Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born on October 21st, 1929 in Berkeley California. She has been an instructor, homemaker, and linguist, but is best known for her works of speculative fiction, specifically in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Her father was an anthropologist and professor at Berkeley University, and her mother was a psychologist and writer. She has three brothers, and all the Le Guin children were encouraged by their parents to read from a young age. In high school, she shared a class with Philip K. Dick (unbeknownst to both of them), a writer who would later influence her work.
Le Guin has written twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation. While comfortable with using both hard and soft science fiction, Le Guin has been known to object to both classifications, as in her view, they create a divisive stance on what constitutes "real" science fiction.
Among the science fiction crowd, Le Guin is well-known for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, two novels set in her re-occurring galaxy of the Ekumen, or as they are also known, the Hainish. Both novels are also noted for their deconstruction of gender: The Left Hand of Darkness is set on a planet of a-sexual humans, and The Dispossessed is set on a distant moon featuring a society of humans who do not recognize gender as a binary concept. The Dispossessed received critical acclaim, garnering numerous awards, including the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus.
Other works of science fiction by Le Guin include The Telling, The Word for World is Forest, and The Lathe of Heaven (twice adapted for television). At age 11, she tried submitting to Amazing Stories, but was rejected. It wasn't until the 1960's that her short stories began being published. In 1966, Ace picked up Le Guin's first novel, Rocannon's World.
Alternating between many writing genres (and even expressing impatience with genre as a label of quality), Le Guin has dominated fantasy bestseller lists with her Earthsea novels, spawning a mini-series on the SyFy channel. She protested in part to their adaptation of Earthsea due to their use of an all white-cast, instead of the mostly dark-skinned populace Le Guin repeatedly refers to in the novels. Le Guin has crossed over into other writing mediums, such as children's literature, historical fiction, poetry, and essays. Among the varied topics Le Guin chooses to write about, utopian societies factor in heavily. Often, her utopian societies turn out to have dystopic tendencies, which may be purposeful on her part as she has been called by critics "a popularizer of anarchist ideas". Le Guin's books also examine the use of religion, race, and gender disparities. Power, and mostly the lack of any collective power, is a recurring theme Le Guin favors, much like her exploration of language. Language, and layered meanings, take on a life of their own in her stories.
Le Guin has been a supporter of the feminist movement, as evidence in her fiction and non-fiction works. She has pondered the nature of sf, citing the low status of women as a negative indicator. Critics have sought to articulate Le Guin's brand of feminism, comparing her quiet and assertive style to that of Joanna Russ's loud and militaristic style.
Le Guin has hosted writer's workshops at different colleges in the US, Australia, and Great Britain. In 2001, Le Guin became the first woman to be inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Until 2009, Le Guin was a member of the Author's Guild. She is a follower of Taoism, and a mother of three children.
Now 84 years old, Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Charles Le Guin, and her cat, Pard. In recent interviews, Le Guin has admitted the thought of finishing another full-length novel is not strictly possible, and so, she writes mostly poetry.
Part of Le Guin's mark on science fiction can be distilled into her creation of the term "ansible", which she coined in Rocannon's World. An ansible is commonly described as a communication device, though it can take other forms. Since it's inception in 1966, the ansible has become an invariable part of science fiction, being used by authors like Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Moon, and others.
Written by Red_Harvey
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Greats of Science FictionNon-Fiction
This collection of writer profiles aims to showcase the history and lives behind some of the greatest Science Fiction writers the genre has seen. From the early 'greats' and 'masters' of the Science Fiction world to some of the 'genre shakers' who h...