- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 April 2009 12.07 BST
Le Guin picked up the award for her young adult novel Powers, the third in her Annals of the Western Shore saga which follows the adventures of a runaway young slave with amazing powers of memory. She beat a shortlist that also included Terry Pratchett for Making Money, Cory Doctorow for Little Brother and Ian McDonald for Brasyl.
Already the recipient of five Nebula awards, as well as five Hugos, a National Book Award and a Grand Master award, Le Guin, 79, is the author of 22 novels, more than 100 short stories, seven books of poetry and 12 books for children.
The Nebulas are voted for by the 1,500-plus author members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and together with the Hugos are seen as the most important of the American science fiction awards. The first ever Nebula was won by Frank Herbert's Dune in 1965; other past winners include Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Ringworld by Larry Niven and The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. Last year's award was won by Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
This year's prize ceremony also saw Stainless Steel Rat creator Harry Harrison honoured as a Grand Master for a career that spans more than 50 years and 62 novels. On learning of his win last year, Harrison said he could "recall with a tear in one rheumy eye" the moment when the SFWA was first mooted, more than half a century ago. "Enough! Let's look to the future not the past as we go from strength to strength and march – banners flapping – into the SF future," he said.
The Ray Bradbury award for outstanding dramatic presentation went to Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly television series. "Future is my business because I write fictionalised scientifics, or as the kids call it now, fi-sci," said Whedon in a video acceptance speech sent to the ceremony. "There is no bigger influence on my writing than Ray Bradbury – he is the forefather of us in so many ways. Nobody made fi-sci more human, more exciting ... It's stayed with me my whole life even before Stephen King, Frank Herbert and so many people I admire – Bradbury was the first."
The best novella Nebula went to Catherine Asaro's The Spacetime Pool, the best novelette to John Kessel's Pride and Prometheus and the best short story prize to Nina Kiriki Hoffman's Trophy Wives.