In Memoriam- Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin (b.1929) died on January 22. Le Guin was named a Damon Knight Grand Master by the SFWA in 2003.

Le Guin’s wrote for all ages and her Earthsea cycle, beginning with The Wizard of Earthsea, introduced many readers to fantasy and the wizard Ged. She wrote novels such as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven to explore her themes for a more mature audience, but no matter what she wrote, the sense of wonder and excellent world-building existed throughout her work.

Her works explored gender roles, including genderless societies, and she introduced the concept of the ansible to subvert the problem of faster-than-light communications, an idea which has been incorporated by other authors as well. As befitting a woman whose parents were cultural anthropologists, Le Guin’s fiction relied on sociology, psychology, and anthropology to explore the human condition.

Her anthropological novel Always Coming Home included a cassette of music of the Kesh, the people featured in the novel.

Le Guin won the Nebula Award four times, for her novels The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, Tehanu, and Powers, as well as for her short story “The Day Before the Revolution” and the novelette “Solitude.” The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed also won the Hugo Award as did her short fiction ”The Word for World is Forest,” “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelos,” and “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight.”

She also won a Hugo for Best Related Work last year for Words are My Matter. She was the Guest of Honor at Aussiecon, the 1975 Worldcon, and received a Gandalf Grand Master Award that same year. She has been honored with a Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to scholarship and a Life Achievement World Fantasy Award. In 2001, she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “This is a loss beyond words and it’s difficult to speak to even a fraction of the sadness in my heart. Ursula was one of our champions, who unflinchingly spoke truth, who led us forward with the strength of the lantern she carried, who showed us how heroes behave in both her stories and the way she wrote them. I feel as though one of the pillars holding up the sky has been kicked away.”