A Note on Messages from Ursula K. Le Guin

A hearty good evening from a basement out here in the middle of Minnesota.Just a brief missive tonight for you.

I’ve been reading slowly through Jeff Vandermeer’s exceptional Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. In his section “The Ecosystem of Story,” he includes essays from various authors, including Ursula K. Le Guin. Her piece “A Message About Messages” offers a pointed and humorous rebuttal (of which only Le Guin was capable of) to those who insist on strangling messages out of the fiction they read:

As a fiction writer, I don’t speak message. I speak story. Sure, my story means something, but if you want to know what it means, you have to ask the question in terms appropriate to storytelling. Terms such as message are appropriate to expository writing, didactic writing, and sermons–different languages from fiction […] Art frees us, and the art of words can take us beyond anything we can say in words. I wish our teaching, our reviews, our reading would celebrate, that liberation. I wish, instead of looking for a message when we read a story, we could think, “Here’s a door opening on a new world: What will I find there?”

Le Guin, Ursula K. “A Message About Messages.” WONDERBOOK. Abrams Image. New York. 2013

Lovely truth here, and a reassurance that it’s not necessary to give a rip about messaging in the stories we craft. If you get a chance to read Wonderbook, get after it.

Heaps of huzzahs to all. Be well. Take care of yourselves, and be kind to each other.

-Purdy

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