Science fiction and fantasy writers around the Pacific Northwest and around the world are paying tribute to award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin, who died peacefully at the age of 88 on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore.
“She left an extraordinary legacy as an artist and as an advocate of peace and critical thinking and fairness, and she was a great mother and wife as well,” The Associated Press quoted her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, as saying. He told The New York Times that her mother had been in poor health for several months.
Le Guin was best-known for her exploration of feminist themes in books such as “The Left Hand of Darkness,” a 1969 novel set on a planet whose inhabitants have no fixed sex. Her magic-infused Earthsea series of novels made as much of an impact in their day as J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
The best-known screen adaptation of her work is arguably “The Lathe of Heaven,” a tale of reality-altering dreams that was set in Portland, made into a movie in 1980, and remade for television in 2002.
Le Guin won all the major honors of the science-fiction field — including Hugos, Nebulas and Locus awards. But she bristled a bit at being pigeonholed. “I know that I am always called ‘the sci-fi writer.’ Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while i really live in several boxes,” she said in a widely quoted 2000 interview.
Her 1983 speech to graduates at Mills College, titled “A Left-Handed Commencement Address,” is considered a classic.
“Why should a free woman with a college education either fight Macho Man or serve him? Why should she live her life on his terms? … I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated,” she said.
Le Guin was born in Berkeley, Calif., and married Charles Le Guin, a historian, in Paris in 1953. They settled in Portland in 1958 and raised three children there.
Pacific Northwest writers and institutions figured prominently in the outpouring of condolences on social media. Here’s a sampling:
From Seattle’s Clarion West writers workshop:
Today we bid farewell to Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), a legend of science fiction and four-time instructor at Clarion West. Thank you. 🚀
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."―Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
— Clarion West (@ClarionWest) January 23, 2018
From Brenda Cooper, science fiction writer and chief information officer for the city of Kirkland, Wash.:
Ursula is gone. A hero. A fighter. A wonderful writer and poet. A leader in writing as resistance.
— brendacooper (@brendacooper) January 24, 2018
From Cat Rambo, Seattle writer and president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:
Oh man. This loss to the field hurts like a knife. https://t.co/tbv5ExlggA
— 🌈RainbowRiotRambo🦄 (@Catrambo) January 23, 2018
From Nisi Shawl, Seattle-based science fiction and fantasy author:
The great and grand and extraordinary Ursula K. Le Guin walks the Earth no more.
— Nisi Shawl (@NisiShawl) January 23, 2018
From Kris Rusch, Oregon-based novelist and former editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:
I saw Ursula K. Le Guin trending, and I hoped she had received another honor. Instead… I am gutted. I’ve loved her work from the moment I first discovered her essays, which led me to her fiction. I’ve had the honor of working with her. Will miss her forever. #UrsulaKLeGuin
— KristineKathrynRusch (@KristineRusch) January 23, 2018
Other reactions came from farther afield:
Usula K. LeGuin, one of the greats, has passed. Not just a science fiction writer; a literary icon. Godspeed into the galaxy.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 23, 2018
I just learned that Ursula K. Le Guin has died. Her words are always with us. Some of them are written on my soul. I miss her as a glorious funny prickly person, & I miss her as the deepest and smartest of the writers, too. Still honoured I got to do this: https://t.co/U4mma5pJMw
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) January 23, 2018
I am very very sad. What an immense imagination, what a strong and trenchant mind… https://t.co/RfG8uySfmX
— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) January 23, 2018
It was a privilege to have been one of Ursula Le Guin’s students, long ago. Her passionate voice still resonates. https://t.co/0SydVa2le4
— David Brin (@DavidBrin) January 24, 2018
Ursula, you changed the world. What a privilege to have read you, to have met you. You weren't just a literary genius: you were a person knew your own mind, and you were wickedly funny.
Come back, god dammit.
— Elizabeth Bear (@matociquala) January 23, 2018
And one more from the late unequalled Ursula Le Guin:
“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”
— Lev Grossman (@leverus) January 24, 2018