OBITUARY: Ursula le Guin, award-winning sci-fi writer who defied pigeon-holing

Saul Bowman
January 25, 2018

She married historian Charles Le Guin, and the couple had three children. She published her first novel, "Rocannon's World", in 1966.

Revisiting her work in 2018, it becomes even more apparent how visionary Le Guin's gift was, with her densely plotted and gorgeously written novels taking in such subjects as the environment, the gender debate, racism, slavery, clashing political systems and religion, often writing stories which served as sophisticated allegories for real world issues, while resisting the urge to be obvious or dumbed-down.

"Anything at all can be said to happen [in the future] without fear of contradiction from a native".

Perhaps my favourite Le Guin piece, however, is her famous, Hugo award-winning short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas". Le Guin inspired an entire generation of writers and pushed the fantasy and sci-fi genres into the realm of literary fiction - a feat that will never be forgotten.

In recent years, Le Guin also warned against over-emphasizing profit to motivate writers and their publishers.

She's probably best known for her Earthsea quartet of books, an epic sword and sorcery tale that followers the titular protagonist on a quest to discover the value of morality within magic.

Le Guin, who was born in 1929, meant people who mattered were men, and that women were as near as invisible. The Left Hand of Darkness author operated largely in the worlds of fantasy and science-fiction, but her art transcended genres. She gave words more power than most writers do. And she pushed science-fiction itself into a genre for more than young boys.


Gaiman tweeted: "I miss her as a glorious amusing prickly person, and I miss her as the deepest and smartest of the writers, too".

Newspapers and magazines have called her a "feminist science fiction author", "a novelist of speculative fiction", "a wordsmith of startling originality", "a fierce social critic", "literary icon" and "a poet of uncommon talent". "Godspeed into the galaxy", tweeted King.

Her range included not just science fiction and fantasy novels but poetry collections, essay collections, children's books and over 100 short stories.

Le Guin is best remembered for global bestselling "Earthsea" series, translated into many languages and adapted for the screen, in which an apprentice sorcerer fights against the powers of evil, decades before Harry Potter did the same.

Her 1983 speech to graduates at Mills College, titled "A Left-Handed Commencement Address", is considered a classic.

Eleanor Wachtel speaks with the "high priestess of fantasy and science fiction" American writer Ursula K. LeGuin. When the National Book Foundation honored her with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2014, she took the stage and criticized the audience.

Le Guin died suddenly and peacefully Monday at her home in Portland, Oregon, after several weeks of health concerns, her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin said Tuesday.

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