Unlocking the Air and Other Stories, Ursula K. LeGuin, 1996
LeGuin, a much heralded contemporary writer of science fiction, essays, and novels, died earlier this year. A graduate of Radcliffe and Columbia, she was awarded Hugo and Nebula awards and was one of the few women to be named a Grandmaster of Science Fiction. This collection is a rather old one, but still full of vibrant descriptions of setting and development of characters. My favorite stories were, indeed, fantasy and sci fi and involved the creation of weird worlds. In the Olders, a fatally wounded King is returned to his land where amber-eyed islanders turn into great trees upon their deaths. In The Poacher, a poor lad foraging for mushrooms in the woods discovers a circular hedge too tall and too thorned to breach. It takes him two years of cutting and hacking to get through, at which point he discovers a magical kingdom where everyone is asleep. This riff on Sleeping Beauty is wonderfully done. I hope to read more of her, especially her Left Hand of Darkness.