Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

Did you all hear the news that legendary SF author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away recently? Her death leaves a great disturbance in the Force, to cross a few genre threads. She was one of the giants of science fiction and fantasy. And, thankfully, she was acknowledged for it during her lifetime — she won all the major genre awards (Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and the World Fantasy Award) and was only the second woman to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction (after Andre Norton).

I was always awed by her mastery of storytelling at any length, whether short story or novella or full-length novel. And storytelling for all ages, from picture books to YA to adult — very few writers can do that! Her writing was both precise and poetic, crystalline and immediately recognizable. She was interested in ethnography and sociology, how peoples relate to each other, what cultural assumptions we make without knowing. (For example, The Left Hand of Darkness is, famously, all about deconstructing gender.) But she was brilliant at character, too, and worldbuilding. How can one person be so good at so many aspects of writing? Yet she was.

Personally, I’ve read about 10 or 15 of her books. Earthsea (a trilogy at the time) was my first exposure, as it was for many. Later I went on to The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, her later Earthsea books and her collections of shorter works. I never got as far as her poetry …

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The House Robot

The House Robot

A free short story

by Siri Paulson

 

 

Priya’s house was the last one on their street in Jaipur to get one of Reenu Mehta’s house robots. By that time, everyone knew how many things house robots were good for. You could order them to do your laundry – cheaper in the long run than paying a washerwoman. You could teach them to cook basic curries and naan faster than you could do it yourself. Some of them would even diagnose female complaints and tell you what medicines you needed. Only a woman engineer could have thought of that, the aunties said approvingly.

So Priya talked her mother into putting aside some of Priya’s teaching salary, little by little, until they could buy a second-hand house robot. It was just as useful as advertised, and, even better, her mother was able to boast to her friends about what a good deal they had gotten.

During this time, Priya’s uncle drove in from the village once in a while to see how they were getting on after the death of her father. At first he had brought money, but that had stopped after Priya’s mother turned down his offer of marriage. It was only right, he said, that he should marry his brother’s widow and so look after her. But Priya had seen the way he looked at her, and she knew it was not her mother he wanted. Since then, …

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