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Le Guin to be presented Lifetime Achievement Award

Ursula K. LeGuinThe National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, will this year have Neil Gaiman present Ursula K. Le Guin their 27th lifetime achievement award, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, at a ceremony in November.

In their Press Release, the NBF explains their reasons for choosing the 84 year old to join the ranks of other distinguished authors such as Ray Bradbury, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King and Judy Blume: “In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient. For more than forty years, Le Guin has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction.”

Essentially, Le Guin was an author way ahead of her time. In many of her incredibly popular Science-Fiction and Fantasy books, Le Guin challenges readers’ pre-existing beliefs and forces questions about gender, race and society. However, the author of a highly regarded book on writing prose, no one could ever accuse Le Guin of allowing instrumentalism to dampen the ability to enjoy of her work. Her stories and prose are always beautiful, fluent and addictive.

Le Guin’s award seems timely when we consider many of the arguments that engulfed our genre earlier this year. Le Guin famously asked “why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill” and “why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white.”

It wasn’t just the state of fantasy authors Le Guin challenged either. Some readers may remember that Le Guin has of numerous occasions criticised literary awards. However, in recent years Le Guin told The Associated Press that: “Well, it’s taken the literary/critical/academic establishment 60 or 70 years to learn to respect good science fiction and fantasy, but hey, you’ve come a long way, baby!”

In another email to The Associated Press, Le Guin has since confirmed that she is grateful for being Ursula K. Le Guin, honorary National Book Award winner.

Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director, said: “She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”


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