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

By Emily Hamilton (OPB)
Oct. 21, 2022 8:23 p.m. Updated: Oct. 22, 2022 2:38 p.m.

For the first time ever, one writer will be awarded the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. This award seeks to honor Le Guin’s legacy by looking for storytellers who are “realists of a larger reality.”

Update: Khadija Abdalla Bajaber was named winner of the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction for “The House of Rust” on Friday night. “Scene after scene is gleaming, textured, utterly devoid of cliché and arresting in its wisdom. The novel’s structure is audacious and its use of language is to die for,” the award jury wrote of the book, when announcing the award. The jury also named two finalists for the prize: “How High We Go in the Dark” by Sequoia Nagamatsu and “The Past is Red” by Catherynne M. Valente.


Ursula K. Le Guin was a legendary Portland author who changed literature as we know it. At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, on what would have been her 93rd birthday, we’ll find out who wins the first ever Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction.

This new award, created by her son and literary executor Theo Downes-Le Guin, seeks to honor her legacy by looking for storytellers who are what Le Guin described as: “realists of a larger reality.”

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


Peace, hope and creation by imagination are all common threads in her work.

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

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

Each story is “such a testament to the beauty and the creativity and the skill of people currently telling stories within this tradition,” said Becky Chambers, author and Ursula K. Le Guin Prize juror.

Le Guin was famously skeptical of awards, so designing one in her honor was especially difficult.

Downes-Le Guin created this award to carry his mother’s legacy into the future, and also to continue her lifelong work of giving support and resources to other writers.

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

The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction will be awarded in a virtual ceremony. To find more information about the prize and the event go to


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