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Ursula K. Le Guin On Gender, a Possible HBO Adaptation, and the Double Standards Faced by Female Writers

"You know, what the hell?"

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At 85, National Book Award Winner Ursula K. Le Guin remains a progressive and incredibly valuable voice in genre writing, and in an in-depth, jealousy-inducing recent interview with Den of Geek, she opened up about what it’s like to continue creating new content and the changes that she’s witnessed throughout her incredible career.

Although Le Guin told Den of Geek that she doesn’t think about her legacy “much” and that she wants to keep writing “so long as I can […] what becomes of it is not up to me,” she admits that concerns over how one’s work will be remembered are still relevant:

I said that [“who is going to keep me alive?”] specifically talking about what happens to women writers. They get disappeared very quickly, so often and so unjustly. Then there has to be this laborious attempting to bring them back, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. There is a real injustice there. It’s awful to think that you might just get sort of swept off the map simply because you were a woman writer instead of a man writer. You know, what the hell?

[…] I’m a little afraid that it’s happening to our wonderful Grace Paley. A lot of people felt she was definitely one of the best writers we had going. The trouble is, Grace wrote only short pieces, she never wrote a novel, and she spent an awful lot of her time in pure politics. Her stories are absolutely wonderful and it looks like they’re just dropping out of the canon.

By Le Guin’s own admission, few things help renew interest in a writer more than a movie or TV show based on their work; and although she’s been famously outraged in the past by adaptations of her books (particularly the egregiously whitewashed Legend of Earthsea miniseries from Sci Fi), Le Guin actually seems relatively confident about an upcoming potential dramatization:

I’ve been approached by people who want to dramatise a book of mine for HBO for television, because that’s where an awful lot of the movies are going now, of course.

So Le Guin might eventually have a fantasy series at HBO, but unlike Margaret Atwood, she’s no Game of Thrones fan: “We watch two things on television. Call The Midwife and something called Oregon Field Guide.” (Probably the most Portland viewing preferences ever.)

The author also discussed the gender politics raised in her 1990 Earthsea novel Tehanu when a character asks why men are “afraid of women:”

Is there an answer to that question? In a sense, it’s a rhetorical question. It simply brings it up, it just says it: men are afraid of women. Will they be able to stop being afraid of women is, in a sense, the real question. If they realise that they’re afraid of women and begin to handle the fear and accept it as such… I think some of that’s happened. Some of the changes we’ve seen in the relationships between men and women, and also in the whole definition of gender, that we’re not so afraid of the Other and we don’t define the Other so harshly and narrowly and strictly. The doors are opening wider in that, because there’s less fear. We’ve found out, well, what were we afraid of after all? What’s so terrifying?

To read more wisdom from Le Guin, make sure to check out the full interview over on Den of Geek.

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