I just finished watching a documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin, the great writer of Imaginative and speculative fiction. I know that Le Guin has categorized and championed herself as a science fiction and fantasy writer. After watching this documentary, I get why she has embraced the genre as where she belongs. However, I believe she is a writer of imaginative literature and her work belongs in the same discussion with the greatest works of American Literature.
The documentary is just over an hour and chronicles her career, family life (her father was an anthropologist), marriage, and growth an as writer. I will admit that I have only read a few of her books. The Dispossessed is my favorite novel and her essay collection about writing science fiction and fantasy, Language of the Night is my favorite non-fiction work. I’m not a diehard Le Guin reader or fan.
However, this documentary illuminated Le Guin’s artistry and evolution as a writer. I appreciated the section about the Earthsea series and after the success of the first three books in the series she thought she had not gone far enough in creating a progressive work of literature. A writer tended to look forward to the next book, but Le Guin reflected on where she fell short with those early Earthsea novels and tried to rectify it in the later books of the series.
I gained a deeper appreciation of Le Guin as an artist after watching this documentary and come to the realization that she is one of America’s greatest Post World War II writers and belonged in the same neighborhood as Toni Morrison, John Updike, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Don Delillo. Her influence on the science fiction and fantasy genre was enormous and when you have writers like Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, & David Mitchell appear prominently on the documentary spoke a lot about who she was as a writer.
I highly recommend The Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin documentary for all writers who want to learn how a great writer goes about their craft and themes that dominated her work. Also, I would recommend this documentary to other artists outside of writing to see how a fellow artist change the paradigm of a genre and demanded it’s respect as true art.