Authors Profiles

Author Profile: Ursula LeGuin

A profile of author Ursula LeGuin. (Also a feature of March 2011 Women’s History Month)

Poet and Author Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin is an American author who is best known for her fantasy and science fiction novels.  She has also written children’s books, poetry, essays, and many short stories.

She was born as Ursula Kroeber in 1929, and was raised in Berkeley, California.  Her father, Alfred L. Kroeber, was given the first Ph.D. of Anthropology in the United States, and her mother was the writer Theodora Kroeber. Ursula developed an interest in literature and social sciences at a young age.  She even submitted a story to Astounding Science Fiction magazine when she was eleven, but it was rejected.

Ursula achieved her B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She continued her studies in France, where she met the historian Charles Le Guin, and married him in 1953.

Ursula Le Guin first wrote short stories that were relatively non-fantastical, but had difficulty in publishing them.  She did not find literary success until she resumed her focus on creating science fiction tales, which began to be published in the early 1960’s.

Le Guin made her debut as a novelist in 1966 with Rocannon’s World, about a scientist who tries to save a colony from hostile alien invasion. Her fame grew exponentially after she won the Hugo and Nebula awards for her 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness.

First Hardcover edition of The Left Hand of Darkness, offered by L. W. Currey, Inc.

Ursula K. Le Guin has so far published seven books of poetry, twenty-two novels, over a hundred short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, and four volumes of translation. Many of her creations involve themes from Taoism, anarchy, ecology, psychology and sociology.  She broaches subjects such as race and sexual identity with a clear purpose, often using alien cultures to show something about humanity.

Her awards are numerous.  Le Guin has received five Hugo awards and six Nebula awards, which is quite a laudable feat!  She was also awarded the 1979 Gandalf Grand Master award, and in 2003, was given the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award. She set records by receiving nineteen Locus Awards for her fiction, as well as many more lifetime achievement awards throughout the years.

Ursula Le Guin continues to write from her home in Oregon, and takes an active stance in the world of authorship and copyright. In December 2009, Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its endorsement of Google’s book digitization project, which was recently overturned by a NYC judge. “You decided to deal with the devil,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle.

“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin

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