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Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Book Overview

A collection of essays by some of America's most admired writers in science fiction and fantasy. This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The best comments on fantasy since Tolkien's

Ursula Leguin's The Language of the Night is a must-read for anyone interested in writing fantasy. Her insights in "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" on the importance of style in bringing a fantasy world to life provide a rare and perceptive analysis of what makes Tolkien and other greats stand out above the latest have-sword-will-travel.

Will entertain - and make you think

I'll level with you - I actually prefer what LeGuin has to say ABOUT sci-fi and fantasy over her actual books - and there's several of her books I really enjoyed. Any serious reader or writer of these genres should read this collection of her essays. Not only will you find specific notes on her books, but precepts that form the very fabric of what we call sci-fi and fantasy today. LeGuin broke the barrier in several ways - this book will demonstrate how. I especially enjoyed "Why are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" The chapter on Mrs. Brown is highly valuable to consider when studying or writing character. Can you remember the names of the main characters a month after you finish a book? - A year? - Ten years? LeGuin tries to answer what makes character memorable - the reasons may perhaps surprise you. And fans of Tolkien will enjoy LeGuin's insight on the character of Frodo. LeGuin is intelligent but casual, often hilarious and always thought-provoking. An excellent collection.

It led me to graduate school...

There's some substantial literary criticism here, and some scathing social commentary. I've taught the essay "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons" to undergraduates, and been surprised by its relevance and power, even after twenty years.And amid the critical prose there are single gems of life-changing, poignant brilliance.Worth searching out and seeking for.

A must for all sci-fi fans

I was unaware this book was out of print. A new, revised edition was released in 1989, which included extensive footnotes by Le Guin, including an interesting redux of her essay, "Is Gender Necessary?" regarding the feminist content of her most famous novel, "The Left Hand of Darkness."In whatever version, "The Language of the Night" is, quite simply, essential reading for any devotee of science fiction and fantasy literature. Among the standout pieces are "The Child and the Shadow" and "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction," both of which use Jungian psychological ideas to get at the root of fantasy's imaginative power. Also compelling are "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown," in which (by way of Virginia Woolf's essay "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown") Le Guin examines whether science fiction literature can really do justice to human character, and the hilarious "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," a delightful critique of tone-deaf fantasy authors.All in all, an excellent read.


This book is a must for anyone interested in the mechanics of Speculative Fiction. Ms. LeGuin's essays are insightful, critical and intelligent (as well as witty...but that's a given :). Excellent for anyone who believes that Speculative Fiction is more than just sorcery and robots; a good source for theses.
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