Top writers pay tribute to Earthsea creator Le Guin, dead at 88

Writer Ursula Le Guin Photo © by Marian Wood Kolisch

Author Ursula Le Guin, who has died at the age of 88. Photo © by Marian Wood Kolisch

Top writers led tributes Wednesday to fantasy and science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin, who has died at the age of 88.

Le Guin, perhaps best known for the fantasy Earthsea series, died at her home at Portland, in Oregon, on Monday.

Her son Theo said she had been in poor health for several months.

Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood all saluted her achievements as a writer of challenging, speculative fiction.

Atwood — author of the feminist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale — paid tribute to Le Guin’s “immense imagination”, her “strong and trenchant mind”.

King, in a post on Twitter, described her as “not just a science fiction writer but a literary icon.”

And Gaiman, author of the American Gods series, remembered her as “a glorious, funny, prickly person”, and “the deepest and smartest of writers”.

Le Guin’s first science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, won a string of awards and is today recognised as a classic of the genre.

That, and The Dispossessed, pulled off the rare feat of winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the top prizes in science fiction writing.

But Le Guin is also recognised as a writer whose work transcended both genres.

The Wizard of Earthsea, the first in the fantasy series

“The Earthsea stories are sometimes thought of being children’s literature although they are quite sophisticated,” Tony Burns

‘Sophisticated’ children’s literature

Tony Burns, associate professor of politics at Nottingham University, wrote a book about the political ideas in her writing. Her books experimented with ideas rarely found in conventional science fiction, he said.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, she described a species with no fixed gender, who go through different life cycles without knowing whether they will become male or female.

“It is a very imaginative thought experiment, inviting men in particular to think about how they treat women — and that’s why it’s of interest to feminists.” said Burns.

But when it first came out, in 1969, not all feminists approved, he added.

Even her work supposedly written for children is worthy of closer attention, said Burns.

“The Earthsea stories are sometimes thought of being children’s literature although they are quite sophisticated.

“I think philosophically, it is at a higher level than, say, something like the Harry Potter series.”

A documentary on her life and thought, The Worlds of Ursula Le Guin, is currently in post-production.

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