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In 1953, Le Guin received a Fulbright scholarship, which allowed her to travel to France. There she met and married Charles A. Le Guin in Paris.[1] After returning from France, Le Guin taught French first at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia (1954–55) and then at the University of Idaho (1956).

Her children Elizabeth, Caroline, and Theodore were born in 1957, 1959, and 1964, respectively.[1]

In 2013, the Portland Playhouse and Hand2Mouth Theatre produced a stage-adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness, directed and adapted by Jonathan Walters, with text adapted by John Schmor.[2] The play opened May 2, 2013 and ran until June 16, 2013 in Portland, Oregon.[3]

Preliminary Bibliography

Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics (Literary Criticism in Perspective) - Donna White[4]

Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin (Essays on teh Columbian Encounter) - Elizabeth Cummins[5]

Ursula K. Le Guin - Charlotte Spivack[6]

Presenting Ursula Le Guin - Suzanne Elizabeth Reid[7]

Getting Away with Murder: The Millions Interviews Ursula K. Le Guin[8]


'The Left Hand of Darkness is a 1969 science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is part of the Hainish Cycle, a series of books by Le Guin set in the fictional Hainish universe, which she inaugurated in 1966.[10] It is among the first books published in the feminist science fiction genre, and the most famous examination of sexless androgyny in science fiction.[11]

Left Hand won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards as the year's "best novel" according to convention participants and science fiction writers respectively.[12] In 1987, Locus: The magazine of the science fiction & fantasy field ranked it number two among "All-Time Best SF Novels", based on a poll of subscribers.[13][a] That same year, Harold Bloom edited a critical anthology about the book and said in the introduction that "Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time".[14]


Le Guin's introduction to the 1976 publication of the book identifies "Left Hand of Darkness" as a "thought experiment" to explore society without men or women, where individuals share the biological and emotional makeup of both genders.[15]


The Left Hand of Darkness is set in the "Hainish" universe, which Le Guin introduced three years earlier in Rocannon's World, her first novel. The series describes the interplanetary expansion started by the first race of humanity on the planet Hain, leading to the formation of the League of All Worlds, and eventually expanding to the eighty-three world collective called the Ekumen.

This novel takes place many centuries in the future - no date is given, though the year 4870 has been suggested.[16] An envoy, Genly Ai, is on a planet called Winter, or "Gethen" in the indigenous language, to convince the citizens to join the Ekumen. Winter is, as its name indicates, a planet that is always cold, and its citizens are “ambisexual,” spending the majority of time as asexual “potentials.” They only adopt gendered attributes once-monthly, during a period of sexual receptivenesss and high fertility, called kemmer, in which individuals can assume male or female attributes, depending on context and relationships. These conditions have affected the ways that civilizations on Winter have developed, with the most notable effect being that there has never been a war on the planet.

Plot summary[edit]

Genly Ai, a Terran native, is sent to represent the Ekumen, the intergalactic coalition of humanoid worlds, on the frozen planet Gethen, also called Winter. After landing in Karhide, a Gethen kkingdom, Genly makes little progress, though he seems to have convinced the Karhiddish Prime Minister, Estraven, of the value of joining the Ekumen. However, the night before his first audience with the king, Ai begins to doubt Estraven's loyalty because of his strange, effeminate ambiguity. The next day, as he prepares to meet the King, Ai learns that Estraven has been accused of treason, and fled to a neighboring country, Orgoreyn. After meeting with the King, who rejects his invitation to join the Ekumen, Ai decides to pursue his mission in Orgoreyn.

Where the people of Karhide's actions were dictated by shifgrethor, an intricate set of unspoken social rules and formal courtesy, Orgorets are technically organized and practically logical. They provide Ai with comfortable habitations and ask direct questions. He presents his invitation to a board of governors, relieved that he has nearly reached success. Yet, Ai senses an unspoken aura of fear, and Estraven warns him not to trust the Orgorets. He ignores both his feeling and the warning, and is once again blindsided. Overnight, Ai is sent to a far-northern work camp to meet his death by cold, labor, and sterilizing drugs.

To Ai's surprise, Estraven-- the person Ai least trusts-- goes to great lengths to save him. After breaking out of the work camp, the pair begin the 80-day trek across the Gobrin Glacier back to Karhide, where Estraven believes they will finally be able to maneuver acceptance of the Ekumen treaty. Only by working together, learning to trust and accept one another's differences, are the pair able to succeed. When they reach Karhide, Estraven is killed, and Genly realizes he has lost a beloved friend. Above all, Estraven was loyal to Ai's mission: the greater good of universal humanity, above the personal or patriotic. Through Estraven and Ai's collaboration, and the powerful political fallout of Estraven's death, the mission of the Ekumen is accomplished. Karhide will join, followed by Orgoreyn.



At first, a large part of the novel seems to be an exploration of a neuter society—a society in which sexual difference plays no role, although love and jealousy remain. The world of Gethen has no history of war, but Le Guin has Genly Ai's narration state that the exact reason for this is unresolved. It could be due to the Gethenians' unique biology (the absence of a deep sense of duality implied by strong gender divisions may cause the Gethenians to lack a necessary component of nationalism), or it could simply be a side effect of the planet's harsh climate, limiting warfare to small skirmishes by simple economics.

Also related is the far slower pace of technological development. The Gethenians are mentioned as having gone through a very slow-paced and gradual industrialization, with many semi-feudal social institutions left intact, rather than the breakneck industrial revolution which Earth experienced since the 18th Century. In one episode, it is specifically mentioned that a particular type of truck has been in use for centuries, almost unchanged, and that Gethenians feel no special need to improve on it and develop a more advanced model. Like the above, this may be related to the absence of a sharp male/female dichotomy, or may simply be a side-effect of Gethen's meager natural resources, which are deficient not only in pure raw materials, but also in certain forms of inspiration (Genly Ai speculates at one point that the Gethenians' failure to invent the airplane may be due to the planet's lack of any airborne animals).


The book features two major religions: the Handdara, an informal system reminiscent of Taoism and Buddhism, and the Yomeshta or Meshe's cult, a close-to-monotheistic religion based on the idea of absolute knowledge of the entirety of time attained in one visionary instant by Meshe, who was originally a Foreteller of the Handdara, when attempting to answer the question: 'What is the meaning of life?'. The Handdara is the more ancient, and dominant in Karhide, while Yomesh is the official religion in Orgoreyn. The differences between them underlie political distinctions between the countries and cultural distinctions between their inhabitants. Estraven is revealed to be an adept of the Handdara.


Genly is on Gethen as an envoy from the Ekumen. The envoy has trouble communicating with the Gethenians, because he doesn't understand shifgrethor. Using his ansible, Genly can communicate in real time with the Ekumen. In an attempt to prove that he is, indeed, an envoy from other civilizations, King Argaven asks off-planet correspondents of the Ekumen what makes a person a traitor. Although the message is received and answered, Argaven is not satisfied with the answer.

During Foretelling, a ritual of answering questions about the future, the Foretellers communicate in a deep and mystical way. Genly tries, with Faxe, the Weaver of the Foretellers, and later with Estraven, to engage in mindspeak, in part because he misses doing so, and in part because it is not possible to lie in mindspeech. When Estraven finally hears Genly's mindspeak for the first time, he is shocked and puzzled that Genly's mindspeaking voice is the voice of his dead sibling, because there are no lies in mindspeaking.

Loyalty and betrayal[edit]



The reader experiences Ai’s time on Gethen through a series of transcribed communications sent to the Ekumen– including his first-person narrative observations, ethnological reports, myths of the native cultures, and Estraven’s personal journal.[17] This form is known as an epistolary narrative mode, and is clear evidence that Le Guin’s anthropological background informs her writing. The interpolation of cultural myths and practices with traditional narrative creates a more fragmented and complex reading experience. For a 21st century reader, this innovation may be hard to appreciate, but the style markedly contrasted the (primarily male-authored) science fiction of the time, which was straightforward and linear.

Ai's first-person narration reflects his slowly developing view, and the reader's knowledge and understanding of the Gethens evolves with Ai's awareness. He begins in naiveté, gradually discovering his profound errors in judgement.[17] In this sense, the novel can be thought of as a Bildungsroman, or coming of age story, as the reader experiences the central character's growth.


Algis Budrys praised the novel as "a narrative so fully realized, so compellingly told, so masterfully executed." He found the book "a novel written by a magnificent writer, a totally compelling tale of human peril and striving under circumstances in which human love, and a number of other human qualities, can be depicted in a fresh context."[18]

Harold Bloom listed The Left Hand of Darkness in The Western Canon (1994) as one of the books in his figuration of the Western Canon[19] saying that "LeGuin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time".[14]

Left Hand won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards as the year's "best novel" according to convention participants and science fiction writers respectively.[12] In 1987, Locus: The magazine of the science fiction & fantasy field ranked it number two among "All-Time Best SF Novels", based on a poll of subscribers.[13][b]


There was no introduction to the original 1969 version of the book, but Ursula Le Guin wrote one for the 1976 edition after reflecting on her work. In her introduction, she defines the nature and purpose of science-fiction writing, and also describes her intent in writing the novel. She insists that science-fiction writing is not "extrapolative," but rather, it is describing an overarching truth that the author reveals in an often complex and ambiguous way. In addition, she generalizes the purpose of novels by saying that good novels are meant to change the reader in an indescribable way after they have completed reading the book. She then progresses to broadly state that the entire fictional genre is a metaphor, but narrows her emphasis by stating that the future especially (in fictional writing) cannot be described in any other way than metaphorical terms.

Primary Characters[edit]

Genly Ai[edit]

Ai is the main character of the story, often called "Genry" by the Karhiders, who have trouble pronouncing the letter "L" in their language. At the start of the book, he has been on Gethen for one year attempting to join Gethen with the Ekumen as the first mobile and an envoy of the Ekumen. He arrived with basic information about the language and culture from a team of investigators who had come before him. In Karhide, the king is reluctant to accept his diplomatic mission. In Orgoreyn, Ai is seemingly accepted more easily by the political leaders, yet Ai is arrested, stripped of his clothes, drugged, and sent to a work camp. Rescued by Estraven, the deposed Prime Minister of Karhide, Genly realizes that cultural differences - specifically shifgrethor and gender roles[20] and Gethenian sexuality[21] - had kept him from understanding their relationship previously. During their eighty-one day journey across the frozen land to return to Karhide, Ai learned to understand and love Estraven.


Therem Harth rem ir Estraven is a Gethenian from the Domain of Estre in Kerm Land. He is the King's Ear (first minister) until exiled from Karhide after attempting to assuage the Sinnoth Valley Dispute with the Orgota.[22] Estraven attempts to help Genly in his Ekumenical pursuits by guiding him, although under the rules of shifgrethor direct advice is an insult, and aiding him with his political influence. Estraven made a societally-incorrect kemmering vow to his brother, Arek Harth rem ir Estraven, after they had produced a child together and therefore his vow made with Ashe is a "false vow, a second vow".[23]

Argaven XV[edit]

King Argaven Harge XV is the current king of Karhide. Initially he gave audience to Genly Ai, then exiled him and Estraven. He has sired seven children but has yet to bear "an heir of the body, king son".[24]


Commensal Obsle of the Sekeve District is an Orgota who once headed the Orgota Naval Trade Commission in Erhenrang. He is a short, inquisitive Orgota Commensal with small eyes, who seeks power and prestige for himself and for his government and wants to invite the Ekumen to Orgoreyn.


Pemmer Harge rem ir Tibe is King Argaven's cousin. Tibe is prone to orating and becomes the King's Ear after the exile of Estraven and becomes Regent after King Argaven becomes pregnant. Tibe is fervently against Genly Ai's mission and seems to want to start a war with Orgoreyn. He has Estraven killed at the Karhide/Orgoreyn border.


Throughout the novel, 'native' myths and legends are interspersed, illuminating the beliefs and psychology of the Gethenians and Estraven's unspoken past. One story discusses the place inside the storm, a quiet haven within a blizzard. Another discusses the roots of the Yomeshta cult (the 'official', organised religion of Orgoreyn, much younger than, but ultimately derived from, the immensely ancient Handdara philosophy/religion). One is an ancient Orgota creation myth. A fourth discusses what a traitor is (the story concerns an ancestor of Estraven).

The inhabitants of Gethen are sequentially hermaphroditic humans; for twenty-four days (somer) of each twenty-six day lunar cycle, they are sexually latent androgynes; and for the remaining two days (kemmer), they are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sex partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children. Throughout the novel Gethenians are described as 'he,' whatever their role in kemmer. This was also the case in Le Guin's pre-Left hand of Darkness short story Winter's King when it was originally published; but in the interests of equity, when it was republished it in the collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters, it was rewritten so that all Gethenians are referred to as 'she'.

Physically, the Gethenians are mostly brown-skinned, but within a wide compass of variations. Most do not have facial hair,[25] but their breasts are only a little larger than those of human males. The Envoy from Earth is darker-skinned (and taller) than most Gethenians, but can pass for a native while wearing indigenous clothing: the same was true of earlier observers who hid their identity.

It is suggested that the Gethenians were genetically engineered for hermaphroditism long ago by the original Hainish civilization, who planted colonies on many worlds, including Earth. That culture collapsed, and the Ekumen has only limited knowledge of the actions and motivations of their predecessors and their former colonies. The Gethenians might have been engineered to maximize reproductive success on the harsh glaciated world of Gethen, in an attempt to eliminate war, or as a social experiment.

Le Guin developed this idea out of a desire to explore what remained basic to human nature when biological gender was no longer a factor. The Left Hand of Darkness is a significant milestone in the increasing sophistication of the treatment of sex in science fiction that developed in the late 1960s and 1970s.


Shifgrethor is a fictional concept in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle universe, first introduced in The Left Hand of Darkness. It comes from an old Gethenian word for shadow. The concept is used by Karhidians only. They, being portrayed as the darker nation or Yin (in the idea of Chinese Tao) use this concept as a way of showing respect while on Orgoreyn they do not use shifgrethor but instead act in a direct manner with a falseness beneath it (they, seen as the lighter nation, or Yang).

According to Carrie B. McWhorter, shifgrethor can be defined simply as "a sense of honor and respect that provides the Gethenians with a way to save face in a time of crisis." [26]


Phobos Entertainment (Sandra Schulberg) acquired media rights in December 2004 and announced plans for a feature film and video game based on the book.[27]

In 2013, the Portland Playhouse and Hand2Mouth Theatre produced a stage-adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness, directed and adapted by Jonathan Walters, with text adapted by John Schmor. The play opened May 2, 2013 and ran until June 16, 2013 in Portland, Oregon.[28]

Le Guin at a bookstore Q&A session, July 2004
Born Ursula Kroeber
(1929-10-21) October 21, 1929 (age 88)
Berkeley, California, USA
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period c. 1962–present
Genre Science fiction, fantasy
Spouse Charles Le Guin (m. 1953–present); 3 children

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (/ˈɜːrsələ ˈkrbər ləˈɡwɪn/; born October 21, 1929) is an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has also written poetry and essays. First published in the 1960s, her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.

She was influenced by fantasy writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, by science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick (who was in her same high school class, though they didn't know one another), by central figures of Western literature like Leo Tolstoy, Virgil and the Brontë sisters, by feminist writers like Virginia Woolf, by children's literature like Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, by Norse mythology, and by books from the Eastern tradition such as the Tao Te Ching.[29][30][31][32][33] In turn, she influenced such Booker Prize winners and other writers, as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell – and notable futurism and fantasy writers like Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks.[29] She has won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once.[29][34]


Birth and family[edit]

Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber on 21 October 1929 in Berkely, California the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber.[17] In 1901, Alfred Kroeber earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States from Columbia University. He went on to establish the second anthropology department in the US, at the University of California, Berkeley.[35] Theodora Kroeber wrote a biography of her husband, Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration, as well as account of IshiIshi, a friend of the Kroeber family, and a North American Indian who lived most of his life with no contact with modern culture.[17]

Childhood and Education[edit]

Le Guin and her three older brothers (Karl, Thodore, and Cliffford) were encouraged to read and were exposed to her parents' dynamic friend group.[17] In retrospect, she is grateful for the ease and happiness of her upbringing.[17] The encouraging environment fostered Le Guin's interest in literature; her first fantasy story was written at age 9, her first science fiction story submitted for publication in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction at age 11.[17] The family spent the academic year in Berkely, retreating to a Napa valley estate in the summers. She was interested in biology and poetry, but found math difficult.[15] Le Guin attended Berkeley High School. She received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) in Renaissance French and Italian literature from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. in French and Italian literature from Columbia University in 1952. Soon after, Le Guin began her Ph.D. work and won a Fulbright grant to continue her studies in France from 1953-54.[17]

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1953, while traveling to France, Le Guin met her future husband, historian Charles Le Guin. They married later that year in Paris. After marrying, Le Guin chose not to continue her doctoral studies of the poet Jean Lemaire de Belges.[15]

The couple moved back to the US so Charles could pursue his Ph.D., first at Emory University from 1954–55, then at University of Idaho in 1956. During this time, Le Guin worked as a secretary and taught French at the university level. While in Idaho, Le Guin's first two children were born, Elizabeth (1957) and Caroline (1959). Later in 1959, the Le Guins moved to Portland, Oregon, where they still reside. Charles attained a teaching position at Portland State University.[17] During this time, Le Guin continued to make time for writing in addition to maintaining her family life. In 1964, her youngest child, Theodore, was born.[17]


London fulbright ( 1968–69) (75-76)

Writing career[edit]

She became interested in literature at a young age. At age 11, she submitted her first story to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was rejected.[36] She continued writing but did not attempt to publish for ten years.[15]

From 1951-1961, Le Guin wrote five novels, which publishers rejected because they seemed inaccessible.[15] She also wrote poetry during this time, including Wild Angels (1975).[15]

Her earliest writings, some of which she adapted in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena, were non-fantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a way to express her interests, she returned to her early interest in science fiction; in the early 1960s her work began to be published regularly. (One Orsinian Tale was published in the Summer 1961 issue of The Western Humanities Review and three of her stories appeared in 1962 and 1963 numbers of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, a monthly edited by Cele Goldsmith. Goldsmith also edited Amazing Stories, which ran two of Le Guin's stories in 1964, including the first "Hainish" story.)[10][37]

She received wide recognition for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970. Her subsequent novel The Dispossessed made her the first person to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel twice for the same two books.[38]

In later years, Le Guin worked 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. In May 1983, Le Guin delivered a well-received commencement address entitled "A Left Handed Commencement Address" at Mills College, Oakland, California. "A Left Handed Commencement Address" is included in her nonfiction collection Dancing at the Edge of the World.[39]


Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations both of dimensions of social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology, and psychology, leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction.[40] She has objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction.[36]

Le Guin deliberately addresses race and gender, informed by social science perspectives on identity and society. Most of Le Guin's characters are people of color, an intentional reflection of the non-white majority of humans; Le Guin attributes the frequent lack of characters in her books' character illustrations to publicists' unwillingness to contradict hegemonic science fiction racial paradigms.[41] Her writing often makes use of alien cultures to examine structural characteristics of human culture and society and their impact on the individual. In The Left Hand of Darkness, for example, she implicitly explores social, cultural, and personal consequences of sexual identity through a novel involving a human encounter with an unpredictably androgynous race.[42]

The Left Hand of Darkness, along with The Dispossessed and The Telling, are novels within Le Guin's Hainish Cycle, which employs a future galactic civilization loosely connected by an organizational body known as the Ekumen to consider the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures. Unlike those in much mainstream science fiction, Hainish Cycle civilization does not possess reliable human faster-than-light travel, but does have technology for instantaneous communication. This allows the author to hypothesize a loose collection of societies that exist largely in isolation from one another, providing the setting for her explorations of intercultural encounter. The social and cultural impact of the arrival of Ekumen envoys (known as "mobiles") on remote planets, and the culture shock that the envoys experience, constitute major themes of The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin's concept has been borrowed explicitly by several other well-known authors, to the extent of using the name of the communication device (the "ansible").[43]

Le Guin's writing notably employs the ordinary actions and transactions of everyday life, which place characters in relation to the physical world and to one another. For example, engaging characters in looking after animals, tending gardens, and doing domestic chores is central to the novel Tehanu. Themes of Jungian psychology also are prominent in Le Guin's writing.[44]


When asked about her influences, she replied, "Once I learned to read, I read everything," including Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, ord Dunsany's work, and The Worm Ouroboros.[45] She "blundered into science fiction" at age 11 or 12.[45] Sci-Fi / Fantasy.</ref>

In the mid 50s, she read The Lord of the Rings, which opened her eyes to the enormous possibility of the fantasy genre.[46]

A favorite book of Le Guin's father, the Tao Te Ching led her to challenge Western literary polarization of good and evil.[15] The Taoist influence can be seen in Le Guin's characters, who often must learn to observe before acting.[15][15] In 1997 she translated the work.[47]


Virgina Woolf

Google books controversy[edit]

In December 2009, Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its endorsement of Google's book digitization project. "You decided to deal with the devil", she wrote in her resignation letter. "There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle."[48][49]


Speculative Fiction[edit]

Recognizing her stature in the speculative fiction genre, Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia. That year she was also named the sixth Gandalf Grand Master of fantasy.[34] The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) gave her its Pilgrim Award in 1989 for her "lifetime contributions to SF and fantasy scholarship".[34] At the 1995 World Fantasy Convention she won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a judged recognition of outstanding service to the fantasy field.[34][50] The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001, its sixth class of two deceased and two living writers.[51] The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made her its 20th Grand Master in 2003.[52]

Particular works[edit]

Le Guin has won dozens of annual "year's best" literary awards. For novels alone she has won five Locus, four Nebula, two Hugo, and one World Fantasy Award. (The Dispossessed won the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo.) She has also won those four awards in short fiction categories, though she turned down a Nebula for her novelette The Diary of the Rose in protest at the Science Fiction Writers of America's treatment of Stanislaw Lem.[34][53] Her nineteen Locus Awards, voted by magazine subscribers, are more than any other writer has received.[54] Her third Earthsea novel, The Farthest Shore won the 1973 National Book Award for Young People's Literature[55] and she has been a finalist for ten Mythopoeic Awards, nine in Fantasy and one for Scholarship.[56] Unlocking the Air and Other Stories was one of three finalists for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[57]

Other lifetime honors[edit]

In April 2000 the U.S. Library of Congress made Le Guin a Living Legend in the "Writers and Artists" category for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage.[58] In 2002 she won a PEN/Malamud Award for "excellence in a body of short fiction".[59] In 2004 she received two American Library Association honors for her lasting contributions: for young adult literature, the annual Margaret A. Edwards Award; for children's literature, selection to deliver the annual May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture.[60][61] The annual Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work; the 2004 panel cited six works published from 1968 to 1990: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu (the first four Earthsea books), The Left Hand of Darkness and The Beginning Place. The panel said that Le Guin "has inspired four generations of young adults to read beautifully constructed language, visit fantasy worlds that inform them about their own lives, and think about their ideas that are neither easy nor inconsequential."[60]

At its 2009 convention, the Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded the Emperor Has No Clothes Award to Le Guin.[62] The FFRF describes the award as "celebrating 'plain speaking' on the shortcomings of religion by public figures".[63][c]

Adaptations of her work[edit]

Few of Le Guin's major works have been adapted for film or television. Her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven has been adapted twice: the first adaptation was made in 1979 by thirteen/WNET New York, with her own participation, and the second adaptation was made in 2002 by the A&E Network. In a 2008 interview, she said she considers the 1980 adaptation as "the only good adaptation to film" of her work to date.[36]

In the early 1980s animator and director Hayao Miyazaki asked permission to create an animated adaptation of Earthsea. However, Le Guin, who was unfamiliar with his work and anime in general, turned down the offer. Years later, after seeing My Neighbour Totoro, she reconsidered her refusal, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki.[66] The third and fourth Earthsea books were used as the basis of the 2006 animated film Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記, Gedo Senki). The film, however, was directed by Miyazaki's son, Gorō, rather than Hayao Miyazaki himself, which disappointed Le Guin. While she was positive about the aesthetic of the film, writing that "much of it was beautiful",[66] she took great issue with its re-imagining of the moral sense of the books and greater focus on physical violence. "[E]vil has been comfortably externalized in a villain", Le Guin writes, "the wizard Kumo/Cob, who can simply be killed, thus solving all problems. In modern fantasy (literary or governmental), killing people is the usual solution to the so-called war between good and evil. My books are not conceived in terms of such a war, and offer no simple answers to simplistic questions."[66]

In 1987, the CBC Radio anthology program Vanishing Point adapted The Dispossessed into a series of six 30 minute episodes,[67] and at an unspecified date The Word for World Is Forest as a series of three 30 minute episodes.[68]

In 2004 the Sci Fi Channel adapted the first two books of the Earthsea trilogy as the miniseries Legend of Earthsea. Le Guin was highly critical of the adaptation, calling it a "far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned", objecting both to the use of white actors for her red, brown, or black-skinned characters, and to the way she was "cut out of the process".[69]

Her novella, Paradises Lost, published in The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories, has been adapted into an opera by the American composer Stephen Andrew Taylor and Canadian librettist Marcia Johnson. The opera premiered April 26, 2012 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Illinois.[70]

In 2013, the Portland Playhouse and Hand2Mouth Theatre produced a stage-adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness, directed and adapted by Jonathan Walters, with text adapted by John Schmor. The play opened May 2, 2013 and ran until June 16, 2013 in Portland, Oregon.[28]

Selected works[edit]

Ursula K. Le Guin has written fiction and nonfiction works for audiences including children, adults, and scholars. Her most notable works are listed here.

Earthsea fantasy series[71]
Hainish science fiction series[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Le Guin's Left Hand ranked second to Frank Herbert's Dune (1965). In the 1975 rendition covering "novels"[1] it had ranked third behind Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1963).
    (The title "Locus Poll Best All-time Novel Results" alternately displays the standings generated by three different subscriber polls.)
  2. ^ Le Guin's Left Hand ranked second to Frank Herbert's Dune (1965). In the 1975 rendition covering "novels"[2] it had ranked third behind Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1963).
    (The title "Locus Poll Best All-time Novel Results" alternately displays the standings generated by three different subscriber polls.)
  3. ^ In the northwestern U.S., the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association gave Le Guin a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.[64] The Washington Center for the Book recognized her distinguished body of work with the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for Writers on October 18, 2006.[65]


  1. ^ a b Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth (1997). Presenting Ursula Le Guin. New York: Twayne. p. xiii. ISBN 0805746099. 
  2. ^ "The Portland Playhouse". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Portland Monthly. "Event Info: The Left Hand of Darkness". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  4. ^ White, Donna R. (1999). Dancing with dragons : Ursula K. Le Guin and the critics. Columbia, SC [u.a.]: Camden House. ISBN 1571130349. 
  5. ^ Cummins, Elizabeth (1993). Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin (Rev. ed. ed.). Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0872498697. 
  6. ^ Spivack, Charlotte (1984). Ursula K. Le Guin. Boston: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0805773932. 
  7. ^ Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth (1997). Presenting Ursula Le Guin. New York: Twayne. ISBN 0805746099. 
  8. ^ Morton, Paul. "Getting Away with Murder: The Millions Interviews Ursula K. Le Guin". The Millions. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Grossman, Lev. "An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin". Time Magazine Tech. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
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  11. ^ Reid, edited by Robin Anne (2009). Women in science fiction and fantasy. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 9, 120. ISBN 0313335893. 
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  13. ^ a b "Locus Poll Best All-time Novel Results: 1987, sf novels". Locus. Retrieved 2012-04-12. Originally published in the monthly Locus, August 1987. 
  14. ^ a b Modern Critical Interpretations: Ursula Le guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness", ed. Harold Bloom, 1987. Introduction by the editor, p. 10.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth (1997). Presenting Ursula Le Guin. New York: Twayne. ISBN 0805746099. 
  16. ^ "Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven and the Role of Dick: The False Reality as Mediator". Ian Watson. Science Fiction Studies #5 2.1 (March 1975).
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  18. ^ "Galaxy Bookshelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1970, pp. 144–45, 158.
  19. ^ "The Western Canon by Harold Bloom", Robert Treeter, 2002. List of works transcribed from Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994, Appendixes.
  20. ^ page 218
  21. ^ page 248
  22. ^ page 15
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  24. ^ page 100
  25. ^ page 56
  26. ^ McWhorter, Carrie B. "Brandishing Shifgrethor: LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness". Notes on Contemporary Literature. January, 1998: 28 (1).
  27. ^ "Phobos will embrace 'Darkness': Shingle planning pic, vidgame based on Le Guin tome". Dana Harris. Videogames News. December 12, 2004. Variety. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
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  30. ^ Rotella, Carlo (July 19, 2009). "The Genre Artist". The New York Times. 
  31. ^ "On Prospero's Island". Book View Cafe.
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  36. ^ a b c Lafrenier, Steve (December 2008). "Ursula K. Le Guin [interview]". Vice ( Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
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  38. ^ Freedman, Carl, ed. (2008). Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin (First ed.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. xxiii. The Dispossessed wins Hugo and Nebula awards, making Le Guin the first writer ever twice to win both awards simultaneously. 
  39. ^ "A left-handed commencement address". Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
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Further reading[edit]

  • Bernardo, Susan (2006). Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion (1st ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 
  • Bloom, Harold, ed., "Ursula K. Leguin: Modern Critical Views" (Chelsea House Publications, 2000)
  • Brown, Joanne, & St. Clair, Nancy, Declarations of Independence: Empowered Girls in Young Adult Literature, 1990–2001 (Lanham, MD, & London: The Scarecrow Press, 2002 [Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature, No. 7])
  • Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. 
  • Cart, Michael, From Romance to Realism: 50 Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)
  • Cummins, Elizabeth, Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin, rev. ed., (Columbia, SC: Univ of South Carolina Press, 1993). ISBN 0-87249-869-7.
  • Davis, Laurence & Peter Stillman, eds, The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Dispossessed" (New York: Lexington Books, 2005)
  • Erlich, Richard D. Coyote's Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin (1997). Digital publication of the Science Fiction Research Association (2001 f.):[5]
  • Egoff, Sheila, Stubbs, G. T., & Ashley, L. F., eds, Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature (Toronto & New York: Oxford University Press, 1969; 2nd ed., 1980; 3rd ed., 1996)
  • Egoff, Sheila A., Worlds Within: Children’s Fantasy from the Middle Ages to Today (Chicago & London: American Library Association, 1988)
  • Lehr, Susan, ed., Battling Dragons: Issues and Controversy in Children’s Literature (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995)
  • Lennard, John, Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction (Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2007)
  • Reginald, Robert, & Slusser, George, eds, Zephyr and Boreas: Winds of Change in the Fictions of Ursula K. Le Guin (San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1997)
  • Rochelle, Warren G., Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001)
  • Sullivan III, C. W., ed., Young Adult Science Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999 [Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 79])
  • Trites, Roberta Seelinger, Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000)
  • Wayne, Kathryn Ross, Redefining Moral Education: Life, Le Guin, and Language (Lanham, MD: Austin & Winfield, 1995)
  • White, Donna R., Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics (Ontario: Camden House, 1998 [Literary Criticism in Perspective])

External links[edit]


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