Ursula K. Le Guin 1929-2018, American science fiction and fantasy author, essayist and critic, is our #WCW of the week. Inspired by her upbringing in Berkeley, California, her father, an anthropologist, was an expert on Californian Indian cultures and founder of the Anthropology Department at the University of California Berkeley. Her mother had a graduate degree in psychology and later became a writer in her own right.
Le Guin’s own academic start included a master’s degree in French from Columbia University, which led to her pursuing a doctorate degree focused on Medieval French Poetry. Her studies brought her to Paris as a Fulbright Scholar where she met and married the french historian Charles Le Guin and decided to quit her doctoral studies. At the same time, as she was just starting a family of her own, she began her career as a full-time writer. Her first published science fiction novel was Rocannon’s World in 1966, having published poems and short stories up until that point. She released two more novels the next couple of years: Planet of Exiles and City of Illusions joined Roconnan’s World to become the Hainish Trilogy. Many more critically acclaimed novels, essays, poetry, historical fiction, picture books, and young adult literature followed. Influences such as the teachings of Carl Jung, Taoism, anthropology and themes of gender, race, alternative social and political systems appear throughout her writing. In the essay No Time to Spare written within a year of her death in 2018 Le Guin explains her attraction to the subversive nature of the fantasy genre, writing, “Fantasy not only asks ‘What if things didn’t go on just as they do?’ but demonstrates what they might be like if they went otherwise.”
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