Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Ursula K. le Guin

This was not the way I wanted to get back to book blogging (really, I have a draft on rebirth and challenges and whatnot started, but alas, work happened) but I arrived late at home today/yesterday, no power on my cell for at least a few hours, turned up the computer, hoping to work a bit more (presentations to prepare for a meeting the next day) only to find that Ursula K. le Guin has passed away.

And while this was something that was bound to happen during my lifetime (has happened with other authors, will happen again, certainly), I was not prepared.

The works of Ursula K. le Guin have been with me since my early teen years, and have shaped me and my views of the world in many ways. Discovering Earthsea and loving it, moving on from book to book, until there were no more left - until I decided that if there was no more fantasy, I would go read science fiction (which at that time, silly me, I believed I didn't like, and I hadn't realised that like everything else, fixed categories are mostly artificial, and I gravitate towards the spaces in between).

The Left Hand of Darkness was my choice, and it opened up worlds that I hadn't imagined (even if it is in a very gendered version, but that's the Portuguese version for you). Since then, I've tried to read everything she has written (I'm a completist), and although I've made some headway, there are still more stories, and essays, and poetry that I haven't read yet.

According to LibraryThing I have 39 works by Ursula K. le Guin (3 unread, and 3 part of omnibus edition)
The Left Hand of Darkness was followed by Four Ways to Forgiveness and the Lathe of Heaven, before I discovered that her books had been published in Portugal for ages, and at every book fair I would hunt down the books that I could find. Eventually I started reading in English, and I started acquiring those that had yet to be published here.

And while different books have marked me in different ways, and many of her books and stories are my favourite, one that I often remember is Changing Planes, a collection of short stories that feel more like field reports.

You see, I find myself often waiting at airports (something that didn't happen when I read it, but has been a constant while I did my masters, and now that I'm working), and sometimes I work, sometimes I read, sometimes I rush from one place to the other trying not to miss my flight, but often times I'm bored. And wouldn't it be so much fun if we could just jump to another place, see new peoples, new worlds, while we wait for another flight?

It took me awhile to understand (in fact, it took me the time of waiting a few times at an airport) that we can. We can make up our own stories and travel to that world, or make a quick stop to different ones in between the pages of a book. It can be a story that starts to present itself while you listen to a song, or a podcast, or simply starts as if by spontaneous generation. It can be a place you've been so long ago, and now you remember again, and decide to visit. And it doesn't necessarily need to be on airport. It can be while you walk to work, while you stay in line at the supermarket, waiting for your doctor's appointment,...

And maybe I don't remember the stories in Changing Planes anymore, some of them didn't feel like stories, after all, more like prompts, given by the author: Here's a world, go imagine a story in it. Or a dare: I built this world, now build yours (I've shown you mine, now show me yours).

But I remember that sense of possibilities, of different worlds. Of daring to imagine a world like our own. A world not like our own. People like us. People not like us. And in all these worlds, with all these characters, there being stories.

So the the world may be poorer now that Ursula K. le Guin has left it, but it is also extremely richer that she has lived in it.

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