Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the greatest SF writers of the 20th Century, died yesterday.
Le Guin was equally at home in both science fiction and fantasy, and won virtually every accolade our field has to offer. Her novel The Dispossessed (1974) won the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo Awards, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) won both the Hugo and Nebula, and her Earthsea novel The Other Wind (2001) won the World Fantasy Award. The third Earthsea novel, The Farthest Shore, won the 1973 National Book Award. She won the Hugo Award in virtually every category available to writers, including Best Short Story (“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” 1974), Best Novelette (“Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” 1988), Best Novella (The Word for World Is Forest, 1976), and Best Related Work (her essay collection Words Are My Matter, 2016). She won the Locus Award a record nineteen times. Unlocking the Air and Other Stories was one of three finalists for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize.
In 1995 Le Guin was presented with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and in 2003 she became a SFWA Grand Master Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Science Fiction Writers of America. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001, and in April 2000 the U.S. Library of Congress made her a Living Legend in the “Writers and Artists” category. In 2016 The New York Times described her as “America’s greatest living science fiction writer.”
In the Times obituary today Gerald Jonas wrote:
Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Several, including The Left Hand of Darkness — set on a planet where the customary gender distinctions do not apply — have been in print for almost 50 years.
Beyond all the awards and accolades, Le Guin remained an active voice in the field, speaking out in support of her fellow science fiction writers. When she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2014 she praised her fellow SF authors in her acceptance speech, and she famously declined the Nebula award for her novelette “The Diary of the Rose” (1976) to protest SFWA’s treatment of Stanisław Lem.
While the work of most of her contemporaries remains long out of print, Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels and short stories remain widely popular today, and in the past two years she has been celebrated with high profile reprint collections including the two volume Collected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin from Saga Press, and the beautiful boxed set The Hanish Novels and Stories from the Library of America.
Our previous coverage of her remarkable career includes:
A Treasure Trove of Classic Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels and Stories from the Library of America
We All Need to Read More Le Guin: The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin, by Steve Case
The Collected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin from Saga Press
Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Le Guin on Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant
Marooned Spacemen, Forgotten Planets, and Alien Dragons: Rich Horton on Rocannon’s World/The Kar-Chee Reign
Other SF writers we’ve lost in 2018 and 2017 are remembered here.