Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Courtesy Flickr user K. Kendall (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkendall/8356005183)Visonary science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin has died.

Born Ursula Kroeber in Berkeley, California, Le Guin loved fantasy and sci-fi as a child, though the latter fell out of her favor when she began to find the frequent themes of militaristic conquest overly repetitive and distasteful.  Her studies in graduate school at Columbia University centered on Romance Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and her own (never published) first attempts at novel writing were set in a more realistic world.

She returned to the fantastical worlds of her youth, however, with her first published novel, Rocannon's World, which was published in 1966, followed by A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968.  Despite her publisher's request that she craft what would become the Earthsea Trilogy as books for young adults, Le Guin drew her stylistic and thematic inspiration from complex sources.  The books are reminiscent of Tolkien in their scope, but also draw on Le Guin's deep understanding of Taoist texts, from which she drew the concept of a natural balance which must remain in harmony.

For Le Guin, fantasy was a way not of escaping reality, but of laying it bare, making it just strange enough for readers to want to examine it closely.  One of her most famous works, The Left Hand of Darkness, offered an a look at a culture without the concept of binary gender long before the topic reached the mainstream.  In addition to becoming a regular addition to classroom reading lists, The Left Hand of Darkness won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the highest honors in science fiction.

Le Guin's honors were not limited to the realm of genre fiction, though she did win nearly every award on offer for science fiction and fantasy, some more than once.  She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her collection Unlocking the Air and Other Stories, and in 2014 received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in honor of her lifetime achievements.

In her acceptance speech for this honor, Le Guin pushed for support of writers of literature in all its forms, including those dismissed as "genre fiction."  "Hard times are coming," she said, "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. We'll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality."

Ursula Le Guin passed away on January 22nd, 2018, after several months of ill health.  She was 88.

 

No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters Cover Image
By Ursula K. Le Guin, Karen Joy Fowler (Introduction by)
$22.00
ISBN: 9781328661593
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Houghton Mifflin - December 5th, 2017

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ace Science Fiction) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780441007318
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Published: Ace Books - July 1st, 2000

The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780061054884
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Published: Harper Voyager - October 20th, 1994

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780547722023
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Houghton Mifflin - September 11th, 2012

The Lathe of Heaven Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781416556961
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Published: Scribner Book Company - May 1st, 2008

The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle #2) Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780689845369
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Published: Saga Press - September 1st, 2001

Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781618731340
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Published: Small Beer Press - October 18th, 2016

The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780689845345
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Saga Press - September 1st, 2001

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels and Stories: A Library of America Boxed Set Cover Image
$80.00
ISBN: 9781598535372
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Published: Library of America - September 5th, 2017

The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Stories Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780060914349
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Published: Harper Perennial - December 14th, 2004

The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781590300060
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Published: Shambhala - February 17th, 2004

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780544611610
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Published: Mariner Books - September 1st, 2015

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781481475976
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Published: Saga Press - November 7th, 2017

Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #5) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780547773704
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Published: Houghton Mifflin - September 11th, 2012

The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3) Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9781442459939
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Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - September 11th, 2012

Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle #4) Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781442459960
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Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - September 11th, 2012

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781481451406
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Published: Saga Press - November 7th, 2017