It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of science fiction’s most influential authors. I grew up reading her work, and her death hit particularly close to home.
My first taste of her fiction was the novelette Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight. In it, a lost child tumbles into the world of Southwestern US desert folklore and lives for a while with the trickster Coyote. As a young person fighting to survive in a disturbing, chaotic world, the tale really resonated with me.
Le Guin’s writing often depicted alternative worlds in politics, gender, religion, sexuality, and ethnography. She widened the horizons of countless readers and future authors. In 2016, The New York Times described her as “America’s greatest living science fiction writer.”
During her lengthy career Le Guin won numerous science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and lifetime achievement awards. For novels alone, she won five Locus, four Nebula, two Hugo, and one World Fantasy Award. To me she is arguably one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.
The death of a great author always comes as a shock. Perhaps subconsciously I expect that they, like their work, will live forever. It’s startling and saddening to see that they’re just as mortal as the rest of us.
Le Guin passed away January 22, 2018, at her home in Portland, Oregon. Her New York Times obituary called her “the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea series.” She will live on through her writing, and through her influence on countless science fiction and fantasy authors –both today and for generations to come.