Sunday, December 08, 2013

LeGuin Interview

From my blog, in the interest of keeping this blog alive...

The current issue of The Paris Review has an interview with Ursula K. LeGuin. LeGuin is always interesting, though I did not feel she was much engaged with this interview. The interviewer knows too little about SF. I don't know if this matters to LeGuin, but it matters to me. He talks about 1960s as hard SF, full of physics. I remember the 1960s as New Wave. Before that was the Boucher and Gold era of the 1950s -- writers such as William Tenn, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick and so on. Yes, there was hard SF, but there was a lot more, and the most exciting SF -- to me -- was not hard SF. He talks about SF as stylistically plain. Well, yes, Delany has written about this. But when Bester was describing telepathy in The Demolished Man or teleporting and synesthsia in The Stars My Destination, he did quirky things with style. He had to. He was describing quirky events.

Delany published his first novel in 1962, and rapidly became an important writer, who challenged SF ideas about style, content, gender and sexuality. "Aye, and Gomorrah" was published in 1967. I'm picking only one story. I could pull out my edition of Driftglass and name many more.

The interviewer refers to the 1960s as the SF "Golden Age." NO. The "Golden Age" was the Campbell era of the 1940s. And he seems to think LeGuin tranformed SF single handed. The feminist wave of the late 1960s and 1970s had many people besides LeGuin. Russ, Charnas, Tiptree, Sargent come immediately to mind. And if I pulled out Sargent's and Salmonson's anthologies, I'd come up with many, many more names. I hate this process of tranforming history into a handful of towering figures with the rest of us like ants around their feet.

Post script:

I checked Wikipedia. The feminist wave in SF appears to have started in the early 1970s, rather than in the late 1960s. This means I am part of it. I thought I came slightly after. A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968 and Left Hand of Darkness in 1969, so LeGuin was a bit ahead of the rest of us. I still think it was a group effort.

Star Trek brought a flood of women into SF fandom, and at the same time -- in the late 1960s -- the second wave of feminism was emerging in the general culture. As far as I can tell, these two events -- Star Trek and second wave feminism -- led to the feminist SF of the 1970s. Women had always been present in SF, but they became far more numerous, obvious and feisty; and they were good writers. As Theodore Sturgeon famously said, "All the good new science fiction writers of the 1970s are women, except for James Tiptree Jr."

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