Every year, the National Book Foundation awards the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to an author “who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” Since the medal’s inception, authors spanning all genres have been honored, from David McCullough’s historical nonfiction to Ray Bradbury’s science fiction and everything in between.
This year, the foundation has awarded the medal to Ursula Le Guin, whose body of sci-fi and fantasy work spans dozens of novels, short stories, and poems.
Perhaps best known for The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea fantasy series, Le Guin has published a vast array of literature that, as the foundation described, “has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism.”
Despite the frequent adaptation of prolific sci-fi and fantasy in recent years, Le Guin’s work has actually seen only an occasional transition to the screen. The author has, however, garnered many literary honors throughout her career, including multiple Hugo and Nebula awards.
The foundation’s Executive Director Harold Augenbraum said Le Guin “has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”
Author and Le Guin admirer Neil Gaiman will present the award to Le Guin on Nov. 19 at the 65th National Book Awards Ceremony in New York.