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Ursula Kroeber Le Guin ( ; born October 21, 1929) is an American author. She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, and short stories, most notably in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. First published in the 1960s, her works explore Taoist, anarchist, ethnographic, feminist, psychological and sociological themes.

Personal life

Le Guin was born and raised in Berkeley, Californiamarker, the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. In 1901 Le Guin's father earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States from Columbia University and went on to found the second department, at the University of California, Berkeleymarker. Theodora Kroeber's biography of her husband, Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration, is a good source for Le Guin's early years and for the biographical elements in her late works, especially her interest in social anthropology.

Le Guin received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She later studied in Francemarker, where she met her husband, historian Charles Le Guin. They were married in 1953.

She became interested in literature when she was very young. At the age of eleven she submitted her first story to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was rejected. Her earliest writings, some of which she adapted to include in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena, were non-fantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a publishable way to express her interests, she returned to her early interest in science fiction and began to be published regularly in the early 1960s. She received wide recognition for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.

In later years, Le Guin did work in film and audio. She contributed to The Lathe of Heaven, a 1979 PBS Film based on her novel of the same name. In 1985, she collaborated with avant-garde composer David Bedford on the libretto of Rigel 9, a space opera.

Le Guin has lived in Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker, since 1958. She has three children and four grandchildren.


Le Guin has received five Hugo awards and six Nebula awards , and was awarded the Gandalf Grand Master award in 1979 and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003. She has received nineteen Locus Awards for her fiction, more than any other author. Her novel The Farthest Shore won the National Book Award for Children's Books in 1973.

Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbournemarker, Australia. She received the Library of Congressmarker Living Legends award in the "Writers and Artists" category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. In 2004, Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children's May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award. She was honored by The Washington Center for the Book for her distinguished body of work with the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for Writers on 18 October 2006. Robert A. Heinlein in part dedicated his 1982 novel Friday to Le Guin.


Much of Le Guin's science fiction places a strong emphasis on the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology, thus placing it in the subcategory known as soft science fiction. Her writing often makes use of alien cultures to convey a message about human culture in general. An example is the exploration of sexual identity through an androgynous race in The Left Hand of Darkness. Such themes can place her work in the category of feminist science fiction, but not necessarily so. Her works are also often concerned with ecological issues.

In her writing, Le Guin makes use of the ordinary actions and transactions of everyday life. For example, in 'Tehanu' it is central to the story that the main characters are concerned with the everyday business of looking after animals, tending gardens and doing domestic chores. While she has often used otherworldly perspectives to explore political and cultural themes, she has also written fiction set much closer to home; many of her short stories are set in our world in the present or near future.

Several of Le Guin's science fiction works, including her novels The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, belong to her Hainish Cycle, which details a future, galactic civilization loosely connected by an organizational body known as the Ekumen. Many of these works deal with the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures. The Ekumen serves as a framework in which to stage these interactions. For example, the novels The Left Hand of Darkness and The Telling deal with the consequences of the arrival of Ekumen envoys (known as "mobiles") on remote planets and the culture shock that ensues.

Unlike those in much mainstream science fiction, none of the civilizations Le Guin depicts possess reliable faster-than-light travel, with the exception of unmanned FTL monitors and bombers . Instead, Le Guin created the ansible, a device that allows instantaneous communication up to 120 light years. The term and concept have been subsequently borrowed by several other well-known authors.

Adaptations of her work

Few of Le Guin's major works have been adapted for film or television. Her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven has been adapted twice. First, in 1980 by thirteen/WNET New Yorkmarker, with her own participation, and again in 2002 by the A&E Network.

In the early 1980s animator and director Hayao Miyazaki asked permission to create an animated adaptation of Earthsea. However, Le Guin, who was unfamiliar with his work and anime in general, turned down the offer. Several years later, after seeing My Neighbour Totoro, she reconsidered her refusal, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki. The third and fourth Earthsea books were used as the basis of the 2005 animated film . The film, however, was directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro, rather than Hayao Miyazaki himself, and Le Guin has expressed mixed feelings toward it.

In 2004 the Sci Fi Channel adapted the first two books of the Earthsea trilogy as the miniseries Legend of Earthsea. Le Guin says that she was "cut out of the process" of this adaptation and that the miniseries was a "far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned." As a result of copyright issues stemming from miniseries, the animated film cannot be released in the United Statesmarker until 2009.

In the 1980s, the CBC Radio anthology program 'Vanishing Point' adapted 'The Dispossessed' into a series of six 30 minute episodes and 'The Word for World Is Forest' as a series of three 30 minute episodes.

On May 11, 2009, Motoko Rich, writing in the New York Times, reported on Le Guin's surprise at finding pirate copies of her works on the web site Scribd.


Earthsea (fantasy)

Earthsea novels

Note: The short story "Dragonfly" from Tales from Earthsea, 2001, is intended to fit in between Tehanu and The Other Wind and, according to Le Guin, is "an important bridge in the series as a whole".

Earthsea short stories

Hainish Cycle (science fiction)

Hainish Cycle novels

Hainish Cycle short stories

Poetry and Stories of Orsinia

Miscellaneous novels and story cycles

Note: Le Guin has said that The Eye of the Heron might form part of the Hainish cycle.

Short story collections

Books for children and young adults

The Catwings Collection

Annals of the Western Shore

  • Gifts, 2004 (PEN Center USA 2005 Children's Literature Award)
  • Voices, 2006
  • Powers, 2007 (Nebula Award winner, 2008)

Other books for children and young adults

  • Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, 1976, ISBN 0-15-205208-9
  • Leese Webster, 1979, ISBN 0-689-30715-2
  • Solomon Leviathan's Nine Hundred and Thirty-First Trip Around the World, 1984, ISBN 0-399-21491-7
  • A Visit from Dr. Katz, 1988, ISBN 0-689-31332-2
  • Fire and Stone, 1989, ISBN 0-689-31408-6
  • Fish Soup, 1992, ISBN 0-689-31733-6
  • A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, 1992, ISBN 0-531-07079-4
  • Tom Mouse, 2002, ISBN 0-7613-1599-3




Translations and renditions

Le Guin has published many works that are not listed here. Many works were originally published in science fiction literary magazines. Those that have not since been anthologized have fallen into obscurity.


Further reading

  • Bloom, Harold, ed., "Ursula K. Leguin: Modern Critical Views" (Chelsea House Publications, 2000)
  • Brown, Joanne, & St. Clair, Nancy, Declarations of Independence: Empowered Girls in Young Adult Literature, 1990–2001 (Lanham, MD, & London: The Scarecrow Press, 2002 [Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature, No. 7])
  • Cart, Michael, From Romance to Realism: 50 Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)
  • Cummins, Elizabeth, Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin, rev. ed., (Columbia, SC: Univ of South Carolina Press, 1993). ISBN 0-87249-869-7.
  • Davis, Laurence & Peter Stillman, eds, The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Dispossessed" (New York: Lexington Books, 2005)
  • Erlich, Richard D. Coyote's Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin (1997). Digital publication of the Science Fiction Research Association (2001 f.):/>.
  • Egoff, Sheila, Stubbs, G. T., & Ashley, L. F., eds, Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature (Toronto & New York: Oxford University Press, 1969; 2nd ed., 1980; 3rd ed., 1996)
  • Egoff, Sheila A., Worlds Within: Children’s Fantasy from the Middle Ages to Today (Chicago & London: American Library Association, 1988)
  • Lehr, Susan, ed., Battling Dragons: Issues and Controversy in Children’s Literature (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995)
  • Lennard, John, Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction (Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2007)
  • Reginald, Robert, & Slusser, George, eds, Zephyr and Boreas: Winds of Change in the Fictions of Ursula K. Le Guin (San Bernadino, CA: Borgo Press, 1997)
  • Rochelle, Warren G., Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001)
  • Sullivan III, C. W., ed., Young Adult Science Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999 [Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 79])
  • Trites, Roberta Seelinger, Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000)
  • Wayne, Kathryn Ross, Redefining Moral Education: Life, Le Guin, and Language (Lanham, MD: Austin & Winfield, 1995)
  • White, Donna R., Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics (Ontario: Camden House, 1998 [Literary Criticism in Perspective])

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