I am not really a huge science fiction fan, as you can tell if you go through the books I’ve put on my “Great Books” list (one), and if you notice that only two books grace my “Best Science Fiction” list. My favorite science fiction I’ve read this year was Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, but that only qualified as science fiction due to the time travel aspect of the plot. I thought Bellwether by Connie Willis, renowned science fiction writer, was very funny but it was not one of her science fiction works. I did like Simulacra by Philip K. Dick, probably because of the hapless heroes.
But insofar as the genre goes, there is no doubt that Ursula K. Le Guin is the high ruler of sci fi creativity, and the master molder of alternative futures filled with new forms of communication, transportation, and procreation. As she proves in the collection of stories found in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, Le Guin is a wondrous weaver of magic, myth, and science into one mind-blowing combo of story-telling extraordinaire. She was the first sci fi writer to describe and name the “ansible”, a faster than light form of communication now used by authors throughout the genre (and by characters throughout the imagined galaxies of our universe and beyond).
In reading her stories I was amazed and sometimes confused (my sci fi muscles are flabby) by the muddle of bizarrely-named characters and far-flung planets, the time-warping of places both fixed and unfixed in the universe, and the myriad of migratory modes of movement. Many of the stories overlapped and transgressed, folding in upon each other to tell the tale of many places and one place in the universe: home is where the heart is, no matter where –and how — the space traveler may go.
Le Guin isn’t all heavy space-tripping, she writes with plenty of humor, as in her story about a troupe of climbers (along with their “sherbets”) attempting to ascend the North Face — of a house located at 2647 Lovejoy Street! Or in her story about a long-suffering wife who gets her revenge — and fame and fortune too — when alien Medusa-heads (the Gorgonids) turn her awful husband into stone and his recording video camera into a fount of money.
Le Guin writes great science fiction for young adults and old adults (like me); she uses the genre not only to entertain but to open our minds to whole new ways of seeing. An open mind is a very, very good place to explore the universe, both real and imagined, and to explore all the possibilities of our own future. It’s coming sooner than we think. Just ask the ansible.