Tamora Pierce

Hi Tammy,

Remember that time you laughed at a badger meme I posted? You probably don’t, and I don’t blame you. You probably see a lot of badger memes. But I remember, and I was proud of myself for that for, like, a whole day afterward. Not to get too sappy, but bringing some small amount of joy to someone who had brought me gobs and gobs of it was a really good feeling.

The first book of yours I read was Wolf-Speaker.

I know, I know, it’s a weird place to start: a second book of a second series. I didn’t even have the decency to start at the beginning of the Immortals quartet. I was thrown into a story already begun, meeting a protagonist who had already begun her arc, spending time with characters who had already been introduced and elaborated on.

I regret nothing. Part of this is because of your writing, Tammy. Despite coming in partway through a 4-book arc, starting with Wolf-Speaker just felt like another entry point into the story. You weave in the salient details of past events without belaboring them, hint at larger happenings in the world, and further develop your characters all within the confiens of a single story. Wolf-Speaker doesn’t feel incomplete, though I would also argue that it fits perfectly into its niche in Daine’s timeline.

I also don’t regret my decision at all because being introduced to a protagonist who can communicate with animals, and having her first major interactions be with a wolf pack was the perfect point to enter a story for my 12-year-old self. Regular readers of the BWP blog may recall that I wrote of the Redwall universe that a universe full of talking animals was everything I wanted. I may have to slightly tweak that statement, because even better was the possibility of a universe where animals were still animals — not living in buildings and farming the land, but living as animals do — but some people could talk to them. Rather, some people could talk to them, and they would answer.

From Wolf-Speaker, I finished the Immortals quartet, and then went back to read your works from the beginning. Over time I got to meet all of your heroines, and I am so glad I spent time growing up with all of these women. From bull-headed temperamental Alanna to calm unyielding Kel, to snippy people-averse Tris — it would take too long to describe them all, but suffice it to say, that when I try to determine a single favorite, it’s nearly impossible.*

There are many things I can be thankful for in your writing, Tammy, but the greatest thing is that you showed me unequivocally that women in fantasay could be as real and varied as the women I know from reality. They could show full ranges of emotions, had their own ideas, and made their own decisions. They could be sad, angry, brave, quiet, brash, thoughtful, giddy, and everything in between. Thank you for their stories.

-Louisa

*Nearly. (I’ll give you one guess).

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie,

Howdy. You are really awesome.

That’s all, basically.

I could spend several hundred words telling you how freaking amazing The Raven Cycle is and how much I adored The Scorpio Races.

I could write you an essay about how incredibly skilled you are at blending fantasy with reality, at reminding your readers of the magic that already exists in our world.

I could write a whole letter on your use of mythology in The Scorpio Races and how much this religious scholar just ate that up.

I could write you a book about how following you on various social media platforms has taught me that the world is unfair and that the level of talent you have in the variety of areas you have it is just unreal.

I could go on and on and on about why I went and got a raven tattoo after the release of The Raven King (and yes the biggest raven is named Chainsaw).

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But at the end of the day the most important thing for me to say is that I am grateful for you, and all that you do.

Thank you for being really awesome.

Seriously.

Really, thank you.

-Rebecca

William Shakespeare

If I profane with my unworthy hand
Your written shrine of celebrated wit
My praise, lowly as it is, ready stands
To release itself through most loving writ
For ‘To be or not to be’ you once said
Hamlet’s distress did kindred spirit find
A lonely girl of but thirteen years led
From depression with bottle left behind
When yet more years had passed and knowledge earned
The sorrow returned anew to claim
A lonely, angry heart that always burned
She would not gentle enter Peace’s domain
But for Antony’s piercing words and tears
She’d not’ve named her demons for yet more years

For thee in thanks, MADELEINE

 


nota bene: This sonnet has been poorly written in the style of a Shakespearean sonnet. Please forgive the author of this letter for her inability to write poetry and general absurdity.

Neal Stephenson

Dear Neal,

I’m sure all readers have had that feeling when you read a book and think, “It’s like the author wrote this book just for me!” For me, that book was Snow Crash. Though the book covers a variety of topics, the main focus is technology and language. As an aerospace engineer with a minor in linguistics, you can see why I might have thought this book was personalized. Snow Crash was epic in scope, fast paced, and even featured a pun-named main character.

The word epic is thrown around a lot these days, but your books really live up to the word. What other author would create a religious order that reveals itself ever 1000 years? Or chronicle the cataclysmic end of human society on Earth? And even still, we feel personally invested in your characters and care about what happens to them within the larger scope of your story.

Last week, I thanked Ursula LeGuin for showing science fiction and fantasy can be used to challenge our own prejudices and social conventions. Today, I thank you for showing something that speculative fiction better than any other genre: stories, societies, and even civilizations that space vast reaches of time and space. Even as it inspires us, it reminds how small and fragile we are in the larger context of the universe.

Finally, I end this note with an apology: I haven’t yet been able to make it more than 100 pages into Cryptonomicon, and I’m sorry. I promise I’ll try again, maybe as New Year’s Resolution. In the meantime, thank you again for the vast amount of story I’ve read, enjoyed, and been inspired by.

-Christopher

Vyasa

“What is found in the poem [The Mahabharata] I have recited —
Concerning dharma [righteousness], riches and enjoyment,
As well as the path to final liberation —
May be found elsewhere. But anything
It does not contain will be found nowhere.”

The Mahabharata, 18.5.38, English adaptation by Carole Satyamurti

What can one really say to that? The Mahabharata, the world’s longest epic poem, composed in Sanskrit by Vyasa, is ten times the combined length of the Iliad and Odyssey and three times the length of the Bible. It is more than just a fixed text. It has been told and retold, in a million versions, oral, written, and on screen; as people say in India, one never really hears it for the first time. (See Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik).

The Mahabharata is the living link to my ancestors and their culture, the compendium of their wisdom, a sort of Wikipedia of ancient times, a work that contains many works within it: treatises on politics, philosophy, warfare, ancient history, and the Bhagavad Gita, the divine song which came directly from on high, culminating in the most beautiful of epiphanies (Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita). How do we make peace with the world and the things we have to face in it? Is it by realizing we’re just actors in a drama, instruments in a divine play? As the Gita puts it, beautifully:

“I am almighty time, the world-destroying,
And to destroy worlds, I have arisen!
Those warriors arrayed in lines opposing
Your men, even without you, will have perished.”

The Bhagavad Gita, 11.32 (located in book 6 of The Mahabharata), Translation by Gavin Flood and Charles Martin

All that’s great. That gives The Mahabharata enormous historical, cultural, and religious value. But The Mahabharata is more than just that. Though set in the most distant of times and places for an individual living in 21st century America, it is relevant today. Like the works of Shakespeare, the stories it tells and the emotions and dilemmas experienced by its characters are timeless and speak to the core of what it means to be human, anywhere, anytime. When do we stop turning the other cheek and stand up for ourselves? What are the limits of loyalty to our friends, especially if they’re veering off the path of good? Is it ok to break the rules for the greater good? How do we keep going when the times get rough? These questions are addressed within this great and ancient book. Some questions stay with us humans forever. I am fortunate to have had this book as a companion throughout my life.

-Akhi

Pierce Brown

Outgoing transmission: Pierce Brown
Subject: Thank You

Of all the authorial thank you notes that I wrote for this month — several of which are wholly ridiculous in tone — yours proved the most difficult to write. You are currently reading the results of attempt number nine ten

Where to begin? I regret to say I went into Red Rising with a good deal of reservations: it was blurbed to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game (I am, alas, a fan of neither), and its jacket description made it sound like every other class system-based dystopia that had flooded the market for the past few years, or so it seemed to me. But that cover was so striking — a bright red wing on matte black — that I did what I usually tend to do in situations like these: I shrugged and bought it while thinking “Eh, why not?” (This seems to be how most of my best and worst ideas start.)

I began with the audio — I can’t remember what exactly I was doing that fateful evening, but I needed to be hands-free — and from the moment Tim Gerard Reynolds read that first line, it was like one of those moments in a film where the protagonist pauses what they’re doing and the camera pushes in with a tightening, shadowy ellipse to form a spotlight, the world around them having faded away.

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

I’m a sucker for a good revenge plot; I stand by my opinion that The Count of Monte Cristo is probably the best revenge plot ever crafted. I love me a good revolution tale; American Revolution history is some of my favourite from this country and, oh yeah, Star Wars Rebel Alliance all the way. I also cannot resist a war story; I’m a rather odd child who knew Homer’s Iliad before Harry Potter.

So getting your story, complete with Classical allusions and pop culture easter egg-like references that kicked my high-functioning ADHD mind into full-on literary analysis mode was like getting the book I’d never dared to want, because there was no way in heaven, hell, or earth that it could exist.

And I don’t just love your trilogy because you’re a master of your craft and tell a heart-stopping story; or because you created and developed characters so beautifully flawed and tragically human that they transcend the confines of the page; or even because finding all those little allusions and references brings me inexplicable joy. I do love your trilogy for all those things, but I really want to thank you for how thoughtful your books are.

Your books dared to ask a great deal of deep and difficult questions. What happens after revolution? What happens when you gamble and fail? When you lose a battle but must continue the war? How do you deal with grief and rage and hate?

How do you not only live, but live for more?

I got to question and consider the world of your own making and the consequences of every small action, or even the lack of action. And then I got to apply it to my own life — which, in the wake of everything that has happened in 2016, meant an awful lot of thinking and drinking and more thinking.

But there is also a part of the story I didn’t mention, about when I picked up your first book back in 2014…it wasn’t a great time for me. I was going through what can only be described as a complete existential, quarter-life crisis. I’d graduated university without a job in my field, was working full-time at a bookstore which, while not terrible, was not what I wanted. I was just entering treatment for an eating disorder, which would lead to me (finally) getting diagnosed with anxiety and adult ADHD alongside depression, which I knew I’d dealt with since high school. Everyone around me was getting married, buying houses, raving about their dream-jobs and, well, needless to say, I felt very stuck and worthless and useless.

You didn’t really need to know all that, I suppose, but it’s the only context I can offer so that when I say your books were not only what I needed in that moment, but were what helped to spark a little fire to dare, to try, and to at the very least pretend to be brave…I’m not trying to be sycophantic. I may be prone to hyperbole in some things, but I don’t exaggerate when I say that your books had a profound impact upon me — upon my behaviour, my thought processes, philosophies, and just overall personhood. I can look at my short twenty-five years and find that point at twenty-three in late 2014 that denotes the shift of “before Red Rising” and “after Red Rising.

I hadn’t been able to live in peace but I started to find a glimmer of it in Darrow’s war. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, it wasn’t too long after I got diagnosed with Bertolotti’s Syndrome in late 2015 that I got to read Darrow scratching and clawing and working his own way back to recovery in Morning Star…just as I was going through physical therapy so I could go through everyday life with minimal pain or discomfort. It was this strange sort of inspiration, the rationale of “Well Darrow could come back from that, so surely I can grit my teeth and push through whatever’s happening here.” It’s not that I hadn’t thought that way before Morning Star, but something about the visceral way in which you wrote Darrow’s journey put everything happening in my own life into sharp perspective and helped me to hone my focus.

Simply put: your books changed my life.

So, thank you, Pierce Brown. Thank you for crafting this story. Thank you for writing it down and sharing it with all of us. In this all too often dark and terrifying world that sometimes likes to knock us down and basically beat the shit out of us, you gave us a trilogy about a rising tide of sons and daughters whose grit and humanity and glorious hope blazed with such ferocity that they shone brighter than the morning star itself.

And it’s a bloodydamn, gorydamn beautiful thing.

Per aspera ad astra and sincerest thanks,

Madeleine C.

PS. Also, you like Star Wars and puppies, so I should have known that would mean your books were going to be amazing.

Holly Black

Holly,

In March of 2016 I was lucky enough to attend the Nova Teen book festival in Arlington, Virginia, where you were the keynote speaker. I had so much fun basically stalking you from panel to panel, learning about how to write a properly scary story during the Creep panel and sitting in the completely full classroom where you had your one-on-one with participants about writing fairytales. Don’t worry, I live-tweeted the whole experience so if you don’t trust my word on how psyched I was about the whole thing you only need to check your Twitter notifications from that day (I’m sort of sorry about blowing up your feed that way, but kind of really not).

Your keynote is what really got me, though. I had a really freaky moment there while you were talking because I’d been telling my friend Mad earlier that day how I would probably die if you and Neil Gaiman ever collaborated on anything, and lo and behold in your keynote you start talking about Lucifer and a conversation you had with Gaiman about why you write fantasy.

I pretty much died in that moment because not only was it like you’d read my mind but you also managed to combine your thoughts with Gaiman’s (and I think even G.K Chesterton’s which is a whole other thing (OK I’ll dish, I wrote a graduation speech in college based on a G.K. Chesterton quote that you may or may not have used during your keynote (OK you did))) to say what is perhaps the truest and most powerful thing about what fantasy even is. Pardon my paraphrase (I’m sure the direct quote is on Twitter), but you told us all that the power in fantasy is that it deals with reality in a world where the rules are shifted such that the everyday struggles of humanity can be exaggerated and focused on in a way that literary fiction just does not allow. Want to talk about the struggle to belong for teenagers? Write about a changeling. And all that good stuff.

It really got to me not just because it was true, not just because that was exactly why I’d always been drawn to really good fantasy over anything else, but also because your stories have always had that dash of really harsh reality blended in with the fantastic elements of the worlds you create. When I first read Tithe I picked it up because it was sold as a modern fairytale, but I loved it because of how freaking real it was. How even though it was about non-human creatures in an alternate reality it was one of the most familiar and one of the truest stories I’ve ever encountered, and the same can be said of everything you’ve written since.

Tithe itself is really a meta-example of that, since you even went and created a main character who could not lie but who knew how to deceive, and when I was reading that whole series, especially once it got to Ironside, I just kept thinking, “Oh my God Holly Black is Fae. She’s totally mastered the art of telling a story that has elements of untruth but which is actually entirely true.”

I mean basically what I’m trying to say here is you are brilliant. Absolutely brilliant and I love it. I love it all. I also love how your books are like the hard rock of YA and Middle Grade literature. They’ve got so many of the same elements as other books in their genre, but they’ve got this edge to them, this grit that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. Sometimes that is exactly what I need when I pick up a story to get lost in, and I can’t thank you enough for carving out that space and for continuing to create masterpieces within it.

You rock, literally, and I appreciate you.

Thank you now and always,
Rebecca

Gail Carson Levine

Dear Ms. Levine,

When I was a kid, there were three things that I knew about myself: green was my favorite color, I ate too many things deemed inedible, and that I had an unhealthy want for adventure. This unchecked desire often got me in trouble and my early elementary years were full of time outs from recess and being chased by kids I had pranked. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was bored and this boredom got me into trouble. Often. Then there was a day, I think in 3rd or 4th grade that I found myself forced to choose a library book in school. I happened to pick up Ella Enchanted, and I honestly believe that I was never the same.

I never thought I would fall in love with a book based on Cinderella . The funny thing is, I never liked Cinderella, but I love your version of her. I mean, I guess Cinderella was okay as a Disney movie, but I just didn’t get it. She was just so darn nice, and then everything kind of magically worked out for her. I felt distant from Cinderella as a character. Reading about Ella, who was so painfully real, who experienced the world around her as I might have in her position, made me able to accept and immerse myself in the magic from fairy tales. Your book captivated me in a way that I had never experienced before. I remember reading about Ella’s curse, seeing her similarities to Cinderella, both knowing her story and having no idea what would happen. There wasn’t a character in Ella Enchanted that I didn’t feel personally connected to, and you made it so easy.

The truth is, if I hadn’t picked up Ella Enchanted randomly in the library that day, I don’t know if I would have become hooked on reading. It was because of your book that I dove into literature hoping to find characters like Ella that could show me what it means to be a heroine. Now, years later with an English degree and several years of teaching under my belt, when my baby sister was looking for a bed time story I knew exactly which one to start her on. Oh, and she is addicted to reading now too. I don’t think ‘thank you’ will quite cover it, Ms. Levine, but I’m going to say it anyway. Thank you for everything.
Your biggest admirer,
Ayesha

J.K. Rowling

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Dear Ms. Rowling,

Mr. and Mrs. Cassier of 103 Burbank Drive were proud to say that their daughter was a book-dragon, thank you very much. She was never one to be found without a book or two, because she just didn’t hold with their absence.

Okay, enough with the silliness. Firstly, it’s very difficult to sustain; secondly, it’s hard to joke when talking about the importance of Harry Potter in my life. I chose that quote from Deathly Hallows at the top for a big reason: I think it perfectly summarizes what I try to tell people when I attempt to talk about how much your positively radiant Harry Potter series means to me. Ever since Harry & co. walked into my life one evening — I actually was home sick with strep the night I first opened Sorcerer’s Stone and can recall that first reading experience with vivid clarity — it was like being possessed and entranced and in love and in pain all at once. Ecstasy is the word that springs to mind, though I didn’t know it back then. I, like so many people of my generation, quite literally grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We battled our own demons while they battled the Dark Lord.

I don’t make it much of a secret, but I suffer from bad bouts of depressive episodes, and they were particularly bad during some years of high school. And back then, when I was a teenager and feeling like the real world had lost its colour and its vibrance, that I was wholly alone…I would crawl back into the pages of Harry Potter and wrap myself up in them like a security blanket. Re-reading those books became a way of coping and trying to understand what was happening — to try to bring myself out of any “low” that I was in. Of course I understood that, reading these books, it was all happening inside my head — it was my imagination running wild in order to bring life to your words…

But, to me, it not only was, but still is real.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are people with whom I empathised or with whom I agreed and disagreed — they weren’t just words on a page or scratches of ink. They, and all the others of the Wizarding world, were people. And what was best for that teenage me, was that in the world of Hogwarts and beyond, no matter how dark or wild it could get…it was still kind of real to me.

And it remains real to this very day.

It all being inside my head didn’t make any of the emotions I felt meaningless. And, so, your series has a very special place in my heart and in my life because it not only shaped my childhood, my adolescence, my young adulthood, and has been in my life longer than it hasn’t…but because it was the one place I could turn to when I felt there was nothing else, whether or not that was true. It’s part of why I make a point to reread and re-listen to the series every single year, usually more than once.

Because Hogwarts is always going to be there to welcome me home.

Forever grateful,
Madeleine

Ursula LeGuin

I fell in love with you in the way the best loves happen—that is, almost entirely by accident.

We were living in England while my mother worked with the US Air Force; I was in 6th grade. Every day, we had one glorious hour of our class schedule devoted entirely to silent reading time, and my teacher for that period—an older, slightly acerbic, presumably rather feminist Gifted and Talented teacher—bore a certain fondness for giving individual students books she thought they should read. And by “give”, I mean “unceremoniously hand you a book and unequivocally state that you were not allowed to read anything else in class until you finished it.”

It was through that method that I was first introduced to A Wizard of Earthsea.

As a moderately imaginative and somewhat well-read child, I had read plenty of fantasy books before. When I opened the Earthsea cycle for the first time, though, I knew on some level that this was a game-changer. The vividness of the description, the completeness and utter uniqueness of the worldbuilding, and all the dragons and birds of prey and colorful wizardry drew me in. The complexity of the characters, the sheer vast scope of the fantasy, and the tender poignancy of the storytelling hooked me and wouldn’t let me go.

I sat on the bus to school every morning on our trip across the fens, looking out the window at the dense, rolling British fog, and it was as if I was on Lookfar with Ged in the distant sea looking out, and out, and out. One night I dreamed, vividly, that standing in a field I put up my arm in the air and felt the light beating weight of a kestrel backwinging down to my skin—the most fragile, hollow pressure.

Fantasy and science fiction had already given me a broader perspective, new ways to look at things. Your writing was more than that—you gave me news eyes entirely through which to see.

For those reading who do not know—Ursula K Le Guin is almost indisputably one of the most prolific and most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writers still living. She has won almost every major award possible in both genres, and over the course of dozens of years has written dozens of works ranging from poetry and essays to children’s books and not-so-childish novels. She is the daughter of a writer (Theodora Kroeber) and well-known anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, and it shows. Her work is known not only for its enthralling worldbuilding and attention to detail, but perhaps more vitally for its incorporation of a subtle, tender, seeping sense of humanity. This is a writer who knows people, intimately; no matter how far-flung the universes she describes or how fantastical the species that inhabit them, her writing is pervaded by the sense that perhaps you aren’t so far from home after all. When I think of speculative fiction, when I think of science fiction and fantasy, I think of Ursula Le Guin before anyone else.

Ursula, I continued on and read some of your short stories after Earthsea—the tongue-in-cheek and surprisingly moving anthology Changing Planes (whose premise is that you can only switch dimensions while sitting in the interminable boredom of an airport waiting room), the clever and more serious pieces in The Birthday of the World and The Compass Rose. Short stories are, I think, where your brilliance really shines. They’re where your anthropological and sociological musings really take wing; many of them read as thought experiments—“in this world, what if there were humans but X was different about them?”

In The Matter of Seggri, men are incredibly rare and treated with a smothering, oppressive kind of nurture familiar to any modern woman. In The Fliers of Gy, some people are born with wings—the most quintessential of widespread human fantasies—but the frailty of their bodies and their maladaption to their own culture make it a tragedy and a horrifying curse rather than something to be coveted. In Unchosen Ways and Mountain Love, lovers navigate achingly familiar pains of love and loss and family rivalry in a society where marriage literally takes a village (or a moiety, more accurately). In each, you play so deftly deftly with race, gender, and sexuality, constantly and gently nudging us out of our most fundamental assumptions of what it is to experience each of those things by skillfully framing it in ways that don’t even feel like a lesson so much as a matter of fact “but it’s always been this . I grew up to be an anthropologist, like your father (and, in a very real sense I think, like you), and I think I know where that process started. You slowly, patiently, painstakingly taught me from afar one of the cornerstones of both speculative fiction and anthropology—learning to see the peculiar as normal and the normal as peculiar.

I also saw myself in your characters, both in the individual sense and in ways slightly more broad. Most of your protagonists are non-white and non-heterosexual, or at least play with the notion of what those designations even mean; plenty of them are non-male or non-binary-gender or both or neither or all genders and sexes at once. That was something that comforted me in an unprecedented way both as a young multiracial person and as a young, burgeoningly genderqueer and transgender person. I will admit—I regret to say that I didn’t read your most-lauded novelized study of gender, The Left Hand of Darkness, until relatively later in life, and was rather un-compelled by it. The notion that someone can be more than one sex or gender at once, and be loved by somebody not used to that concept, is perhaps a bit more underwhelming to read about when you’ve lived with it for a decade or two…But I read Coming of Age in Karhide, also set in Gethen, and loved it, felt myself coming of age into my gender a bit with every dreamy vivid line of it. I think for a lot of people, your works are the first time they’ve been exposed to some of these ideas in a digestible and slightly depoliticized way, and I can only imagine how much easier my life has been rendered because of that, through that behind the scenes absorption. (I am slightly tired, however, of having strangers tell me that I remind them of Gethenians.)
My favorite work by you, however, is the one I can barely begin to do justice to.

The Dispossessed has been (at least to me) shockingly divisive within my friend groups. Roughly half the people I’ve recommended it to have loved it so unconditionally that they took it as one of their own new personal favorites; the other half has hated it and thought it dull and uninteresting to the point of inanity. Regardless, I can cheerfully and blithely state that I have never read a book I enjoyed more purely, or that I found more in. I come back to The Dispossessed again and again and again—I read it for comfort during trying times, in moments when I worry that I’ve lost my way or my sense of self. I’ve been recording myself reading lines of it as I’ve gone on testosterone and my voice has been dropping, documenting the growth and change in more ways than one. The clean starkness of the world of Anarres and (at least initially) its inhabitants, the thoughtfulness and nuances of the political commentary…It starts on one level as a fairly straightforward conversation about anarchy, socialism, capitalism, and socioeconomic woe, but grows over time to be a much more convoluted dialogue on the nature of individualism, the inescapability of solitude, and the endless search we all of us make for that ephemeral, at times unreachable thing—home, and purpose, the sense that there is somewhere we belong.

I read Shevek’s story and feel the pang of sympathy for him a little bit differently every time. In high school, as a sense of camaraderie for someone reaching desperately for a goal that would make or break him by its attainment or his failure. In college, I resonated with his intensely personal realizations about utopia and revolution, of the ways people frequently recreate the things they fear or hate the most. After college, I’ve come to see the cleverness of his characterization, his flaws and egocentricities and anxieties, and search for how my own flaws shape my perception. Every year or two I come back to this book, these immortal settings and characters, and the sheer beauty and gracefulness of the multilayered arcs of the story takes my breath away. Futility and joy and arrogance and humility and camaraderie and isolation and breathless, breathless hope…

Nobody writes imperfection as perfectly and as compassionately as you do, with such a gentle and loving acceptance for both the beauty and monstrosity inherent to being human. You hold a mirror up to me, and of all the mirrors I’ve ever seen—I’m ok with looking into this one, and with the reflection I see in it.

Thank you, Ursula, for what you have given me—the gift, for once and forever, of sight.”