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Ursula K. Le Guin

"What good is music? None ... and that is the point. To the world and its states and armies and factories and Leaders, music says, 'You are irrelevant'; and, arrogant and gentle as a god, to the suffering man it says only, 'Listen.' For being saved is not the point. Music saves nothing. Merciful, uncaring, it denies and breaks down all the shelters, the houses men build for themselves, that they may see the sky."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "An die Musik," Western Humanities Review (1961)

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"To light a candle is to cast a shadow ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act."

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"To hear, one must be silent."

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"As a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do."

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"... need alone is not enough to set power free: there must be knowledge."

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light? This sorcery is not a game we play for pleasure or for praise."

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)

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"Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"... when action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"A novelist's business is lying. ... In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane -- bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren't there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon. Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed. Is it any wonder that no truly respectable society has ever trusted its artists?"

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"The artist deals with what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"In so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"... primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of those two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"To oppose something is to maintain it."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"What is more arrogant than honesty?"

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel ... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction As a Way of Seeing," Living Light (1970)

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"The story -- from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace -- is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind, for the purpose of gaining understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction As a Way of Seeing," Living Light (1970)

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"Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"Great self-destruction follows upon unfounded fear."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?"

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"What the brain does by itself is infinitely more fascinating and complex than any response it can make to chemical stimulation."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"He arrived at ideas the slow way, never skating over the clear, hard ice of logic, nor soaring on the slipstreams of imagination, but slogging, plodding along on the heavy ground of existence."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the bombers to kill the babies to make the world safe for children to grow up in."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

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"Do nothing because it is righteous or praiseworthy or noble to do so; do nothing because it seems good to do so; do only that which you must do and which you cannot do in any other way."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1972)

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"It is hard to swear when sex is not dirty and blasphemy does not exist."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974)

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"The question is always the same with a dragon: will he talk with you or will he eat you?"

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Tombs of Atuan (1974)

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"Alone, no one wins freedom."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Tombs of Atuan (1974)

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"... there are no right answers to wrong questions ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Planet of Exile (1975)

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"Sometimes I not only stand there and take it, I even smile at them and say I'm sorry. When I feel that smile coming onto my face, I wish I could take my face off and stamp on it."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else (1976)

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"It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else (1976)

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"Words are my matter. I have chipped one stone / for thirty years and still it is not done, / that image of the thing I cannot see. / I cannot finish it and set it free, / transformed to energy."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Mind Is Still," in The Kenyon Review (1979)

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"When you were rain you fell / when you were cup you held / when you were whole you broke / loud, loud you spoke / when you were bell. / When you were way you led / homeward until the end / when you were life you died / live, live, you cried / when you were dead."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Vita Amicae," in The Kenyon Review (1979)

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"Art, like sex, cannot be carried on indefinitely solo; after all, they have the same enemy, sterility."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Sure it's simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Artists are people who are not at all interested in the facts -- only in the truth."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"... as a writer you are free. You are about the freest person that ever was. Your freedom is what you have bought with your solitude, your loneliness. You are in the country where you make up the rules, the laws. You are both dictator and obedient populace. It is a country nobody has ever explored before. It is up to you to make the maps, to build the cities. Nobody else in the world can do it, or ever could do it, or ever will be able to do it again."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Absolute freedom is absolute responsibility."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"For after all, as great scientists have said and all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, compassion, and hope."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Art and Entertainment are the same thing, in that the more deeply and genuinely entertaining a work is, the better art it is. To imply that Art is something heavy and solemn and dull, and Entertainment is modest but jolly and popular, is neo-Victorian idiocy at its worst."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"... it is only when science asks why, instead of simply describing how, that it becomes more than technology. When it asks why, it discovers Relativity. When it only shows how, it invents the atomic bomb ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Fantasy is true of course. It is not factual but it's true. Children know that. Adults know it, too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life they have let themselves be forced into living. They are afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"As you read [a book] word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"... meeting writers is always so disappointing. ... There is this terrific book that has changed your life, and then you meet the author, and he has shifty eyes and funny shoes and he won't talk about anything except the injustice of the United States income tax structure toward people with fluctuating income, or how to breed Black Angus cows, or something."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"If you want to know all about the sea ... and ask the sea itself, what does it say? Grumble grumble swish swish. It is too busy being itself to know anything about itself."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"When the genuine myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Dragons are more dangerous, and a good deal commoner, than bears. Fantasy is nearer to poetry, to mysticism, and to insanity than naturalistic fiction is. It is a real wilderness, and those who go there should not feel too safe."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"The worst walls are never the ones you find in your way. The worst walls are the ones you put there -- you build yourself. Those are the high ones, the thick ones, the ones with no doors ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Fake realism is the escapist literature of our time. And probably the ultimate escapist reading is that masterpiece of total unreality, the daily stock market report."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"Those who refuse to listen to dragons are probably doomed to spend their lives acting out the nightmares of politicians. We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark; and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"... I doubt the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, that child would grow up to be an eggplant."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived. I believe that all the best faculties of a mature human being exist in the child, and that if these faculties are encouraged in youth they will act well and wisely in the adult, but if they are repressed and denied in the child they will stunt and cripple the adult personality. And finally, I believe that one of the most deeply human, and humane, of these faculties is the power of imagination ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"What is a body that casts no shadow? Nothing, a formlessness, two-dimensional, a comic-strip character. If I deny my own profound relationship with evil I deny my own reality. I cannot do, or make; I can only undo, unmake."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"In many college English courses the words 'myth' and 'symbol' are given a tremendous charge of significance. You just ain't no good unless you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page. And in many creative writing courses the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them. What does this Mean? What does that Symbolize? What is the Underlying Mythos? Kids come lurching out of such courses with a brain full of gerbils."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself -- as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation -- you may hate it or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night (1979)

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"The backside of heroism is often rather sad; women and servants know that. They know also that the heroism may be no less real for that. But achievement is smaller than men think. What is large is the sky, the earth, the sea, the soul."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Sur," The Compass Rose (1982)

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"We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains."

Ursula K. Le Guin, speech (1986), in Denise M. Du Pont, ed., Women of Vision (1988)

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"You cannot blame everything on the enemy."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "The New Atlantis" (1975), in R.V. Cassill, ed., The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (1988)

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"Any artist must expect to work amid the total, rational indifference of everybody else to their work, for years, perhaps for life ... "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"Writers have to get used to launching something beautiful and watching it crash and burn. They also have to learn when to let go control, when the work takes off on its own and flies, farther than they ever planned or imagined, to places they didn't know they knew. All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"No matter how successful, beloved, influential her work was, when a woman author dies, nine times out of ten, she gets dropped from the lists, the courses, the anthologies, while the men get kept. ... If she had the nerve to have children, her chances of getting dropped are higher still. ... So if you want your writing to be taken seriously, don't marry and have kids, and above all, don't die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that." "

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"A moral choice in its basic terms appears to be a choice that favors survival: a choice made in favor of life."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"Crankish attacks on the freedom to read are common at present. When backed and coordinated by organized groups, they become sinister."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"The future has become uninhabitable. Such hopelessness can arise, I think, only from an inability to face the present, to live in the present, to live as a responsible being among other beings in this sacred world here and now, which is all we have, and all we need, to found our hope upon."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"The borderline between prose and poetry is one of those fog-shrouded literary minefields where the wary explorer gets blown to bits before ever seeing anything clearly. It is full of barbed wire and the stumps of dead opinions."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"The children of the revolution are always ungrateful, and the revolution must be grateful that it is so."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"Success is somebody's else's failure."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)

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"My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Harper\'s Magazine (1990)

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"Her work, I really think her work / is finding what her real work is / and doing it, / her work, her own work, / her being human, / her being in the world."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Writer on, and at, Her Work," in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 (1991)

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"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in The Writer (1992)

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"Prose writers are interested mostly in life and commas."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft (1998)

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"Lying is the misuse of language. We know that. We need to remember that it works the other way round too. Even with the best intentions, language misused, language used stupidly, carelessly, brutally, language used wrongly, breeds lies, half-truths, confusion. In that sense you can say that grammar is morality. And it is in that sense that I say a writer's first duty is to use language well."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft (1998)

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"There are dance artists, painting artists and writing artists. Authors are writing artists. You can practice art in whatever medium you choose, and words are mine."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Writer's Digest (2001)

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"I have no control over my writing. I have lots of good intentions, but no control. There's a story that wants to be told."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Writer's Digest (2001)

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"After a long time spent learning how to write as a woman instead of as an honorary man, I was able to come back to Earthsea and write the next three books in another and newer tradition: that of questioning, rather than accepting, the gendering of power as male."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in BookWomen (2004)

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"... there are times when you have to speak because silence is betrayal."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in BookWomen (2004)

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"If your voice is heard by more people because you've earned some kind of name and fame, your silence on an issue of urgent moral importance is even more of a betrayal. Privilege is obligation."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in BookWomen (2004)

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"Hope is a slow business."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in BookWomen (2004)

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"Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil. In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power, and to offer moral alternatives. Imagination is the instrument of ethics. There are many metaphors besides battle, many choices besides war, and most ways of doing good do not, in fact, involve killing anybody. Fanstasy is good at thinking about those other ways."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in The Writer (2004)

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"The reason literacy is important is that literature is the operating instructions. The best manual we have. The most useful guide to the country we're visiting, life."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind (2004)

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"Safety lies in catering to the in-group. We are not all brave. All I would ask of writers who find it hard to question the universal validity of their personal opinions and affiliations is that they consider this: Every group we belong to -- by gender, sex, race, religion, age -- is an in-group, surrounded by an immense out-group, living next door and all over the world, who will be alive as far into the future as humanity has a future. That out-group is called other people. It is for them that we write."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind (2004)

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"The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn't have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you're fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you're reading a whole new book."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading," Harper's (2008)

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"... the habit of literature [is] the best defense against believing the half-truths of ideologues and the lies of demagogues."

Ursula K. Le Guin

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"How, after all, can one experience deny, negate, disprove, another experience? Even if I've had a lot more of it, your experience is your truth."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Bryn Mawr Commencement Address (1986)

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"The father tongue is spoken from above. It goes one way. No answer is expected, or heard. ... Our schools and colleges, institutions of the patriarchy, generally teach us to listen to people in power, men or women speaking the father tongue; and so they teach us not to listen to the mother tongue, to what the powerless say, poor men, women, children: not to hear that as valid discourse."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Bryn Mawr Commencement Address (1986)

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"There's a point, around age twenty . . . when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974)

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"In art, 'good enough' is not good enough."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (1980)

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"The creative adult is the child who has survived."

Ursula K. Le Guin

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"To see a candle's light, one must take it into a dark place."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1972)

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"People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within."

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?" in Margaret Atwood et al., The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write (2014)

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"Realism is a very sophisticated form of literature, a very grown-up one. And that may be its weakness. But fantasy seems to be eternal and omnipresent and always attractive to kids."

Ursula K. Le Guin, interview, in The Paris Review (2013)

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"So the first step out of childhood is made all at once, without looking before or behind, without caution, and nothing held in reserve."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1972)

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"The explorer who will not come back or send back his ships to tell his tale is not an explorer, only an adventurer; and his sons are born in exile."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974)

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"Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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"A wrong that cannot be repaired must be transcended."

Ursula K. Le Guin, Tehanu (1990)

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"You know, I don't think a lot about why one book connects with its readers and another doesn't. Probably because I don't want to start thinking, 'Am I popular?' I spent way too much time thinking about that in high school."

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Laura Miller, "Amazon Has Too Much Control Over What Books Get Published," Salon (2014)

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"Those who build walls are their own prisoners."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974)

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"Planets were very large places, on any scale but that of the spaces in between them."

Ursula K. Le Guin, City of Illusions (1967)

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"Darkness is only in the mortal eye, that thinks it sees, but sees not."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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Ursula K. Le Guin, U.S. writer, poet, literary critic
(1929 - )

Full name: Ursula Kroeber Le Guin