In this collection of short fiction, the grande dame of science fiction explores, with an anthropologist’s eye, life on imaginary planets.
Many of the eight short stories deal with sex and gender norms that deviate from life on earth in incredible ways. The first six stories take place on the Ekumen, made famous by LeGuin’s celebrated novel The Left Hand of Darkness.
In Unchosen Love, a marriage, which is called soderatu, is between four people. Two of the partners are strong-willed, and the other two are timid. In the next story, Mountain Ways, two women are in love with each other, but can’t find men to form a complete soderatu. In The Matter of Seggri, genders are extremely segregated. In Coming of Age in Karhide, people are hermaphrodites, and only become either male or female after they lose their virginity.
Other stories explore questions of colonisation, religion, freedom, and space exploration. The stories are at once entirely strange to us and mirror our own world.
“Deeply concerned with gender, these eight stories, although ostensibly about aliens, are all about ourselves: love, sex, life and alienation are all handled with illuminating grace. Le Guin’s overarching theme, the journey, informs her characters as they struggle to come to terms with themselves or their worlds,” says a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.
The book was nominated for a Locus Award for Best Collection.
Published in 2002.