Ursula K. Le Guin, Fantasy and Science-Fiction Pioneer, Dead at 88

Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of groundbreaking works of fantasy and science fiction, has died at 88. The New York Times reports that Le Guin died on Monday at her home in Portland, Oregon. Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, did not specify a cause of death, but said she had in been in poor health in recent months. Le Guin’s most famous works include the Earthsea series, a collection of fantasy stories set in a mystical world with arcane rules surrounding the use and balance of magic, as well as the somewhat connected Hainish Cycle of science-fiction novels like The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, imagined a culture of beings with no fixed sex. The book, like much of Le Guin’s work, interrogated widely accepted ideas about gender and sexuality from a feminist perspective. Though her work became accepted into mainstream circles, and her novels became fixtures of school curricula, Le Guin held the literary establishment at a distance throughout her life, insisting on the importance of genre work that could be stigmatized as unliterary. “I am getting really sick of being referred to as ‘the legendary,’” she told The New Yorker in a 2016 profile. “I’m right here. I have gravity. A body and all that.”

Ursula K. Le Guin Dead at 88