An interview with Ursula K. LeGuin about THE HIDDEN SKY

February 11, 2010

Prospect: When did you originally write the story “The Masters,” and was there a specific inspiration for the piece that you can share?
Ursula K. LeGuin: “The Masters” was written, and first appeared in Fantastic magazine, in 1963.  It was my first published science-fiction story (as distinguished from realism or fantasy).  1963 is a long, long time ago — I’m not sure what inspired it  except for one thing:  I was a Californian new to Oregon, who needed a while to get used to a climate that for about seven months of the year consists of rain.  The ever-cloudy skies of the story are the skies of Portland, with a little exaggeration.
P: One of the major changes from your original story to The Hidden Sky is that the genders of two central characters (Ganil and Lani) have been reversed, placing a woman at the heart of the musical.  What was your response to this choice?
UL: I was delighted by this change.  In 1963, science fiction was about men (with an occasional pretty lady to scream while being carried off in the alien’s tentacles), and it hadn’t occurred to me yet to ask why.  The gender reversal is a quiet feminist action that strengthens the story both morally and emotionally.
P: What do you feel the story has gained from being expanded into a two act musical?
UL: The physical presence of the actors, the power of stage, drama and MUSIC, powerful, beautiful music.  You can’t ask for much more than that!
P: Although the story takes place in an alternate, future universe, what do you think is the most relevant aspect of the tale for a modern audience?
UL: The themes of the story, the danger of intolerant fundamentalist belief of any sort, questions of how science and morality interact, are as urgently relevant to our situation now as they were five decades ago.  Perhaps even more so.  Alas.
P: In general, what sort of music do you listen to?  Are you a fan of musical theater and if so, do you have a favorite show?
UL: I listen to early and baroque music, Spanish guitar, Schubert, Berlioz, Glass, Springsteen.  I love opera, old or modern, especially if I can be there in the theater.  I saw Oklahoma and South Pacific etc.  when they first came out and loved them, but Broadway musicals haven’t done much for me for a long time. I saw Menotti’s The Medium and The Consul when they first came out too, and still love them.  I think of The Hidden Sky not as a musical but as an opera. Is that wrong? A kiss of death?  I hope not!

One Response to “An interview with Ursula K. LeGuin about THE HIDDEN SKY”

  1. […] 2/28 I just discovered a fascinating interview with Ursula K. Le Guin about the musical.  Apparently, in the original short story, Ganil was male and Lani female. In […]

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