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The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

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A Nebula and Hugo Award-winning writer of science fiction presents a collection of essays that explores the various issues, concepts, challenges, and paradoxes that confront the science fiction writer.


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A Nebula and Hugo Award-winning writer of science fiction presents a collection of essays that explores the various issues, concepts, challenges, and paradoxes that confront the science fiction writer.

30 review for The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. D-Cups: "The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction" by Ursula K. Le Guin (Original Review, 1981-04-01) My understanding of close reading was what I described in another review gleaning from Empson, and I never intended to dismiss the idea of finding archetypes in literary characters. As far as that goes, I might put myself much closer to the other extreme and If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. D-Cups: "The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction" by Ursula K. Le Guin (Original Review, 1981-04-01) My understanding of close reading was what I described in another review gleaning from Empson, and I never intended to dismiss the idea of finding archetypes in literary characters. As far as that goes, I might put myself much closer to the other extreme and be tempted to say: every story contains archetypes because we have nothing else to tell stories about; even non-fiction stories are told primarily if not exclusively about real people who embody archetypes. I’m now reading a collection of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin, “Language of the Night,” and she offers an interesting take on many of these issues from the writer’s point of view. She acknowledges the appearance of archetypes in her stories, but, with what she considers her best work, the story comes from within her and only after it is written does she recognize the archetype that inspired it: “The writer who draws not upon the works and thoughts of others, but upon his own thoughts and his own deep being, will inevitably hit upon common material. The more original his work, the more imperiously recognizable it will be.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This is a book of essays, talks and introductions first published in 1979, and revised in 1989. "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" is an essay on style in fantasy. She focuses on three writers: JRR Tolkien, ER Eddison & Kenneth Morris. I don’t know much about the latter two; I had never heard of Morris before, and Eddison is an author I’ve attempted to read before, but I did not get very far in The Worm Ouroboros. She also has this wonderful description of Lord Dunsany’s style: "The King James B This is a book of essays, talks and introductions first published in 1979, and revised in 1989. "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" is an essay on style in fantasy. She focuses on three writers: JRR Tolkien, ER Eddison & Kenneth Morris. I don’t know much about the latter two; I had never heard of Morris before, and Eddison is an author I’ve attempted to read before, but I did not get very far in The Worm Ouroboros. She also has this wonderful description of Lord Dunsany’s style: "The King James Bible is indubitably one of the profoundest influences on Dunsany’s prose; another, I suspect, is Irish daily speech. Those two influences alone, not to mention his own gifts of a delicate ear for speech rhythms and a brilliantly exact imagination, remove him from the reach of any would-be peer or imitator who is not an Irish peer brought up from the cradle on the grand sonorities of Genesis and Ecclesiastes. Dunsany mined a narrow vein, but it was all pure ore, and all his own. I have never seen any imitation of Dunsany that consisted of anything beyond a lot of elaborate made-up names, some vague descriptions of gorgeous cities and unmentionable dooms, and a great many sentences beginning with ‘And.’ " I’m a little skeptical about this part, though: "The lords of Elfland are the true lords, the only true lords, the kind that do not exist on this earth: their lordship is the outward sign or symbol of real inward greatness. And greatness of soul shows when a man speaks. At least, it does in books. In life we expect lapses. In naturalistic fiction, too, we expect lapses, and laugh at an 'overheroic' hero. But in fantasy, which, instead of imitating the perceived confusion and complexity of existence, tries to hint at an order and clarity underlying existence–in fantasy, we need not compromise." This essay was written in 1973, and I wonder if she would have qualified this assertion had The Silmarillion been published by then (it was published in 1977). The Silmarillion is told in a more remote, mythic register than LotR, but if anything it has a good deal *less* order and clarity -- certainly the "lords of Elfland" have more than a few lapses... In "Do It Yourself Cosmology" she discusses the relationship between sf and fantasy: "The original and instinctive movement of fantasy is, of course, inward. Fantasy is so introverted by nature that often some objective hook is necessary to bring it out in the open and turn it into literature. Classically, satire provided this hook, as in Ariosto or Swift. Or the reforming impulse shaped the dreamworld into an identification with Utopia. Or identification with nature enabled the Romantic fantasist to speak, at least briefly, out of the silence of the moors. Nowadays it is science that often gives fantasy a hand up from the interior depths, and we have science fiction, a modern, intellectualized, extroverted form of fantasy. Its limitations and strengths are those of extroversion: the power and intractability of the object. The strength of fantasy is the strength of the Self; but its limitation or danger is that of extreme introversion: left to itself, the vision may go clear out of sight, remaining entirely private to the fantasist’s consciousness, or even remaining unconscious, exactly like a dream. The purer the fantasy, the more subjective the creation, the likelier this is to happen. It is a miracle, and pretty much a modern one, that we have any great non-satirical fantasies in print." "American SF & the Other" is a short essay about elitism and the portrayal of aliens in sf. This one is available online, you can read it here: https://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues... "Science Fiction & Mrs Brown" is an essay on character in science fiction. Le Guin uses Virginia Woolf’s essay "Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown," essay on the role of characterization in the novel, as a starting point to discuss character in fantasy and science fiction. I am not sure exactly what to say about this one; I'll have to come back to it some other time. "A quite good simple test to detect the presence or absence of Mrs. Brown in a work of fiction is this: A month or so after reading the book, can you remember her name? It's silly, but it works pretty well." "Is Gender Necessary, Redux" is an annotated essay about The Left Hand of Darkness. The essay was written in 1967, but the annotations are from a revision in 1988. It’s really interesting, but will make more sense in context, so if you haven’t read the novel you might not understand this one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    UPDATE: Last night I was reluctant to follow Frodo and Sam on their last leg through Mordor, so I dug this out for a reread instead. Was struck by something lovely and amazing and true and important. Let me quote. "In this labyrinth (of the strange morality of fairy tales) where it seems one must trust to blind instinct, there is, Von Franz points out, one -- only one -- consistent rule or 'ethic': 'Anyone who earns the gratitude of animals, or whom they help for any reason, invariably wins out. UPDATE: Last night I was reluctant to follow Frodo and Sam on their last leg through Mordor, so I dug this out for a reread instead. Was struck by something lovely and amazing and true and important. Let me quote. "In this labyrinth (of the strange morality of fairy tales) where it seems one must trust to blind instinct, there is, Von Franz points out, one -- only one -- consistent rule or 'ethic': 'Anyone who earns the gratitude of animals, or whom they help for any reason, invariably wins out. This is the only unfailing rule that I have been able to find.'" Von Franz is Marie Louise Von Franz, in The Problem of Evil in Fairy Tales. What does this mean for us today? **** I love UKL, so I'm interested in every word she ever wrote. This collection of essays, introductions, talks, etc. is great and I'm really glad I read it. I think UKL fans would agree, but those who aren't already big fans of hers might not care that much. In general, I prefer reading books to reading books-about-books, and this book is no exception to that rule. I'd far rather read a new novel by her than essays and opinions, however astute and well-written. But, alas, I've read them all so I have to fill in the blank time before her next novel comes out some way or other, and this was as interesting and pleasing a way as any. I loved to read her ideas about writing, how writers should write and readers should demand only their very best work, not simply what's easy or what sells. I hope as a reader and nascent writer I always do that. Aim for perfection, even though we always fall short, is my philosophy as well. Based on these essays I'm definitely going to read some Phillip K. Dick, a writer I've never read up to now, though I've heard many good things about him. Her opinion of what is possibly the greatest SF novel of all time, "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin, sounds really bad to me, though. It must be great but perhaps it's great in a way I generally dislike. I generally don't like dystopias and that one sounds a whole lot like 1984, a book I think is dreadful, though many would call it great. I'll have to read some GR review of it to see what more people think. But the others on her various lists I'll definitely have to check out. I do think SF is the most important literature of the 20th c. and will probably be of the 21st c. as well. It just lets one say more. I feel bad for my mom and others who don't read it. They're missing out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I can't believe my luck. I stumbled across this gem while I was picking through the writing essays section in my library and did a little happy-dance when I saw the name on the cover. It was like finding a Spanish Dubloon mixed in with my pocket change. This book is a fantastic analysis of science fiction and fantasy as a writing path and its place in society at large. I highly recommend it for fans of sci-fi particularly and those who are looking to write in the genre (or even people I can't believe my luck. I stumbled across this gem while I was picking through the writing essays section in my library and did a little happy-dance when I saw the name on the cover. It was like finding a Spanish Dubloon mixed in with my pocket change. This book is a fantastic analysis of science fiction and fantasy as a writing path and its place in society at large. I highly recommend it for fans of sci-fi particularly and those who are looking to write in the genre (or even people looking to write at all). She offers some great writing advice and talks about her perspectives not only as a sci-fi writer, but as a "feminist writer" as well. I love this one so much that I'm holding onto the book I checked out from the library (which is LOADED with removable post-it tabs) until the copy I ordered from Alibris gets here so I can mark it up with all the notes I made on the post-its in my library copy. There are a ton of notable passages and ideas in here that I don't want to forget. This book will become a lifetime reference for me. The only thing that dropped this book a star was the fact that there are numerous points which are repeated throughout the book due to the fact that a number of these essays are actually adapted speeches she made at various events. I feel like the book needed a little bit more editing to remove those redundancies, because they were unnecessary in the work. However, other than that little detail, I'd definitely say this is a must-read...a must-devour and must-own, in fact. Read it. Know it. Love it. It's golden wisdom from easily one of the most amazing science fiction writers in the past half-century and deserves to be treasured.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    Her discussions are better when highly targeted, and targeted on things other than her own work. She admits to writing intuitively, with the words coming from some level other than the analytic, so the essays talk in terms of symbolism, archetypes, and Jung. If this is not your thing, then the first fifty to seventy five pages are going to be real work and will not make you appreciate her fiction any more. The criticisms--particularly "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" and "American SF an Her discussions are better when highly targeted, and targeted on things other than her own work. She admits to writing intuitively, with the words coming from some level other than the analytic, so the essays talk in terms of symbolism, archetypes, and Jung. If this is not your thing, then the first fifty to seventy five pages are going to be real work and will not make you appreciate her fiction any more. The criticisms--particularly "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" and "American SF and The Other--are more toothy and toothsome. "Poughkeepsie" in particular rips into a recent fantasy tendency to make the stories more 'realistic' by storylines or characters that are essentially nonheroic: realpolitik, accountancy, and other behaviors that you would not see in myth and legend. It's a delight when she has her dander up and she drops the waffling-talk about symbolism and really rips into the subject with exceedingly specific, eloquent language. She says that she's been writing since the age of nine, and you can feel the force of every single year of craftsmanship.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tom Meade

    Few great critics are great writers. It's true that their ideas may topple dynasties with their brilliance, but that's only provided you can make head or tail of them after wading through three hundred pages of dry, tangled prose. And then there is the inevitable padding - ideas like brightly-coloured bits of cloth hanging from the thorns of brambles, as though the author had torn their way through the shrubs at great speed in terror that their readers might catch them and, holding them at knife Few great critics are great writers. It's true that their ideas may topple dynasties with their brilliance, but that's only provided you can make head or tail of them after wading through three hundred pages of dry, tangled prose. And then there is the inevitable padding - ideas like brightly-coloured bits of cloth hanging from the thorns of brambles, as though the author had torn their way through the shrubs at great speed in terror that their readers might catch them and, holding them at knife point, demand from them a simple explanation. I think a large part of this might come from the fact that many critics, when they sit themselves down to expound, may not actually have much idea of what it is they're going to say. It's a similar set of circumstances to that which the novelist finds himself in, confronted by dozens of blank pages and with nothing to fill them but a vague notion, or a half-glimpsed image of a man in a silly hat playing cards with a dragon. It all goes back to the idea of the essay, I suppose - an idea which sits with deceptive frankness in the very name of the thing. Ursula K. Le Guin, however, actually seems to know what she wants to say - and would that all critics were as clear as she in saying it. As she herself puts it, she is a novelist and not a theorist, and as such she has some very definite opinions of what it is that sf/f (can't forget the second "f"!) should and should not be. In this collection of essays, she makes a wonderfully eloquent argument not just that spec fic isn't automatically trash, and not just that it should be treated with the same respect as mainstream literature, but that it is, can and should aspire to achieve the highest levels of art. It's an exciting argument to hear made, even if it's probably not quite as radical as it once might have seemed. But then, if it isn't all that radical then why are so few authors aspiring to it? Then again, how does one even gauge such a thing? Le Guin, who cites her principle influences as Tolstoy and Dickens (oh, and Dunsany), is coming from a background of psychological realism, and as a consequence she cites as the key task of any novel the ability to effectively create a whole and comprehensible human being. Quite rightly, she criticises most science fiction for the absence of real human beings. Now, I might criticise her for her placing of a primacy on human experience, but she makes two very compelling arguments for this. Firstly, she rejects conventionally realistic fiction as a construct. She does this in the essay "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons", summing things up with the wonderful (and depressingly true) statement that "fake realism is the escapist literature of our times". By doing this, she proceeds (making considerable use of Jung) to provide an argument that the conventional fantasy world, with its monotone characters, is possible of function in the whole as a sort of grand allegory of the human mind. The curious thing here is that she never once makes any mention of the trend away from strict realism in Modernist and Post-Modern fiction, but then I suppose that she would consider that fantasy as well and simply grow frustrated at the hypocrisy which sees one thing labelled as another depending upon how "literary" it is (in fact, this is probably the main reason why SF seldom reaches such heights - if it gets too good, they call it something else and then give it the Pulitzer). Now, as I've said, none of this is really revolutionary at this point, but much of the joy in Le Guin's writing comes from the writing itself. Much of the book just breezes by, as Le Guin shares thoughts on everything from postgenderism (though she never calls it that), to "women in SF), to the need for an individual style and the impossibility of teaching anyone how to write (although, having said this, her book has given me quite a few ideas). There are insights into the evolution of the genre, frank criticisms of its limitations, and scarcely a word is wasted where it could instead be put to use making an excellent point. There's also the genuine joy of a companion piece by a popular author which actually stacks-up as a piece of academic criticism - Le Guin really, really, really knows her stuff. In the end I'm not really the kind of guy to go around calling anything indispensable, but this really is indispensable. It confirmed my suspicions in some respects, challenged me greatly in others (I debate some of her more mystical conclusions) and even managed to make me change my mind about one or two things. This is a great, great book for anyone interested in the history and mechanics of the genre, and of the process of writing itself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    A collection of her works on literature. Includes the famous "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" essay. Both essays on the theory and on works -- her own and others, such as J.R.R. Tolkien. (She was writing in the day when Lin Carter's series meant a massive increase in the availability of fantasy.) She's a little over-fond of Jung as an interpretative lens for fiction. "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" is heavy on style, of course. Market pressure and its effects. Virginia Woolf's essay on M A collection of her works on literature. Includes the famous "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" essay. Both essays on the theory and on works -- her own and others, such as J.R.R. Tolkien. (She was writing in the day when Lin Carter's series meant a massive increase in the availability of fantasy.) She's a little over-fond of Jung as an interpretative lens for fiction. "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" is heavy on style, of course. Market pressure and its effects. Virginia Woolf's essay on Mrs. Brown and whether she can be found in science fiction. And more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    .??? 80s: sf is ultimately... characters. humanist, liberal, modernist interpretation, where ideas inform but do not define the genres. manifesto for sociology-sciences inflected work. really liked this when i read this... decades ago...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I first read The Language of the Night in about 1979, when it came out. I had enjoyed some of LeGuin's science fiction before that and had not known about her essays and nonfiction. My father gave me this book for Christmas, perhaps the only book and one of the few individually-chosen gifts he ever gave me. Perhaps the rarity of his gifts endowed it with special power, perhaps not; nonetheless, The Language of the Night opened my eyes to a new world: writers can cross genres, sci fi is fun but also seriou I first read The Language of the Night in about 1979, when it came out. I had enjoyed some of LeGuin's science fiction before that and had not known about her essays and nonfiction. My father gave me this book for Christmas, perhaps the only book and one of the few individually-chosen gifts he ever gave me. Perhaps the rarity of his gifts endowed it with special power, perhaps not; nonetheless, The Language of the Night opened my eyes to a new world: writers can cross genres, sci fi is fun but also serious. Never underestimate the power to your gifts to young people, regardless of the shape they take (e.g., encouragement, feedback, books). Ursula LeGuin talked about many different things in The Language of the Night, many of them surprising to me then (and now). Some of these have become part of how I look at the world, without me recognizing: How do you become a writer? Answer: You write. (p. 197) My students should blame LeGuin for their writing assignments throughout the year. I review on GR, in part, to write (but also to reflect and later remember). Books can help us consider who we are and what we want to be: I have lived in the same world with Stalin and Hitler, and in the same country with Joe McCarthy and G. Gordon Liddy, and they have all scared me. But none of them so much as Solzhenitsyn does, because not of them has had his power: the power to make me ask myself, Am I doing right? (pp. 214-215) Perhaps this is one part of my frequent choice of memoirs: Not to scare me, but to make me ask myself, Am I doing right? She asks us to think about censorship – from outside (as when Playboy asked her to sign her submission U. K. LeGuin, because "Many of our readers are frightened by women authors", p. 217) – but also from inside: But out censors are not just the publishers and editors and distributors and publicists and book clubs and syndicated reviewers. They are the writers, and the readers. They are you and me. We censor ourselves. We writers fail to write seriously, because we're afraid to write seriously, because we're afraid – for good cause – that it won't sell. And as readers we fail to discriminate; we accept passively what is for sale in the marketplace; we buy it, read it, and forget it. We are mere "viewers" and "consumers," not readers at all. (pp. 219-220) LeGuin asked me to read beyond the surface and see more to the stories I read, to the life around me: fantasy is the natural, the appropriate, language for the recounting of the spiritual journey and the struggle of good and evil in the soul (p. 68). I hadn't recognized this at the time, but somehow Ursula LeGuin has become my Wise Aunt, encouraging me to be my best self. Thank you, auntie! Thank you, Dad!

  10. 5 out of 5

    S.W. Wilcox

    This was almost a 4 for me, but the expectations it had to live up to teetered the 3.5 down to a 3. Piers Anthony's "Bio of an Ogre" remains the best in this category imo, along with some of Tolkien's essays.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arkadeb

    A really quite enlightening read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    When it comes to the literature of the impossible and unlikely—myths, folktales, fantasy and science fiction—subgenres are delineated by how they become dated. The "myth" and the "legend" are timeless while the "folktale" takes on a rustic quaintness reminiscent of the quirks in the antiquated culture that produced it. But, as Le Guin notes, fantasy and science fiction rarely fare as well—or at least they didn't when she wrote the essays in The Language of the Night back in the 1970s. This collection When it comes to the literature of the impossible and unlikely—myths, folktales, fantasy and science fiction—subgenres are delineated by how they become dated. The "myth" and the "legend" are timeless while the "folktale" takes on a rustic quaintness reminiscent of the quirks in the antiquated culture that produced it. But, as Le Guin notes, fantasy and science fiction rarely fare as well—or at least they didn't when she wrote the essays in The Language of the Night back in the 1970s. This collection covers much of the stuff that any Ursula K. Le Guin fan would want. Herein there are introductions to several of her books, most notably her 1976 justification and 1988 apology for her choice to use male pronouns for the genderless people in Left Hand of Darkness. She exposes us to her wealth of literary knowledge in her own fields as well as others, and exposes herself as the political activist whose ethos oozes seductively from every one of her novels. She fights the battle that all marginalized genre fiction writers wage. "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" asks the title of one piece, not knowing that 34 years later—after the mass marketing of D&D, the publication of seven Harry Potter books and the production of three blockbuster films based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings—that America would have vanquished that fear. The SF of the caliber that Le Guin writes was condemned to the fringes of the bookshop in the pre-Star Wars 1970s. The truth is that yes, fantasy and the science fiction become dated, but the essays on them have become period pieces as well and, in Le Guin's case, worthy barometers to measure the times.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1386729.html This book has been strongly recommended to me for years, and I am glad I finally obtained it and read it. It is a collection of Le Guin's writings about sf and fantasy, almost all from 1973 to 1978 (one piece on Philip K. Dick dates from 1967), originally published in 1979 and revised for a 1989 edition. It is all fascinating stuff, with the standout essay being 'From Elfland to Poughkeepsie', which describes the rhetorical style of good (as opposed to bad) fantasy, and also includes th http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1386729.html This book has been strongly recommended to me for years, and I am glad I finally obtained it and read it. It is a collection of Le Guin's writings about sf and fantasy, almost all from 1973 to 1978 (one piece on Philip K. Dick dates from 1967), originally published in 1979 and revised for a 1989 edition. It is all fascinating stuff, with the standout essay being 'From Elfland to Poughkeepsie', which describes the rhetorical style of good (as opposed to bad) fantasy, and also includes the memorable line, 'they are not only crazy but Welsh'. The other particularly remarkable piece is her 1988 fisking of her own 1976 essay, 'Is Gender Necessary?', where she critiques her earlier defence of The Left Hand of Darkness, admitting that from a feminist perspective the book is not a success, and concluding that 'women were justified in asking more courage of me and a more rigorous thinking-through of implications'.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This isn't so much a review as an anecdote. When I was in high school, Ursula LeGuin came to Toronto to speak. I went for our school paper, of which I was the arts editor. I was a very serious journalist at the time; I had all my questions lined up, and everything but the fedora with the little press card in it. When it came my turn to ask her a question, I stood up. I worded it carefully, referencing the gist of the essay in question. "Are we still afraid of dragons, or has speculative fiction This isn't so much a review as an anecdote. When I was in high school, Ursula LeGuin came to Toronto to speak. I went for our school paper, of which I was the arts editor. I was a very serious journalist at the time; I had all my questions lined up, and everything but the fedora with the little press card in it. When it came my turn to ask her a question, I stood up. I worded it carefully, referencing the gist of the essay in question. "Are we still afraid of dragons, or has speculative fiction become more legitimate in the eyes of the literary world since you wrote 'Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons'?" She looked me in the eye and said, "First of all, I use the term science fiction to include both science fiction and fantasy..." I interrupted her. "I don't." She looked affronted, but went on to answer my question, and later signed my copy of "The Lathe of Heaven", thankfully without referencing what an obnoxious kid I was.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Macallister Stone

    This is one of the books about writing that I wish every writer would read, read, then read again. I've read these essays over and over--some of them were originally published nearly 40 years ago--and still find this a remarkable and breathtaking collection, offering invaluable perspective on life, genre, writing, and the nature of art.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    I think I've heard Ursula Le Guin saying in an interview that she didn't particularly like writing non-fiction. She certainly excells at it. I picked this essay collection to read first because I was interested particularly in her thoughts on Jung, myth and fantasy literature. She did not disappoint. I recommend specifically the essays "Dreams Must Explain Themselves", "The Child and the Shadow" and "The Staring Eye". While these are the ones most relevant to my interests, I also thought they we I think I've heard Ursula Le Guin saying in an interview that she didn't particularly like writing non-fiction. She certainly excells at it. I picked this essay collection to read first because I was interested particularly in her thoughts on Jung, myth and fantasy literature. She did not disappoint. I recommend specifically the essays "Dreams Must Explain Themselves", "The Child and the Shadow" and "The Staring Eye". While these are the ones most relevant to my interests, I also thought they were the most well-crafted ones. I will come back to this collection when I read or revisit her novels (because it also includes introductions to a few of them). Of course, many of the essays are also reflections on politics of gender, discrimination, totalitarianism and freedom of thought, among others. I highly recommend reading the 1989/1993 edition which includes some revision from a "modern" gender perspective as well as additional commentary & reflection on her work and development.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Dixon

    I marked this book to read a few years ago without making note of where I'd read about it or who recommended it to me, but I remember enjoying LeGuin's novels very much so I had clearly thought it would be interesting to read these essays by her. This book was published in 1979, and contains essays written as articles for magazines, introductions to works by her and by other authors, and speeches given. Because of these different genre, there is a fair amount of repetition, though as I marked this book to read a few years ago without making note of where I'd read about it or who recommended it to me, but I remember enjoying LeGuin's novels very much so I had clearly thought it would be interesting to read these essays by her. This book was published in 1979, and contains essays written as articles for magazines, introductions to works by her and by other authors, and speeches given. Because of these different genre, there is a fair amount of repetition, though as none of it is word-for-word and as all of it is excellent, I found it no hardship. It was also intriguing to take myself back into the mindset of the 1970s. Forty years on much has changed in the world of science fiction and fantasy so this is largely a historical view. However, her references to other great, early sci-fi writers was a good reminder to me to check out the classics that I haven't already read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    kari

    Passionate, inspiring, and friendly - the latter may not be the most obvious word, but this collection gave an impression of discussing sci-fi with Le Guin. Which would be delightful (if I ever had the courage, let alone a chance). Some essays are deeply personal, some veer into literary criticism - and there I found myself happily and ardently disagreeing with Le Guin's occasional elitism or faith in psychoanalysis - and some are the best pieces of advice from a writer I've ever gotten. I got t Passionate, inspiring, and friendly - the latter may not be the most obvious word, but this collection gave an impression of discussing sci-fi with Le Guin. Which would be delightful (if I ever had the courage, let alone a chance). Some essays are deeply personal, some veer into literary criticism - and there I found myself happily and ardently disagreeing with Le Guin's occasional elitism or faith in psychoanalysis - and some are the best pieces of advice from a writer I've ever gotten. I got the British edition, where Le Guin discusses with herself and her previous views; and if you have the chance, I recommend this one, because her own comments on herself are an intriguing intellectual journey in themselves. One thing that left me sad were Le Guin's predictions of sci-fi fandom: while indeed no one mocks nerds anymore, sexism in fandoms is doing just fine.

  19. 4 out of 5

    ReadBecca

    I've been working away at this a few pages at a time and no more, because it's just so dense. Ursula is a person who has serious thoughts about things, stating ideas on sex, gender, race, society, writing, reading, genre, and beyond throughout this work that in nearly 50 years have only become more relevant to us today. I was lucky to read the second edition, which actually has the side by side of the original essay 'Is Gender Necessary' along with comments written against it ten years later, being I've been working away at this a few pages at a time and no more, because it's just so dense. Ursula is a person who has serious thoughts about things, stating ideas on sex, gender, race, society, writing, reading, genre, and beyond throughout this work that in nearly 50 years have only become more relevant to us today. I was lucky to read the second edition, which actually has the side by side of the original essay 'Is Gender Necessary' along with comments written against it ten years later, being a person who openly lays out the evolution of the internal process makes Le Guin truly a standout, never apologizing for the items held onto nor those changed due to new perspectives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    Le Guin is an intergalactic treasure. Ours is a much poorer reality without her. These are some fine, funny, thoughtful essays on writing, fantasy, and science fiction. People who doubt that science fiction and fantasy can be "real literature" or that they're merely mindless, escapist entertainment should read these essays, whether they be Literature Snobs or Sad Puppies. Unfortunately few such people will read these essays. On the up side, one thing you don't get much of in Le Guin's fiction is Le Guin is an intergalactic treasure. Ours is a much poorer reality without her. These are some fine, funny, thoughtful essays on writing, fantasy, and science fiction. People who doubt that science fiction and fantasy can be "real literature" or that they're merely mindless, escapist entertainment should read these essays, whether they be Literature Snobs or Sad Puppies. Unfortunately few such people will read these essays. On the up side, one thing you don't get much of in Le Guin's fiction is her sense of humor, which you do get in these and other essays. Hilarious!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    A really great collection of essays on the merit of SFF lit by one of the genre's great writers. Le Guin is witty and eloquent in her writing, championing SFF as worthy not only to be read, but to be studied and taken seriously by adult readers.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This book includes the brilliant 15-page Le Guin essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," which is essential reading for anyone who loves heroic fantasy and wonders why the genre seems to produce so little memorable material.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Etola

    A good and powerful collection of essays that really makes me want to do my best with my own writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anatl

    One of the best collections of essays I had the pleasure of reading

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    I think this is the edition I have. I doubt, based on her own works, whether LeGuin is capable of parsing or writing a grammar/dictionary of the language of the nocturnal. It's more a pidgin we've developed to try to communicate with diurnal people. So I'm not sure what LeGuin means when she talks about 'the Night', but suspect it's not the physical night. One technical point: this book's running head only includes the name of the book, which makes it hard to find the end of one essay I think this is the edition I have. I doubt, based on her own works, whether LeGuin is capable of parsing or writing a grammar/dictionary of the language of the nocturnal. It's more a pidgin we've developed to try to communicate with diurnal people. So I'm not sure what LeGuin means when she talks about 'the Night', but suspect it's not the physical night. One technical point: this book's running head only includes the name of the book, which makes it hard to find the end of one essay/the beginning of another. Editors, take note. CONTENTS: Introduction: By Susan Wood (ed) Explains the groupings, which are thematic rather than chronological. The first page is acknowledgments for reprinted essays, useful for those who would rather read the essays chronologically, to trace the development of LeGuin's thinking. Section 1: LeGuin Introduces LeGuin Introduction: (by Wood, I'd say; LeGuin is discussed in the third person) (1) A Citizen of Mondath: A discussion of the impact of Leguin's discovery of Dunsany, and why she is rather glad she didn't encounter Tolkein first. The home library she describes was probably compiled by both her parents. Her older brother may also have contributed to it. Section II: On Fantasy And Science Fiction: Introduction: (Is this getting tedious? I don't see any need for the editor to horn in at the beginning of each section.) (2) Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?: I do NOT believe in any kind of collective unconsciousness. The supposedly 'uneducated' humans who were Jung's subjects were (of course), educated. They hadn't had much formal schooling, but they had been enculturated, or it wouldn't have been possible to interview them. So if I reject the concept that we're all basically the same psychologically, I'm bound to have difficulty in dealing with the concept that the same medicine is a panacea for all our ills. I don't much like the mockery of autistic people, or the casual dismissal of many forms of literature. When I hear an accusation of simplification in literatures, I tend to suspect the simplicity is externally supplied. For example, a lot of comic books are quite subtle and complex. I remember one episode in which Supergirl, complacent in her own (near) invulnerability, mocks a man for being cowardly. But then she's forced to realize that he's more courageous than her, because he lets himself be persuaded to take risks he's NOT invulnerable to. There are literatures I don't like; 'realism' is often one of them. Not because I believe they're oversimplified, but because they represent a worldview I don't (and probably can't) share, often without explanations. One thing I value about fantastic worlds is that the authors (generally) don't assume the reader/viewer DOES understand where things are on the map, and the customary response to a given situation. (3) Dreams Must Explain Themselves: The title reminds me of Charlotte Bronte's refusal to discuss her works, because she felt, if the books weren't clear enough, it was like being so poor a draughtsman as to have to add captions explaining what's in the picture. True, perhaps: conversely, it sometimes helps to provide captions, so that you don't end up with hundreds of family photos nobody living knows who's pictured, when they were taken, and the circumstances. LeGuin describes herself as introspective, and comments that she expresses herself through her works. Further explication seems to her redundant. But she does agree to try to explain her own creative methods (while arguing that it's more a matter of discovery). In response to questions at book signings, etc, she recognizes that others are not the same: and realized this quite early by comparing her own compositional style with that of her mother. (4) National Book Award Acceptance Speech: (for The Farthest Shore) Not specifically about the book, but about the support networks authors have, and need. A sort of extended 'acknowledgments' section. (5) The Child And The Shadow: Built around a Hans Christian Andersen story I had never heard of before, about a man who is haunted and dominated by his own shadow. This story (and the framing essay) is an example of languages and literatures biased in favor of the diurnal. Being painfully sensitive to light (especially sunlight), I try to live life without a shadow. The House of Light is the LAST place I'd want to go. The prejudice against the left-handed in languages is much discussed. 'Sinister' vs 'dexterous', 'gauche' vs 'adroit', etc. But the bias against the nocturnal is less often discussed. Why is 'bright' equated with 'intelligent'? Why is 'The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow' interpreted as reassurance? I often contact weather reporters to tell them please NOT to tell me how I'll respond emotionally to the weather. Not only do they consistently get it wrong, they're also so bloody cheerful about it. I have problems enough with perky people when I'm feeling well: when I'm in pain, it's a positive bane. So I'm not likely to be convinced that the premises of this essay are universal. The metaphors are only valid if authors accept that they don't apply to everyone. (6) Myth And Archetype in Science Fiction: More on the 'collective unconscious'. I once read a disappointing article with a very interesting title. The title was: Soap Operas: Sagas of American Kinship. The title opens up fascinating vistas. But the premise of the article is so limited, and the type specimen so poorly chosen (an atypical character at an atypical period in her life) that the vistas remained unexplored. The article never even got into the 'cousin game' (working out the genetic/fictive relationships between any two characters). What good is that? More evidence of the importance of both latitudinal and longitudinal studies. LeGuin is also too prone to these generalizations, particularly in literatures she's not as familiar with. It may be (partly) true that we're all (nearly) the same subconsciously, as our bodies are all (nearly) the same. But as Stephen Jay Gould repeatedly pointed out, if Mies van der Rohe was right that God dwells in the details, SO DOES THE DEVIL. Ashleigh Brilliant's comment that there are no important differences between men and women, but that some of the unimportant ones were very interesting can be generalized to all differences. One important one that LeGuin consistently misses is that it is NOT 'human nature' (as apes) to fear the darkness. Not all humans, and probably not all nonhuman apes, either (remember Snowflake, the albino gorilla, who died of complications of skin cancer?) can see better in sunlight or other bright lights. Some of us quite justly fear the light--but have no terrors of darkness. I myself can see cats on a cloudy moonless night well enough to tell them apart...which disappointed quite a few cats who counted on invisibility. And I've never been afraid of the dark, per se. Even in full darkness I have other senses, and can tell how open an area is and what else is in it. Only NOISY darkness (and day) is fearful; then I can't always count on my other senses. The symbolism disturbs precisely BECAUSE it's not universal. Which is what I meant earlier when I said that LeGuin almost certainly doesn't have even a working vocabulary in the literal 'language of the night'. Why SHOULD nocturnal people be stopped and questioned by the police, simply because they're out at four in the morning? What makes the time things happen anybody's business? I'm the same person at four in the morning as at four in the afternoon, and my goals and behavior are the same: the resources available to me may not be. One thing that's beginning to nibble at me: LeGuin makes repeated references to dreams: yet SLEEP is noticeably absent in her works. It's almost as if the value of sleep is dismissed, except, of course, as the frame for dreams. (7) From Elfland to Poughkeepsie: I've never been either place, and neither, apparently, has the spellchecker. No route in my travels (I've been tolerable distances, including right round the world once) nor my reading (I tried reading Dunsany, and couldn't get through it), also tolerably comprehensive, has had stops in either place. So I can't comment on the geography and customs of either. I don't know if LeGuin has been to Poughkeepsie, either. She's a Pacific Coaster from day one: but also has traveled. I'd suspect she has no more than a tourist knowledge of the place. The pseudo-Americanization of very different places with varied histories, cultures, etc has homogenized a lot of places: but not entirely. I'd bet that even people not born in Poughkeepsie have picked up on regionalisms in language, gesture, etc. As regards the West Coast, LeGuin is aware of the differences. But other places...well, I doubt it. Which reminds me that there has recently been a new dictionary of (linguistic) regionalisms in the US published. I'll have to see if I can get hold of it. From previous experience I suspect it'll be incomplete, because it probably won't include profanity. So, for example, people in Central Illinois, when they search for something, search 'all over Hell's half-acre'. But in Southern Illinois, they search 'all over Hell and half of Arkansas'. (7) American SF And The Other: The 'other' in this case, is predominantly women. How did women become 'other', when women are the majority? (8) Science Fiction And Mrs Brown: I appreciate the refutation that we don't have time to have or to be a character, but have to point out that not all of us DO want to touch others, either literally or metaphorically. One can be a character without being sociable. (9) Do-it-yourself Cosmology: ...Sort of. The basic concepts of astrobiology and other scientific principles of extraterrestrial environments are still sketchy at best. Even professionals too often accept the absurd 'Goldilocks zone' concept, despite growing evidence that many living things are quite a bit more hardy and variable than the traditional ranges. As for fantasy, too many people just paint a few variant forms of life in, and otherwise use a nearly identical terrestrial biosphere. And worse, it's not anything like as varied as life on Earth. This is one reason why Andre Norton, for all her flaws, often excelled: because she could sometimes present quite varied and believable environments. One should bear in mind, that on Earth, there were no grazing dinosaurs. Browsing, yes. But grasses are angiosperms, and very nearly all plants in the time of the dinosaurs were gymnosperms. And grazing without grass is one of those oxymorons that plague world-builders. SECTION III: The Book Is What Is Real: Each of these sections begins with short quotes by LeGuin. Introduction (by the editor, again): Gives dating information, telling which Author's Introduction is for which edition of which book. (10) Introduction to Rocannon's World: I question LeGuin's argument that the characters, etc in Rocannon's World are at least partly Bronze Age. There were few castles in the Bronze Age. It wasn't practicable to build such large defensive/offensive structures then, even where there was need. Development of castles, duns, and other fortresses began largely in the early Iron Age. There were a few cities even in the late Neolithic: but self-contained castles are a fairly late development. (11) Introduction to Planet of Exile: I didn't find the character Rolery less-developed than that of Jakob. Yes, she was childish. She was a child, after all. If there's not sufficient development of her maturation, I would say that it's more a matter of an inadequate conception of the mentality of children in general. There's too much failure to recognize that children are as psychologically varied and complex as adults, and that while the hormonal surges during puberty are muddling and disruptive, there's no true metamorphosis, mental or physical, in adolescence; at least in humans. Is Rolery human? LeGuin might easily argue that she has not written about any truly alien peoples. If Rolery were dropped into a human neighborhood on Earth, she would likely be recognized as culturally but not physically different, though, if she were hospitalized, doctors would likely be at least mildly puzzled by small physical differences. As for LeGuin's more frequent use of male characters, though a little puzzled by the charge, she recognized it as cultural. One might argue that the reason she tended to focus on males, early on, is that she was taught to value traits that are (stereotypically) male. LeGuin argues that she doesn't. Characters that behave in ways that are not activist tend to be female, at least this early on . If the lines became more smudged later, this may have been partly due to more consciousness of the complexity of women AND men. But also to LeGuin's own development as an artist. (12) Introduction to City of Illusions: I'd suspected that LeGuin was unconvinced of the Shing as a people. Her more detailed critique does recognized some of the problems, but not others. Hitler, Stalin, etc were not products of any system of mass production, but had detailed histories, often concealed, lest people take advantage of personal flaws. But they were also parts of cults of personality. The Shing are not. They have what seems to be a cult of NON-personality: there's never any sort of census, and it's made clear that they are deliberately hiding their numbers. Nor would I agree that the quarrel with the concept of reverence for life was inconclusive. Rather, I would say that the quarrel was decisively lost. There was no successful demonstration that the reverence for life was not genuine, even if also used as a tool to prevent attacks against the Shing. There are repeated attempts to prove guilt; not convincing, at least to me. And can you teach calculus to a pig without wasting your own time and annoying the pig? I'd say the jury is still out. There's little evidence of any attempt to teach ethics OR truth to the pigs: but there's consistent undervaluation of nonhuman intelligence in LeGuin's works. The pigs know that humans will not harm them if they repeat the formula they've learned. But do the pigs in general, understand WHY this is so? If they don't, could they? I disagree with LeGuin's devaluation of 'wilderness'. Nor cities nor wilderness have any singular purpose. True. But the notion 'one must destroy in order to build' smacks too much of 'we had to destroy the village in order to save it'. Wilderness does not have any purpose: the inhabitants have purpose(s). It's arrogance to value things in proportion to their value to humans (this is the axle-pin of anthropocentrism). It's also arrogant to argue that the purposes of nonhumans do NOT have an impact on humans. Yes, the dust between the stars is also part of 'Nature'. But discounting the distinction between living and nonliving things, and regarding the only break as between humans and nonhumans falls into another sort of anthropocentrism. A more damaging one, I'd argue. (13) Introduction to The Word for World Is Forest: LeGuin argues that it's a mistake to write angry, as to drive angry. I agree. But I don't think the product is as flawed as she thinks. In Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, it's argued that the 5th Doctor episode "Kinda" is a conflation of The Word for World Is Forest and Buddhism (LeGuin is a Taoist, though she argues that she's inconsistent). So the book did have impact on many people. I like it that LeGuin quotes an Ellis Bell poem on motivation for art. One must, indeed, not create art for riches, love, or fame. And 'liberty' is a good goal. All true. But the discouragement LeGuin felt about the practices of exploitative imperialism when she wrote the book is self-defeating. If she rewrote the book in light of later developments, she might not have felt compelled to introduce the dei ex machina of the League at the end to resolve the conflict. Attempts to denude the climax forest of Ashthe would have failed under the weight of impracticability. One might argue that it's only the obsessiveness of the villain Davidson that keeps it going as long as it does. Once he's removed, the intervention of the League is only delivering the coup de grace. (14) Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness: Well, not really. This is a discourse on the sterility of extrapolation without characterization. So it's useful in a book of criticism, but not really as a guide to The Left Hand of Darkness. But see the next essay. (15) Is Gender Necessary?: This title casts back to Thurber and White's Is Sex Necessary?, which isn't referenced in the essay. The question of sex (the central chapter in The Left Hand of Darkness) may not have been intended to be the critical factor in the book: but became one of the main issues. LeGuin recognizes that she could have handled it better. She also recognizes that she got a little lazy discussing what sort of governments Gethenians would develop, just using Earth norms too often. But I think she understates the originality of a lot of the work. The Handdarata religion, and its 'protestant' Yomeshta form are very interesting. One would hope that Genly Ai would retire to a Fastness such as the one he visits in the book, to reflect on and digest what has happened. And then, of course, go on with his life, guided by what he's learned. LeGuin has discussed other aspects of the book elsewhere, but there are several points I wish she'd gone into in more detail. One is the question of the conscious application of hysterical strength the Handarata have developed. This may be a sound answer to the question of what Gethen has to offer the Ekumen. I'll finish this table of contents for another editions, as I'm running out of room, and I have about a quarter of the table of comments yet to go.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elijah

    So good! Le Guin writes about writing with enervating clarity. Challenging. Write the truth! Love characters. Respect your form and your audience. I’ll return to these essays.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jax

    "gerbil-men" May the goddesses bless your soul, Ursula Le Guin.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    I had reviewed this thing, had the review nearly finished and then hit a button (a wrong button apparently) and it all disappeared. I hate computers. But, as it is indubitably the result of user error, I digress. I finished this today and discovered I hadn't entered it here on my "currently reading" list. Le Guin is fantastic as always, and her defense of the genres of SF&F is impassioned, intelligent, and clear as mile-high mountain air. This book of nonfiction sees Le Guin defen I had reviewed this thing, had the review nearly finished and then hit a button (a wrong button apparently) and it all disappeared. I hate computers. But, as it is indubitably the result of user error, I digress. I finished this today and discovered I hadn't entered it here on my "currently reading" list. Le Guin is fantastic as always, and her defense of the genres of SF&F is impassioned, intelligent, and clear as mile-high mountain air. This book of nonfiction sees Le Guin defending SF against those who would dismiss it, challenging those who write SF to step away from the pulpy road to hell and its good intentions and instead aspire to art as creators and demand art as readers. The primary theme linking all these essays (of course some few are disparate enough to at least appear to stray, collections are at least often (if not always) Is the potential of greatness for SF if we as writers and readers demand it. She refutes the quiet arguments that are so casually trotted out against SF&F, they are not quite straw men, but we grow increasingly close to the day when only the few bigots will remain to trot them out and then addressing them will be using a straw man argument for the rest of us will have moved on sufficiently to simply scoff at the dismissive elitist fools. At the same time, moving on doesn't mean returning to the self-paralytic behavior in which SF&F celebrated their exile, turning their back on standards or criticism or comparison to any greater literary standard in favor of making violent, pasisonate, inbred love to the same old re-washings of Tolkienian surface elements or Assimiovian robots. She praises the cleverness of Sturgeon's assertion that 95% of everything is crap, but demands that we aspire to better as readers, writers, and fans as members of the community. Perhaps all of what she wrote here is old hat and I am merely preaching to a post-genre choir. But my experience does not lead me to believe that this is the case. I think Le Guin is still fighting this same battle against prejudice/ignorance from without and the victimhood of the crappy 95% from within. It's a call for writers of SF&F to grow up and be great. I think it has been largely answered, but we're not entirely over the metaphorical walls she describes yet.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Leighton

    This compilation of essays by Ursula LeGuin made me want to read more science fiction and fantasy. Filled with memorable quotes, she examines science fiction, fantasy, gender, art, the work of other writers like Philip K. Dick, utopias, dystopias and yes, even Virginia Woolf. The most memorable essay is perhaps, "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown." Virginia Woolk is in a train sitting across from a woman she calls "Mrs. Brown." This Mrs. Brown, who asked a question about an oak tree and caterpillar This compilation of essays by Ursula LeGuin made me want to read more science fiction and fantasy. Filled with memorable quotes, she examines science fiction, fantasy, gender, art, the work of other writers like Philip K. Dick, utopias, dystopias and yes, even Virginia Woolf. The most memorable essay is perhaps, "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown." Virginia Woolk is in a train sitting across from a woman she calls "Mrs. Brown." This Mrs. Brown, who asked a question about an oak tree and caterpillars, then cries, then gets off the train, became the subject matter of the novel, according to Woolf. "I believe that all novels begin with an old lady in the corner opposite." Then LeGuin explores Science Fiction. Ursula LeGuin states "A book does not come to me as an idea, or a plot, or an event, or a society, or a message; it comes to me as a person. . . . The person is there. I didn't invent him. . . . " She ends her essay with, "I think art remains centrally important in any age, the best or the worst, because it doesn't lie. The hope it offers is not a false hope. And I think the novel is an important art, because it talks about what we live by, other than bread. And I think science fiction is-- well, no, not important, yet still worth talking about, because it is a promise of continued life for the imagination, a good tool, an enlargement of consciousness, a possible glimpse, against a vast dark background, of the very frail, very heroic figure of Mrs. Brown." The book was great. Not for everyone, but if you are interested in thinking about science fiction and fantasy, I'd recommend it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Welton

    This book is just so packed full of wisdom and joy. Le Guin tackles some of the questions that have been plaguing me ("can sf/f be art? should spec fic be held to the same standards as literary fiction? can/should we demand integrity and quality from genre authors when we as readers just want entertainment?") and expands them. Her answers are unflinching, but also offer real compassion and hope for both reader and writer. She never descends into cynicism, snobbery, or snark. The book' This book is just so packed full of wisdom and joy. Le Guin tackles some of the questions that have been plaguing me ("can sf/f be art? should spec fic be held to the same standards as literary fiction? can/should we demand integrity and quality from genre authors when we as readers just want entertainment?") and expands them. Her answers are unflinching, but also offer real compassion and hope for both reader and writer. She never descends into cynicism, snobbery, or snark. The book's premise is that science fiction has a remarkable opportunity to broaden worlds for people and to ask questions that other genres cannot. This, however, comes at a price: author and reader must fully engage their emotions, accept the possibility of failure and pain, and be willing to go down unfamiliar pathways. Her plea for "integrity and intelligence," as opposed to pot-boilers, is strong and reasoned. Every essay was immediately useful as I thought about books that lived up to her high ideals and the ones that frustrated me in falling short. I'm FURIOUS that my college Science Fiction and Fantasy Lit course didn't have us read this. I'm sure it's not the only good critical work on the genres-- I mean, the book has been around for thirty-odd years, I sure hope that others have taken up the mantle-- but it might be the Platonic ideal, the purest essence, of what all other books on the craft want to be.

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