Tag Archives: author

The Future as Metaphor (Le Guin)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin  (1969)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinIn the last post I stated that Le Guin’s books are about differing perceptions of reality.  In the 1976 introduction of this book she writes that writers, thinking themselves truth-seekers, write down a bunch of lies, accompanied by scientific facts that make it seem more real, and put them out there as “the truth.”

In The Left Hand of Darkness, the beings (essentially humans but with a major difference) on the planet Gethen are androgynous, turning into males or females only a couple of days during their 26 day month.  Genly Ai, the narrator of the book, is a human who spends years on Gethan, and the book is a reporting of his experience.

Seeming to address my question of whether we should attribute statements made by a character in a book as opinions of the author, in the 1976 introduction she says that she is not saying that she is predicting that we will become androgynous, or that we should be androgynous, but that in a certain light we already seem to be so.

I am describing certain aspects of psychological reality in the novelist’s way, which is by inventing elaborately circumstantial lies

Fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor.  What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life – science, all the sciences, and technology…  Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another.  The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

A metaphor for what?

If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel; and [the main character of the book] would never have sat down at my desk and used up my ink and typewriter ribbon in informing me, and you, rather solemnly, that the truth is a matter of the imagination.

I strongly recommend The Left Hand of Darkness if you enjoy complexity of truth.

 

 

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A history that never took place anywhere (Le Guin)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of DarknessAs I’ve said before, Le Guin as a science fiction and fantasy writer takes us to a deeper emotional and philosophical place than most.  Her stories, while set in the future, are about humans in the here and now.  Her books are about the perceiving of reality, the perceiving of truth, the perceiving of what is around us currently and in our imaginations.

In the introduction of The Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin speaks of the relationship between writers and “the truth”:

Ursula K. Le GuinFiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth:  to know it, speak it, serve it.  But they go about it in a particular and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did or never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There!  That’s the truth!

She goes on to explain how writers’ use of scientific details makes it seem more like the truth, but it’s really “a history that never took place anywhere” except in the author’s mind.  Can authors, artists, be seers when all they do is tell lies?  Yes, in moments of inspiration, they feel “the god within them use their tongue, their hands”.

She sums up the complexity with:

I talk about the gods, I am an atheist.  But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar.  Distrust everything I say.  I am telling the truth.