The incredible Ursula K. Le Guin won the National Book Foundation medal for distinguished contribution to American letters in 2014. In her much-shared speech, she noted that “hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope.” And now her estate has launched a new literary prize for imaginative and optimistic works.

We here at Breaking the Glass Slipper agree with le Guin that there is a need for speculative fiction that is uplifting as well as the ever-popular dystopian pessimism – and it would seem that many readers agree too. Recent years have seen – or so it feels – an increase in the publication of optimistic stories. And as the world crumbles around us (sorry to be glass-half-empty), it is no wonder that we are all craving something that delivers a few warm and fuzzies.

In this episode, we are going to explore all this hopeful speculative fiction, and to that end, we are joined by Ryka Aoki, whose novel Light From Uncommon Stars was published in the summer.

Watch Ursula K. Le Guin’s full speech from the 2014 National Book Foundation awards

This conversation is very wide-ranging, covering things you’re more used to hearing about from us like science fiction and fantasy books, films, TV series… to classical music. It was great fun to have such a varied conversation!

Texts and authors mentioned in this episode include:

  • Rent
  • Marvel films
  • Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
  • The Worldmaker Trilogy by Lucy Hounsom
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  • Becky Chambers
  • E.M. Forster

Ryka Aoki is a poet, composer, and teacher and author of Seasonal VelocitiesHe Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song)Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul and The Great Space Adventure. Her next novel, Light from Uncommon Stars was published by Tor Books in September 2021.

Ryka’s work has appeared or been recognized in VogueEllePublisher’s WeeklyBustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, The Daily Dot, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, The San Francisco Bay Times, and the Huffington Post. Her latest poetry was part of “Are you okay?” curated by Franny Choi at Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and she was honoured by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.”