Ursula K. Le Guin imagined a larger reality, a new fiction award seeks to honor her legacy

Ursula K. Le Guin was a legendary Portland author who changed literature as we know it. At 5:30 p.m. Friday, on what would have been her 93rd birthday, we’ll find out who will win the first-ever Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. This new award, created by his son and literary executor Theo Downes-Le Guin, aims to honor his legacy by seeking out storytellers who are what Le Guin described as: “the realists of a larger reality.”

Le Guin believed in the power of words and ideas to shape and create new realities. But not only in his stories. Le Guin literally used this power to redefine an entire genre and literature as we know it. “She didn’t like the bashing of science fiction and fantasy,” Downes-Le Guin said. “I’m glad she lived to see a sea change in that regard, and I believe she brought about some of that change.”

Peace, hope and creation through the imagination are all common threads in his work.

“[Le Guin] believed we couldn’t change our world if we couldn’t imagine how it might change,” said Molly Gloss. Gloss is a local author, a longtime friend of Le Guin, and one of the five jurors who will select the winner of the Ursula K. Le Guin First Prize.

The nine books on this shortlist have “nine different forms of hope,” Gloss said.

Each story is “such a testament to the beauty, creativity, and skill of the people who are now storytellers in this tradition,” said Becky Chambers, author and Ursula K. Le Guin Award juror.

Le Guin was notoriously skeptical of awards, so designing one in his honor was particularly difficult.

Downes-Le Guin created this award to carry her mother’s legacy into the future, and also to continue her life’s work in providing support and resources to other writers.

The winner of the first-ever Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction will receive a life-changing sum of money, $25,000, with no strings attached. “I’m confident she would have supported that idea 100%,” Downes-Le Guin said.

The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction will be awarded during a virtual ceremony. For more information about the prize and the event, go to www.ursulakleguin.com/prize22.

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