Ursula K. Le Guin

1929 -

American writer and critic

Ursula K. Le Guin published her first science fiction novel in 1966, and by 1970 was considered one of the most important writers within the field. Her reputation has now extended far beyond the readership of genre science fiction, and academia studies her works more than those of any other modern science fiction writer.

Much of Le Guin's work, covering about 2500 years of future history beginning 300 years from now, is set in a common universe, seeded with human life by the people of the planet Hain. Generally known as the Hainish series, it consists of five novels, two novellas and several short stories, among them The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), the first work of Le Guin's maturity as a writer, and a winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel. The fifth and last novel in the sequence, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974) also won a Hugo and a Nebula, and is widely regarded as her most richly textured science fiction work.

Le Guin also wrote works outside the Hainish sequence. Among these are The Lathe of Heaven (1971), a novel set in the imaginative territory generally associated with Philip K. Dick, and telling of a man who through his dreams can bring alternate reality structures into being; and several short stories, including the Hugo-winning "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973), a bitter, deft parable about the cost of the good life, and "Nine Lives" (1969), a moving story of clones mining an alien planet. Le Guin's fantasy stories may be her most personal and popular work. The austere but vivid Earthsea trilogy, begun in 1968, is a major work whose appeal goes far beyond the teenage audience for whom it was intended.

Le Guin has been honored with five Hugos and four Nebula awards, and in 1989 received the Pilgrim Award for services to science fiction criticism. All along she has demonstrated through example how the traditional novelist's interest in character and moral growth need not be alien to science fiction.

Selected Bibliography:
Rocannon's World (1966)
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
The Word for World is Forest (1976)
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
Always Coming Home (1985)

Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright © John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.