From the Writers & Company Archives: Ursula Le Guin

This summer, as part of Writers & Company's 20th anniversary celebration, the weekly podcast featured some of the best shows from the show's archives. We hope you enjoyed this opportunity to hear these programs that haven't been available as a podcast before.

And every week this summer, CBC Books has offered an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

In this week's Writers & Company podcast, which is our final archival feature for the summer, Eleanor talks with the celebrated American science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin. 

This interview originally aired on June 27, 1993.

You can listen to Writers & Company on CBC Radio One every Sunday at 3 p.m. ET and AT; 3:30 p.m. NT; 5 p.m. PT, MT and CT.


Ursula K. Le Guin is a surprising writer. She's a visionary with, as one critic put it, with "the knack of being self-critical, ironic and funny about her visions." 

The accomplished writer was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her father was a famous cultural anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber. And her mother, Theodora, started to write when she was in her fifties. She became known for her sensitive account of an American native called "Ishi," the only survivor of a people massacred by the North American pioneers.

Her parents had a strong influence on Ursula's professional ambitions. She began writing at an early age, submitting a story (which would be rejected) to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction when she was just 11. 

The disappointment didn't discourage her. In fact, the opposite happened: she would go on to become one of the most prolific and accomplished science fiction writers ever.

Ursula K. Le Guin has published 22 novels, 10 story collections, seven books of poetry, five books of criticism and 13 books for children. Another science fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon, said of her that "in almost unearthly terms, Ursula Le Guin examines, attacks, unbuttons, takes down and exposes our notions of reality." Her novels The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974) each won top science fiction prizes — the Hugo and Nebula Awards — making Le Guin the first writer to win both awards twice for novels.

Le Guin's body of work spans nearly five decades. When Eleanor Wachtel spoke to her in 1993, her latest book was a collection of stories set on the Oregon coast called Searoad. You can listen to their complete conversation in the audio player above.

by Ursula Le Guin

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"In one of her most deeply felt works of fiction, Le Guin explores the dreams and sorrows of the inhabitants of Klatsand, Oregon, a beach town where ordinary people bring their dreams and sorrows for a weekend or the rest of their lives, and sometimes learn to read what the sea writes on the sand. Searoad is the story of a particular place that could be any place, and of a people so distinctly drawn they could be any of us."

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