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Le Guin was born and raised in Berkeley, California, the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. In 1901 Le Guin's father earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States from Columbia University and went on to found the second department, at the University of California, Berkeley. Theodora Kroeber's biography of her husband, Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration, is a good source for Le Guin's early years and for the biographical elements in her late works, especially her interest in social anthropology.
Le Guin received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Radcliffe College in 1951, and 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.
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. Her earliest writings, some of which she adapted to include 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 received wide recognition for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.
In later years, Le Guin did work in film and audio. She contributed to The Lathe of Heaven, a 1979 PBS Film based on her novel of the same name. In 1985, she collaborated with avant-garde composer David Bedford on the libretto of Rigel 9, a space opera.
Le Guin has lived in Portland, Oregon, since 1958. She has three children and four grandchildren.
Le Guin has received five Hugo awards and six 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. She has received nineteen Locus Awards for her fiction, more than any other author. Her novel The Farthest Shore won the National Book Award for Children's Books in 1973.
Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia. She received the Library of Congress Living Legends award in the "Writers and Artists" category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. In 2004, Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children's May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award. She was honored by The Washington Center for the Book for her distinguished body of work with the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for Writers on 18 October 2006. Robert A. Heinlein in part dedicated his 1982 novel Friday to Le Guin.
Much of Le Guin's science fiction places a strong emphasis on the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology, thus placing it in the subcategory known as soft science fiction. Her writing often makes use of alien cultures to convey a message about human culture in general. An example is the exploration of sexual identity through an androgynous race in The Left Hand of Darkness. Such themes can place her work in the category of feminist science fiction, but not necessarily so. Her works are also often concerned with ecological issues.
In her writing, Le Guin makes use of the ordinary actions and transactions of everyday life. For example, in 'Tehanu' it is central to the story that the main characters are concerned with the everyday business of looking after animals, tending gardens and doing domestic chores. While she has often used otherworldly perspectives to explore political and cultural themes, she has also written fiction set much closer to home; many of her short stories are set in our world in the present or near future.
Several of Le Guin's science fiction works, including her novels The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, belong to her Hainish Cycle, which details a future, galactic civilization loosely connected by an organizational body known as the Ekumen. Many of these works deal with the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures. The Ekumen serves as a framework in which to stage these interactions. For example, the novels 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.
Unlike those in much mainstream science fiction, none of the civilizations Le Guin depicts possess reliable faster-than-light travel, with the exception of unmanned FTL monitors and bombers. Instead, Le Guin created the ansible, a device that allows instantaneous communication up to 120 light years. The term and concept have been subsequently borrowed by several other well-known authors.
"The constant questioning of our values and achievements is a challenge with which neither science nor society can remain healthy. "
"Someday, on your tombstone, there will be two dates - and nobody realizes that all that mattered to you was that small dash in between"
In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
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