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Ursula K. Le Guin, award-winning science fiction writer, has died at 88

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Ursula K. Le Guin died on Tuesday in Portland, Oregon. (Courtesy Marian Wood Kolisch)

Acclaimed science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin died Monday in her hometown of Portland, Ore., her agent confirmed. Le Guin was 88.

Although best known for her science fiction — particularly the Earthsea series — Le Guin was a creative, curious writer whose more than two dozen books encompassed fiction, poetry, essays, criticism, children’s books, works of translation, fantasy and even blogging.

Le Guin was born Oct. 21, 1929, the daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber, an acclaimed anthropologist who recorded Native American oral histories, and Theodora Kroeber, who penned the widely read book about a California Indian, “Ishi in Two Worlds.”

She was raised in Berkeley, Calif., where she crossed paths in high school with another science fiction giant — Phillip K. Dick. Le Guin went on to get her undergraduate degree at Radcliffe followed by a master’s degree at Columbia in French and Italian literature and then earned a Fulbright scholarship that took her to France. It was there that she met her husband, Charles Le Guin. Together they settled in Portland, Ore.

Le Guin published her first book, “Rocannon’s World,” in 1966. It was followed in 1968 by “A Wizard of Earthsea,” a fantasy novel that cemented her reputation and launched her most famous series, which ultimately included six books.

Le Guin’s stories offered hyperbolic representations of our own world and imagined new ways of being. She confronted American capitalism in “The Dispossesed,” erased gender in “The Left Hand of Darkness,” and wove commentary about violence, materialism and humanity throughout her body of work.

“I love concrete facts, whether they’re real or invented,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. “Part of the grip of fantasy is the day-to-day realism of the story.”

She was a winner of the National Book Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula and many other honors.  In 2014, when she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, Le Guin took the opportunity to take a room packed with major publishers and literary elite to task.

“I rejoice in accepting [this award] for and sharing it with all the writers who were excluded from ‘literature’ for so long — my fellow writers of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination who over the past 50 years watched the beautiful awards go to the so-called ‘realists.’ I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.”

LeGuin’s most recent book, “No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters,” was published in December. It collected posting from her blog — and stories about her cat.

Tribune News Service contributed to this story.

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