There are a lot of books on writing fiction, so many that I wonder just who’s buying them all. They’re either disproportionate to the people who actually sit down and write, or publishers can always count on writers (published and unpublished and self-published) to buy these books to the degree that releasing one is always a safe investment. Or else I’m missing something about the marketplace completely. (more…)
I dropped by the used bookstore yesterday and found two editions of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Beginning Place side by side. An old one:
And a recent reprint:
The back cover blurbs seem to describe completely different books. Indeed, these don’t look like the same book at all. I stood there in bemusement at how greatly marketing and design trends in publishing have shifted over the years.
This probably reveals a lot about my own marketing non-savvy, but while the second cover is more technically accomplished…I prefer the unassuming quietude of the older cover.
The Telling (2000) continues Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish cycle with a pattern familiar to readers of her earlier books: a messenger from the Galaxy-wide confederacy known as the Ekumen comes to a newly-contacted planet on an anthropological expedition. The Left Hand of Darkness has the same premise and takes place in the same imagined future, what changes are the characters and the planet’s society. Le Guin manages to exploit this technique without ever coming across as formulaic. Her writing strengths lie in strong, well-realized characters, and building interesting and believable cultures. The Telling is excellent.
It’s natural as writers get on in years to revisit themes and ideas from their earlier works, and perhaps explore them with greater depth or from a different point of view. The Annals of the Western Shore, published between 2005 and 2007, does not cover new ground for Ursula K. Le Guin, but it doesn’t really need to. Often, the sf community seems ignorant of Le Guin’s more recent novels despite her steady improvement as a writer and storyteller (Changing Planes is one of my favourites, though it’s not so much a novel as an imaginative ethnographic treatise). Her early contributions in the field were so overwhelmingly influential they tend to overshadow all else. On a sentence level, Le Guin’s writing is surer now than it was in The Left Hand of Darkness, and her deftness with language immediately engaged me with this newer trilogy.
In a recent episode of Folding Ideas, the paper-built host discusses the problems faced by film adaptations using the Sci-Fi channel’s adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series as an example of an adaptation gone horribly awry. I’ve decided to steal my title from that episode. There’s no argument that Sci-Fi’s Earthsea is an abomination unto man, but thinking on that particular travesty makes me wonder whether book adaptations are really worth it all. That question came to a head when I (finally) watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night and spent most of the running time completely baffled by the choices Peter Jackson & co. made. This touches on a conversation I’ve repeatedly had with a good friend of mine every time we wander onto the topic of the latest book-to-film, most often HBO’s Game of Thrones series.