Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (; October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018) was an American author. She was best known for her works of speculative fiction, including the science fiction works set in the Hainish Universe and the fantasy series of Earthsea. First published in 1959, her literary career spanned nearly sixty years, during which she released more than twenty novels and more than a hundred short stories, in addition to many volumes of poetry, literary criticism, translations, and children's books. Frequently described as author of science fiction, Le Guin has said she would prefer to be known as an "American novelist", and has been called a "major voice in American Letters".Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, to author Theodora Kroeber and scholar Alfred Louis Kroeber. Her father's anthropological interests had a significant influence on Le Guin. Having earned a Master's degree in French, Le Guin began doctoral studies, but abandoned these after her marriage in 1953 to historian Charles Le Guin. She began writing full-time in the 1950s, and achieved major critical and commercial success with A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) and The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), described by Harold Bloom as her masterpieces. For the latter volume Le Guin won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, becoming the first woman to do so. Several more works set in Earthsea or the Hainish Universe followed; other significant pieces include the experimental work Always Coming Home (1985), works set in the fictional country of Orsinia, and many anthologies.
She worked mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, and authored children's books, short stories, poetry, and essays. Her writing was first published in the 1960s and often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality, and ethnography. In 2016, The New York Times described her as "America's greatest living science fiction writer", She influenced Booker Prize winners and other writers, such as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell, and science fiction and fantasy writers including Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks. She won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2003, she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of a few women writers to take the top honor in the genre.