This illustrated collection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books finally does the series justice

Fifty years ago, science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin released A Wizard of Earthsea the first installment of a highly praised and influential fantasy series. Sadly, Le Guin passed away in January, but at the end of this year one of his final projects will be launched. One that, after years of frustrations, has been slow to arrive: a compiled edition of his Earthsea work by Saga Press, The Book s by Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition presenting almost 60 illustrations by the fantasy artist Charles Vess.

In 1968, Le Guin had established a promising career as a science fiction author, and was soon approached by an editor with an invitation: they wanted to write a book intended for a younger audience. Although at first he was afraid to write for children, he decided on a world he had used in a couple of short fantasy stories years ago, "The Rule of Names" and "The Word of Untying," set in an archipelago. . "The serious consideration of magic, and of writing for children, combined to make me inquire about magicians," he wrote later. "Magicians are usually old or aged Gandalfs, with reason and archetype, but what were they before they had white beards?"

The result was A wizard from Terramar who followed a young man islander named Ged, who has innate magical powers and is invited by a great magician to learn how to use his power. He is eager to learn, and accidentally summons a shadow creature, and is forced to chase him through the archipelago, and count on his power. This was a novel concept in the 1960s: fantastic literature was in its infancy with Tolkien The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and with J.K. The Rowling series Harry Potter away. Le Guin went on to write four later novels set in the same world: The tombs of Atuan The farthest bank, Tehanu, and The other wind.

There have been some special editions of A wizard from Terramar before, such as the impressive edition of Folio Society that came out a couple of years ago. But this edition will be the first time that the extensive epic of Le Guin, until now collectively known as the Terramar Cycle, will be collected in one place. The Books of Earthsea contains the five novels, as well as Tales From Earthsea, a collection of stories set in the world, and Earthsea Revisioned: a conference at the University of Oxford . It will be a massive volume, with a weight of just over a thousand pages.

Art: Charles Vess

The editorial director of Saga Press, Joe Monti, tells him The Verge that the project was something he wanted to do from the "first day", when he joined Saga Press by Simon & Schuster in 2013. Last November, the press published several editions of the work of the last author under its supervision. (Library of America also released a block edition of some of their works with The H ainish novels and short stories, Volume One and Volume 2 last year, too.) While they had wanted to address during long a complete volume of Le Guin Earthsea stories, something along the lines of the many omnibus editions of Tolkien The Lord of the Rings Monti says that "Ursula was reluctant" to the idea, having been "burnt in the last decades" by creative partners who never listened to or accepted their creative vision.

A striking example was the disastrous adaptation of the Syfy Channel 2004 (then SCI FI) of the first two installments of the series, Terramar, starring white actor Shawn Ashmore in the role of skin islander dark Ged. Le Guin wrote an ardent response, calling the miniseries "very far from the Earthsea that I imagined", and that the "producers did not understand what the books are about and had no interest in discovering it". All they wanted was to use the name Earthsea and some of the scenes in the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence. "

Monti points out that this treatment was typical; Guin had set out to write a story that, deliberately, was not within the framework of The Lord of the Rings just to have the stories marketed in the same way.For Monti, this compiled edition is a way to correct that collective error working closely with Le Guin to ensure that his vision of the world is translated into the 58 illustrations of the bus.

Art: Charles Vess

To capture the vision of Le Guin, Monti introduced the acclaimed fantasy artist Charles Vess, who had worked with authors such as Neil Gaiman, in addition to being an admirer of Vess's art, Monti "knew, more importantly, that his personality and ethos matched his own. "and that on several occasions, Le Guin has been involved in a collaborative process only to close his ideas for the artist. "Charles was always open and encouraged to dialogue," says Monti. The result was a collaboration of several years, in which Vess and Le Guin worked closely to perfect each of the illustrations in the book to better represent the world view of Le Guin.

Art: Charles Vess

Vess, a longtime reader of Le Guin and a particular fan of novels Earthsea says that when he first approached him four years ago to work on the book, "Ursula wanted I talked to whoever was interested to illustrate the book, and she wanted to like them, so I spent a very nervous weekend waiting to talk to her on Monday. "After her initial" great conversation ", she learned that" I did not believe in Nothing of what I said, because every artist I had worked with said, "I love collaborating, and she never heard from them again," she recalls. "That was not the case with me."

Art: Charles Vess

For the next four years, Vess worked with her constantly, showing her his initial sketches, drawings in pencil and ink as he went. "I had many comments," he says. "She kept me alert." Explain that some illustrations went through six or seven versions before being satisfied with the final result. "We spent a year going back and forth for what looked like their dragons"

That obsession with details did not extend only to the characters or creatures, but to the appearance of the world that she clearly imagined. "I definitely wanted to show more that people lived on earth, that they were farmers, peasants and ordinary people who grew their gardens," says Vess. "She wanted very little of the Great Golden Hall of Sorcery, [with] princes and kings, so there are quite a few drawings that are inside a garden, or taking care of goats or whatever."

Art: Charles Vess

] Le Guin was particularly concerned that the central characters of the book were represented accurately as people of color. "Until that moment [when the book was first published] all fantasy epics were full of heroes with blond hair and blue eyes." Le Guin's father was a noted anthropologist, and as a child, she had traveled all over the world with him. . "She knew about the world, and I wanted to put that in her book."

Monti says that she told him that his "collaboration with Charles was magical". and that, in essence, he made the decision to leave. to them alone so that they work alone and represent the world that for so long they did not see represented. "One of the things I learned in the illustration is that the better the writing you work with, the better your art will be," explains Vess. "You will get things you never thought you had"

Although unfortunately, you will never see the final version of the book, you did see the final illustrations before dying in January. "And now," he wrote in the introduction to the book, "with this first fully illustrated Earthmarch, I can let the art of Charles Vess speak for itself."

The book s of Terramar will hit stores on October 23, 2018.