Gethen

Gethen, also called Winter, is a fictional planet in Ursula K. Le Guin's Ekumen universe. It is the setting for her science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness.[1][2]

Gethen
Ekumen location
Created byUrsula K. Le Guin
GenreScience fiction novel
TypeIce planet
Notable locations
  • Karhide
  • Orgoreyn
Moon(s)1

The planet

Gethen appears to have a surface gravity more or less similar to Earth and a human-compatible atmosphere (the Earth envoy sent there shows no sign of discomfort).[3] Because of its cold climate, the planet is sometimes called "Winter".[4]

Gethen's axis is not tilted (as is the case with Earth), but a relatively high orbital eccentricity produces global seasons.[5] At the time of the story, Gethen is in the midst of an Ice Age (some local scientists believe it is near the end). The poles and a large portion of the land around them are permanently covered with glaciers, and even in the inhabited areas the climate can be extremely cold. In some places, it is impossible to travel in winter, since the snow covers all roads.

The people

Gethenians are physically and culturally adapted to cold; they tend to be of robust build and short stature, and they are familiar with the caloric yield of many different types of food. (The physical adaptations might be a product of genetic manipulation by the Hain, the species that "seeded" many worlds in the Ekumen with humanoid lifeforms.)

Gethen has no large land animals, and Gethenians do not farm animals for meat or milk; most are essentially pescetarians. They farm crops, gather eggs, fish, and hunt land animals for their skins and fur.[6]

The inhabitants of Gethen are androgynes, biologically intersex humans; for approximately three weeks of each month they are biologically neuter, and for the remaining week are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sex partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children.[7][2]

As for their appearance, Le Guin explains;

In my first big science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the only person from Earth is a black man, and everybody else in the book is Inuit (or Tibetan) brown.[8]

Calendar and timekeeping

Gethen orbits its primary star once every 0.96 Earth years (8401 Earth hours). The planet rotates around its axis in 23.08 earth hours, so a Gethenian year consists of 364 local days.[9]

The only natural satellite of the planet revolves around it in 26 local days, which constitutes a month. The year is divided into 14 of these lunar months. By fortunate coincidence, the deviation between this lunisolar calendar and the true solar year is small enough to require a correction only once every 200 years. Thus the days are synchronized with the moon phase every month.[10]

Each day in a month has a unique name. Days are not grouped in weeks, but the month is evenly divided in two halves of 13 days each (the names of the days in the second half are derived regularly from those of the first half).[10]

Gethenians further divide each day into ten parts or "hours", the first one starting at noon.[11]

A very curious concept of dating is employed in Gethen, though this is only explained briefly in the book: the years are not numbered sequentially in increasing order, but the current year is always referred to as "Year One", and the others are counted as years before or after this standpoint. Historical records employ well-known events to mark (fixed) past dates.[9]

Cartography

Gethen has four continents and an archipelago. Two of the continents, Orgoreyn and Karhide, are connected. The action of the novel takes place here. The other continents are Sith and the Antarctic continent, Perunter. The planet is covered with ice everywhere beyond 45 degrees, and often down to 30 degrees.

Appearances in Le Guin's fiction

The main description of the people and culture is The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969. It gives their myths and legends, set amidst the story of a visitor from Earth.[1]

Winter's King is a short story written earlier, first published in 1969, and appearing in revised form in the 1975 collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters. It tells the story of Argaven, a Gethenian who visits another planet.[12]

Coming of Age in Karhide, first published in 1995, appears in the 2002 short story collection The Birthday of the World. It takes place after the events of Winter's King. It is mostly about an ordinary Gethenian discovering sex.[13][14]

Another short story, The Shobies' Story, appears in the 1994 collection A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. Here, Gethenians are part of a mixed Ekumen expedition to a new planet. Since they are now integrated into the Ekumen, it must take place after the other tales.[15]

Sources

  • Le Guin, Ursula K. (1969). The Left Hand of Darkness. New York, New York, USA: Penguin Putnam Inc. ISBN 0-441-47812-3.
  • — (1975). The Wind's Twelve Quarters. New York, New York, USA: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-553-02907-X.
  • — (1994). A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. New York, New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-105491-7.
  • — (2002). The Birthday of the World and Other Stories. New York, New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-621253-7.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Le Guin 1969.
  2. ^ a b Sarah LeFanu (January 3, 2004). "The king is pregnant". The Guardian. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  3. ^ Le Guin 1969, p. 121.
  4. ^ Le Guin 1969, p. 6.
  5. ^ Le Guin 1969, p. 213-214.
  6. ^ Le Guin 1969, pp. 10,214.
  7. ^ Le Guin 1969, pp. 89-91.
  8. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin (December 16, 2004). "A Whitewashed Earthsea". Slate. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Le Guin 1969, p. 302.
  10. ^ a b Le Guin 1969, p. 303.
  11. ^ Le Guin 1969, pp. 303-304.
  12. ^ Le Guin 1975, pp. 85-108.
  13. ^ Le Guin 2002, pp. 1-22.
  14. ^ Ligaya Mishan (July 24, 2009). "First Contact: A Talk with Ursula K. Le Guin". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  15. ^ Le Guin 1994, pp. 81-113.

External links

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Coming of Age in Karhide

"Coming of Age in Karhide" is a science fiction short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in 1995. The story is set on the fictional planet of Gethen, the same as Le Guin's 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, and is a part of Le Guin's Hainish cycle. The story explores themes of growing into adulthood on a planet where individuals have no fixed gender identity. Reviewers stated that the story went further than Left Hand in its exploration of gender and sexuality, and was a "quietly feminist" work. It was also described as lacking the "dizzying impact" of Left Hand. In 2002, it was anthologized in the volume The Birthday of the World, along with many other stories exploring marriage and sexual relationships.

Hainish Cycle

The Hainish Cycle consists of a number of science fiction novels and stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is set in an alternate history/future history in which civilizations of human beings on planets orbiting a number of nearby stars, including Terra (Earth), are contacting each other for the first time and establishing diplomatic relations, setting up a confederacy under the guidance of the oldest of the human worlds, peaceful Hain. In this history, human beings did not evolve on Earth but were the result of interstellar colonies planted by Hain long ago, which was followed by a long period when interstellar travel ceased. Some of the races have new genetic traits, a result of ancient Hainish experiments in genetic engineering, including people who can dream while awake, and a world of androgynous people who only come into active sexuality once a month, not knowing which sex will manifest in them. In keeping with Le Guin's style, she uses varied social and environmental settings to explore the anthropological and sociological outcomes of human evolution in those diverse environments.

The Hainish novels The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974) have won literary awards, as have the novella The Word for World Is Forest (1972) and the short story "The Day Before the Revolution" (1974).

Le Guin herself discounted the idea of a "Hainish Cycle", writing on her website that "The thing is, they aren't a cycle or a saga. They do not form a coherent history. There are some clear connections among them, yes, but also some extremely murky ones."

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"Old Music and the Slave Women" tells the story of Sohikelwenyanmurkeres Esdan, a native of Hain, nicknamed "Old Music", who appears as a peripheral character in three of the previous stories set in that system. Fed up with a civil war on Werel which has trapped him in the embassy of the Ekumen, he leaves to meet with the leaders of the revolution, but is captured and taken to an old slave estate. There, he is tortured by government agents, and befriends the few women slaves who remain.

As with the stories of the linked story suite, "Old Music and the Slave Women" examines themes related to revolution and reconstruction in slave society. It explores the consequences of war and responses to violence, and suggests that cultural change is a gradual process. The story was positively received. While the length of the story received some criticism, reviewers praised the character of Esdan and Le Guin's depiction of the culture of Werel, with one critic describing it as "painfully real, at once beautiful and deplorable."

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The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel by U.S. writer Ursula K. Le Guin, published in 1969. The novel became immensely popular and established Le Guin's status as a major author of science fiction. The novel is part of the Hainish Cycle, a series of novels and short stories by Le Guin set in the fictional Hainish universe, which she introduced in 1964 with "The Dowry of the Angyar". Among the Hainish novels, it was preceded in the sequence of writing by City of Illusions and followed by The Word for World Is Forest.The novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a native of Terra, who is sent to the planet of Gethen as an envoy of the Ekumen, a loose confederation of planets. Ai's mission is to persuade the nations of Gethen to join the Ekumen, but he is stymied by his lack of understanding of Gethenian culture. Individuals on Gethen are ambisexual, with no fixed sex. This fact has a strong influence on the culture of the planet, and creates a barrier of understanding for Ai.

The Left Hand of Darkness was among the first books in the genre now known as feminist science fiction and is the most famous examination of androgyny in science fiction. A major theme of the novel is the effect of sex and gender on culture and society, explored in particular through the relationship between Ai and Estraven, a Gethenian politician who trusts and helps him. Within that context, the novel also explores the interaction between the unfolding loyalties of its main characters, the loneliness and rootlessness of Ai, and the contrast between the religions of Gethen's two major nations. The theme of gender also touched off a feminist debate when it was first published, over depictions of the ambisexual Gethenians.

The Left Hand of Darkness has been reprinted more than 30 times, and received a highly positive response from reviewers. It was voted the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel by fans and writers, respectively, and was ranked third behind Frank Herbert's Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End in a 1975 poll in Locus magazine. In 1987, Locus ranked it second among science fiction novels after Dune and Harold Bloom stated: "Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time".

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Winter's King

"Winter's King" is a science fiction short story by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, originally published in the September 1969 issue of Orbit, a fiction anthology. The story is part of the Hainish Cycle and explores topics such as the human effect of space travel at nearly the speed of light, as well as religious and political topics such as feudalism."Winter's King" was one of four nominees for the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Le Guin revised the story, focusing on pronoun gender, for its inclusion in her 1975 short story collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters.

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