Yesterday, we lost a literary icon. Ursula K. Le Guin was one of the greatest pioneers in both science fiction and fantasy and also, undoubtedly, a literary icon.
Her work specifically, and the work of Margaret Atwood (who is the only level comparison I can make) inspired me to read more, and to write more. It also inspired me to share more of what I love. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that I started Science Fiction Friday’s right here on this blog. How wonderful is it that my first post was about one of her short stories? If I believed in coincidences, I would say that is one.
I remember reading Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” when I was in high school. It was one of those stories we read aloud in class, and when we arrived at the ending it hit us all like a ton of bricks. The room was silent as we all digested what we had just read, in the only way high school-aged kids really can. It was sad, we knew that. But there was more to it. What would we have done? Would we, too, have walked away?
What stood out to me in the story was not just the philosophical question being posed, although that was enough to keep you thinking hard the rest of the day, but the prose itself. It builds slowly, and is so unsuspecting, making the ending even more of a shock. “Omelas” is one such short story that makes me love short stories, because that is what they are supposed to do.
The writers who can achieve this are far and few between. These are the writers I love. Le Guin was one of them.