No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure. Because you are human beings you are going to meet failure. You are going to meet disappointment injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you’re weak where you thought yourself strong. You’ll work for possessions and then find they possess you. You will find yourself-as I know you already have-in dark places, alone, and afraid.
What I hope for you, for all my sisters and daughters, brothers and sons, is that you will be able to live there, in the dark place. To live in the place that our rationalizing culture of success denies, calling it a place of exile, uninhabitable, foreign.

I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country. Why did we look up for blessing-instead of around, or down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourished, where human beings grown human souls.
—  Ursula K. LeGuin addressing the 1983 graduating class of Mills College in Oakland, California

Here’s a writing tip: Your novel is not the place for you to go on an irrelevant spiel about that Popular Trendy Thing that you hate. There are two things – no three – that this does.

1. Makes you look petty as hell.

2. Detracts from the narrative.

3. Alienates your readers.

I put down an Ursula LeGuin book (and I love her) because she sidetracked into this thinly veiled rant about how Starbucks is mainstream and overrated in a goddamn science fiction book about a woman studying native cultures on an alien planet. And when I say “sidetracked” I mean she called it “ko-fe” and specified that it was pronounced “coffee” and talked about the popular corner store that popped up everywhere selling a watered-down version of ko-fe and it was popular with the younger generation and even, I think, named it something reminiscent of Starbucks. I don’t remember now because it’s been so long ago, but I can tell you, that was the most unnecessary, bullshitted, immature sidetrack I’ve ever seen, and I put down a sci fi novel about a lesbian anthropologist in space because it pissed me off and threw me out of the narrative so hard.

Contriving a way for your main character to hear One Direction or Taylor Swift on the radio just so you can use their inner monologue to complain about said artists when it has nothing to do with the plot or developing the character in a meaningful way? Is stupid. It’s petty. It makes you look like an asshole.

Don’t do it.

Love, your friendly neighborhood editor.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Estraven stood there in harness beside me looking at that magnificent and unspeakable desolation. “I’m glad I have lived to see this,” he said.

I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

It had not rained, here on these north-facing slopes. Snow-fields stretched down from the pass into the valleys of moraine. We stowed the wheels, uncapped the runners, put on our skis, and took off — down, north, onward, into that silent vastness of fire and ice that said in enormous letters of black and white DEATH, DEATH, written right across a continent. The sledge pulled like a feather, and we laughed with joy.


Because you are human beings you are going to meet failure. You are going to meet disappointment, injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you’re weak where you thought yourself strong. You’ll work for possessions and then find they possess you. You will find yourself - as I know you already have - in dark places, alone, and afraid.
—  Ursula Leguin

I like choosing cards from my deck that evoke imagery from the book. Maresi to me is sea, stones, and plant. I started “Maresi” a few days ago and I’m in love. It reminds me so much of “The Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K Leguin. So familiar and yet so refreshingly new.

“For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled into the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.”

- Ursula K Le Guin The Dispossessed

Here’s my illustration for Pulp’s inaugural novel, Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Thought process and maybe-spoilers under the cut.

We’ll be picking our next book in a few days. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing responses from other participants over at pulp-bookclub.tumblr.com as they roll in. If you want to participate, you can submit a work based on Left Hand of Darkness, or whatever our next book happens to be here.

Keep reading

How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills, and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain ploughland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession… Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate.
—  Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula LeGuin

“Did you truly think them dead? You know better in your heart. They
do not die. They are dark and undying, and they hate the light: the
brief, bright light of our mortality. They are immortal, but they are not
gods. They never were. They are not worth the worship of any human

“They have nothing to give. They have no power of making. All their
power is to darken and destroy. They cannot leave this place; they are
this place; and it should be left to them. They should not be denied
nor forgotten, but neither should they be worshiped… She tells you that the Nameless Ones are dead; only a lost soul, lost to truth, could believe that. They
exist. But they are not your Masters. They never were…”

– The Tombs of Atuan

Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
—  Ursula K. Le Guin, on accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards.
When science fiction uses its limitless range of symbol and metaphor novelistically, with the subject at the center, it can show us who we are, and where we are, and what choices face us, with unsurpassed clarity, and with a great and troubling beauty.
—  Ursula K. LeGuin, The Language of the Night
The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ‘em, join 'em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.
—  Ursula LeGuin The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas 1973

kiev4am  asked:

Hey Blue, just wanted to say I was thrilled to see you mention on twitter that you might be doing some drawings based on 'The Left Hand of Darkness.' I love when things I am a huge fan of (your art, that book) come together, I hope you'll post some of the resulting awesomeness :)

If you haven’t read any of Ursula LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle books, DO. She writes about the cultures of fictional planets with a richness and believability unmatched by any other writer.

The Left Hand of Darknessis one of the most well-known of her books because she makes real a culture that might seem too alien for most readers: a culture of androgynous humans whose planet is deep in an ice age. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

I want to make time to do some illustrations based on this book - maybe some character designs or environmental designs. Here’s a sketch I did of the protagonist: Genly Ai, an alien visitor to a frozen world.