She is done with doing

I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of Ursula K Le Guin.  Despite being an avid reader as a kid, for some strange reason I never came across any of Le Guin’s books.  I have no idea why but it’s something I still regret.  It was actually my current partner who introduced me to LeGuin in my mid thirties. During a very wet holiday in Sleat on the Isle of Skye he read The Wizard of Earth Sea to me.  I was entranced, and read all six books of the series back to back.  Having grown up in the Western Isles, the archipelago of Earthsea, and the rocky island of Gont in particular, was instantly familiar. The Outer Hebrides with dragons!  What’s not to like?

It’s hard to pick a favourite from the series, but if I had to, it would be Tehanu, because it is so rare to find a work of transformative fiction told from the perspective of a middle aged woman.  And it’s not just the perspective of one single woman, women’s experience of the world, of child hood, adulthood, birth and death is absolutely central to the whole mythos of Earthsea.

It was only after reading the Earthsea series two or three times that I moved on to Le Guin’s science fiction.  I never got much further than The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, because they raised so many questions and gave me so much to think about and to process.

When I read the news of Le Guin’s death on twitter this morning, it was The Dispossessed I picked up to read in remembrance, but it’s this quote from the end of The Farthest Shore that’s been with me all day.

The Doorkeeper, smiling, said, “He is done with doing. He goes home.”

Return of the Six Best Conference Questions

Way back in 2013 Joanne Begiato, Steven Gray, Isaac Land and I wrote a blog post called The six best conference questions: Or, how not to paper-bomb at a conference. The piece was intended to be an encouraging response to a rather entertaining article written by Allan Johnson in Time Higher Education about the six questions every academic dreads to hear at conferences. That post turned out to be by far and away the most popular post ever to appear on this blog and it’s now found a new lease of life in The Guardian.  Earlier today The Guardian Higher Education Network re-published our piece under the title Don’t be a conference troll: a guide to asking good questions. We’ve had an overwhelming response to the article on twitter so it seems like this piece is still striking a chord with colleagues across the sector.

conf_troll_1

I’m also delighted to report that by the end of the day we were more popular than Jo Jonson’s University reforms 😉

conf_troll_2

Many thanks to Steven for suggesting we submit this to The Guardian!