When I first began teaching writing while I was at Chapman and eager to launch my “new career,” I got Ursula Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft and was powerfully impressed by what I learned from it along with my reading as an MFA candidate, which included many non-US authors and historic literature. I set my syllabus for my first sci fi writing class and wrote Ursula, asking if she had any suggestions for how I might best incorporate her text into the class.
Twenty years later, I know my letter to be academic courtesy and something I think nearly every textbook editor and author would appreciate. I received a letter in return of which the gist was, “You’re awfully cheeky for thinking you can teach writing.” I think this topic was of the utmost importance to her and I do recall seeing her urge many ways to write well in the deepest way.
Over the years I heard of the appalling discrimination she faced, from horrific physical comments (upon being introduced, Heinlein reportedly complimented her husband on selecting a wife with such a nice bustline) as the first, and – by the end of her life – pre-eminent sci-fi writer and thinker of the 20th century. She was above it, as anyone who achieved what she has must be.
Her mind ranged vastly, so far and so far more originally, than her much more “famous” (even today) male counterparts such as Heinlein. Asimov. Ursula was a blueblood from a family of brilliant intellectuals. She brought her breeding and keen intellect to the discussion of the betterment of humanity, and for a better understanding of what it is, and what it could be – to be human. Continue reading