Prolific science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away on Monday. Per the New York Times, Le Guin’s son Theodore Downes-Le Guin confirmed her passing and said that she had been in poor health for several months prior. She was 88.
Le Guin is best known for the Earthsea series and books such as The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Lathe of Heaven. She submitted her first story for publication aged 11 (it was rejected) and penned more than 20 novels, 100 short stories, a dozen books of poetry, and 13 children’s books during her career. Her works are highly imaginative, combining standard sci fi and fantasy elements with progressive themes and philosophy.
Tired of reading the same sci fi stories about white men conquering the universe, she wrote with the intent of provoking thoughts, subverting tropes, and exploring new ideas. She believed that as an author, her writing could be a moral force, and it was her “pleasant duty” to give readers “the best and purest nourishment” that they could absorb. A feminist, she began writing male heroes because the genre called for it, but refused to give in to macho tendencies and posturing. The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, features a race of people who are neither male nor female. She described the novel as an experiment to see what was left when gender was stripped away. Other moral themes she explored through her stories included class division, cultural conflict, and environmentalism.
Her books won many awards, including the prestigious Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards on multiple occasions, and she was made the 20th Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization. Her novels are often studied at a high school and university level.
Le Guin is cited as an influence and inspiration by many speculative fiction writers, and her works are beloved by readers around the world. She is survived by her husband and three children, but will leave behind a legacy bound to captivate, inspire, and entertain many generations of readers now and to come.