The Paris Review

Le Guin’s Subversive Imagination

On the day of my induction by, and first visit to, the august institution of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, I was shown to the literature section of the portrait gallery and left there alone among the giants. This may have been a kind of hazing ritual, like abandoning someone at the entrance to a corn maze. Cheever. Baldwin. Roth. Faulkner. James. Welty. Morrison. It was overwhelming. I felt like I needed a ball of string to keep from getting lost amid the glory. So I started searching the grid of framed photographs, from the pince-nez era to the present day, for writers of science fiction and fantasy. I’m not sure why my thoughts went in that direction, exactly. Maybe I felt a little guilty about belonging to a club to which many of my personal literary heroes and influences–John Collier, Jack Vance, H.P. Lovecraft, Cordwainer Smith–had not been admitted. Above all I was looking for Ursula K. Le Guin.

I found James Branch Cabell: yes, arguably a fantasist. Stephen

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