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Encyclopedia > The Left Hand of Darkness
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The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, published in 1969. Image File history File links Circle-question. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... A novel (from French nouvelle Italian novella, new) is an extended, generally fictional narrative in prose. ... Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (born October 21, 1929) is an American author. ...


The book is one of the first major works of "feminist science fiction" (although Le Guin dislikes such labels). It won the 1969 Nebula and 1970 Hugo awards. Feminist science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction written from a specifically feminist viewpoint and often relating to issues of particular concern to feminists, such as gender and queer studies family and social structures and controls on the individual the individuals relation and ability to control their body... The Nebula is an award given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the two previous years. ... 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1970 calendar). ... The 2005 Hugo Award with base designed by Deb Kosiba. ...

Contents

Plot

The Left Hand of Darkness is the account of the efforts of a man named Genly Ai, a representative from a galactic federation of worlds (the Ekumen), who seeks to bring the world of Gethen into that society. It forms part of a series of books by Le Guin all set in the same fictional universe. The Ekumen is the fictional galactic federation of human-inhabited worlds mentioned in several of the science fiction novels of Ursula K. Le Guin. ... Gethen is the fictional planet where the action develops in the science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. ...

The inhabitants of Gethen are androgynes, biologically hermaphroditic humans; for twenty four days of each twenty six day Kemmer cycle they are biologically neuter, and for the remaining two days are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sex partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children. The Gethenians were genetically engineered for this characteristic long ago, possibly to maximize reproductive success on the harsh glaciated world of Gethen, or because the ancient biological engineers were curious about what such people would be like. Androgyny is a term derived from the Greek words andras (άνδρας) (meaning man) and gyne (γυνή) (meaning woman) that can refer to two concepts regarding the mixing of both male and female genders or having a lack of gender identification. ... Fanning honeybee exposes Nasonov gland (white-at tip of abdomen) releasing pheromone to entice swarm into an empty hive A pheromone is any chemical produced by a living organism that transmits a message to other members of the same species. ... An iconic image of genetic engineering; this autoluminograph from 1986 of a glowing transgenic tobacco plant bearing the luciferase gene of the firefly, illustrating the possibilities of genetic engineering. ... For other uses, see Reproduction (disambiguation) Reproduction is the biological process by which new individual organisms are produced. ... Variations in CO2, temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the last 400 000 years For the animated movie, see Ice Age (movie). ...


The book opens with a straightforward science fiction/costume drama setting. It is only later that the reader realises that assumptions LeGuin sets up at the opening about particular Gethenian characters are, in fact, totally wrong. The story follows the misadventures of Genly Ai as he seeks to interest the Gethenians in joining the Ekumen, and his failures to understand their society. This theme continues throughout the book, where repeatedly situations play out differently to Ai's expectations because of the nature of that society.


The first part of the story takes place in the feudal kingdom of Karhide, but action later moves to the centralised totalitarian state of Orgoreyn. The differences between these ideologies is an important part of the motivation of the main Gethenian characters. Genly Ai becomes a tool which the different factions seek to use to their own advantage. Lord Estraven, the prime minister of Karhide, finds himself opposed to King Argaven, when Argaven seeks to centralise Karhide, more on the lines of Orgoreyn.


Le Guin developed this idea out of a desire to explore what remained basic to human nature when biological gender was no longer a factor. The Left Hand of Darkness is a significant milestone in the increasing sophistication of the treatment of sex in science fiction that developed in the 1970s. Human nature is the fundamental nature and substance of humans, as well as the range of human behavior that is believed to be invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts. ... Modern science fiction frequently involves themes of sex, gender and sexuality. ...


Analysis

A large part of the novel is an exploration of a neuter society — a society in which sexual difference plays no role, although love and jealousy remain. Le Guin's most challenging assertion is that such a world would have no history of war: lacking a deep sense of duality implied by strong gender divisions, Gethenians lack a necessary component of nationalism. Their sense of us vs. them is strongly mitigated by their intuitive grasp that there is no real difference, that any distinction is at least somewhat arbitrary. However, they retain the capacity for personal aggression. Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix Nationalism is an ideology [1] that holds that a nation is the fundamental unit for human social life, and takes precedence over any other social and political principles. ...


Gethenians do possess an elaborate system of social prestige called shifgrethor, in which individuals jockey for position by subtle maneuvering — the exact kind of social conflict seen in homogeneous groups (compare office politics). The demonization of others is artificial and temporary; alliances shift easily, and prevailing cultural mores are determined and protected by the next clearest division between groups - geography. Nations exist, and different places have different societies, but they blend at the edges. Low level raiding of indeterminate value preserves a sense of hostility and division that is useful for internal political purposes, but there is little real desire to actually conquer another nation. Indeed, the concept of full-scale war is unknown to Gethenian societies. office politics is a slang term for the often counterproductive human factors present between coworkers, in an office environment in the private or public sector. ... Look up Agreement in Wiktionary, the free dictionary An agreement may be an agreement in beliefs, rules, practices (policies), or conduct. ...


See also

This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

External links


The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is a database of bibliographic information on science fiction and related genres such as fantasy fiction and horror fiction. ...

Ursula K. Le Guin's Ekumen series
The Dispossessed | The Word for World is Forest | Rocannon's World | Planet of Exile | City of Illusions | The Left Hand of Darkness | Four Ways to Forgiveness | The Telling

  Results from FactBites:
 
Jeanne Murray Walker- Myth, Exchange and History in The Left Hand of Darkness (5046 words)
The myths in LHD, it can be assumed, represent the collective thought of Karhidian and Orgotan societies, respectively, about their most vital and puzzling social dilemmas.
But after a year, someone arrives at the door of Arek's father, hands him a child, and tells him "This is Therem, the son's son of Estre." Many years later this young man, who has been named heir of Estre, is attacked on the ice by his three brothers, who wish to reign themselves.
LHD finally rejects all static versions of the ideal, all temptations to escape time, even in its myths.
The Left Hand of Darkness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (708 words)
The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, published in 1969.
The Left Hand of Darkness is the account of the efforts of a man named Genly Ai, a representative from a galactic federation of worlds (the Ekumen), who seeks to bring the world of Gethen into that society.
The Left Hand of Darkness is a significant milestone in the increasing sophistication of the treatment of sex in science fiction that developed in the 1970s.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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