AN INTERVIEW WITH URSULA LeGUIN
November 3rd, 1988.Unlike other interviews, this one was conducted via mail. At the time I could not afford to travel to Oregon in person, but Ursula was very kind and took her time to answer my questions anyway....
©1988 Slawek Wojtowicz
SW: An average Polish fan wouldn't be able to say much about Ursula LeGuin as a person. What could you tell us about your life?
ULG: My life is very ordinary, common place, middle class, quiet and hard-working. I enjoy it immensely. I do not find it appropriate to talk about it very much.
SW: Do you have any time left for other things besides writing?
ULG: Oh, yes.
SW: Can you tell us how your day time schedule looks like?
ULG: Ideal schedule:
SW: Is it a secret what are you working on now?
ULG: Yes and no, not really. I'm just revising the fourth and last volume of the Earthsea books.
SW: What are your plans for the future? What topics are you going to explore?
ULG: I don't know.
SW: Have you ever written any screenplays for SF movies?
ULG: Yes, " A Wizard of the Earthsea" (never produced).
SW: Have you heard about any other plans concerning screenplays for your novels?
ULG: Yes, I have written the screenplay for the "Left Hand of Darkness". "The Lathe of Heaven" was produced for television about 10 years ago. I did not write the script, but was involved in the production and am fond of the film.
SW: What do you think about SF and Fantasy art?
ULG: Not much.
SW: Do you like the covers of your books? Do you have any input in their design?
ULG: Most of the paperbacks are abominable. Some of the hard covers are very fine indeed. As I have become old and famous and nasty I have been able to get some control over what the artists do, but not very often.
SW: Do you have a favorite SF painter?
ULG: Alicia Austin.
SW: Have you ever tried to paint something yourself?
ULG: I have painted bathrooms, Easter eggs, my toe nails and many pieces of paper. None of them came out very good.
SW: What do you think about current trends in SF?
ULG: Not much.
SW: What do you like more: Fantasy or SF?
ULG: Oh, I cannot generalize this way. What I like is a good book. It doesn't matter whether it's fantasy or science-fiction, or War and Peace, or Pan Tadeusz. If it's good it's good. If it's not, it's not.
SW: What about comic strips? Would you agree with an opinion that this is also art?
ULG:Since I was about 12 years old, this has not been very important to me. No doubt it is also an art. Anything is an art if is done by an artist.
SW: What sort of SF do you like most?
SW: Do you have any favorite SF or mainstream writers?
ULG: Yes, dozens of them. Poets, novelists, fantasists, childrens' writers, science fictioneers, writers, scientists, everything. You didn't ask me who my favorite 20th century novelist is. I will answer this question: Virginia Woolf.
SW: Do you have any vision of what the near future of Mankind has in store?
ULG: Trouble (this is an extremely reliable and infallible answer).
SW: If you were to choose a place and time to live in, when and where would you choose? And why?
ULG: Right now, right here. Why? Because this is where I am and when I am and my "being" is here and now. I think the fact that we have no choice in this matter is extremely interesting and important.
SW: What do you think is the most difficult barrier to overcome in figuring out the methods of interstellar travel?
ULG: Human stupidity. Possibly cosmic stupidity.
SW: Do you believe that in the future we will be able to travel faster than light?
ULG: What do you mean by "we"? You? Me? I sadly doubt it.
SW: Do you like traveling? Have you ever been to Poland?
ULG: I like getting there better than traveling. I have never been to Poland.
SW: If we were to organize the Worldcon in Gdansk, would you attend?
ULG: May I come faster than light?
SW: Do you know anything about the Polish Fandom?
ULG: Not much, but I think I like it.
SW: Are you familiar with the history of Poland?
ULG: Yes, I am. I fell in love with Poland when I was about 16 years old and read its history and studied its literature. I have used the history of Poland, though not in science-fiction stories, in "main stream" stories.
SW: Talking about history - do you believe in the theory of the "Wheel of History" - in other words, that people tend to repeat their mistakes over and over again?
ULG: Somebody, I forgot who, said: "Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it".
SW: Do you think the human species will change radically in the course of evolution?
ULG: Oh, probably. This is too big a question for me to handle. Evolution will be probably cultural for us, not physical. I wish it might be in the direction of mutual aid and collaboration - working together without quarrels, hierarchies etc.
SW: I've never heard about any story written by you with an action set in the past...
ULG: I have written an historical novel, "Malafrena", and a collection of stories, "Orsinian Tales", all set in an imaginary central European country in the historical past. "Malafrena" concerns the Revolution of 1830 and you will find certain parallels to Polish history in it.
SW: Could you trace any clear connections between worlds in your novels and the contemporary world?
ULG: No, I could not. Of course, they are there, but I leave this sort of things to critics. I have to write the books and then the other people have to figure them out. Okay?
SW: Which character in your novels is, in your opinion, most closely associated with the type of person you are?
ULG: You didn't really think I would answer this one, did you?
SW: What is your favorite type of cooking? Did you ever try any Polish meals?
ULG: I like almost any kind of food. There is a Polish restaurant in my home town, Berkeley, California. I remember the sausage and cabbage with great affection.
SW: What motivates you to keep writing novels?
ULG: My answer is: What motivates you to keep breathing?
SW: Please, keep writing and breathing! Thank you for this interview!
ULG: I have a copy of your fanzine "Collaps" and I appreciate it, and your questions, and your interest in science-fiction, in writing and in writers. I think you are brave and wonderful people. I'm grateful for the opportunity you give me to affirm our solidarity.
SW: Thank you!