I meant to write this post about something else. But as I sat down to put words to doc, an email alert popped up on my phone. It was from my father-in-law, a longtime fan of science fiction, and it told me that Ursula K. LeGuin had died.
Ms. LeGuin’s work has for decades been deeply influential to me as a woman, as a writer, and as a human. When I was writing Chloe’s story – the third book, yet to come, of the Wanted and Wired trilogy – I drew heavily on Genly Ai and Estraven’s trek across the glacier. LeGuin's elegant prose was too spare for the weight of meaning it held, but somehow it served anyway. Kind of like a ballet dancer seems fragile but is in truth amazingly strong.
I don’t remember what I meant to post about today. I think it was some kind of craft tip for writers, but I can’t even gather those thoughts. After I read the email, I went right to my bedside, grabbed my much-battered copy of The Left Hand of Darkness, and flipped to a favorite passage:
“Because they were born in the house of flesh, therefore death follows at their heels. They re in the middle of time. In the beginning there was the sun and the ice, and there was no shadow. In the end when we are done, the sun will devour itself and shadow will eat light, and there will be nothing left but ice and the darkness.”
Later, when one character dies, the narrator describes that person's journey forward as one into darkness, and the description feels peaceful compared with the narrator’s path, which is to prison.
I always took that to mean that those of us who witness the deaths of our friends are imprisoned in the middle of time, chased by shadows. The verse earlier in the book, from which the title is pulled, notes the inherent duality of light and darkness and the understanding that one only exists because the other does.
It is my hope that Ms. LeGuin will find comfort and peace in the darkness.