Award-winning fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin passes away

Jan 25, 2018, 01:51
Award-winning fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin passes away

Le Guin was 88. She was one of the greats.

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 first rose to wider public prominence with 1969's The Left Hand of Darkness, the fourth book in the Hainish series, which introduced the genderless race the Gethenians, and set off feminist debates around science fiction - a genre more usually populated by male writers - in a manner to which it was unused.

Le Guin's first novel was "Rocannon's World" in 1966 but she gained fame three years later with "The Left Hand of Darkness", which won the Hugo and Nebula awards - top science fiction prizes - and conjures a radical change in gender roles well before the rise of the transgender community. Fighting dragons with sorcery, her characters face conflicts without reverting to the brand of machismo that is typically found in the genre. Her books avoid simple black-and-white moral victories, and don't draw stark distinctions between good and evil. Speaking prophetically at the 2014 National Book Awards, Le Guin said, "I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society". "I'm not. I'm a novelist and poet", she told The Paris Review.

Le Guin didn't only defend literature of the imagination, but literature full stop. "There was never a wasted conversation". "I really didn't think anybody outside that room of 700 people would pay any attention", she said.

Neil Gaiman, a seven-time Hugo victor, remembered Le Guin for her wit and brains.

"Her words are always with us".

Gaiman tweeted: "I miss her as a glorious amusing prickly person, and I miss her as the deepest and smartest of the writers, too". Grace Paley ("one of the best writers we had going"), Le Guin anxious, was dropping out of canon.

"She is a master storytell (er)". "Multiple generations of her spiritual children, making the genre more humane and expansive, and better than it would have been without her". When she began publishing as an adult in the 1960s, sci-fi and fantasy had few women and no respect.

"We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable", she said. So did the Divine Right of Kings.

In that same documentary, Neil Gaiman summed her up by saying: "She is willing to change the landscape of your head with her ideas and there's such power in that".

A year ago I wrote an introduction to Ursula K. Le Guin's collection of blog posts, "No Time to Spare".

Critic Harold Bloom placed her in the pantheon of fantasy writers along with JRR Tolkien.

After graduating from Berkeley High School, Le Guin studied for a BA in French and Italian Literature at Radcliffe College in Massachusetts and an MA in the same subject at Columbia University in NY, graduating in 1952.

Le Guin is survived by her husband, Charles Le Guin, her son Theo, and daughters Caroline and Elisabeth, two brothers, and four grandchildren. In addition to writing over 20 novels, Le Guin has also authored a dozen poetry books, more than a 100 short stories, seven collections of essays, 13 books for children and five volumes of translation.

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