Is Ursula K. Le Guin Proof That The Future is Female?
Before big names like J.K Rowling and Suzanne Collins made their names in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, there was Ursula K. Le Guin.
With a writing career spanning 60 years, this sci-fi grandmaster has cemented her legacy as one of the 20th century’s best novelists. Check out how she did it:
- She wrote her first story at 9 years old.
Born Ursula Kroeber in 1929, Ursula had an artistic upbringing. With an anthropologist father and a writer mother, Ursula was encouraged to explore different ideas and cultures from a young age.
Like a lot of other writers, her interest in stories started when she was young — she wrote her first short story when she was 9 and submitted to a science fiction magazine when she was 11.
After graduating from college, Ursula got a scholarship to study in France for a PhD. On board the ship to Europe, she met and fell in love with her husband. Their marriage put a pause on Ursula’s studies while she raised the family they built together.
2. She used her fiction to write about controversial real-world problems.
Ursula began her writing career after the birth of her children, and never stopped until her death. Her masterpieces, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness, became instant hits and are celebrated classics today.
Her fictional worlds attracted readers with its unique mix of realism and fantasy. By putting social issues like war and poverty in her fiction, her fantasy worlds seem that much closer to our own. Literary scholars are still studying her writing to understand how she viewed social inequality — a sign of her skill as a writer pioneering this style of fiction.
3. She earned her legacy as a writer.
Ursula was unique for her time — she was a female writer who received widespread acclaim at a time when male writers were dominating the literary scene. On top of that, she pushed the limits of a genre considered to be less serious than writing based on ‘realism’.
She often spoke about her views on gender inequality, fighting for mainstream acceptance of female writers in publishing. Take this letter she wrote in 1987 for example, to protest a lack of female writers in a sci-fi anthology she was asked to write a blurb for.
Ursula’s work won her 8 Hugo Awards and 6 Nebula Awards, two of the most prestigious science fiction writing prizes. In 2000, she was even named a Living Legend by the US Library of Congress!
4. She’s got some pretty big-name fans!
In 2018, Ursula passed away in her home, but her stories live on through the work of those inspired by her. Today, her fans include Salman Rushdie, Hayao Miyazaki and Neil Gaiman, who have spoken about Ursula’s effect on their work.
Jump into Ursula’s world, starting with these two classics:
- A Wizard of Earthsea — Ursula K. Le Guin | Physical Copy, eBook
- The Left Hand of Darkness — Ursula K. Le Guin | Physical Copy, Audiobook
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