R. K. Troughton interviews Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Grand Master Ursula K. Le Guin.
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ASM: Science fiction started as a genre of hard science. You started publishing during a transitional phase for the industry, when many authors were exploring a broader spectrum of ideas. You focused more on sciences like anthropology, psychology, and sociology rather than chemistry, astronomy, and physics. While realism explores some of the subject matters you were writing about, you created fantastic elements to serve as your tapestry. What makes speculative fiction the perfect canvas for your imagination?
UKL: I didn’t just arrive during a transition—I was one of the writers who started it. We moved SF away from being fixated on the “hard” sciences, but that’s only part of it. SF was a white-male-dominated field of adventure stories of an intellectual or imaginative kind, sometimes brilliantly conceived, often badly written. We raised the standards and made it into the complex, inclusive, prejudice-challenging, ever-changing kind of literature it is at its best today.
I can’t tell you why most of my fiction is imaginative rather than realistic; it’s just the way my mind works. Physics tell us us how the universe works, and that’s grand, but also we’re human, and the the social sciences are a goldmine of ideas for any writer interested in how being human works.