Ursula K. Le Guin, acclaimed science fiction writer, dead at 88

Posted January 25, 2018

URSULA K Le Guin, who has died aged 88, was an influential American author who predominantly worked in the fields of science fiction and fantasy.

Her unique approach attracted fans the world over: Ursula K. Le Guin's books have been translated into over 40 languages, selling millions of copies worldwide.

Le Guin was born in Berkeley, Calif., and married Charles Le Guin, a historian, in Paris in 1953. She carved out such a distinctive voice that critic Harold Bloom placed her in the pantheon of fantasy writers alongside J.R.R. Tolkien, while the Earthsea series is oft considered a precursor to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, as it tells of a boy-wizard in a quest against evil.

Le Guin was the author of 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, 13 books for children, many short stories as well as literary criticism, according to her website. Her father had told her, she said, that the word "genius" should be "saved for people who were really different in kind from other people - sui generis".

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Le Guin once said that at vulnerable moments, the thought of dying intruded along with the question "who is going to keep me alive?" Just as an example, when she began to publish the "Earthsea" books in the late-'60s, there were a lot of characters that weren't white, and that was a pretty big deal if the only other thing you were seeing was Lieutenant Uhura on "Star Trek". She refused, signing off: "Gentlemen, I just don't belong here".

In her writing and in her life, Ursula Le Guin refused to blindly accept how the world is supposed to work. Three years later, her break-out novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, provided a jolt to the genre and changed the course of science fiction.

Throughout her career, Le Guinwon major speculative fiction awards the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award and World Fantasy Award, each a couple of times. She always kind of went her own way. She consciously set off to question what came before her in fantasy and science fiction, especially in terms of race and gender.

Le Guin pointed out that her essays, written between 2010 and 2016, lack the political and moral weight of Saramago's; her topics are more personal - old age, literature, feminism, food banks and education, interspersed with stories about her cat, Pard.

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Le Guin was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards.

"The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art".

Her work often explored sociology and politics, from the anti-colonial and environmentalist themes of "The World for World is Forest" to the otherworldly anarchist imaginings of "The Dispossessed".

The later books revisited and revised the setting, with Le Guin taking into account feedback from readers with "a tremendous capacity for self-criticism", Mieville said.

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