Though the impactful, award-winning science fiction author passed away earlier this year, the universes that emerged from her imagination live on in the new documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin. Through a series of interviews with the author herself, as well as inspired contemporaries like Neil Gaiman, history experts, and literary historians, Worlds will explore Le Guin's life, views, and the magic of her strangely familiar characters and vast alien dreamscapes.
No wonder the documentary was 10 years in the making.
The doc evolved on its own for nine years until filmmaker Arwen Curry turned to Kickstarter in 2016 and raised over $230,000 to finally bring it into being. Even with nearly three times what she originally asked for, Curry saw Worlds delayed after its release was scheduled last year, but Le Guin’s recent death has made the film even more of a tribute to one of the most daring sci-fi writers who ever lived.
“Magic exists in most societies, in one way or another,” says Le Guin in the trailer above, as fantastical images of birds and oceans paint themselves and then come alive. While she was heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, instead of following him through the Misty Mountains, she looked at his work as an idea of what possibilities existed within the realms of fantasy and science fiction. She admits later in the trailer that she never sought out to “be a writer.” She just wrote.
Gaiman believes that Harry Potter and other such altverses could never have existed without Le Guin’s fantasy book series, Earthsea (which is getting a newly announced big-screen adaptation). And Earthsea itself almost didn’t exist at a time when the sci-fi genre was a white-male-dominated universe weighed down by prejudices against the fantastic. Le Guin’s desire to shatter these stereotypes by examining topics such as race and gender identity through her stories made her not just a master, but a rebel.
You won’t have to wait much longer to travel to Earthsea. Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin will be broadcast on PBS American Masters next year.