The "fate of the world" gets evoked a lot in popular fantasy/scifi nowadays but I really appreciate the way she chose to make her protagonists the final focus of her narratives. Don't want to spoil anything ;) so I'd encourage anyone that's interested to seek her work out.
Also the geek in me loves the Ansible ;-)
I liked that she convinced me that the main character was a women in the beginning, but later revealing it's actually a man.
Otherwise the whole book read more like a fantasy novel than sci-fi. I found it rather boring too.
>The fantasy tradition I was writing in came from Northern Europe, which is why it was about white people. I’m white, but not European. My people could be any color I liked, and I like red and brown and black. I was a little wily about my color scheme. I figured some white kids (the books were published for “young adults”) might not identify straight off with a brown kid, so I kind of eased the information about skin color in by degrees—hoping that the reader would get “into Ged’s skin” and only then discover it wasn’t a white one.
Try "Too Like Lightning" by Ada Palmer :)
The story starts from his first-person perspective, and he talks about how he feels insecure and about his fancy robes.
Have you read The Lord of the Rings, and did you have trouble with the made up non-Latin names? (you'd be in good company: I know plenty of people have trouble with Tolkien languages, which I also find puzzling, because I simply assume "these are foreign names" and go on with the plot)
This would be great for many industries - computer game development, board game development, movie creators, writers, etc. :)
At a personal level, I would be be very interested in learning/finding out such things though. Even more so if it is possible to automate this "discovery"
BTW I "automatically" created a planet while sitting in a boring church meeting last Sunday. I used a kind of "dice gradient" method with the dice app on my phone. "How hospitable is this planet?" OK, so a 2. Not very. What's the temperature? 2 again. Geez, it's freezing.
Anyway after about 15 rolls the planet turned out to be used as some sort of ancient computing device, channeling surface air as a cooling method. The ~20 person exploration team was struggling to get past even the most rudimentary underground security, with indications that the past custodians of this world had significant leverage over physical objects, perhaps through technological means.
A lot of fun, working this up :-)
My own idea was that the planet I rolled up hosted a sort of cargo-cult experiment, where the beings that hosted the computing infrastructure were using it for really basic tasks that were easily perceptible to their sensing skills, not understanding what it was, really. Their technological skills included rudimentary large-mass manipulation, and after making a place for this equipment and securing it, they had long since died out, while their "data center" was still flourishing and had stored extremely valuable data.
Size, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Population, Government, Law level, Technology, all would dictate the kind of goods available, the political structures, the economics.
It was so easy to generate systems that the game came up with an Atlas of the Imperium which featured thousands of stars. I can confirm that a sufficiently motivated nerd could rustle up a RPG subsector (with 20-40 planetary systems) in an hour.
> Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.
> Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.
Some truly wonderful writing — actually beautiful in points — and grand ideas and vision. Heart too, which is often missing in sci-fi.
Contrast that with the very-oft promoted and recommended “The Three Body Problem” which makes many an appearance in HN, which I started the other night which is — bluntly — awfully written. It has some wonderful ideas, which is what has kept me from putting it down, but I've been cringing at how poor the dialogue and exposition often is. It's borderline amateur. imho, obv.
If you like Atwood's worlds, you'll probably like Le Guin's. If you simply deride their encouragement as 'SJW', you're probably pushing your own agenda.
Just to be clear, I liked the 3BP series a lot. The books are generally paced well and there's just about the right amount of world building. However, the long expository monologues break up the flow. It's a shame because it's a great story and he tells it well. Those who have read the books will recognize his over reliance on on a particularly lazy storytelling device to introduce ideas which I can best summarize as follows: "here is this idea and this is why it's important and here's all the nuances to it so then this next idea came about and this is why it's important." That's bad writing. Making the characters academics so that Liu Cixuin can dress up his ideas as "theories" in this way is wholly unconvincing and, as you said, amateurish.
By contrast, Le Guin is masterful at weaving her ideas into the narrative of the story. Ideas are not introduced as standalone concepts and then referenced by the story. Instead, they are woven into the fabric of the story itself. This makes the ideas more compelling and keeps the narrative brisk and interesting. On the other hand, Le Guin often spends far too much time world building. The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite books, but the first half of the book plods on rather painfully. The second half feels like a reward for slogging through the first half.
Not sure if you've read The Dispossessed but I think it's better than TLHOD. It still has a bit too much world building in the first half but it's a tighter and more compactly told tale. Her most tightly told tale is probably The Lathe of Heaven. That book was incredible and I think it showcases her literary skill better than some of her more famous books. Definitely check it out some time if you liked her other work.
To be honest, my problem with her work that I've encountered so far is trying to see past the generally awful covers they suffer (I know, I know).
I try to avoid reading synopses and back cover descriptions, so having not read any of her work, i found it quite hard to discern whether I'd enjoy them or not.
One of my favorite books, period. I wish more authors made a try of the themes of a fellow author.
Thanks for the note about the criticism of the state — it's very evident and I did find it a bit surprising. I'd simply assumed it was perhaps 'allowed' to criticise Cultural Revolution-era China as such great strides had been made since then.. but now I think about it ‘Tiananmen Square’ and contemporary censorship hints otherwise. Interesting, thanks — particularly as another of Cixin Liu's works appears to be have been made into a bombastic blockbuster movie, presumably with State encouragement ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8LAwozrXPo )
The specific claim that "she was pretty much forgotten outside of sci-fi readers for a long time" seems suspicious, considering she won a National Book Award in '73, was a finalist for a Pulizer in '97, and was declared a Library of Congress Living Legend in 2000. When was this period of forgetfulness?
Your claim that the poster is calling certain groups inferior is entirely unwarranted. Please argue against the points they are actually making.
Edit: For examples, look at the various other replies that responded to the post without absurd speculation.
You are right about those more recent books though. I bought "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" and "A Closed and Common Orbit" and was thoroughly disappointed.
Here is somebody, who has clearly great ideas - and is incapable of running with them, like Le Guin did. All problems, all conflict, all interestingness - is carved from the book like a diamond grinded down into a pearl. It always returns to what i would term "emotional pornography", a hugfest - very similar to what firefly became later on.
I expect more from my scifi, a lot more, i rather have bad writting- which these books did not have at all.
They just dont go anywhere, like Le Guin did. So, while the parent is overgeneralizing, i think he is right here. The Nebula was undeserved in my opinion. If it must be for a woman, give it to Le Guin post mortem.
Earthsea opened my eyes to a different way of seeing the world. Maybe part of that was because she was a woman, sure, but plenty of male authors have equally given me useful insights into masculinity too though, so it's all good. Her gender was simply one of the attributes she brought to the table, as with any author. The important thing is she did so with such consummate skill and creativity.
She's more of a talking point in some time because she cared about minority representation and gender in sci fi before it was cool (though interestingly by her own admission she took too long to address gender).
Her Earthsea books were noteworthy both because she explicitly made the protagonists and most of the Earthsea archipelago inhabitants explicitly non-white, except for the barbaric Kargs, as well as for her repeated run-ins with publishers who tried to make Ged in particular white (on covers and the like), and thereby demonstrated exactly why it mattered that he is not.
So she is not lionized for her gender. She has gotten renewed attention because she spent decades of her career championing these issues at a point where most other authors in her niches didn't even acknowledge there was an issue, and the rest of the world is finally catching up.
Even for people who do not like her niches, she is worth reading exactly because of how she dealt with issues of race and gender and sexuality. You can read her books without caring about them as a political act, and you'll still come away with a different view of the world than what you'll get elsewere. Look at how much fantasy still to this day presents the protagonists as all white, and "exotic characters from foreign lands" and antagonists as being far more likely to be dark skinned, to see why. Then watch the 2003 TV adaptation of Earthsea and see how even knowing this, the studio made it mostly a whitewash (and read her justifiably annoyed reaction) - to anyone who thinks this does not matter, I would say that if it did not matter then surely it wouldn't have mattered to follow her descriptions either.
Or read Left Hand of Darkness in light of modern discussions of gender and consider it was written in 1969.
She was ahead of the game when she started doing this, and rather depressingly she is still ahead of the game now, many decades later, and a year after her death.
It's notable, I think, that a lot of white people (me included) didn't/don't even pick up on the color of the characters in Earthsea. But the descriptions are there, black on white. Le Guin herself wrote about that after the TV-series:
> I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don’t notice, don’t care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being “colorblind.” Nobody else does.
But that also speaks to the fact that didn't write stereotypical black characters, or stereotypical women. She just wrote people that happened to be black, or women, and sometimes the color of their skin or gender is just casually mentioned well into the story. Only when it is essential to the plot (like in Left Hand of Darkness) will she make an point of it.
Neither is unique in that, but it seems like both were at opposite poles for their time. IMO the moral slant in both is rather heavy-handed and - ironically - there's a sort of bedrock of puritanism motivating both of them, although with different apparent aims, and expressed in very different ways.
Nobody reads Heinlein for the beauty of his prose, but Le Guin is frequently held up as one of the great stylists of the genre.
There’s a character in one short story who is his own mother _and_ father.
But I can understand some taking issue with Le Guin. The language of the Earthsea books in particular is intentionally simple. My 9 year old has read most of the Earthsea books, and the series was initially explicitly targeted at teenagers.
For some that's hard to look past.
I will say, some of her magazine fiction didn't age well. Some of the shorter stories and dime novels are fun, but, well wonky and incoherent. Not that I think she was going for coherence, but it distracts from the narrative once you are bit familiar with her worlds.