Transforming Thought Problems into Cultures with Ursula K. Le Guin

September 1, 2021

At Tor, Matt Bell reads the works of Ursula K. Le Guin to examine the joy and skill woven into her prose, particularly her worldbuilding. “More than anything else,” Bell writes, “I loved Le Guin’s worldbuilding, with her well-made ecologies and cultures tied to the unique geographies evoked in her hand-drawn maps, like that of the sprawling archipelago of Earthsea, with its islands waiting to be explored by Le Guin’s imagination. I thrilled at how she turned thought problems into intricate cultures, working from the big picture down to the minutiae of local life, filling books with pleasurable details like the “common table implement” on Gethen ‘with which you crack the ice that has formed on your drink between drafts,’ a necessity for drinking hot beer on a frozen planet.”

Image credit: Marian Wood Kolisch

is a writer and illustrator. She is the author of two illustrated books, Last Night's Reading (Penguin Books, 2015) and Sanpaku (Archaia 2018).

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