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Old 01-15-2019, 07:26 PM   #15
gmw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
[...] Since I'm not grounded at all in classic sci-fi, I'm going to be interested to learn how this fits in with the literature. I know it was groundbreaking and it gets a pass for that. [...]

I agree that the relationship between Genly and Estraven was central to the story, but I didn't think there was enough plot. Once you strip out the world-building, both Genly's exegesis and the supporting historical and mythical texts, there was very little story left.
It seems to me that The Left Hand of Darkness fits very well with the styling of sci-fi in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I think that including gender as a theme is really the main thing, perhaps the only thing, that makes this book stand out from the crowd. I always thought Le Guin wrote well, I liked her voice, and so I generally enjoyed reading her books, but her stories have failed to be memorable for me.

I don't think your assessment ("very little story left") is unfair, but I also think it's true of a lot of science fiction, particularly of that period but even more recent works can suffer this problem. For many sci-fi writers science/concept is king, character and plot are just there to expose the idea. Some authors, such as Le Guin, write/wrote well enough, and about the human aspects enough, to get away with it (for my tastes), others not so much. (Which isn't to say this was the case with all science fiction; Asimov remains a favourite of mine because he told good stories.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by astrangerhere View Post
[...]The introduction! There is nothing I did not love about this introduction! [...]
Yes, both Le Guin's and in my edition the China Miéville intro' were interesting to read - although I felt that Miéville went a bit overboard, apparently assuming the reader had read it before so he didn't have to worry about spoiling. But my favourite lines from Le Guin's introduction were:
Quote:
The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.
The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
I like the seeming paradox, and I like that it reveals how a book like this can be appropriated to say what people want it to say - which, it seems to me, is what happened with this book and feminism. I don't doubt that Le Guin was exploring gender in this book, but I also don't doubt that it would have been a very different book if it was trying to be actively feminist.

But an author doesn't get to decide how their books will be received. In hoping to say in words what cannot be said in words, in asking readers to interpret, we must also accept that sometimes the interpretation will not be what we expected.

Quote:
Originally Posted by astrangerhere View Post
I agree! It brought to mind Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy where her narrator, having no concept of gender defaulted to using feminine pronouns for everyone in the books. I know this is probably heresy, but I feel like Leckie pulled it off better. [...]
I don't think this heresy, I just think it was written in a very different time with a much better understanding how such a thing would be received (in part thanks to The Left Hand of Darkness.)

The structure of the The Left Hand of Darkness effectively insists that male pronouns for generic use by Genly and Genly's perspective were most appropriate. For other parts, some other form of pronoun might have been better, and might have emphasised the difference more, but this was 1969, it is an open question how much of this sort of thing Le Guin's editors and publishers would have accepted, and getting past those, how the readers would have reacted.

And, besides, even more recent books that try gender-free pronouns get mixed responses. You like Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer whereas I did not, and (a fairly minor) part of my dislike of that book is what I felt was clumsy emphasis of the pronoun choice.
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