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]

Ekumen location
Created byUrsula K. Le Guin
GenreScience fiction novel
TypeIce planet
Notable locations
  • Karhide
  • Orgoreyn

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]


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]


  • 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


  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

5th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment

The 5th (Cinque Ports) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, was an infantry battalion of the British Army. The battalion was part of the Royal Sussex Regiment and existed from 1908 until 1966 when it was disbanded.


An ansible is a category of fictional device or technology capable of near-instantaneous or superluminal communication. It can send and receive messages to and from a corresponding device over any distance or obstacle whatsoever with no delay, even between star systems. As a name for such a device, the word "ansible" first appeared in a 1966 novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Since that time, the term has been broadly used in the works of numerous science fiction authors, across a variety of settings and continuities.

Biology in fiction

Biology appears in fiction, especially but not only in science fiction, both in the shape of real aspects of the science, used as themes or plot devices, and in the form of fictional elements, whether fictional extensions or applications of biological theory, or through the invention of fictional organisms. Major aspects of biology found in fiction include evolution, disease, genetics, parasitism and symbiosis (mutualism), ethology, and ecology.

Speculative evolution enables authors with sufficient skill to create what the critic Helen N. Parker calls biological parables, illuminating the human condition from an alien viewpoint. Fictional alien animals and plants, especially humanoids, have frequently been created simply to provide entertaining monsters. Zoologists such as Sam Levin have argued that, driven by natural selection on other planets, aliens might indeed tend to resemble humans to some extent.

Major themes of science fiction include messages of optimism or pessimism; Helen N. Parker has noted that in biological fiction, pessimism is by far the dominant outlook. Early works such as H. G. Wells's novels explored the grim consequences of Darwinian evolution, ruthless competition, and the dark side of human nature; Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was similarly gloomy about the effects of genetic engineering.

Fictional biology, too, has enabled major science fiction authors like Stanley Weinbaum, Isaac Asimov, John Brunner, and Ursula Le Guin to create what Parker called biological parables, with convincing portrayals of alien worlds able to support deep analogies with Earth and humanity.


Catwings is a series of four American children's picture books written by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler, and originally published by Scholastic from 1988 to 1999. It follows the adventures of kittens who were born with wings. Catwings is also the title of the first book in the series. The series is in print from Scholastic as of August 2015.In Britain the series was published in two omnibus volumes as Tales of Catwings and More Tales of the Catwings (Puffin/Penguin, 1999 and 2000). In America the 2003 editions were available in a boxed set of four with slipcase title The Catwings Collection (Orchard/Scholastic), listed as Catwings Set by Powell's Books.Scholastic classifies the Catwings books as fantasy and classifies the first two by "interest level" as "grades 2–5", the last two as "grades preK–3" (children of ages about 7–11 and 4–9 respectively). The series is covered by the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, which classifies the volumes as short fiction and as chapbooks.Scholastic Book Guides, a series for schoolteachers, includes one Catwings volume.In 2002 and 2003 as Catwings 5 and Catwings 6, Le Guin published online editions of picture books "by Mrs. Katz's First Grade Class".Ten years after their last Catwings volume, Le Guin and Schindler created another picture book featuring a cat: Cat Dreams (Orchard/Scholastic, 2009), with "easy rhyming text" and "realistic, full-bleed watercolor illustrations".

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."

Old Music and the Slave Women

"Old Music and the Slave Women" is a science fiction story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was first published in the 1999 collection Far Horizons, edited by Robert Silverberg, and anthologized multiple times in collections of Le Guin's works. The story is set on the planet of Werel in the fictional Hainish universe, created by Le Guin. That planetary system is also the setting for Le Guin's 1995 story suite Four Ways to Forgiveness. The economy of Werel is based on slavery, and during the period in which the stories are set, the society is experiencing upheaval and revolution.

"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."

Planets in science fiction

Planets in science fiction are fictional planets that appear in various media of the science fiction genre as story-settings or depicted locations.

Planets of the Hainish Cycle

Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish Cycle takes place in a science fiction universe that contains a number of planets, some of which have been explored and made part of an interplanetary group called the League of All Worlds and its successor, the Ekumen; others are explored and re-explored by the League and the Ekumen over a time frame spanning centuries. Le Guin has used approximately a dozen planets as primary settings for her novels; as such they have detailed physical and cultural descriptions. Le Guin reveals in The Left Hand of Darkness that at that narrative-time, there were 83 planets in the Ekumen, with Gethen a candidate for the 84th.


A prediction (Latin præ-, "before," and dicere, "to say"), or forecast, is a statement about a future event. A prediction is often, but not always, based upon experience or knowledge. There is no universal agreement about the exact difference between the two terms; different authors and disciplines ascribe different connotations. (Contrast with estimation.)

Although future events are necessarily uncertain, so guaranteed accurate information about the future is in many cases impossible, prediction can be useful to assist in making plans about possible developments; Howard H. Stevenson writes that prediction in business "... is at least two things: Important and hard."

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight

Dame Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, known on Wikipedia as Rosiestep, is an American Wikipedia editor who is noted for her attempts to address gender disparity in the encyclopedia by running a project to increase the quantity and quality of women's biographies. She has contributed thousands of new articles and was named co-Wikipedian of the Year in 2016. In May 2018, she was honored with a Serbian knighthood.

S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia

S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia (STC), is a selective entry boys' private Anglican school providing primary and secondary education in Sri Lanka. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious schools in the country; its former pupils include four former Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka.

Small World (Beaumont novel)

Small World is a novel by Matt Beaumont, published in 2008. It tells the story of a group of people living in North London as their paths cross and collide in unexpected ways.

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in March, 2002 by HarperCollins. All of the stories, except "Paradises Lost", were previously published individually elsewhere.

The collection was also published in London by Gollancz, an imprint of the Orion Group, in 2003. A softcover edition was published by Perennial in 2003.

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".

The Shobies' Story

"The Shobies' Story" is a 1990 science fiction novella by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, describing the story of the first human crew to participate in a newly invented faster-than-light mode of space travel. It was first published in the anthology Universe 1 and subsequently appeared in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea published by Harper Prism in 1994.

The crew forms a miniature society in which each member must participate in creating a cohesive group narrative to alter the nature of reality, which causes the travel. "The Shobies' Story" is notable because Le Guin replaces the traditional militaristic and hierarchical chain of command used in traditional space travel with voluntary consensus."The Shobies' Story" was nominated for a Nebula Award in the novelette category in 1991.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (; October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018) was an American novelist. She worked mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, and authored children's books, short stories, poetry, and essays. Her writing was first published in the 1960s and often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality, and ethnography. In 2016, The New York Times described her as "America's greatest living science fiction writer", although she said that she would prefer to be known as an "American novelist".She influenced Booker Prize winners and other writers, such as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell, and science fiction and fantasy writers including Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks. She won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2003, she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of a few women writers to take the top honor in the genre.

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.


Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.