First published in the 1960s, she is now regarded as one of the best science fiction authors and has received several Hugo and Nebula awards. The daughter of anthropologist A.L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, Le Guin is noted for her exploration of Taoist, Anarchist, feminist, psychological, and sociological themes and for her exemplary style.
Le Guin was born on October 21, 1929, as Ursula Kroeber (the K in her name). Her parents, Alfred and Theodora, were an anthropologist and a short story writer respectively. Her interests manifested themselves early. At the age of 11, she submitted her first story to Astounding Science Fiction (it was not accepted.) She attended Harvard University's Radcliffe college, then Columbia University, graduating with an M.A. She later studied in France, where she met her husband, Charles Le Guin. Her earliest writings (little of which were published at the time, but some of which resurfaced in altered form years later in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena), were nonfantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a publishable way to express her interests, she re-awakened her interest in science fiction, beginning to publish regularly in the early 1960s. She became notable with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969.
Much of Le Guin's science fiction work is distinguished from other examples of the genre by its strong emphasis on the 'social' sciences, including sociology and anthropology. Her works often make use of unusual alien cultures to convey a message about our own culture; one example of this is in the exploration of sexual identity via the gender-shifting natives of The Left Hand of Darkness.
Le Guin is known for her ability to create believable worlds populated by deeply human characters (regardless of whether they are human or not.) Her fantasy works (such as the Earthsea books), are much more focused on the human condition than are works by authors such as JRR Tolkien. Le Guin has also written fiction set much closer to home; many of her short stories are set in our world, in the present, or the near future.
Her fiction includes:
- (The Earthsea books)
- /Rocannon's World
- Planet of Exile
- The Left Hand of Darkness
- The Dispossessed
- Always Coming Home
- The Lathe of Heaven
- The Telling
Short story collections:
- The Compass Rose
- A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
- Worlds of Exile and Illusion (omnibus)
- The Wind's Twelve Quarters
- Unlocking the Air and Other Stories
- Orsinian Tales
- Fish Soup
Le Guin has also published nonfiction and poetry.
- The Language of the Night
- Dancing at the Edge of the World
- Steering the Craft (about writing)
- Wild Oats and Fireweed
- Going Out with Peacocks and Other Poems