One of the best questions a writer can ask themselves is: What Would Ursula K. Le Guin Do? Asking this question can lead to inventive, unconventional storytelling, and thought experiments that might result in a better world. And this question will now be on the minds of the jurors of the first annual Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, which will be awarded next year!
The Prize is an annual $25,000 cash prize, awarded to an individual writer for a single work of fiction. The award is open to all writers, but the goal is to encourage “realists of a larger reality, who can imagine real grounds for hope and see alternatives to how we live now.” The nomination period for the 2022 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction begins on February 1st, and will be awarded on Le Guin’s birthday, October 21st.
UPDATE: Please note that one criterion has changed—to be eligible for the 2022 prize, books must be published between May 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022.
- A book-length work of imaginative fiction written by a single author
- Published in the U.S. in English or in translation to English. (In the case of a translated work winning the Prize, the cash prize will be equally divided between author and translator.)
- Published between May 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022.
In addition to those basic criteria, the Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust and inaugural jurors will be looking for a writer whose work seriously engages with the ideas that Le Guin pondered most often in her own work: the meaning of hope, equity, and freedom; plots that revolve around non-violence and alternatives to conflict; and a holistic view of humanity’s place in the natural world. The Trust will create a shortlist of finalists, which will then be passed on to a panel of five jurors.
And about those jurors! The inaugural panel will be: adrienne maree brown, who co-hosts the podcasts How to Survive the End of the World and Octavia’s Parables, and whose books include Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and Grievers; Becky Chambers, who is following her Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series with A Psalm for the Wild-Built and its sequel, the upcoming A Prayer for the Crown Shy; iconic SFF author Molly Gloss, whose works include the Otherwise Award-winning Wild Life; David Mitchell, who in addition to writing the modern classic Cloud Atlas and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Bone Clocks has also worked with the Wachowski Sisters on Sense8 and Matrix 4; and Luis Alberto Urrea, whose works include the Edgar Award-winning mystery “Amapola”, The Devil’s Highway, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, and his latest novel, The House of Broken Angels.
Speaking of Le Guin’s impact, David Mitchell said, “Ursula Le Guin’s visionary fiction entered my head when I was young and has never left. Her novels and stories defined, in part, my understanding of what fiction can do, should do, and why. I am deeply honoured to be a juror in the inaugural year of a literary prize created in Ursula’s memory, and I look forward to encountering new works of imaginative fiction which, like Ursula’s, glow in the dark.”
And Becky Chambers spoke to the importance of continuing Le Guin’s dedication to “larger reality”, saying: “Ursula Le Guin’s books are what made my younger self want to become a science fiction writer, so I consider it a huge honor to be part of the jury for this prize…fictional futures that give us something to point our compasses toward are a vital thing, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to help celebrate the voices continuing that work.”
Finally, Theo Downes-Le Guin, Le Guin’s son and literary executor, expressed his hopes for the Prize:
Many will appreciate an irony in that Ursula herself was suspicious of literary awards and prizes. At the same time, she recognized their genuine value in honoring a writer and increasing visibility of good, undervalued writing. She also knew that a bit of money, at the right moment and in the right spirit, can be a turning point in a writer’s ability to continue writing. I hope the Prize will provide meaningful help and recognition to writers who might otherwise not receive it.