We'll Miss Ursula

Ursula K. LeGuin passed away Monday at 88.

Jason Kottke shared a great anecdote from her long and storied career.  After submitting a story to Playboy and getting it accepted with just her initials as a by-line, LeGuin's agent told Playboy that the writer was a woman.  Playboy asked that they keep the author's name in the magaziner as just "U.K. LeGuin," so as not to scare their male readership.

Unwilling to terrify these vulnerable people, I told Virginia to tell them sure, that’s fine. Playboy thanked us with touching gratitude. Then, after a couple of weeks, they asked for an author biography.

At once, I saw the whole panorama of U.K.’s life as a gaucho in Patagonia, a stevedore in Marseilles, a safari leader in Kenya, a light-heavyweight prizefighter in Chicago, and the abbot of a Coptic monastery in Algeria.

We’d tricked them slightly, though, and I didn’t want to continue the trickery. But what could I say? “He is a housewife and the mother of three children”?

I wrote, “It is commonly suspected that the writings of U.K. Le Guin are not actually written by U.K. Le Guin, but by another person of the same name.”

Game to the last, Playboy printed that. And my husband and I bought a red VW bus, cash down, with the check.


They say you never really die as long as anyone still remembers and talks about you. By that measure, U.K. LeGuin should still have centuries ahead of HER.

This article was updated on May 9, 2023

David F