
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Seller Inventory LIE Paperback or Softback. Seller Inventory BBS Seller Inventory I Book Description Borgo Press , Seller Inventory XM Book Description Borgo Press. Seller Inventory ING Darrell Schweitzer; George R. Landis; Joe W. Haldeman; Zoran Zivkovic; Esther M. Compton; Robert J. If she scrambles far enough up the redwood shingles, she can reach her own Mt. From here, she can gaze out over the rough blue of the bay to the city of San Francisco, row upon row of white houses climbing the hills above the water.
The city is strange to her—she rarely ventures so far from home—but the view is hers, and splendid. Beyond it she knows there are islands with a magical name: the Farallons. Ursula Kroeber was born in Berkeley, in , into a family busy with the reading, recording, telling, and inventing of stories. One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water.
On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world. She and her brother Karl supplemented these with science-fiction magazines.
The two also made up tales of political intrigue and exploration set in a stuffed-toy world called the Animal Kingdom. Her father was Alfred L. Kroeber, one of the most influential cultural anthropologists of the past century. A New Yorker from a prosperous German immigrant family, he went west in , when he was twenty-four, and did field work among the Indians of Northern California.
Throughout his career, he learned about cultures that were rapidly being transformed or destroyed from men and women who were among the last survivors of their people. At a time when the dominant story of America was one of European conquest, Ursula was aware, through her father and his Indian friends who came to the house, that there were other stories to tell and other judgments that might be made.
She was very stately. Le Guin loved her mother and admired her psychological gifts. The Kroeber household was full of voices as well as stories. Alfred liked to pose philosophical questions or puzzles over the dinner table and ask his four children about anything that interested them. In her fiction, she has tried to balance the analytical and the intuitive.
Mysticism—which is a word my father held in contempt, basically—and scientific factualism, need for evidence, and so on. I do try to juggle them, quite consciously. Darcy and taking it home to look at in private, guilty rapture. From Thomas Hardy she learned to handle strong feelings in fiction by pouring them into landscapes, letting the settings carry part of the emotional charge. As a child, she was painfully shy, and she still alludes to anxieties that she keeps hidden from the world. There is some resemblance between Ged, the provincial boy with a chip on his shoulder, and Ursula Kroeber, the Californian in jeans arriving at Radcliffe College in , all books and opinions, never before out of her home state, eager to prove herself as a poet.
And one rather brief acute remark could set you back on your heels. Ursula had her first clash with the literary establishment when she and a friend signed up to read submissions for a new Radcliffe literary magazine, Signature. We got out again and gratefully went back to our invisibility.
She has told me both that her college years were wonderful and that she has come to dislike the institution; the two emotions shadow each other. Her senior year was marred by a handsome and arrogant Harvard student, an accidental pregnancy, a broken heart, and an illegal abortion. I did get a splendid education there—there was wonderful Widener, the Fogg, the elmy campus, which I remember fondly. Le Guin graduated from Radcliffe with a degree in French, in Over the decade that followed, she wrote poems, short stories, and at least four novels. She submitted them to publishers; they came back with encouraging rejections.
She felt her way tentatively forward, unsure of her direction, lacking models. American literature was still under the spell of Hemingway, Faulkner, Richard Wright; realism held sway, and there was little interest in play or fantasy. I just want to write my stories and dig my own garden. Some writers of her generation embraced confessional literature and, later, memoir. Le Guin has always preferred self-concealment to self-exposure. My games are transformation and invention. Orsinia also gave her the distance to comment, indirectly, on Communist repression, the persecutions of the McCarthy era, the unfreedom of the age, and her decision to follow her own path.
The prospect made her uncomfortable at first, and when we entered the shut-up house she threw nervous energy into cleaning, enlisting me to stand on a chair and brush cobwebs off the ceiling. At a little kitchen table, over tea served in the indestructible handmade earthenware mugs of the seventies, she commented, somewhat defiantly, that she had always taken pleasure in cooking and keeping house. She feels that marriage and family have given her a stability that supported her writing—the freedom of solitude within the solidity of household life.
When Ursula graduated from Radcliffe, her plan was to get her doctorate and become an academic, like her three older brothers. On the boat going over, she met Charles LeGuin, a historian with an attractive Georgia accent who was writing his thesis on the French Revolution. They shared a sense of humor; they liked the same books; in Paris, they went together to the opera and the Louvre. Within two weeks they were engaged.
Ursula abandoned her Ph. Charles became the first reader for all her work, made sure she got time to write, and when they had children shared in their care. They spent the next few years in Georgia and Idaho, until, in , Charles got the job at Portland State. Ursula recalls flying up from Berkeley with a child on her lap and pregnant with her second. Stubbornness and a self-confessed arrogance about her work helped Le Guin through her unpublished years.
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Then and now, she feels that she is the best judge of her writing; she is unmoved by literary trends, and not easily swayed by editorial suggestion. One, set in Orsinia, a meditation on the consolations of art, went to a small literary journal. The second, about a junior professor liberated from academia by an act of magic, was bought by the science-fiction magazine Fantastic. If science fiction was down-market, it was at least a market. More than that, genre supplied a ready-made set of tools, including spaceships, planets, and aliens, plus a realm—the future—that set no limits on the imagination.