Ursula K. Le Guin

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The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.

Ursula K. Le Guin (21 October 192922 January 2018) was an American writer, known mostly for her work in science fiction and fantasy. She received the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, and was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction in 2003.


When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby.
All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don't, our lives get made up for us by other people.
I know that to clinch a point is to close it. To leave the reader free to decide what your work means, that’s the real art; it makes the work inexhaustible.
  • We read books to find out who we are.
    • "Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction as a Way of Seeing" in The Living Light 7:3 (Fall, 1970). Reprinted in The Language of the Night (Ultramarine Publishing, 1979).
  • If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it, but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.
    • "American SF and The Other" in Science-Fiction Studies 7, 1975. Reprinted in The Language of the Night, 1979.
  • True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. “You must change your life,” he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
    • "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction" (1976)
  • The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
    • Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
  • I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
    • Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
  • I have never found anywhere, in the domain of art, that you don't have to walk to. (There is quite an array of jets, buses and hacks which you can ride to Success; but that is a different destination.) It is a pretty wild country. There are, of course, roads. Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.
    • The Language of the Night (1979)
  • My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it.
    • "The Creatures on My Mind" in Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996), p. 65
  • All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don't, our lives get made up for us by other people.
    • The Operating Instructions in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)
  • To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.
    • The Question I Get Asked Most Often in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)
  • What's to gain by silence?
    • Cannoc, in Gifts (2004)
  • Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them.
  • As a fiction writer, I don't speak message. I speak story. Sure, my story means something, but if you want to know what it means, you have to ask the question in terms appropriate to storytelling. Terms such as message are appropriate to expository writing, didactic writing, and sermons—different languages from fiction.
    The notion that a story has a message assumes that it can be reduced to a few abstract words, neatly summarized in a school or college examination paper or a brisk critical review.
  • A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.
  • I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. ... The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.
    • National Book Awards, November 2014 [1]
  • If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there's no way you can act morally or responsibly. Little kids can't do it; babies are morally monsters—completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.
  • I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived. I believe that all the best faculties of a mature human being exist in the child, and that if these faculties are encouraged in youth they will act well and wisely in the adult, but that if they are repressed and denied in the child they will stunt and cripple the adult personality. And finally, I believe that one of the most deeply human, and humane, of these faculties is the power of imagination: so that it is our pleasant duty ... to encourage that faculty of imagination in our children, to encourage it to grow freely, to flourish like the green bay tree, by giving it the best, absolutely the best and purest, nourishment that it can absorb. And never under any circumstances, to squelch it, or sneer at it, or imply that it is childish, or unmanly, or untrue.
  • We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

Short fiction


The Shobies’ Story (1990)

Reprinted in David G. Hartwell (ed.), The Space Opera Renaissance, ISBN 0-765-30618-2
  • “Mysticism,” she said, in the tone of voice of one warning a companion about dog-shit on the path.
    • p. 731
  • “Do you mean,” Lidi said in a tone of deep existential disgust, “that we have to believe in it to make it work?”
    “You have to believe in yourself in order to act, don’t you?” Tai said.
    “No,” the navigator said. “Absolutely not. I don’t believe in myself. I know some things. Enough to go on.”
    • pp. 742-743
  • Mede spoke with amused tolerance, as physicists generally speak of biologists.
    • “The Masters” p. 46 (originally published in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, February 1963)
  • Many feminists have been grieved or aggrieved by The Left Hand of Darkness because the androgynes in it are called ‘he’ throughout. In the third person singular, the English generic pronoun is the same as the masculine pronoun. A fact worth reflecting upon. And it’s a trap, with no way out, because the exclusion of the feminine (she) and the neuter (it) from the generic/masculine (he) makes the use of either of them more specific, more unjust, as it were, than the use of ‘he.’ And I find made-up pronouns, ‘te’ and ‘heshe’ and so on, dreary and annoying.
  • Unless physical action reflects psychic action, unless the deeds express the person, I get very bored with adventure stories; often it seems that the more action there is, the less happens.
    • Introduction to the story “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” p. 166
  • No granite is so hard as hatred and no clay so cold as cruelty.
    • “The Stars Below” p. 204 (originally published in Orbit 14, edited by Damon Knight)
  • There is not much good spending twelve hours a day in a black hole in the ground all your life long if there’s nothing there, no secret, no treasure, nothing hidden.
    • “The Stars Below” p. 212 (originally published in Orbit 14, edited by Damon Knight)
  • Shelley was kicked out of Oxford—I think the story is unauthenticated, but who cares—because he painted a sign on the end wall of a dead-end alley: THIS WAY TO HEAVEN. I feel that every now and then his sign needs repainting.
    • Introduction to the story “The Field of Vision” p. 222
  • Hughes, who had entered the space program from astrophysics, came with a very good record, in fact a brilliant one. This troubled many of his military superiors, to whom high intelligence was a code word for instability and insubordination.
    • “The Field of Vision” pp. 228-229 (originally published in Galaxy, October 1973)
  • They can keep their God, they can keep their Light. I want the world back. I want questions, not the answer. I want my own life back, and my own death!
    • “The Field of Vision” p. 243 (originally published in Galaxy, October 1973)
  • The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else.
  • As we did without clergy, let us do without soldiers. The joy built upon successful slaughter is not the right kind of joy; it will not do; it is fearful and it is trivial. A boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world’s summer: this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life.
  • Favoritism, elitism, leader-worship, they crept back and cropped out everywhere. But she had never hoped to see them eradicated in her lifetime, in one generation; only Time works the great changes.
    • The Day Before the Revolution” p. 265 (originally published in Galaxy, August 1974)
    • Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1974
    • Hugo nominee for Best Short Story in 1975
  • After a lifetime of living on hope because there is nothing but hope, one loses the taste for victory.
  • What was the good working for freedom all your life and ending up without any freedom at all?
  • What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice.
All page numbers from the first mass market edition published by Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-10705-4
  • He had waked her; he had given her what she lacked, and what few men could have given her: the sense of peril, which is the root of love.
    • Ile Forest (p. 29)
  • I was afraid I’d fail. So I didn’t work.
    • Brothers and Sisters (p. 93; first published in The Little Magazine (1976) Vol. 10, Nos. 1 & 2)
  • A man, he walked with men across a barren plain blue with flowers in brief April; they shared with him their anger, their barren helpless obduracy and the brief blue fire of their anger.
    • A Week in the Country (p. 133; first published in The Little Magazine (1976) Vol. 9, No. 4)
  • What the devil do you come to me for? And burst into tears? And then tell me thanks very much for your suggestion but I shall continue to attempt the impossible? The arrogance, the unreasonableness—no, I can endure all that—but the stupidity, the absolute stupidity of artists, I cannot stand it any longer!
    • An die Musik (pp. 159-160; first published in The Western Humanities Review (1961) Vol. 15, No. 3)
  • He sat still a long time. Music will not save us, Otto Egorin had said. Not you, or me, or her, the big golden-voiced woman who had no children and wanted none; not Lehmann who sang the song; not Schubert who had written it and was a hundred years dead. What good is music? None, Gaye thought, and that is the point. To the world and its states and armies and factories and Leaders, music says, “you are irrelevant”; and, arrogant and gentle as a god, to the suffering man it says only, “Listen.” For being saved is not the point. Music saves nothing. Merciful, uncaring, it denies and breaks down all the shelters, the houses men build for themselves, that they may see the sky.
    • An die Musik (p. 168; first published in The Western Humanities Review (1961) Vol. 15, No. 3)
  • He had been a handsome man, when they married, fourteen years ago. A handsome, happy man, proud and kind, very good at his work. There had been a splendor to him, a wholeness.
    That was gone. There was no more room in the world for whole people, they took up too much space. What she had done to him was only a part of the general program for cutting him and people like him down to size, for chopping and paring and breaking up, so that in the texture of life nothing large, nothing hard, nothing grand should remain.
    • The House (p. 176)
  • For heroes do not make history—that is the historians’ job—but, passive, let themselves be borne along, swept up to the crest of the tide of change, of chance, of war.
    • The Lady of Moge (p. 183)
  • Josef liked to read books, not pack them.
    • Imaginary Countries (p. 203)
  • And fourteen—fourteen is such a fearful age, when you find out so fast what you’re capable of being, but also what a toll the world expects.
    • Imaginary Countries (p. 204; first published in The Harvard Advocate (Winter 1973)

Hainish Cycle

  • “Long ago we parted,” said the slight, still man of the Fiia. “Longer ago we were one. What we are not, they are. What we are, they are not. Think of the sunlight and the grass and the trees that bear fruit, Semley; think that not all roads that lead down lead up as well.”
    • Prologue
  • The High-Intelligence Life Forms of the planet, of which there were at least three species, all of low technological achievement, they would ignore or enslave or extirpate, whichever was most convenient. For to an aggressive people only technology mattered.
    • Chapter 2
  • It did not matter, after all. He was only one man. One man’s fate is not important.
    “If it is not, what is?”
    He could not endure those remembered words.
    • Chapter 9
  • All men were alien one to another, at times, not only aliens.
    • Chapter 4 (The Tall Young Men)
  • Men who fight wars in Winter don’t live till Spring.
    • Chapter 4 (The Tall Young Men)
  • He detested them for forcing helplessness upon him.
    • Chapter 9 (The Guerillas)
  • Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger.
    • Chapter 1
  • We live well in the houses—well enough. But we are ruled utterly by fear. There was a time we sailed in ships between the stars, and now we dare not go a hundred miles from home. We keep a little knowledge, and do nothing with it. But once we used that knowledge to weave the pattern of life like a tapestry across night and chaos. We enlarged the chances of life. We did man’s work.
    • Chapter 1
  • Between thought and spoken word is a gap where intention can enter, the symbol twisted aside, and the lie come to be.
    • Chapter 2
  • He liked the vast openness of sky and prairie, and found loneliness a pleasure with so immense a domain to be alone in.
    • Chapter 3
  • The more defensive a society, the more conformist.
    • Chapter 4
  • The juniper-scented liquor had volatilized his thoughts; he should be thinking that madness caused this man to call himself a king, but was thinking rather that kingship had driven this man mad.
    • Chapter 5
  • The game must be played, and played their way, though they made all the rules and had all the skill. His ineptitude did not matter. His honesty did. He was staked now totally on one belief: that an honest man cannot be cheated, that truth, if the game be played through right to the end, will lead to truth.
    • Chapter 7
  • We of Es Toch tell a little myth, which says that in the beginning the Creator told a great lie. For there was nothing at all, but the Creator spoke, saying, It exists. And behold, in order that the lie of God might be God’s truth, the universe at once began to exist.
    • Chapter 7
  • It seemed, at least, that they had not taught the boy to lie. But they had not taught him to know truth from lies.
    • Chapter 8
  • Planets were very large places, on any scale but that of the spaces in between them.
    • Chapter 9
  • They prevented men from doing anything. But they did nothing themselves. They did not rule, they only blighted.
    • Chapter 9
All page numbers from the Trade paperback edition published in 2000 by Ace Books
To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.
  • Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge); by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets); and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.
    • Introduction (p. xii)
  • I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
    • Introduction (p. xv)
  • I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 1; opening paragraph)
  • I forgot, being too interested myself, that he’s a king, and does not see things rationally, but as a king.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 17)
  • No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 18)
  • One voice, speaking truth is a greater force than fleets and armies, given time; plenty of time.
    • Chapter 3 “The Mad King” (p. 27)
  • When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.
    • Chapter 3 “The Mad King” (p. 42)
  • I thought, shivering, that there are things that outweigh comfort, unless one is an old woman or a cat.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 51)
  • Legends of prediction are common throughout the whole Household of Man. God speaks, spirits speak, computers speak. Oracular ambiguity or statistical probability provides loopholes, and discrepancies are expunged by Faith.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 55)
  • “We in the Handdara don’t want answers. It’s hard to avoid them, but we try to.”
    “Faxe, I don’t think I understand.”
    “Well, we come here to the Fastnesses mostly to learn what questions not to ask.”
    “But you’re the Answerers!”
    “You don’t see, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”
    “To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (pp. 69-70)
  • The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 70)
  • A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience.
    • Chapter 7 “The Question of Sex” (p. 95)
  • A man can trust his luck, but a society can’t; and cultural change, like random mutation, may make things chancier. So they have gone very slowly. At any one point in their history a hasty observer would say that all technological progress and diffusion had ceased. Yet it never has. Compare the torrent and the glacier. Both get where they are going.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 98)
  • If civilization has an opposite, it is war.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 101)
  • “The mission I am on overrides all personal debts and loyalties.”
    “If so,” said the stranger with fierce certainty, “it is an immoral mission.”
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 104)
  • He was a hard shrewd jovial politician, whose acts of kindness served his interest and whose interest was himself. His type is panhuman. I had met him on Earth, and on Hain, and on Ollul. I expect to meet him in Hell.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 116)
  • Elegance is a small price to pay for enlightenment, and I was glad to pay it.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 118)
  • This, at least, is the accepted explanation, though like most economic explanations it seems, under certain lights, to omit the main point.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 118)
  • It is not altogether a bad thing to have criminal ancestors. An arsonist grandfather may bequeath one a nose for smelling smoke.
    • Chapter 10 “Conversations in Mishnory” (p. 143)
  • To oppose something is to maintain it.
    They say here “all roads lead to Mishnory.” To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.
    • Chapter 11 “Soliloquies in Mishnory” (p. 151)
  • To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof. Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free.
    To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
    • Chapter 11 “Soliloquies in Mishnory” (p. 151)
  • It is not human to be without shame and without desire.
    • Chapter 13 “Down on the Farm” (p. 177)
  • Mr. Ai, we’ve seen the same events with different eyes; I wrongly thought they’d seem the same to us.
    • Chapter 14 “The Escape” (p. 197)
  • The First Envoy to a world always comes alone. One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 209)
  • A man who doesn’t detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a thing as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 213)
  • What is more arrogant than honesty?
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 213)
  • It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 220)
  • A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.
    • Chapter 18 “On the Ice” (p. 249)
  • The experience was disagreeable. I began to feel like an atheist praying.
    • Chapter 18 “On the Ice” (p. 252)
  • And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend’s voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?
    • Chapter 19 “Homecoming” (p. 279)
Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1972
  • Wrongs done could not be righted, but at least they were not still being done.
    • Section 5
  • Character and training disposed him not to interfere in other mens’s business. His job was to find out what they did, and his inclination was to let them go on doing it. He preferred to be enlightened, rather than to enlighten; to seek facts rather than the Truth. But even the most unmissionary soul, unless he pretend he has no emotions, is sometimes faced with a choice between commission and omission. “What are they doing?” abruptly becomes, “What are we doing?” and then, “What must I do?”
    • Section 5
  • “Sometimes a god comes,” Selver said. “He brings a new way to do a thing, or a new thing to be done. A new kind of singing, or a new kind of death. He brings this across the bridge between the dream-time and the world-time. When he has done this, it is done. You cannot take things that exist in the world and try to drive them back into the dream, to hold them inside the dream with walls and pretenses. That is insanity. What is, is. There is no use pretending, now, that we do not know how to kill one another.”
    • Section 8
  • Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on. Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. [...] It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free. Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.
    • Chapter 1 (pp. 1–2)
  • You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 55)
  • Uninfluenced by others, he never knew he influenced them; he had no idea they liked him.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 58)
  • Suffering is dysfunctional, except as a bodily warning against danger. Psychologically and socially it’s merely destructive.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 61)
  • It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 72)
  • He had assumed that if you removed a human being’s natural incentive to work—his initiative, his spontaneous creative energy—and replaced it with external motivation and coercion, he would become a lazy and careless worker. But no careless workers kept those lovely farmlands, or made the superb cars and comfortable trains. The lure and compulsion of profit was evidently a much more effective replacement of the natural initiative than he had been led to believe.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 82)
  • To be whole is to be part;
    true voyage is return.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 84)
  • Excess is excrement.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 98)
  • No doors were locked, few shut. There were no disguises and no advertisements. It was all there, all the work, all the life of the city, open to the eye and to the hand.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 99)
  • Grow up. Grow up. Time to grow up. You’re here now. We’re working on physics here, not religion. Drop the mysticism and grow up.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 104)
  • He was appalled by the examination system, when it was explained to him; he could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn than this pattern of cramming in information and disgorging it at demand.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 127)
  • He tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance, it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream. He could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth, because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of a primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary. In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 130-131)
  • To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 139)
  • Coercion is the least efficient means of obtaining order.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 149)
  • People like to do things. They like to do them well. People take the dangerous, hard jobs because they take pride in doing them, they can—egoize, we call it—show off?—to the weaker ones. Hey, look, little boys, see how strong I am! You know? A person likes to do what he is good at doing.... But really, it is the question of ends and means. After all, work is done for the work’s sake. It is the lasting pleasure of life. The private conscience knows that. And also the social conscience, the opinion of one’s neighbors. There is no other reward, on Anarres, no other law. One’s own pleasure, and the respect of one’s fellows. That is all. When that is so, then you see the opinion of the neighbors becomes a very mighty force.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 150)
  • You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think, refusing to change. And that’s precisely what our society is doing!
    • Chapter 6 (p. 165)
  • She saw time naïvely as a road laid out. You walked ahead, and you got somewhere. If you were lucky, you got somewhere worth getting to.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 183)
  • “If you can see a thing whole,” he said, “it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up, a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”
    “That’s all right for Urras. Let it stay off there and be the moon—I don’t want it! But I’m not going to stand up on a gravestone and look down on life and say, ‘O lovely!’ I want to see it whole right in the middle of it, here, now. I don’t give a hoot for eternity.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 190)
  • The news had stirred him strangely. He listened for bulletins on the radio, which he had seldom turned on after finding that its basic function was advertising things for sale.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 201-202)
  • “The politics of reality,” Shevek repeated. He looked at Oiie and said, “That is a curious phrase for a physicist to use.”
    “Not at all. The politician and the physicist both deal with things as they are, with real forces, the basic laws of the world.”
    “You put your petty miserable ‘laws’ to protect wealth, your ‘forces’ of guns and bombs, in the same sentence with the law of entropy and the force of gravity? I had thought better of your mind, Demaere!”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 203)
  • [Shevek] came at last to the long array of doors through which crowds of people came and went constantly, all purposeful, all separate. They all looked, to him, anxious. He had often seen that anxiety before in the faces of Urrasti, and wondered about it. Was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more, lest they die poor? Was it guilt, because no matter how little money they had, there was always somebody who had less? Whatever the cause, it gave all the faces a certain sameness, and he felt very much alone among them.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 207)
  • “The law of evolution is that the strongest survives.”
    “Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 220)
  • “But what’s the good of this sort of ‘understanding,’” Dearri said, “if it doesn’t result in practical, technological applications? Just word juggling, isn’t it?”
    “You ask questions like a true profiteer,” Shevek said, and not a soul there knew he had insulted Dearri with the most contemptuous word in his vocabulary; indeed Dearri nodded a bit, accepting the compliment with satisfaction.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 224)
  • Our model of the cosmos must be as inexhaustible as the cosmos. A complexity that includes not only duration but creation, not only being but becoming, not only geometry but ethics. It is not the answer we are after, but only how to ask the question.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 226)
  • No. It is not wonderful. It is an ugly world. Not like this one. Anarres is all dusty and dry hills. All meager, all dry. And the people aren’t beautiful. They have big hands and feet, like me and the waiter there. But not big bellies. They get very dirty, and take baths together, nobody here does that. The towns are very small and dull, they are dreary. No palaces. Life is dull, and hard work. You can’t always have what you want, or even what you need, because there isn’t enough. You Urrasti have enough. Enough air, enough rain, grass, oceans, food, music, buildings, factories, machines, books, clothes, history. You are rich, you own. We are poor, we lack. You have, we do not have. Everything is beautiful here. Only not the faces. On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. The other faces, the men and women. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit. Because our men and women are free—possessing nothing, they are free. And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes—the wall, the wall!
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 228-229)
  • A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well—this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 247)
  • He felt that sense of being necessary which is the burden and reward of parenthood.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 248)
  • “There’s a point, around age twenty,” Bedap said, “when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 249)
  • It was easy to share when there was enough, even barely enough, to go round. But when there was not enough? Then force entered in; might making right; power, and its tool, violence, and its most devoted ally, the averted eye.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 256)
  • Existence is its own justification, need is right.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 261)
  • The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 272)
  • Like all power seekers, Pae was amazingly shortsighted. There was a trivial, abortive quality to his mind, it lacked depth, affect, imagination. It was, in fact, a primitive instrument.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 278)
  • He did not know their songs, and only listened and was borne along on the music, until from up front there came sweeping back wave by wave down the great slow-moving river of people a tune he knew. He lifted his head high and sang it with them, in his own language as he had learned it: the Hymn of the Insurrection. It had been sung in these streets, in this same street, two hundred years ago, by these people, his people.
O' eastern light, awaken
those who have slept!
The darkness will be broken,
The promise kept.
They fell silent in the ranks around Shevek to hear him, and he sang aloud, smiling walking forward with them.
  • Ch. 9 (pp. 298-9)
  • It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, it turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have been forced to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 300) — from the protagonist’s major speech.
  • You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit or, it is nowhere.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 301)
  • A scientist can pretend that his work isn’t himself, it’s merely the impersonal truth. An artist can’t hide behind the truth. He can’t hide anywhere.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 331)
  • With the myth of the State out of the way, the real mutuality and reciprocity of society and individual became clear. Sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice—the power of change, the essential function of life. The Odonian society was conceived as a permanent revolution, and revolution begins in the thinking mind.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 333)
  • “Do you not understand that I want to give this to you—and to Hain and the other worlds—and to the countries of Urras? But to you all! So that one of you cannot use it, as A-Io wants to do, to get power over the others, to get richer or to win more wars. So that you cannot use the truth for your private profit, but only for the common good.”
    “In the end, the truth usually insists upon serving only the common good,” Keng said.
    “In the end, yes, but I am not willing to wait for the end. I have one lifetime, and I will not spend it for greed and profiteering and lies. I will not serve any master.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 345-346)
  • There is nothing, nothing on Urras that we Anarresti need! We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to the other, or trying to prove it. You cannot act like a brother to other people, you must manipulate them, or command them, or obey them, or trick them. You cannot touch another person, yet they will not leave you alone. There is no freedom. It is a box—Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautiful wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what is inside it? A black cellar full of dust, and a dead man. A man whose hand was shot off because he held it out to others. I have been in Hell at last. Desar was right; it is Urras; Hell is Urras.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 346-347)
  • “For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.”
    • Chapter 12, quoting Odo from "Prison Letters"
  • What we’re after is to remind ourselves that we didn’t come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 359)
  • The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin. We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 359)
  • We have been civilized for a thousand millennia. We have histories of hundreds of those millennia. We have tried everything, Anarchism, with the rest. But I have not tried it. They say there is nothing new under any sun. But if each life is not new, each single life, then why are we born?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 385)
  • The sunlights differ, but there is only one darkness.
    • Chapter 13

Unless otherwise indicated, page numbers refer to the October 2001 Ace trade edition.

  • Most civilisations, perhaps, look shinier in general terms and from several light-years away.
    • Ch. 2, §2 (p. 32)
  • Where my guides lead me in kindness
    I follow, follow lightly,
    and there are no footprints
    in the dust behind us.
    • Ch. 3, §2 (p. 72)
  • One of the historians of Darranda said: To learn a belief without belief is to sing a song without the tune.
    A yielding, an obedience, a willingness to accept these notes as the right notes, this pattern as the true pattern, is the essential gesture of performance, translation, and understanding. The gesture need not be permanent, a lasting posture of the mind or heart, yet it is not false. It is more than the suspension of disbelief needed to watch a play, yet less than the conversion. It is a position, a posture in the dance.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (pp. 90–91)
  • She had come to Aka to learn how to sing this world's tune, to dance its dance; and at last, she thought, away from the city's endless noise, she was beginning to hear the music and to learn how to move to it.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 91)
  • On Aka, god is a word without referent. No capital letters. No creator, only creation. No eternal father to reward and punish, justify injustice, ordain cruelty, offer salvation. Eternity not an endpoint but a continuity. Primal division of being into material and spiritual only as two-as-one, or one in two aspects. [...] The Akan system is a spiritual discipline with spiritual goals, but they're exactly the same goals it seeks for bodily and ethical well-being. Right action is its own reward. Dharma without karma.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 94)
  • She was not so naive as to think there was any necessary relation between religion and morality, or that if there was a relation it was likely to be a benevolent one.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 109)
  • By such literalism, fundamentalism, religions betrayed the best intentions of their founders. Reducing thought to formula, replacing choice by obedience, these preachers turned the living word into dead law.
    • Ch. 5 (p. 123)
  • "We're not outside the world, yoz. You know? We are the world. We're its language. So we live and it lives. You see?"
    • Ch. 5 (p. 133)

Earthsea Books

You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
  • To hear, one must be silent.
    • Chapter 2 (Ogion)
  • You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
    • Chapter 3 (Master Hand)
  • Go to bed; tired is stupid.
    • Chapter 4 (Kurremkarmerruk)
  • You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...
    • Chapter 4 (The Master Summoner)
  • The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate.
    • Chapter 5
  • “Heal the Wound, Cure the illness, but let the Dying spirit go”
    • Chapter 5
  • From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.
    • Chapter 5
  • It is light that defeats the dark.
    • Chapter 7 (Ged)
  • He had almost yielded, but not quite. He had not consented. It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.
    • Chapter 7
  • “For a word to be spoken,” Ged answered slowly, “there must be silence. Before, and after.” Then all at once he got up, saying, “I have no right to speak of these things. The word that was mine to say I said wrong. It is better that I keep still; I will not speak again. Maybe there is no true power but the dark.”
    • Chapter 9
  • I was in too much haste, and now have no time left. I traded all the sunlight and the cities and the distant lands for a handful of power, for a shadow, for the dark.
    • Chapter 10 (Ged)
  • War as a moral metaphor is limited, limiting, and dangerous. By reducing the choices of action to 'a war against' whatever-it-is, you divide the world into Me or Us (good) and Them or It (bad) and reduce the ethical complexity and moral richness of our life to Yes/No, On/Off. This is puerile, misleading, and degrading. In stories, it evades any solution but violence and offers the reader mere infantile reassurance. All too often the heroes of such fantasies behave exactly as the villains do, acting with mindless violence, but the hero is on the “right” side and therefore will win. Right makes might.
    • Afterword to the 2012 edition.
  • All I know is the dark, the night underground. And that’s all there really is. That’s all there is to know, in the end. The silence, and the dark. You know everything, wizard. But I know one thing — the one true thing!
    • Chapter 7, "The Great Treasure" (Arha)
  • As she stumbled forward she cried out in her mind, which was as dark, as shaken as the subterranean vault, “Forgive me. O my Masters, O unnamed ones, most ancient ones, forgive me, forgive me!”
    There was no answer. There had never been an answer.
    • Chapter 10, "The Anger of the Dark"
  • Living, being in the world, was a much greater and stranger thing than she had ever dreamed.
    • Chapter 11, "The Western Mountains"
  • “Summon up a supper,” he said. “Oh, I could. On golden plates, if you like. But that’s illusion, and when you eat illusions you end up hungrier than before.”
    • Chapter 11, "The Western Mountains"
  • A dark hand had let go its lifelong hold upon her heart. But she did not feel joy, as she had in the mountains. She put her head down in her arms and cried, and her cheeks were salt and wet. She cried for the waste of her years in bondage to a useless evil. She wept in pain, because she was free.
    What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.
    • Chapter 12, "Voyage"
To refuse death is to refuse life.
  • So the first step out of childhood is made all at once, without looking before or behind, without caution, and nothing held in reserve.
    • Chapter 1, "The Rowan Tree"
  • Young he was not, so that one had to call him old, but the word did not suit him.
    • Chapter 1, "The Rowan Tree"
  • When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. or wonder who, after all, you are.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged)
  • “We may suffer for it when the balance of things rights itself, but we do not lose hope and forego art and forget the words of the Making. Nature is not unnatural. This is not a righting of the balance, but an upsetting of it. There is only one creature who can do that.”
    “A man?” Arren said, tentative.
    “We men.”
    “By an unmeasured desire for life.”
    “For life? But it isn’t wrong to want to live?”
    “No. But when we crave power over life—endless wealth, unassailable safety, immortality—then desire becomes greed. And if knowledge allies itself to that greed, then comes evil. Then the balance of the world is swayed, and ruin weighs heavy in the scale.”
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged and Arren)
  • Those were men in whom great strength and knowledge served the will to evil and fed upon it. Whether the wizardry that serves a better end may always prove the stronger, we do not know. We hope.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged)
  • There is a certain bleakness in finding hope where one expected certainty. Arren found himself unwilling to stay on these cold summits. He said after a little while, “I see why you say that only men do evil, I think. Even sharks are innocent; they kill because they must.”
    "That is why nothing else can resist us. Only one thing in the world can resist an evil-hearted man. And that is another man. In our shame is our glory. Only our spirit, which is capable of evil, is capable of overcoming it.”
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Arren and Ged)
  • No, I don’t understand him, but he is worth listening to.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town"
  • He resolved not to speak again until he had controlled his temper.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town"
  • “But you knew them to be evil men—”
    “Was I to join them therefore? To let their acts rule my own? I will not make their choices for them, nor will I let them make mine for me!”
    • Chapter 4, "Magelight" (Arren and Ged)
  • But we, insofar as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I—though I have the power to do it—to punish and reward, playing with men’s destinies?”
    • Chapter 4, "Magelight" (Ged)
  • The counsel of the dead is not profitable to the living.
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams"
  • “Is it a wicked thing, then?”
    “I should call it a misunderstanding, rather. A misunderstanding of life. Death and life are the same thing—like the two sides of my hand, the palm and the back. And still the palm and the back are not the same...They can be neither separated, nor mixed.”
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams" (Arren and Ged)
  • To claim power over what you do not understand is not wise, nor is the end of it likely to be good.
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams" (Ged)
  • "Aye. Like knows like, sister"
    • Chapter 6, "Lorbanery" (Ged)
  • The Dyer backed away from him another step and stood watching him, the exaltation in his face clouding slowly over until it was replaced by a strange, heavy look; it was as if reasoning thought were laboring to break through the storm of words and feelings and visions that confused him. Finally he turned around without a word and began to run back down the road, into the haze of dust that had not yet settled on his tracks.
    • Chapter 6, "Lorbanery"
  • “Well,” he said. “Strange roads have strange guides. Let’s go on.”
    • Chapter 6, "Lorbanery" (Ged)
  • The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • What you love, you will love. What you undertake you will complete. You are a fulfiller of hope; you are to be relied on. But seventeen years give little armor against despair...Consider, Arren. To refuse death is to refuse life.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • I know what they think they seek. But I know it to be a lie. Listen to me, Arren. You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose....That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself? Would you give up the craft of your hands, and the passion of your heart, and the light of sunrise and sunset, to buy safety for yourself—safety forever? That is what they seek to do on Wathort and Lorbanery and elsewhere. That is the message that those who know how to hear have heard: By denying life you may deny death and live forever!—And this message I do not hear, Arren, for I will not hear it. I will not take the counsel of despair.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • “In innocence there is no strength against evil,” said Sparrowhawk, a little wryly. “But there is strength in it for good.”
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea"
  • “The first lesson on Roke, and the last is, Do what is needful! And no more.”
    “The lessons in between, then, must consist in learning what is needful.”
    “They do.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Ged and Arren)
  • “What harm have the trees done them?” he said. “Must they punish the grass for their own faults? Men are savages, who would set a land afire because they have a quarrel with other men.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Arren)
  • One man may as easily destroy, as govern: be King or Anti-King.
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Ged)
  • “A king has soldiers, servants, messengers, lieutenants. He governs through his servants. Where are the servants of this—Anti-king?”
    “In our minds, lad. In our minds. The traitor, the self; the self that cries I want to live; let the world burn so long as I can live! The little traitor soul in us, in the dark, like the worm in the apple.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Arren and Ged)
  • To see a candle’s light, one must take it into a dark place.
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Sparrowhawk)
  • “There’s nothing to fear, Lebannen,” he said gently, mockingly. “They were only the dead.”
    • Chapter 11, "Selidor"
  • “You exist: without name, without form. You cannot see the light of day; you cannot see the dark. You sold the green earth and the sun and stars to save yourself. But you have no self. All that which you sold, that is yourself. You have given everything for nothing. And so now you seek to draw the world to you, all that light and life you lost, to fill up your nothingness. But it cannot be filled. Not all the songs of earth, not all the stars of heaven, could fill your emptiness.”
    • Chapter 12, "The Dry Land"

Tehanu (1990)

  • Her left hand reminded her of its existence, and she looked round to see what was scratching the heel of her hand. It was a tiny thistle, crouched in a crack in the sandstone, barely lifting its colorless spikes into the light and wind. It nodded stiffly as the wind blew, resisting the wind, rooted in rock. She gazed at it for a long time.
    • Chapter 4, "Kalessin"
  • A great deal of her obscurity and cant, Tenar had begun to realize, was mere ineptness with words and ideas. Nobody had ever taught her to think consecutively. Nobody had ever listened to what she said. All that was expected, all that was wanted of her was muddle, mystery, mumbling. She was a witchwoman. She had nothing to do with clear meaning.
    • Chapter 5, "Bettering"
  • Despair speaks evenly, in a quiet voice.
    • Chapter 6, "Worsening"
  • If they come prying they can leave curious.
    • Chapter 7, "Mice"
  • And I know that all I understand about living is having your work to do, and being able to do it. That’s the pleasure, and the glory, and all. And if you can’t do the work, or it’s taken from you, then what’s any good? You have to have something....
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • “Is it different, then, for men and for women?”
    “What isn’t, dearie?”
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • A wrong that cannot be repaired must be transcended.
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • “But now you've come too far, and I warn you, woman! I will not have you set foot on this domain. And if you cross my will or dare so much as speak to me again, I will have you driven from Re Albi, and off the Overfell, with the dogs at your heels. Have you understood me?”
    “No,” Tenar said, “I have never understood men like you.”
    • Chapter 9, "Finding Words"
  • Is power that—an emptiness?
    • Chapter 10, "The Dolphin"
  • “She obeys me, but only because she wants to.”
    “It’s the only justification for obedience,” Ged observed.
    • Chapter 12, "Winter"
  • It’s not a weapon or a woman can make a man, or magery either, or any power, anything but himself.
    • Chapter 12, "Winter"
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
  • O foolish writer. Now moves. Even in storytime, dreamtime, once-upon-a-time, now isn’t then.
    • Foreward (p. xiii)
  • All times are changing times, but ours is one of massive, rapid moral and mental transformation. Archetypes turn into millstones, large simplicities get complicated, chaos becomes elegant, and what everybody knows is true turns out to be what some people used to think.
    • Foreward (p. xv)
  • There’s no way to use power for good.
    • “The Finder” (p. 42)
  • There’s people all over these parts, and maybe beyond, who think, as you said, that nobody can be wise alone. So these people try to hold to each other.
    • “The Finder” (p. 43)
  • It was men’s ambitions, they said, that had perverted all the arts to ends of gain.
    • “The Finder” (p. 56)
  • Highdrake said that to make love is to unmake power.
    • “The Finder” (p. 59)
  • “The solution lies in secrecy,” said Medra. “But so does the problem.”
    • “The Finder” (p. 64)
  • Ignorant power is a bane!
    • “The Finder” (p. 66)
  • How can people be anything but ignorant when knowledge isn’t saved, isn’t taught?
    • “The Finder” (p. 67)
  • The desire for power feeds off itself, growing as it devours.
    • “The Finder” (p. 80)
  • The danger in trying to do good is that the mind comes to confuse the intent of goodness with the act of doing things well.
    • “The Finder” (p. 85)
  • “It always seemed to me they’re sort of alike,” he said, “magic and music. Spells and tunes. For one thing, you have to get them just exactly right.”
    • “Darkrose and Diamond” (p. 110)
  • “What’s that all about?” Golden said to his wife, a rhetorical question. She looked at him and said nothing, a non-rhetorical answer.
    • “Darkrose and Diamond” (p. 125)
  • To which Silence of course made no reply, letting him hear what he had said and feel its foolishness thoroughly.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 134)
  • It’s a rare gift, to know where you need to be, before you’ve been to all the places you don’t need to be.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 138)
  • You’ll know what to say when the time comes. That’s the art, eh? What to say, and when to say it. And the rest is silence.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 139)
  • All the mystery and wisdom of the Masters, when it’s out in the daylight, doesn’t amount to so much, you know. Tricks of the trade—wonderful illusions. But people don’t want to know that. They want the illusions, the mysteries. Who can blame them? There’s so little in life that’s beautiful or worthy.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 199)
  • Maybe that’s what the Masters are afraid of. Maybe celibacy isn’t as necessary as the Rule of Roke teaches. Maybe it’s not a way of keeping the power pure, but of keeping the power to themselves.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 200)
  • Injustice makes the rules, and courage breaks them.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 201)
  • Obsessed with tricking the girl, he had fallen into the trap he laid for her. Bitterly he recognised that he was always believing his own lies, caught in nets he had elaborately woven.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 211)
  • Before the gods and after, always, are the streams. Caves, stones, hills. Trees. The earth. The darkness of the earth.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 227)
  • She knew it, but she did not want to know it.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 233)
  • What goes too long unchanged destroys itself.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 236)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition (2012 printing) published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • There’s seldom as much hurry as I used to think there was.
    • Chapter 1 “Mending the Green Pitcher” (p. 8)
  • All or nothing at all, the true lover says, and that’s the truth of it. My love will never die, he says. He claims eternity. And rightly. How can it die when it’s life itself? What do we know of eternity but the glimpse we get of it when we enter in that bond?
    • Chapter 1 “Mending the Green Pitcher” (pp. 47-48)
  • The world’s vast and strange, Hara, but no vaster and no stranger than our minds are. Think of that sometimes.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 72)
  • I’d rather get bad news from an honest man than lies from a flatterer.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 79)
  • Manipulated, one manipulates others.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 92)
  • Statesmen remember things selectively.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 102)
  • The bond between true lovers is as close as we come to what endures forever.
    • Chapter 4 “Dolphin” (p. 231)
  • Greed puts out the sun.
    • Chapter 5 “Rejoining” (p. 281)
  • “It is not right to want to die,” the Summoner said....“For the very old, the very ill, it may be. But life is given us. Surely it’s wrong not to hold and treasure that great gift!”
    “Death also is given us,” said the king.
    • Chapter 5 “Rejoining” (p. 284)
  • "I think," Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, "that I when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn't do. All that I might have been and couldn't be. All the choices I didn't make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven't been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I lived, the breath I breathed."
    • Chapter 5, “Rejoining” (p. 286)

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. Orion. 2018. ISBN 978-1-4732-2355-4. 

Introduction (February 2016)
  • Earthsea had its beginning in 1964 in two stories that I wrote and published. They are slight; more like a sailor’s chance sighting of a couple of islands than the discovery of a new world. Earthsea exists in them, though, as the Americas existed in 1492 in Watlings Island, now known as San Salvador Island. These stories speak of the Islands, of the Outer Reach, of the great rich islands of the Archipelago, the Inner Lanes, the roadsteads white with ships, and the golden roofs of Havnor. Earthsea is there, though unexplored. Some things mentioned—trolls, black magic—will never appear again. But one element in each story will turn out to be part of the deep fabric of Earthsea.
  • In the name is the magic.
  • Beyond the elegant chapter headings by Ruth Robbins for the Parnassus’s edition of A Wizard of Earthsea, and Gail Garraty’s fine woodcut-like art in the same style for the early Atheneum editions, until very recently, the books of Earthsea had no illustrations. This was partly by my own decision. After Ruth’s unique wraparound jacket for the first edition of A Wizard of Earthsea—with its splendidly stylized, copper-brown portrait face—cover art for the books mostly went out of my control. The results could be ghastly—the droopy, lily-white wizard of the first Puffin UK paperback; the silly man with sparks shooting out of his fingers that replaced him. Some covers were quite pretty in themselves, but delicate medieval persons on twee islands with castles with pointy towers had nothing to do with my earthy, salty Earthsea. And as for copper or brown or black skin, forget it! Earthsea was bathed in bleach. I was ashamed of the covers that gave the reader every wrong idea about the people and the place. I resented publishers’ art departments that met any suggestion that the cover might resemble something or someone in the book by rejecting it, informing me loftily that they Knew what would Sell (a mystery no honest cover designer would ever claim to know). Paperback houses wanted commercial, all-purpose fantasy covers; YA departments wanted no suggestion of adult concerns. So I discouraged all suggestions of illustration.
  • As the reputation of the books grew, I began to be granted, however grudgingly, more input on the cover art. From that period, 1991, Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s four beautiful jacket paintings for the first four books (Atheneum), and the gorgeous metallic covers of the last two (Harcourt). These last were thanks to my editor Michael Kandel, who fought long and fiercely for me. Years later, Michael let me see the first draft the cover department sent him: a fat green dragon, clearly modelled from one of those cute wind-up dinosaurs that spit sparks, sitting up like a dog begging, in a cloud of pink steam. St. Michael fought that dragon and defeated it, but it took him months.
  • I have written so often of how and why it took me so long to write the six books of Earthsea that the story has become like the book you have to read to your four-year-old every night for weeks—You really want to hear it again? Oh well, okay, here goes! I wrote the first three books in five years: ’68, ’70, ’72. I was on a roll. None of them was closely plotted or planned before writing; in each of them much of the story came to me as I followed what I wrote where it inevitably led. I started confidently on the fourth book. The central character was Tenar again, of course, to balance it out. I knew she hadn’t stayed and studied wizardry with Ogion, but had married a farmer and had children, and that the story was going to bring her and Ged back together. But by the middle of the first chapter, I realized that I didn’t know who she was—now. I didn’t know why she’d done what she’d done or what she had to do. I didn’t know her story, or Ged’s. I couldn’t plot or plan it. I couldn’t write it. It took me eighteen years to learn how.
  • I was forty-two in 1972; in 1990, I was sixty. During those years, the way of understanding society that we’re obliged to call feminism (despite the glaring absence of its opposite term masculism) had grown and flourished. At the same time an increasing sense of something missing in my own writing, which I could not identify, had begun to paralyze my storytelling ability. Without the feminist writers and thinkers of the 1970s and ’80s, I don’t know if I ever could have identified this absence as the absence of women at the center. Why was I, a woman, writing almost entirely about what men did? Why because I was a reader who read, loved, and learned from the books my culture provided me; and they were almost entirely about what men did. The women in them were seen in relation to men, essentially having no existence unrelated to male existence. I knew what men did, in books, and how one wrote about them. But when it came to what women did, or how to write about it, all I had to call on was my own experiences—uncertified, unapproved by the great Consensus of Criticism, lacking the imprimatur of the Canon of Literature, piping up solo against the universally dominant and almost unison chorus of the voices of men talking about men. Oh, well, now, was that true? Hadn’t I read Jane Austen? Emily Brontë? Charlotte Brontë? Elizabeth Gaskell? George Eliott? Virginia Woolf? Other, long-silenced voices of women writing about both women and men were being brought back into print, into life. And my contemporary women writers were showing me the way. It was high time I learned to write of and from my own body, my own gender, in my own voice.
  • When Tehanu came out, a good many critics and readers saw it as mere gender politics and resented it as a betrayal of the romantic tradition of heroism. As I tried to say in the essay, not to change viewpoint would, for me, have been the betrayal. By including women fully in my story, I gained a larger understanding of what heroism is and found a true and longed-for way back into my Earthsea—now a very much greater, stranger, more mysterious place than it had ever appeared before.
  • Though Tehanu is named for the child character, neither it nor the two books after it are books “for children” or definable as “young adult.” I had abandoned any attempt to suit my vision of Earthsea to a publisher’s category or a critic’s prejudice. The notion that fantasy is only for the immature rises from an obstinate misunderstanding of both maturity and the imagination. So, as my protagonists grew older, I trusted my younger readers to follow them or not, as and when they chose. In the PR-driven world of publishing, that constituted a real risk, and I am very grateful to the editors who took that risk with me.
  • Never say never; never say last!
  • If a dragon comes to you and says, “Arw sobriost!” you don’t ask questions. You do what it says. There is a great taloned foot, set like a step in front of you; and above it, the crook of the elbow joint; and above that, the jutting shoulder blade: a stairway. You clamber up that stairway, feeling the fiery inner heat of the dragon’s body. You settle yourself between the vast wings, take hold of the big spine-thorn before you. And the dragon lifts, takes off, takes you where you and it must go, flying on the other wind, flying free.
Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy?
The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.
  • There is nothing important except people. A person is defined solely by the extent of his influence over other people, by the sphere of his interrelationships; and morality is an utterly meaningless term unless defined as the good one does to others, the fulfilling of one’s function in the sociopolitical whole.
    • Chapter 5 (Haber)
  • But in fact, isn't that man's very purpose on earth - to do things, change things, run things, make a better world?
    What is his purpose, then?
    Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has a purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.
    • Chapter 6 (Haber, Orr)
  • The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.
    • Chapter 6
  • I guess I can't, or my subconscious can't, even imagine a warless world. The best it can do is substitute one kind of war for another. You said, no killing of humans by other humans. So I dreamed up the Aliens. Your own ideas are sane and rational, but this is my unconscious you're trying to use, not my rational mind. Maybe rationally I could conceive of the human species not trying to kill each other off by nations, in fact rationally it's easier to conceive of than the motives of war. But you're handling something outside reason. You're trying to reach progressive, humanitarian goals with a tool that isn't suited to the job. Who has humanitarian dreams?
    • Chapter 6 (Orr)
  • He never spoke with any bitterness at all, no matter how awful the things he said. Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it?
    Of course there are. Countless, the living and the dead. Those who have returned in pure compassion to the wheel, those who follow the way that cannot be followed without knowing they follow it, the sharecroppers’s wife in Alabama and the lama in Tibet and the entomologist in Peru and the millworker in Odessa and the greengrocer in London and the goatherd in Nigeria and the old, old man sharpening a stick by a dry streambed somewhere in Australia, and all the others. There is not one of us who has not known them. There are enough of them, enough to keep us going. Perhaps.
    • Chapter 7 (Heather)
  • A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it.
    • Chapter 7 (Heather)
  • Great self-destruction follows upon unfounded fear.
    • Chapter 8 (alien)
  • What's wrong with changing things? Now, I wonder if this self-canceling, centerpoised personality of yours leads you to look at things defensively. I want you to try to detach yourself from yourself and try to see your own viewpoint from the outside, objectively. You are afraid of losing your balance. But change need not unbalance you; life's not a static object, after all. It's a process. There's no holding still. Intellectually you know that, but emotionally you refuse it. Nothing remains the same from one moment to the next, you can't step into the same river twice. Life-evolution-the whole universe of space/time, matter/energy—existence itself—is essentially change.
    • Chapter 9 (Haber)
  • When things don't change any longer, that's the end result of entropy, the heat-death of the universe. The more things go on moving, interrelating, conflicting, changing, the less balance there is—and the more life. I'm pro-life, George. Life itself is a huge gamble against the odds, against all odds! You can't try to live safely, there's no such thing as safety. Stick your neck out of your shell, then, and live fully! It's not how you get there, but where you get to that counts. What you're afraid to accept, here, is that we're engaged in a really great experiment, you and I. We're on the brink of discovering and controlling, for the good of all mankind, a whole new force, an entire new field of antientropic energy, of the life-force, of the will to act, to do, to change!
    • Chapter 9 (Haber)
  • He knew that in so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • You have to help another person. But it’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you're right and your motives are good isn’t enough. You have to...be in touch. He isn’t in touch. No one else, no thing even, has an existence of its own for him; he sees the world only as a means to his end. It doesn’t make any difference if his end is good; means are all we’ve got.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • How could anybody think this man was sick? All right, so he had funny dreams. That was better than being plain mean and hateful, like about one quarter of the people she had ever met.
    • Chapter 10 (Heather)
  • But maybe you're just as glad he’s not a shrink, eh? Awful to have your spouse analyzing your unconscious desires across the dinner table, eh?
    • Chapter 10 (Haber)
  • He looked at the machine, its cabinets all standing open; it should be destroyed, he thought. But he had no idea how to do it, nor any will to try. Destruction was not his line; and a machine is more blameless, more sinless even than any animal. It has no intentions whatsoever but our own.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • There is a bird in a poem by T. S. Eliot who says that mankind cannot bear very much reality; but the bird is mistaken. A man can endure the entire weight of the universe for eighty years. It is unreality that he cannot bear.
    • Chapter 11 (Orr)
  • I haven't any strength, I haven't any character, I'm a born tool. I haven't any destiny. All I have is dreams. And now other people run them.
    • Orr
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 1983 by Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-24258-X
  • As I refuse violence, I refuse to serve the violent.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 13)
  • Indeed, until she had met Lev at school, it had not occurred to her that anyone might prefer to speak a plain fact rather than a lie that sounded well. People said what suited their purposes, when they were serious; and when they weren’t serious, they talked without meaning anything at all.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 23)
  • “Why are you always so full of answers?”
    “Because life’s so full of questions.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 26)
  • Why should he remember her? Why should she remember him? She had other things to think about. She was a grown woman. She had to face life. Even if all life had to show her was a locked door, and behind the locked door, no room.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 30)
  • When we’ve agreed that something ought to be done, or not done, we get very stubborn. And when that meets up with another stubbornness, it can make a kind of war, a struggle of ideas, the only kind of war anybody ever wins.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 44)
  • They had learned how to listen for the sense of the meeting, not the voice of the loudest. They had learned that they must judge each time whether obedience was necessary and right, or misplaced and wrong. They had learned that the act of violence is the act of weakness, and that the spirit’s strength lies in holding fast to the truth.
    • Chapter 4 (pp. 53-54)
  • Easy victories aren’t worth winning.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 54)
  • In the self-important, Falco reflected, there is always room for a little more self-importance.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 66)
  • If I don’t speak truth I can’t seek truth.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 77)
  • Going was easy. Keep on going was hard.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 95)
  • Armed men don’t sit down and talk.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 107)
  • And the rest, all the rest. All the days and lights and winds and years that would have been, and that would not be, that should be and were not, because he was dead. Shot dead on the road, in the wind, at twenty-one. His mountains unclimbed, never to be climbed.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 151)
  • Nobody had made this wilderness, and there was no evil in it and no good; it simply was.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 162)
  • She too had lost her luck, and known death, and gone on.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 167)
  • What would that be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality.
    • "Betrayals", p. 1; first published in Blue Motel (1994)
  • To know there is a choice is to have to make the choice: change or stay: river or rock.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 104; first published in Asimov's (1995)
  • He always asked, why thus? why this way, not another way? I answered: Because in what we do daily and in the way we do it, we enact the gods. He said: Then the gods are only what we do. I said: In what we do rightly, the gods are.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 106
  • The old knowledge had been difficult but not distressing. It had been all paradox and myth, and it had made sense. The new knowledge was all fact and reason, and it made no sense.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 107
  • What is the use trying to describe the flowing of a river at any one moment, and then at the next moment, and then at the next, and the next, and the next? You wear out. You say: There is a great river, and it flows through this land, and we have named it History.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 108
  • “Lines and colors made with earth on earth may hold knowledge in them. All knowledge is local, all truth is partial,” Havzhiva said with an easy, colloquial dignity that he knew was an imitation of his mother, the Heir of the Sun, talking to foreign merchants. “No truth can make another truth untrue. All knowledge is a part of the whole knowledge. A true line, a true color. Once you have seen the larger pattern, you cannot go back to seeing the part as the whole."
    • "A Man of the People", p. 140
  • It may be in our sexuality that we are most easily enslaved, both men and women. It may be there, even as free men and women, that we find freedom hardest to keep. The politics of the flesh are the roots of power.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 158; first published in Asimov's (1995)
  • I was utterly miserable, and yet fearless as I had never been. I was carefree. It was like dying. It would be foolish to worry about anything while one died.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 184
  • What is one man's and one woman's love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the greatest revolution of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 208

Lavinia (2008)

  • "There was a pretty prince of Troy named Paris. He and a Greek queen ran off together. Her husband called the other kings of Greece together, and they went to Troy, a great army in a thousand beaked ships, to get the woman back. Helen was her name."
    "What did they want her back for?"
    "Her husband's honor demanded it."
    "I should think his honor demanded that he divorce her and find himself a decent wife."
    "Lavinia, these people were Greeks."
    • (The spirit of Virgil explains the Trojan war to Lavinia.) p. 44
  • I can never get used to the fact, though I know it, that women are born cynics. Men have to learn cynicism. Infant girls could teach it to them.
    • (Virgil, to Lavinia) p. 45
  • Is it the gods who set this fire in our hearts, or do we each make our fierce desire into a god?
    • p. 66
  • "Why must there be war?" "Oh Lavinia, what a woman's question that is! Because men are men."
    • p. 87
  • They say Mars absolves the warrior from the crimes of war, but those who were not the warriors, those for whom the war was said to be fought, even though they never wanted it to be fought, who absolves them?
    • p. 177
  • Men call women faithless, changeable, and though they say it in jealousy of their own ever-threatened sexual honor, there is some truth in it. We can change our life, our being; no matter what our will is, we are changed. As the moon changes yet is one, so we are virgin, wife, mother, grandmother. For all their restlessness, men are who they are; once they put on the man's toga they will not change again; so they make a virtue of that rigidity and resist whatever might soften it and set them free.
    • p. 184

Quotes about Le Guin

  • I especially liked Ursula Le Guin's Dispossessed, and the original Dune by Frank Herbert was another favorite of mine.
  • Like one or two other SF figures of unassailable stature, Le Guin is deeply courteous. She seems to meet people in the expectation, or maybe simply the hope that she will learn from the encounter. She is like the novelist Doris Lessing; they do not reflect the world; they absorb it.
    • John Clute, Science Fiction : A Visual Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley, 1995 (p. 178)
  • I grew up in a pacifist anarchist community that was Anishinaabe-founded, at least to some degree. So, when I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel The Dispossessed, I could absolutely understand the whole process of community and of shunning or shaming a person as a form of power and control, but also the recognition of combining art with science, rather than understanding them as separate. Although her story is science fictional, by acknowledging the role of storytelling in this combination between art and science, Le Guin again takes the fiction out of science fiction, and works with other forms of science.
  • Her publisher at Gollancz, Malcolm Edwards, said that “those of us who had the pleasure of working with her will remember her as a gracious and good-humoured woman with an iron will, gently expressed”. “She was by common consent one of the greatest – if not the greatest – contemporary SF and fantasy author. This is a very sad day,” said Edwards.
  • Ursula Le Guin has been a hero of mine for 20 years. She's done so much, and she will continue to do good even though she's gone. I honestly don't know what I would have become if it weren't for Ursula Le Guin. The first time I read "A Wizard of Earthsea" I realized how balance could be even more epic than war. Suddenly, Fantasy wasn't just wish fulfillment and grandeur, it was real and complex.
  • Ursula Le Guin has died. She is a master storytelling. She is fierce and frighteningly smart and does not tolerate fools. Her EARTHSEA books are a revelation.
  • I have no guilt regarding my love of fantasy and science fiction, only pleasure. I grew up reading the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I chuckle over how this “genre” has become mainstream and how time travel, alternative universes and magic are now so everyday. Plus, no one could ever feel guilty about reading writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick.
  • Le Guin can make me cry with the simplest, seemingly inconsequential sentence.
    • 2012 interview included in Conversations with Nalo Hopkinson edited by Isiah Lavender III

  • For Margaret Atwood, Le Guin is a "quintessentially American writer", of undoubted literary quality, "for whom the quest for the Peaceable Kingdom is ongoing". Her worlds, Le Guin says, are not so much invented as discovered. "I stare and see something, maybe a person in a landscape, and have to find out what it is." But whether charting inner lands or outer space, her eye remains on the here and now. At 76, Le Guin counts among her affiliations the peace and women's movements ("I take a perverse pleasure in calling myself a feminist"), and Taoism ("profoundly subversive").
  • “She influenced a generation and more of writers – women by inspiration and example – but also any men with an ambition to work with science fiction and fantasy to aspire to more than the forms were allowed to do, or be,” said Guy Gavriel Kay. “We’re poorer for her loss, and richer for having had her presence.”
  • Not all art takes collapse for granted, however. There have long been creators on the margins, from Afrofuturists to feminist fantasists, who have attempted to explode the idea that the future

has to be like the present, only worse and with sex robots. One such visionary was the great science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who delivered a searing speech upon receiving the National Book Foundation Medal in 2014, four years before her death. "Hard times are coming," she said, “when we'll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We'll need writers who can remember freedom-poets, visionaries-realists of a larger reality.... We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable-but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art.”

    • Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019)
  • Mary Robinette Kowal told NPR's Petra Mayer that Le Guin's work could not be confined to a simple label found atop bookstore shelves. "Throughout her life she embraced new forms of technology; she was constantly pushing boundaries and barriers. That is inspiring to me," Kowal said. "She was one of the first really big voices in science fiction and fantasy who was a woman," Kowal added. "And I think she did a lot for science fiction and fantasy — not just for women and women's roles because of her feminism but also legitimizing us as an art form. There are a lot of people who will read an Ursula Le Guin book and go, 'Well, this isn't science fiction, it's literature.' But of course, it is science fiction. A lot of times, she can be a gateway drug for people."
  • There's a great quote actually that she gave the Paris Review a few years ago. I will let her speak here because she's the writer. She said, (reading) where I can get prickly and combative is if I'm just called a sci-fi writer. I'm not. I'm a novelist and poet. Don't shove me into your damn pigeon hole where I don't fit because I'm all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeon in all directions...She didn't pull any punches. She always kind of went her own way. You know, there were very few women writing sci-fi and fantasy in the '60s when she first began to publish. And it was definitely not as respected a genre as it is today. But she was so influential. Just as an example, when she began to publish the "Earthsea" books in the late-'60s, there were a lot of characters that weren't white, and that was a pretty big deal if the only other thing you were seeing was Lieutenant Uhura on "Star Trek."...She was a voracious reader. She was known to study Taoism. The ideas of balance from Taoism come through very strongly in her work, particularly in the "Earthsea" novels. There's this one bit where an aspiring mage who's at a magic school that is so not Hogwarts - he has to learn to do by not doing.
  • “We are terribly diminished by Ursula Le Guin’s absence,” said China Miéville, a science fiction and fantasy writer. “She was, rather, a colossus of literature, a radical, a trailblazer.”
  • there are two authors I consider my teachers, one on the most realistic side and the other one in the most fantastic side: ...Ursula K. Le Guin...and Nabokov
    • Rosa Montero Interview with rain taxi (2017), Translated from the Spanish by Jorge Armenteros
  • Another characteristic of contemporary utopias is sexual permissiveness. The point of that permissiveness is not to break taboos but to separate sexuality from questions of ownership, reproduction and social structure. The feminist utopias that are not entirely lesbian often assume, as in Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, some mix of monogamy, casual promiscuity, homosexuality and heterosexuality, with adolescent bisexuality as the norm.
    • Marge Piercy "WHY SPECULATE ON THE FUTURE?" in My Life, My Body (2015)
  • I'm very ambivalent about Le Guin; obviously, she's a wonderfully inventive writer, but her lack of awareness about a lot of political and historical issues just exasperates me. If I read her fiction I usually have to forget a lot I know about people and the dynamics of behavior. And sometimes her moralizing about everything strikes me as not humanist at all. But I'm jealous of her, so all of this is suspect...She's a charming person, incredibly witty and very brilliant. But there are times I'd like to shake her down to her toes until the loose change comes out. I don't think she really knows how political, communal, people processes actually work. Delany, on the other hand, clearly does, and he's applied this awareness to his public criticisms of The Dispossessed...it's clear from what Le Guin writes that she isn't in touch with a lot of political realities, which causes her fiction to fall apart. It's obviously a conscientious thing on her part-no one can doubt her sincerity or genuine concern-but I wish she'd just let go of it and write selfishly about things she enjoys. Because when she does that, she's absolutely splendid. The darkness box, animal languages, and so on. Superb. She has such a remarkable feel for the little details-the stories, the buildings, the language, the histories, the clothing and food, the fiction, the proverbs, the whole self-reflection of cultures.
    • Joanna Russ 1986 interview in Across the Wounded Galaxies by Larry McCaffery (1990)
  • “Look at the top tier of writers in science fiction and fantasy today … and you see the unmistakable traces of Le Guin in their work,” author John Scalzi wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “Multiple generations of her spiritual children, making the genre more humane and expansive, and better than it would have been without her.”
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