Ada Lovelace Day 2010: Celebrating Ursula K. LeGuin

Today (March 24) is Ada Lovelace Day, the second annual celebration of women in science and technology. Bloggers from all over (if perhaps a little weighted towards the UK and the Northern Hemisphere) have pledged to write about women that inspire them. I’m proud to be involved.

As a professional writer, I’m naturally drawn to others with an affinity for words and sentences. I’m especially fond of those who use their facility with words to change the world and make it a more just and humane place. Last year, I told you about Ronda Hauben, the auto worker who knew the future was in building electronic communities. This year, I want to highlight someone with a little higher profile, but who has also used her writing to help us along the path.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (please explore the topography of the home page before clicking Enter)  is a writer of superlative speculative fiction, but maybe you know that already. Wikipedia, as usual, offers an excellent introduction to Le Guin’s life and career. Fantastic Fiction also has a nice bibliography (though the site looks like it hasn’t been redesigned since 1997). But what does a fiction writer who seems more interested in social issues rather than hard science have to do with Ada Lovelace?

Well, science is a broad category, and Le Guin (UKL, for short) clearly shares her father’s interest in what makes humans (and humanoids) tick. UKL shines a light on contemporary society through the descriptions of alien cultures. As she put it in a recent interview with a science blogger: “‘The future’ in most science fiction is just a metaphor for ‘us, here, now.'” But it isn’t entirely because of her writing that I’m paying tribute today.

If you care about writing, creativity, and the ability to make a living from same, you’ll be wise to follow the court battle over Google’s plan to digitize and effectively own every book ever created. It’s one thing to want to create a free digital library available to all. It’s quite another to create that library in the interest of profit.

UKL resigned from the Author’s Guild when that organization (along with a batch of publishers) agreed to a settlement of the copyright infringement case against Google. She helped mobilize the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the National Writers Union to oppose the settlement. And with the help of the US Justice Department, we just might win.

Thanks, Ms. Le Guin, for being inspirational in both your writing, and in helping us to understand that the struggle for our rights never ends.

Now it’s your turn. There’s a lot of time for you to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day. If you blog, check out Finding Ada and sign up. If not, comment here about women in science and tech that helped make you what you are today. Feel free to comment on the Google Settlement and Ursula K. Le Guin too! Check out the other ALD10 blogs too.

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