Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (pronounced /ˈɝsələ ˈkroʊbɚ ləˈgwɪn/) (born October 21, 1929) is an American author. She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, and short stories, most notably in the fantasy and science fiction genres.
She was first published in the 1960s. Her works explore Taoist, anarchist, ethnographic, feminist, psychological and sociological themes. She has received several Hugo and 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 eighteen Locus Awards, 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 Melbourne, Australia. She received the Library of Congress 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. 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 Heinlein in part dedicated his 1982 novel Friday to Ursula.
Le Guin was born and raised in Berkeley, California, the daughter of the anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and Theodora Kroeber, a writer. In 1901 father was granted the first Ph.D. in Anthropology in the United States history by (Columbia University). Her mother's biography of Alfred Kroeber, 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.
She received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She later studied in France, 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 appear in adapted 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 gan to receive wide recognition after her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.
Le Guin has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958. She has three children and four grandchildren.
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 unusual alien cultures to convey a message about human culture in general, for example, the exploration of sexual identity through the androgynous race in The Left Hand of Darkness. Such themes place her work in the canon of feminist science fiction. Her works are also often concerned with ecological issues.
Le Guin's work is marked by the attention she pays to 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. Thus, her works can be seen as anthropological. She creates otherworldly perspectives to explore political and cultural themes. Le Guin 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, fit into the Hainish Cycle, which details a future, galactic civilization loosely connected by a organizational body known as the Ekumen. Many of these works deal with the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures and 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.
A notable feature of her science fiction work that sets it apart from much of mainstream hard science fiction is that none of the civilizations she depicts possess reliable faster-than-light travel. In response to this she created the ansible, a device which allows instantaneous communication over any distance. The term has been subsequently borrowed by several other well-known authors.
Despite her literary recognition, most of Le Guin's major works have yet to be adapted to film or television. Her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven has been adapted twice. First, in 1980 by thirteen/WNET New York, with her own participation, and again in 2002 by the A&E Network.
In the early 1980's animator and director Hayao Miyazaki had 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 stance, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki. Eventually The third and fourth Earthsea books were used as the basis of the 2005 animated film Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記, Gedo Senki?). However the film was directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro instead and Le Guin has expressed mixed feelings toward it. The first two books of the Earthsea trilogy have also been adapted, as the 2004 miniseries Legend of Earthsea by the Sci Fi Channel. This adaptation was frowned upon by Le Guin, who says that she was "cut out of the process" 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 is unable to be released in the United States until 2009.
Note: The short story "Dragonfly" from Tales from Earthsea 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".
Note: Le Guin has said that The Eye of the Heron might form part of the Hainish cycle. The other tales are unconnected with any of her other works, except that Malafrena takes place in the same realistic-but-imagined part of Europe as Orsinian Tales.
See also: "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"
Le Guin is a prolific author and 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.