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Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (born 1929) is an American author. She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, and short stories, most notably in the fantasy and science fiction genres.
Le Guin was first published in the 1960s. Her works explore philosophical, psychological and sociological themes. 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.
Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, the daughter of the anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber. Her father was granted the first Ph.D. in Anthropology in the United States in 1901 (Columbia University). She became interested in literature when she was very young. At the age of eleven she submitted her first story to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction (it was rejected).
She received her M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She later studied in France, where she met her husband, historian Charles Le Guin. They were married in 1953. Le Guin has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958. She has three children and four grandchildren.
Le Guin's earliest writings (little published at the time, but some appeared in adapted form much later in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena), were non-fantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a publishable way to express her interests, she returned to her early interest in science fiction and began to be published regularly in the early 1960s. She became famous after 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 places a strong emphasis on the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology. Her writing often makes use of unusual alien cultures to convey a message about our own culture: one example is the exploration of sexual identity through the hermaphroditic race in The Left Hand of Darkness.
A number of Le Guin's science fiction works, including her award-winning novels The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, are set in a future, post-Imperial galactic civilization loosely connected by a co-operative body known as the Ekumen. The Ekumen is not a governing body, but rather a conduit for the exchange of information, goods, and mutual cultural understanding. Novels such as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Telling deal with the consequences of the arrival of Ekumen envoys (known as ”mobiles”) on remote planets and the culture shock that ensues.
The Ekumen possesses not faster-than-light travel, although the Ekumen possesses a means of instantaneous interstellar communication, through a device called the ansible, the invention and consequences of which form the main plot of The Dispossessed. In this loose background scenario, the human species originated on the planet Hain in the distant past, near the galactic center. Because te galactic empire lacked faster-than-light travel or communication, it collapsed. Thousands of years passed, during which time the populations of many outlying planets became so isolated from the central galactic civilization that they lost all knowledge of their origins.
Photo: Eileen Gunn.