|Ursula K. Le Guin|
Le Guin at a bookstore Q&A session, July 2004
) October 21, 1929
Berkeley, California, U.S.
|Genres||Science fiction, fantasy|
|Spouse(s)||Charles Le Guin (m. 1953–present); 3 children|
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (pron.: ; born October 21, 1929) is an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has also written poetry and essays. First published in the 1960s, her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.
She was influenced by fantasy writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, by science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick, by central figures of Western literature like Leo Tolstoy, Virgil and the Brontë sisters, and including feminist writers like Virginia Woolf, by children's literature like Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, by Norse mythology, and by books from the Eastern tradition such as the Tao Te Ching. In turn, she influenced such Booker Prize winners and other writers, as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell – and notable futurism and fantasy writers like Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks. She has won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once.
She was born Ursula Kroeber the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. She attended Berkeley High School. In 1901, Alfred Kroeber earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States from Columbia University. He went on to establish the second anthropology department in the U.S., at the University of California, Berkeley. Theodora Kroeber wrote a biography of her husband, Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration.
Le Guin received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She became interested in literature at a young age. At age 11, she submitted her first story to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was rejected. Her earliest writings, some of which she adapted in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena, were non-fantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a way to express her interests, she returned to her early interest in science fiction; in the early 1960s her work began to be published regularly. (One Orsinian Tale was published in the Summer 1961 issue of The Western Humanities Review and three of her stories appeared in 1962 and 1963 numbers of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, a monthly edited by Cele Goldsmith. Goldsmith also edited Amazing Stories, which ran two of Le Guin's stories in 1964, including the first "Hainish" story.)
She received wide recognition for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970. Her subsequent novel The Dispossessed made her the first person to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel twice for the same two books.
In later years, Le Guin worked in film and audio. She contributed to The Lathe of Heaven, a 1979 PBS film based on her novel of the same name. In 1985, she collaborated with avant-garde composer David Bedford on the libretto of Rigel 9, a space opera. In May 1983, Le Guin delivered a well-received commencement address entitled "A Left Handed Commencement Address" at Mills College, Oakland, California. "A Left Handed Commencement Address" is included in her nonfiction collection Dancing at the Edge of the World. 
In December 2009, Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its endorsement of Google's book digitization project. "You decided to deal with the devil", she wrote in her resignation letter. "There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle."
Le Guin has won dozens of annual "year's best" literary awards. For novels alone she has won five Locus, four Nebula, two Hugo, and one World Fantasy Award. (The Dispossessed won the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo.) She has also won those four awards in short fiction categories. Her nineteen Locus Awards, voted by magazine subscribers, are more than any other writer has received. Her third Earthsea novel, The Farthest Shore won the 1973 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and she has been a finalist for ten Mythopoeic Awards, nine in Fantasy and one for Scholarship. Unlocking the Air and Other Stories was one of three finalists for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Recognizing her stature in the speculative fiction genre, Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia. That year she was also named the sixth Gandalf Grand Master of fantasy. The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) gave her its Pilgrim Award in 1989 for her "lifetime contributions to SF and fantasy scholarship". At the 1995 World Fantasy Convention she won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a judged recognition of outstanding service to the fantasy field. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001, its sixth class of two deceased and two living writers. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made her its 20th Grand Master in 2003.
In April 2000 the U.S. Library of Congress made Le Guin a Living Legend in the "Writers and Artists" category for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. In 2002 she won a PEN/Malamud Award for "excellence in a body of short fiction". In 2004 she received two American Library Association honors for her lasting contributions: for young adult literature, the annual Margaret A. Edwards Award; for children's literature, selection to deliver the annual May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture. At its 2009 convention, the Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded the Emperor Has No Clothes Award to Le Guin. The FFRF describes the award as "celebrating 'plain speaking' on the shortcomings of religion by public figures".[a]
When asked about her influences, she replied; "Once I learned to read, I read everything. I read all the famous fantasies – Alice in Wonderland, and Wind in the Willows, and Kipling. I adored Kipling's Jungle Book. And then when I got older I found Lord Dunsany. He opened up a whole new world – the world of pure fantasy. And ... Worm Ouroboros. Again, pure fantasy. Very, very fattening. And then my brother and I blundered into science fiction when I was 11 or 12. Early Asimov, things like that. But that didn't have too much effect on me. It wasn't until I came back to science fiction and discovered Sturgeon – but particularly Cordwainer Smith. ... I read the story "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard", and it just made me go, "Wow! This stuff is so beautiful, and so strange, and I want to do something like that." In the mid 50s, she read The Lord of the Rings, which had an enormous impact on her. But rather than follow in Tolkien's footsteps, it simply showed her what was possible to do with the fantasy genre.
Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations both of dimensions of social and psychological identity and of broader social/cultural structures. In doing so, she draws on Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology, leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction. She has objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction.
Being so thoroughly informed by social science perspectives on identity and society, Le Guin treats race and gender quite deliberately. The majority of Le Guin's main characters are people of color, a choice made to reflect the non-white majority of humans, and one to which she attributes the frequent lack of character illustrations on her book covers. Her writing often makes use of alien cultures to examine structural characteristics of human culture and society and their impact on the individual. In The Left Hand of Darkness, for example, she implicitly explores social, cultural, and personal consequences of sexual identity through a novel involving a human encounter with an unpredictably androgynous race.
The Left Hand of Darkness, along with The Dispossessed and The Telling, are novels within Le Guin's Hainish Cycle, which employs a future galactic civilization loosely connected by an organizational body known as the Ekumen to consider the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures. Unlike those in much mainstream science fiction, Hainish Cycle civilization does not possess reliable human faster-than-light travel, but does have technology for instanteous communication. This allows the author to hypothesize a loose collection of societies that exist largely in isolation from one another, providing the setting for her explorations of intercultural encounter. The social and cultural impact of the arrival of Ekumen envoys (known as "mobiles") on remote planets, and the culture shock that the envoys experience, constitute major themes of The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin's concept has been borrowed explicitly by several other well-known authors, to the extent of using the name of the communication device (the "ansible").
Le Guin's writing notably employs the ordinary actions and transactions of everyday life, clarifying how these daily activities embed individuals in a context of relation to the physical world and to one another. For example, the engagement of the main characters with the everyday business of looking after animals, tending gardens and doing domestic chores is central to the novel Tehanu. Themes of Jungian psychology also are prominent in Le Guin's writing.
Adaptations of her work
Few of Le Guin's major works have been adapted for film or television. Her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven has been adapted twice: the first adaptation was made in 1979 by thirteen/WNET New York, with her own participation, and the second adaptation was made in 2002 by the A&E Network. In a 2008 interview, she said she considers the 1980 adaptation as "the only good adaptation to film" of her work to date.
In the early 1980s animator and director Hayao Miyazaki asked permission to create an animated adaptation of Earthsea. However, Le Guin, who was unfamiliar with his work and anime in general, turned down the offer. Years later, after seeing My Neighbour Totoro, she reconsidered her refusal, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki. The third and fourth Earthsea books were used as the basis of the 2006 animated film Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記 Gedo Senki ). The film, however, was directed by Miyazaki's son, Gorō, rather than Hayao Miyazaki himself, which disappointed Le Guin. While she was positive about the aesthetic of the film, writing that "much of it was beautiful", she took great issue with its re-imagining of the moral sense of the books and greater focus on physical violence. "[E]vil has been comfortably externalized in a villain", Le Guin writes, "the wizard Kumo/Cob, who can simply be killed, thus solving all problems. In modern fantasy (literary or governmental), killing people is the usual solution to the so-called war between good and evil. My books are not conceived in terms of such a war, and offer no simple answers to simplistic questions."
In 1987, the CBC Radio anthology program Vanishing Point adapted The Dispossessed into a series of six 30 minute episodes, and at an unspecified date The Word for World Is Forest as a series of three 30 minute episodes.
In 2004 the Sci Fi Channel adapted the first two books of the Earthsea trilogy as the miniseries Legend of Earthsea. Le Guin was highly critical of the adaptation, calling it a "far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned", objecting both to the use of white actors for her red, brown, or black-skinned characters, and to the way she was "cut out of the process".
Her novella, Paradises Lost, published in The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories, has been adapted into an opera by the American composer Stephen Andrew Taylor. The opera premiered April 26, 2012 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Ursula K. Le Guin has written fiction and nonfiction works for audiences including children, adults, and scholars. Her most notable works are listed here.
- Earthsea fantasy series
- A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968 (named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1979)
- The Tombs of Atuan, 1971 (Newbery runner-up)
- The Farthest Shore, 1972 (National Book Award)
- Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, 1990 (Nebula Award and Locus Fantasy Award)
- Tales from Earthsea, 2001 (short stories)
- The Other Wind, 2001 (World Fantasy Award, 2002)
- Hainish science fiction series
- Rocannon's World, 1966
- Planet of Exile, 1966
- City of Illusions, 1967
- The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969 (Hugo Award and Nebula Award)
- The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, 1974 (Nebula Award; Hugo Award; Locus Award)
- The Word for World is Forest, 1976 (Hugo Award, best novella)
- Four Ways to Forgiveness, 1995 (Four Stories of the Ekumen)
- The Telling, 2000 (Locus SF Award; Endeavour Award)
- The Lathe of Heaven, 1971 (Locus SF Award)
- The Wind's Twelve Quarters, 1975
- Orsinian Tales, 1976
- The Eye of the Heron, 1978 (first published in the anthology Millennial Women)
- The Beginning Place, 1980 (also published as Threshold, 1986)
- The Compass Rose, 1982
- Always Coming Home, 1985
- Lavinia, 2008 (Locus Fantasy Award)
- Timberg, Scott (May 10, 2009). "Ursula K. Le Guin's work still resonates with readers". Los Angeles Times.
- The Rough Guide To Cult Fiction, Tom Bullough, et al., London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2005, p. 163.
- Rotella, Carlo (July 19, 2009). "The Genre Artist". The New York Times.
- "On Prospero's Island". Book View Cafe.
- "Interview: Ursula K. Le Guin". About.com Sci-Fi / Fantasy.
- "A Wizard of Earthsea: Reader's Guide – About the Author". The Big Read. National Endowment for the Arts.
- . Unknown (digitalcommons.liberty.edu).
- "Le Guin, Ursula K." The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- Steward, Julian H. (1960). "Obituary: Alfred Louis Kroeber". American Ethnography Quasiweekly.
- Lafrenier, Steve (December 2008). "Ursula K. Le Guin [interview]". Vice (vice.com). Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- Ursula K. Le Guin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-24. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
- "Hainish – Series Bibliography". ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- Freedman, Carl, ed. (2008). Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin (First ed.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. xxiii. "The Dispossessed wins Hugo and Nebula awards, making Le Guin the first writer ever twice to win both awards simultaneously."
- "A left-handed commencement address". Retrieved 2010-12-08.
- Flood, Alison (December 24, 2009). "Le Guin accuses Authors Guild of 'deal with the devil'". London: www.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-27. Subtitle: "Ursula K Le Guin has resigned from the writers' organisation in protest at settlement with Google over digitisation".
- Le Guin, Ursula K. (December 18, 2009). "My letter of resignation from the Authors Guild". Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- "Locus Awards Records and Tallies". Locus Publications.
- "National Book Awards – 1973". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Mythopoeic Awards: About the Awards". Mythopoeic Society. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- "Fiction" (past winners and finalists). The Pulitzer Prizes.
- World Fantasy Convention. "Award Winners and Nominees". Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-04-24. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
- "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "Living Legends: Ursula LeGuin". Awards and Honors. Library of Congress.
- "People and Publishing: Awards". Locus, January 2003, p. 8.
- "Edwards Award". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA). Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- "The May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). ALA. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- Transcript of Ursula K. LeGuin's acceptance speech for the "Emperor Has No Clothes Award: Ursula K. Le Guin – 2009" (transcript of acceptance speech). FFRF.
- "Emperor Has No Clothes Award". Freedom From Religion foundation (FRRF).
- "2001 Book Awards". Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
With acceptance speech (delivered in her absence) and interview by Cindy Heidemann.
-  Library News Release, Seattle Public Library, October 19, 2006.
- "Ursula Le Guin discusses Lord of the Rings" (audio/video). YouTube.
- Spivack, Charlotte. "'Only in Dying, Life': The Dynamics of Old Age in the Fiction of Ursula Le Guin". Modern Language Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Summer, 1984), pp. 43–53.
- Justice, Faith L. (January 23, 2001). "Ursula K. Le Guin". Salon. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- Marilyn Strathern, "Gender as It Might Be: A Review Article" RAIN, No. 28. (October 1978), pp. 4–7.
- Quinion, Michael. "Ansible". World Wide Words.
- Rochelle, W. (2001) Communities of the Heart: the Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
- LeGuin, Ursula K. "Gedo Senki, A First Response".
- "Vanishing Point". Times Past Old Time Radio (archives).
- "Miscellaneous Shows". PlotSpot.
- Le Guin, Ursula K. (December 16, 2004). "A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books". Slate. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- "UI Opera to Premiere New Opera by Stephen Taylor". University of Illinois School of Music. April 19, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
- "Update from Charles Le Guin". News from Alumni and Friends. Emory University Department of History.
- "Earthsea Cycle – Series Bibliography". ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "1990 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1991 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1969 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1970 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1974 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1975 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "1972 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "2009 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Bernardo, Susan (2006). Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion (1st ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Bloom, Harold, ed., "Ursula K. Leguin: Modern Critical Views" (Chelsea House Publications, 2000)
- Brown, Joanne, & St. Clair, Nancy, Declarations of Independence: Empowered Girls in Young Adult Literature, 1990–2001 (Lanham, MD, & London: The Scarecrow Press, 2002 [Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature, No. 7])
- Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York: Routledge.
- Cart, Michael, From Romance to Realism: 50 Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)
- Cummins, Elizabeth, Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin, rev. ed., (Columbia, SC: Univ of South Carolina Press, 1993). ISBN 0-87249-869-7 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Davis, Laurence & Peter Stillman, eds, The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Dispossessed" (New York: Lexington Books, 2005)
- Erlich, Richard D. Coyote's Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin (1997). Digital publication of the Science Fiction Research Association (2001 f.):
- Egoff, Sheila, Stubbs, G. T., & Ashley, L. F., eds, Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature (Toronto & New York: Oxford University Press, 1969; 2nd ed., 1980; 3rd ed., 1996)
- Egoff, Sheila A., Worlds Within: Children’s Fantasy from the Middle Ages to Today (Chicago & London: American Library Association, 1988)
- Lehr, Susan, ed., Battling Dragons: Issues and Controversy in Children’s Literature (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995)
- Lennard, John, Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction (Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2007)
- Reginald, Robert, & Slusser, George, eds, Zephyr and Boreas: Winds of Change in the Fictions of Ursula K. Le Guin (San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1997)
- Rochelle, Warren G., Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001)
- Sullivan III, C. W., ed., Young Adult Science Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999 [Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 79])
- Trites, Roberta Seelinger, Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000)
- Wayne, Kathryn Ross, Redefining Moral Education: Life, Le Guin, and Language (Lanham, MD: Austin & Winfield, 1995)
- White, Donna R., Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics (Ontario: Camden House, 1998 [Literary Criticism in Perspective])
- Official website
- Ursula K. Le Guin biography at the Science Fiction Hall of Fame
- Ursula K. Le Guin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Ursula K. Le Guin at the Internet Movie Database
- Le Guin reviews, synopses, and cover art at Fantasy Literature