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The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction - Ursula K. Le Guin;Susan Wood UPDATE: Last night I was reluctant to follow Frodo and Sam on their last leg through Mordor, so I dug this out for a reread instead. Was struck by something lovely and amazing and true and important. Let me quote. "In this labyrinth (of the strange morality of fairy tales) where it seems one must trust to blind instinct, there is, Von Franz points out, one -- only one -- consistent rule or 'ethic': 'Anyone who earns the gratitude of animals, or whom they help for any reason, invariably wins out. This is the only unfailing rule that I have been able to find.'" Von Franz is Marie Louise Von Franz, in The Problem of Evil in Fairy Tales. What does this mean for us today?

I love UKL, so I'm interested in every word she ever wrote. This collection of essays, introductions, talks, etc. is great and I'm really glad I read it. I think UKL fans would agree, but those who aren't already big fans of hers might not care that much. In general, I prefer reading books to reading books-about-books, and this book is no exception to that rule. I'd far rather read a new novel by her than essays and opinions, however astute and well-written. But, alas, I've read them all so I have to fill in the blank time before her next novel comes out some way or other, and this was as interesting and pleasing a way as any. I loved to read her ideas about writing, how writers should write and readers should demand only their very best work, not simply what's easy or what sells. I hope as a reader and nascent writer I always do that. Aim for perfection, even though we always fall short, is my philosophy as well.

Based on these essays I'm definitely going to read some Phillip K. Dick, a writer I've never read up to now, though I've heard many good things about him. Her opinion of what is possibly the greatest SF novel of all time, "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin, sounds really bad to me, though. It must be great but perhaps it's great in a way I generally dislike. I generally don't like dystopias and that one sounds a whole lot like 1984, a book I think is dreadful, though many would call it great. I'll have to read some GR review of it to see what more people think.

But the others on her various lists I'll definitely have to check out. I do think SF is the most important literature of the 20th c. and will probably be of the 21st c. as well. It just lets one say more. I feel bad for my mom and others who don't read it. They're missing out.