A few years ago at a local SF/Fantasy con, I was getting food for myself and my husband at the buffet while he, because he is unable to move AND carry something at the same time, waited patiently where I had left him sitting.
A slight, grey-haired woman slipped into the empty seat beside him in my absence and gave him a friendly smile.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Ursula.”
*Le GUIN*. Ursula Le Guin.
When I got back with the food I almost dropped the entire contents of the plates at my feet. It was literally almost impossible to believe that I was going to find a perch next to one of the giants of my game, while both of us polished off buffet food off our plates.
I’ve long said that I wanted to be Ursula Le Guin when I grew up.
I wanted to grow into her wisdom, her talent, her dignity, her grace. While she was still with us, that was something I always had in my sights, the epitome of achievement, the rarefied heights of being one of those rare people who could write for the angels and have mere mortals also read her words and find power and glory in them.
And now she is gone.
We all die in the end; immortality is given to none of us. And Ursula Le Guin has lived a good, a GREAT, life, and 88 is a respectable age.
But I wanted THIS one to be immortal. I wanted an Ursula Le Guin shining ahead of me forever.
We have lost an elder, a wise woman, a great writer, a friend. I have had the great good fortune to have had the gift of having met her, spoken to her, read her work and shared her worlds while she was still here amongst us. There is now a last generation who can claim to have done that.
For those who come after, she will be one of the names enshrined in the pantheon of the greats, a memory, no more than the distant shining light of a guiding star. But I have sat beside her perched on uncomfortable hotel chairs at a convention, both of us part of the same tribe, and our lives have touched in real time. I will be grateful for that.
And for the rest… steer that swift, elegant, gold-sail’d craft of yours into the stars, my lady. And may you find light and rest and stories there.
At a different convention, there was a panel which was supposed to be more of a discussion – for “mid-career” writers. Trading insights, advice, grumbles, triumphs, the state of the craft. An exploration of where you were, and where you go from here.
I desperately wanted to go to this but I was stuck on another panel at the same time – so I asked my husband to go and listen for me, and tell me what was discussed. When he turned up and entered the room where the panel was to be held, a participant (from a circle of people sitting in in the middle of the room) looked up and told hubby that this was a “closed panel” and that he couldn’t just crash it. He said he was there by proxy, as it were, but he was ready to honor the command, and wirhdraw.
Until one voice spoke in the silence.
“No,” it said, very softly but with an air of command. “Let him in.”
Yes, Ursula le Guin.
And once she spoke, nobody gainsaid her. And hubby came in and sat quietly in his chair, and listened, and brought home treasure to me….
by Ursula’s Word.
It falls to others to write obits, or remembrances, or perhaps get quoted by others in pithy one-liners. The world knows who people like Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay and Karen Joy Fowler and Mary Robinette Kowal are, and when they say something in public they’ll get published by big newspapers, or quoted and requoted in social media. But my name is not recognizable enough for that.
People with qualifications in that arena will write treatises on her work, and its place in literature and genre, but that won’t be me either – I haven’t the standing to do that.
Her close friends and her family have the floor when it comes to more personal reminiscences about Ursula Le Guin the person as opposed to the writer, the legend. That, too, is not my province.
What I am, what I will always be, is a reader who gloried in her work and her worlds, and a writer who was in awe of the magic she found in language and story.
For the times my life interesected hers, I am grateful – because there are many out there who would have loved the opportunity but never got a chance of one. For the gifts that she leaves behind, I give thanks – because those are a legacy that will not fade ro tarnish.
For the generations that come, who will never have known her except as a name on a book cover, I say this. Lift your eyes to the stars. FInd a bright one. Think of her.