Ursula K. Le Guin

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Speech in Acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long — my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book 6 or 7 times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this — letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.

Thank you.

Ursula K. Le Guin

November 19, 2014

This text may be quoted without obtaining permission from the author, or copied in full so long as the copyright information is included:

Copyright © 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin

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Index of information, videos, links for NBF Medal Ceremony

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Recent Blog Posts

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New on the Website

& New Offsite Links

Interesting Things Done by People Named Le Guin & Kroeber

  • PariaKarl-cor1-web-Thumbnail

    Karl Kroeber Photography

  • Peninsulas and Islands: A Tale for Coastal Communities, a review by Margaret Hammitt-McDonald of North Coast by Charles A. Le Guin. Signed copies available at Jupiter’s Books in Cannon Beach. [North Coast excerpts]
  • The Peach Poem, by Caroline Le Guin
  • UPFOR, Theo Downes-Le Guin’s new Portland gallery, and its blog
  • The Frontier Fandango, Mexico/California


  • Every year people meet at the edge of the ocean, on the two sides of the fence between the two countries, to sing, play, and dance the music of Vera Cruz called “son jarocho.” My daughter Elisabeth has been learning this music, and this year she took a video camera to the Fandango. The fence is so high and now so thick that the people can barely see one another, but the music and love and grief and longing come through, loud and clear.


    The Video...” by Elisabeth Le Guin

  • The Galixee, According to C.H. Downes-Le Guin, 2012

Archive of Announcements and New on the Website Items

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Current Publications

Please click on covers for more information

STEERING THE CRAFT

is out of print
A new edition (print and ebook)
TOTALLY REVISED AND REWRITTEN
is coming soon
from a major publisher
WATCH FOR IT HERE!

Dorband-OutHere_300h
WorldSplitOpen-200x300 The New Atlantis ebook at Book View Cafe
The Unreal and the Real: Volume One The Unreal and the Real: Volume Two
Finding My Elegy
SquaringTheCircle_200w

The Six Books of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea The Tombs of Atuan The Farthest Shore
Tehanu Tales from Earthsea The Other Wind

Music and Poetry of the Kesh Walking in Cornwall Villanelles Cover for Out Here -- Poems and drawings by Ursula K. Le Guin, Photography by Roger Dorband
The Wild Girls 80! Memories & Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin Breaking Waves -- Gulf Coast benefit anthology Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin (UK Paperback) Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin (UK Hardcover) lao tzu: tao te ching Cheek by Jowl, by Ursula K. Le Guin -- Aqueduct Press Cat Dreams Left Hand of Darkness 40th Anniversary Edition. Artist: Paul Young Cover for The Lathe of Heaven King Dog: A Screenplay for the Mind's Eye
Cover for GIFTS by Ursula K. Le Guin Cover for Voices, by Ursula K. Le Guin Cover for Powers, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Walking in Cornwall Cover for Incredible Good Fortune
LADeDeDa, by Ursula K. Le Guin and Vonda N. McIntyre Cover for The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin
In the Blast Zone -- Cover Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction

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