Ursula Le Guin, the definitive female Science Fiction author for many, including us, has died at the age of 88 at her home in Portland, Oregon. Her son, Theo Downes Le Guin reported that she had been ill for several months, leading up to her death, but he hasn’t reported the cause of her passing.
Le Guin was one of the true pillars of SF – from writing some of its smartest and most impressive works, to calling out authors like Margaret Atwood for standing apart from SF, she brought a true intelligence and unabashed pride to the genre she cared so deeply for.
Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2013, she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction – being one of the few women to claim that honour.
The Left Hand of Darkness was one of her most famous works, which boldly tackled gender perceptions by presenting us with a race of people who don’t have gender distinctions (“I eliminated gender to find out what was left,” she once told The Guardian). A Wizard of Earthsea – her key fantasy series – is another popular Le Guin work.
Personally, The Word for World is Forest has always been my choice – it stands as my favourite book, not only by Le Guin by from any author. The Dispossed is a close second. I discovered Le Guin at university and she made a strong impression on me, remaining an influence on my writing ever since.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way when I say she very best that our genre had to offer and her passing is a great loss for Science Fiction. Maybe this week, instead of your usual read, pick up a Le Guin book instead – maybe one of your favourites or one you never got around to (I’ll be opting for The Wind’s Twelve Quarters & the Compass Rose) – and crack that open, in memory of the best “grandmaster” we ever had.
Image credits: Ursula Le Guin