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Ursula K. Le Guin Passes Away at 88

"The New York Times" reports that the landmark author of "The Left Hand of Darkness" and the "Earthsea" novels has died.

Ursula K Le Guin feature
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away Monday at her home in Oregon. She was 88.

A winner of multiple Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, Le Guin was also named a Grandmaster of Fantasy by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2003. 

Ursula K. Le Guin Harlan Ellison
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  • Le Guin with Harlan Ellison at Westercon in 1984.

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The late author is perhaps best known for her seminal 1969 Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which is set on a planet without the gender distinctions of Earth. Le Guin later told The Guardian that she eliminated gender in the book in order to "find out what was left. Whatever was left would be, presumably, simply human."

The daughter of two prominent anthropologists, much of Le Guin's work depicts worlds with attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and all aspects of power that differ greatly from our own. She also strove to tell stories that reflected the diversity of the world around her.

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In 2004, the SyFy channel adapted Le Guin's Earthsea books, but cast white actors to play characters of color. In a column for Slate, she spoke out about the whitewashing, and said that her decision to make the protagonists in Earthsea people of color was deliberate: "I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn't see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had "violet eyes"). It didn't even make sense."

She retained that outspoken sense of integrity throughout her life. At the 2014 National Book Awards, Le Guin accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from Neil Gaiman and delivered a bold speech in which she denounced the "inescapable" sway of capitalism and encouraged writers to remember the power of their art to incite change. 

Although Le Guin told Den of Geek in 2015 that she didn't spend much time pondering her own legacy, she was disturbed that women writers were often unjustly forgotten after death: "It’s awful to think that you might just get sort of swept off the map simply because you were a woman writer instead of a man writer. You know, what the hell?"

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Le Guin was a force of nature who challenged our expectations for genre fiction, and we can only hope that her work continues to receive the acclaim it deserves for generations. 

The New York Times reports that Le Guin leaves behind over 20 novels, more than 100 short stories, and multiple books for children, as well as essay collections, novels she translated, and a guide for modern writers

Want more Le Guin? Check out some of her titles below.

Featured photo via Wikimedia Commons.