The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
As 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”:
Fiction 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.