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Encyclopedia > Ursula LeGuin
Ursula K. Le Guin at an informal bookstore Q&A session, July 2004

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (born October 21, 1929), is an American author. While she has written novels, poetry, childen's books, and essays, she is best known for her science fiction and fantasy, which she has written in the form of novels and short stories. Le Guin has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958. The daughter of the anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber, Le Guin is noted for her exploration of Taoist, anarchist, feminist, psychological, and sociological themes and for her exemplary style.

First published in the 1960s, she is now regarded as one of the best science fiction authors. 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.



Her interests in literature manifested themselves early. At the age of 11, she submitted her first story to Astounding Science Fiction (it was not accepted.) She attended Harvard University's Radcliffe College, then Columbia University, graduating with an M.A. She later studied in France, where she met her husband, Charles Le Guin. Her earliest writings (little of which were published at the time, but some of which resurfaced in altered form years later in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena), were nonfantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a publishable way to express her interests, she re-awakened her interest in science fiction, beginning to publish regularly in the early 1960s. She became notable with the publication of her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Much of Le Guin's science fiction work is distinguished from other examples of the genre by its strong emphasis on the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology. Her works often make use of unusual alien cultures to convey a message about our own culture; one example is the exploration of sexual identity via the gender-shifting natives of The Left Hand of Darkness.


Le Guin is known for her ability to create believable worlds populated by deeply human characters (regardless of whether they are technically 'human'). Her fantasy works (such as the Earthsea books) are much more focused on the human condition than are works by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien. However, away from the everyday level, they share with Tolkien – and, by definition, with most epic high fantasy – the illiberal notion that only the "true king" can save the world's broader problems. 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 the near future.


Earthsea (fantasy)

The Earthsea novels

The Earthsea short stories

Ekumen (science fiction)

Novels of the Ekumen

Short stories from the Ekumen

  • "The Matter of Seggri", 1994, (winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award; found in The Birthday of the World)
  • "Solitude", 1994, (winner of the Nebula Award; found in The Birthday of the World)
  • "Mountain Ways", 1996, (winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award; found in The Birthday of the World)
  • "Old Music and the Slave Women", 1999 (found in Far Horizons, ed. Robert Silverberg; also in The Birthday of the World)
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness, 1995 (Four Stories of the Ekumen)

Miscellaneous novels and story cycles

Short story collections

Children's and YA books

The Catwings Collection

  • Catwings, 1988
  • Catwings Return, 1989
  • Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, 1994
  • Jane on Her Own, 1999


  • Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, 1976
  • Fish Soup, 1992
  • A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, 1992



  • The Language of the Night, 1979, revised edition 1992
  • Dancing at the Edge of the World, 1989
  • Steering the Craft, 1998 (about writing)
  • The Wave in the Mind, 2004


  • Wild Oats and Fireweed, 1988
  • Going Out with Peacocks and Other Poems, 1994


  • Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching, a Book about the Way & the Power of the Way, 1997 (a translation and commentary)
  • Kalpa Imperial, 2003, from Angélica Gorodischer's Spanish original.
  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, from Gabriela Mistral's Spanish originals.
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.


In a February 2004 on-line Q&A session organized by The Guardian, Le Guin was asked whether she pronounced her surname the French way or as most of her English-speaking fans did ("Luh Gwinn"). Her reply was Taoist in its duality: "Een zees country we say Luh Gwinn. En France nous disons Le Guin, comme le vin or le gain." [1] (http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,6000,1144428,00.html)

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Author Q & A with Ursula Le Guin - Literary Fiction (1623 words)
Ursula took time from her writing schedule to share a bit about her writing life and the art of writing.
Ursula Le Guin: I have written a good deal about this, in my recent book The Wave in the Mind, and elsewhere.
Ursula Le Guin: It is about a boy who grows up in slavery but doesn't realise anything's wrong about slavery, since he is treated almost as a member of the family -- until something goes very wrong indeed.
Ursula LeGuin - A Wizard of Earthsea (1396 words)
LeGuin was born October 21, 1929, the fourth child and only daughter of Alfred Kroeber, a noted anthropologist, and Theodora Kroeber, a psychologist and writer who collected Native American folktales and wrote the biography of a primitive individual plunged into the modern world.
LeGuin then began working on a Ph.D. but met her husband (Charles A. LeGuin) on a trip to France in 1953 and married him that December.
Ursula LeGuin works not with a theology but with an ecology, a cosmology, a reverence for the universe as a self-regulating structure.
  More results at FactBites »



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