We Are Volcanoes

I cried when I heard the news that Ursula K. Le Guin had died last week. I think my tears were a reaction to one more beautiful, powerful, amazing creative voice being gone, one more ally in a world going further and further down a very dark path. Once I was done with my first wave of sadness however, I thought about what she would want to see happen in the wake of her death. With that notion in mind, I quickly wiped my tears and got on with doing the next thing I needed to do: I kept moving. Luna Station Quarterly needed me and the world needs Luna Station Quarterly, now more than ever.

I’ve read Le Guin’s fiction, of course. Not all of it, but a few of the classics. Wizard of Earthsea is a much more thoughtful piece of fantasy than many others out there and definitely more sophisticated than your usual young adult novel. Left Hand of Darkness kept me reading, even when I found myself wondering if I was reading it “wrong” as I didn’t feel this deep love for it as I read it that others did. As the years go by, however, I find that book sticking to my teeth and I understand better what everyone was talking about.

For myself, there is an area of Le Guin’s work that speaks to me even more powerfully than her fiction. Her essays, blog posts, acceptance speeches, and other non-fiction speak to me as a human being. Her “Introducing Myself” is a piece I go back to time and again, to read and ponder and remember why I work so hard in my own small ways to improve the balance between all genders.

Even more important than that is Le Guin the person. She was powerful, creative, took no shit, had radical political views, and spoke truths in a truly poetic fashion. She has always been one of the quiet undercurrents fueling Luna Station Quarterly — a patron saint, if you will. She’s one of the reasons you’re reading this essay here on this blog, powered by hundreds of amazing women-identified writers, all speaking our voices.

I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes of hers and a little round up of interesting words others have had to say about her and her work. Thank you, Ursula. We will keep erupting. There shall be new mountains!

“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?”
— The Farthest Shore, 1972 (Earthsea Cycle #3)

“We read books to find out who we are.”
— The Language of the Night, 1979

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. 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, and very often in our art – the art of words.”
— Speech at the National Book Awards upon receiving the US National Book Foundation’s media for distinguished contribution to American Letters on 19 November 2014

“When women speak truly they speak subversively — they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want – to hear you erupting. You young Mount St Helenses who don’t know the power in you – I want to hear you.”
— Bryn Mawr College commencement speech, 1986, published in the essay collection Dancing At The Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, 1989