Ursula K. Le Guin, who died on Jan. 22, 2018, at the age of 88, was a pioneering sci-fi and fantasy author who broke ground both as a woman in a male-dominated genre and with her themes and approach. She was also a poet and nonfiction writer. Le Guin used conflict, change and the meeting of differences to challenge notions of gender and alien-ness (The Left Hand of Darkness). She created with beautiful concreteness societies ranging from an anarchist “ambiguous utopia” (The Dispossessed) to one in which dreams change past and present reality (The Lathe of Heaven). Most of her characters were dark-skinned. She was a political as well as literary rebel, an anti-war activist and feminist (somewhat late-blooming, by her own admission).
You can read about Le Guin blasting the “Right-Winged Loonybirds” who took over an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016 here, listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s stirring tribute to her here, or watch her excoriate capitalism’s influence on the arts below. This inspiring speech, which she gave in accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards, included this prophecy: “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now.” Ursula K. Le Guin, yours will be missed.