Ten Reasons to Love: Ursula K. Le Guin

21st Oct 2014

The multiple award winning author or The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed refuses to be pigeonholed by genre. Her genre-spanning work reflects on and explores the fluidity or both gender and literary form and Tina Crossgrove has the lowdown on why Ursula K. Le Guin should be next on your to-read list...

1. Lets start with some stats…

53—Years Ursula K. Le Guin has been publishing her various works.

19—Number of Locus Awards (awarded based on subscriber votes); this is more than any other writer in the history of the magazine/award.

3—The trifecta of Hugo Nebula, and Locus awards won by The Dispossessed,

2—The number of novels that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel (The Left Hand of Darkness in 1970 and The Dispossessed in 1975).

2. She’s genre-spanning

Though considered a speculative fiction writer, there isn’t a genre in which Ursula K. Le Guin hasn’t published—novels, short stories, poetry, children’s books, essays…she’s done it all over the course of her extensive career.

3. Gender in The Left Hand of Darkness

Left Hand of Darkness—Le Guin’s first foray into science fiction—remains one of the most influential novels of any genre in regards to an examination of the social construct and function of gender within society. 

4. She’s intensely private but dearly loves her fans

While Le Guin lives what many call an “intensely private” life, she will sign autographs for her fans. Want your own? The author also really enjoys fan mail, but please, don’t ask her to explain the plot of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas!

5. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

What’s the deal with The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, you ask? The Hugo Award winning short story is a philosophical allegory that features practically no plot and very sparse descriptions of characters but very detailed descriptions of the setting.

It is, perhaps, one of the most perplexing short stories ever written, and the topic of many a letter addressed to Ms. Le Guin!

6. She won’t be pigeonholed

Don’t pigeonhole Ursula K. Le Guin, she doesn’t like it.

“I don’t think science fiction is a very good name for it, but it’s the name that we’ve got. It is different from other kinds of writing, I suppose, so it deserves a name of its own. But where I can get prickly and combative is if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.”

You can read the full interview here.

7. She started her writing journey young!

Urusla K. Le Guin attempted to publish her first work of literature at the tender age of eleven. When asked in an interview with Vice, about her motivation for attempting to publish, Le Guin stated:

“My brother and I had been pooling our vast monetary resources to buy an occasional magazine, Astounding or Amazing or Thrilling Wonder. Twenty-five cents each. Some of the stories were good, some were pure pulp hackery. I thought, I write better than some of this stuff. So I wrote a modest story involving a time machine and the origin of life, and submitted it. It came back with a polite rejection letter, of which I was rightly proud.”

8. Her work’s anthropological nature

It’s no wonder that portions of Le Guin’s body of work is anthropological—both of her parents were anthropologists. Her father, Alfred Louis Kroeber, was the first person to receive a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University while her mother, Theodora Kroeber, published the book Ishi in Two Worlds, an account of her family’s friendship with the last of the Yahi tribe.   

9. She’s not just a fiction writer

Le Guin’s non-fiction work deserves to be read as frequently as her fiction. The short essay “Introducing myself,” for example,  tackles the generic use of “he” to stand for all people, the female body, sex, and aging. Included in the collection The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination, it begins thus:

I am a man. Now you may think I’ve made some kind of silly mistake about gender, or maybe that I’m trying to fool you, because my first name ends in a, and I own three bras, and I’ve been pregnant five times, and other things like that that you might have noticed, little details. But details don’t matter. If we have anything to learn from politicians it’s that details don’t matter. I am a man, and I want you to believe and accept this as fact, just as I did for many years.” 

10. Okay, a few more stats for you…

We began with a few stats, lets also end with one more:

2—the number of stories adapted into movies or TV series. The Earthsea series was adapted into a miniseries in the United States and into an animated series in Japan (Gedo Senki).

The Lathe of Heaven was adapted twice, once by PBS in 1980 and again in 2002 by A&E.  Le Guin considers the 1980 version the only “good” adaptation of her work to date, “Our budget was so small we couldn’t do retakes, and as for special effects, well, the Alien Space Ships are frisbees, and we had to choose which one of the Alien’s arms could move, because it cost too much to make both its arms move. But the directors understood the story and the actors did a beautiful job. The film is an oldie now, but it’s still a goodie.”  See here for more talk about the PBS version of The Lathe of Heaven:


[Feature Image: Wikipedia Commons]

What are your favourite books by Ursula K. Le Guin?

Have you got a reason to love her that we need to add to our list?Leave us a comment below!