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."
In the first three novels—Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), and City of Illusions (1967)—there is a League of All Worlds; in City of Illusions, it seems to have been conquered or fragmented by an alien race, called the Shing, from beyond the League.
In the fourth, The Left Hand of Darkness, it seems that the planets of the former League of All Worlds have reunited as the Ekumen, which was founded by the Hainish people.
In the fifth, The Word for World Is Forest, the League of All Worlds and the ansible are new creations. The term "Ekumen" is not used.
The sixth, The Dispossessed, is the earliest novel in the Hainish Cycle chronologically. The Cetians have been visited by people from other planets, including Earth and Hain. The various planets are separate, though there is some talk of a union. The idea of an ansible is known but none yet exists: Shevek's new physics may be – in fact, eventually is – the key.
Later novels and short stories speak only of the Ekumen, which now includes the Gethenians, who were the subject of The Left Hand of Darkness.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the people of Hain colonized a large number of worlds, including Earth, known as Terra. Most of these were similar enough that humans from one world can pass as natives of another, but on some the Old Hainish 'Colonisers' used genetic engineering. At least one of the various species of Rokanan are the product of genetic engineering, as are the hilfs[A] of Planet S (whose story has not so far been told), and perhaps the androgynous humans of Gethen in The Left Hand of Darkness. The Ekumen do not know whether the Colonisers sought to adapt humans to varied worlds, were conducting various experiments, or had other reasons.
Hainish civilization subsequently collapsed and the colony planets (including Earth) forgot that other human worlds existed. The Ekumen stories tell of the efforts to re-establish a civilization on a galactic scale through NAFAL (Nearly As Fast As Light) interstellar travel taking years to travel between stars (although only weeks or months from the viewpoint of the traveler because of time dilation), and through instantaneous interstellar communication using the ansible.
This seems to have happened in two phases. First the League of All Worlds was formed, as an alliance of planets, mostly descended from colonization efforts from the planet Hain, uniting the "nine known worlds" - along with colonies, presumably. By the time of Rocannon's World it has grown but is also under threat from a distant enemy. It is destroyed by aliens called the Shing, who have the ability to lie in Mindspeech. After the apparent overthrow of the Shing by Terran descendants from Alterra/Werel (capable of recognizing the Shing lies), the alliance is eventually reconstructed as the Ekumen. In City of Illusions it is recalled as a league of some 80 worlds.
The second phase begins with The Left Hand of Darkness. The 80-plus planets seem to have reunited as the 'Ekumen' – a name derived from the Greek "oikoumene", meaning "the inhabited world", although characters occasionally refer to it as "the Household", which is in turn a reference to the Greek "oikos", a word which developed from the same root as "oikoumene". Unexplained references are made to the "Age of the Enemy".
The Ekumen (or The League of All Worlds, though that is also believed to be the previous planetary coalition, before some sort of a galactic crisis) contains a very large number of planets and is continually exploring new ones. Genly Ai in The Left Hand of Darkness explains that there are 83 planets in the Ekumen, with Gethen a candidate for becoming the 84th. The process of reaching out to potential civilisations is a tedious and dangerous one - some societies might not be ready, and so the process drags out as the Ekumen does not warrant aggression and certain technologies, e.g. nuclear weapons.
Societies tend to use sophisticated but unobtrusive technologies. Most notable is the ansible, an instant-communication device that keeps worlds in touch with each other.
Physical communication is by NAFAL ships, Nearly As Fast As Light. The physics is never explained: the ship vanishes from where it was and reappears somewhere else many years later. The trip takes slightly longer than it would to cross the same distance at the speed of light, but ship-time is just a few hours for those on board. It cannot apparently be used for trips within a solar system. Trips can begin or end close to a planet, but if used without a "retemporalizer", there are drastic physical effects at the end of long trips, at least according to the Shing, whose information may be suspect. It is also lethal if the traveler is pregnant.
City of Illusions mentions automatic death-machines that work on the same principle as the ansible and can strike instantly at distant worlds. Such a device is clearly used in the events of Rocannon's World. They are not mentioned again in later books.
Churten theory, as developed by the physicists of Anarres, should allow people to go instantly from solar system to solar system. It is a development of the work of Shevek, whose tale is told in The Dispossessed. Shevek's work made the ansible possible - it is mentioned in his tale that engineers decided they could build it once the correct theory was found. Churten theory offers a way to move people and spacecraft instantaneously, but there are side effects. These are described in three short stories, "The Shobies' Story," "Dancing to Ganam", and "Another Story, or, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea," all collected in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994).
The idea of post-technological societies and social and ecological collapse comes into several of these stories. It is portrayed as the end result of the wrong kind of civilizations, i.e., competitive, capitalist, patriarchal, "dynamic, aggressive, ecology-breaking cultures," while successful societies are close to the land, peaceful, non-authoritarian, non-competitive, static, communitarian, with the holistic outlook of Eastern religions. The Earth, called "Terra" in the Cycle, is mentioned as one of the failed civilizations.
Most of the people in the tales have a common descent from the planet Hain, which settled many surrounding worlds. Some of them are genetically similar enough to produce children together. The unusual hairiness of the Cetians is mentioned in The Word for World Is Forest and The Dispossessed - although to Cetians, it seems that other types of human have unusually little hair. The Telling includes the detail that the people of Chiffewar are all bald.
There are some cases of ancient biological manipulation:
|Rocannon's World||1966||Ace Books|
|Planet of Exile||1966||Ace Books|
|City of Illusions||1967||Ace Books|
|The Left Hand of Darkness||1969||Ace Books||Nebula Award winner, 1969; Hugo Award winner, 1970|
|The Word for World is Forest||1972||Putnam Publishing Group||Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, 1973; Nebula Award nominee for Best Novella, 1973; Locus Award nominee for Best Novella, 1973|
|The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia||1974||Harper & Row||Hugo Award winner, 1975; Nebula Award winner, 1974; Locus Award winner for Best SF Novel, 1975|
|Four Ways to Forgiveness||1995||HarperCollins||Prometheus award nominated, 1996|
|Worlds of Exile and Illusion||1996||Orb Books||Omnibus of Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile and City of Illusions|
|The Telling||2000||Harcourt Brace & Company||Locus SF Award winner, 2001; Endeavour Award winner|
|The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories||2002||HarperCollins||Only six out of eight stories are definitely part of the Hainish cycle, though one more may be.|
|The Hainish Novels & Stories||2017||Library of America||Collection of all Hainish novels and stories in two volumes.|
|"Dowry of the Angyar"||1964||Amazing Stories September 1964||appears as "Semley's Necklace" in The Wind's Twelve Quarters; also used as the prologue of Rocannon's World|
|"Winter's King"||1969||Orbit 5||collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters|
|"Vaster than Empires and More Slow"||1971||New Dimensions 1: Fourteen Original Science Fiction Stories||in The Wind's Twelve Quarters|
|"The Day Before the Revolution"||1974||Galaxy Science Fiction August 1974||collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters; winner of the Nebula Award and Locus Award|
|"The Shobies' Story"||1990||Universe 1||collected in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea|
|"Dancing to Ganam"||1993||Amazing Stories September 1993||collected in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea|
|"Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea"||1994||Harper Prism||in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea|
|"The Matter of Seggri"||1994||Crank! #3, Spring 1994||collected in The Birthday of the World; winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, 1995; and also in The Found and The Lost|
|"Unchosen Love"||1994||Amazing Stories Fall 1994||collected in The Birthday of the World|
|"Solitude"||1994||The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction December 1994||collected in The Birthday of the World; winner of the Nebula Award, 1996|
|"Coming of Age in Karhide"||1995||New Legends||collected in The Birthday of the World|
|"Mountain Ways"||1996||Asimov's Science Fiction August 1996||in The Birthday of the World; winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award|
|"Old Music and the Slave Women"||1999||Far Horizons 1999||in The Birthday of the World|
What matters is we built the ansible. The official name is Philotic Parallax Instantaneous Communicator, but somebody dredged the name ansible out of an old book somewhere and it caught on.
...when I was commissioned, we didn't have FTL communications except from planetary platforms. I was on Boarhound when they mounted the first shipboard ansible, and at first it was only one-way, from the planet to us.
'It's an ansible.' 'Surely they don't call it that!' 'No. But that's what it is.'
Eyes and Illusions in Tolkien and Le Guin. Including an analysis of how background assumptions shift between stories.
"A Man of the People" is one of four connected short stories in Ursula K. Le Guin's Four Ways to Forgiveness. It details the early life, training with the Ekumenical Envoy service, and activities on Yeowe and Werel of Mattinyehedarheddyuragamuruskets Havzhiva, nicknamed "Zhiv", a native of the planet Hain. It contains Le Guin's most extensive description of Hain's environment and culture in her work.
The history of the Hainish people goes back three million years, and they placed colonies on many planets, including Earth and Werel. In the course of this long history civilization has risen and fallen many times, including settlement and terraforming of Ve, another planet in the Hain system.
No human mind could encompass the history of Hain: three million years of it. The events of the first two million years, the Fore-Eras, like layers of metamorphic rock, were so compressed, so distorted by the weight of the succeeding millennia and their infinite events that one could reconstruct only the most sweeping generalizations from the tiny surviving details. And if one did chance to find some miraculously preserved document from a thousand millennia ago, what then? A king ruled in Azbahan; the Empire fell to the Infidels; a fusion rocket has landed on Ve .... But there had been uncountable kings, empires, inventions, billions of lives lived in millions of countries, monarchies, democracies, oligarchies, anarchies, ages of chaos and ages of order, pantheon upon pantheon of gods, infinite wars and times of peace, incessant discoveries and forgettings, innumerable horrors and triumphs, an endless repetition of unceasing novelty. What is the use of trying to describe the flowing of a river at any one moment, and then at the next moment, and then at the next, and the next, and the next? You wear out...
In the time period when the story is set, the Hainish have recontacted their former colonies using Nearly-as-fast-as-light (NAFAL) starships and formed an association of worlds known as the Ekumen. However, the planet's population is divided into two broad groups, the "historians" of the "temples" who have contact with off-worlders and study the planet's past, and the residents of the "pueblos", who use a simple technology and are largely indifferent to the remnants around them:
Stse is an almost-island, separated from the mainland of the great south continent by marshes and tidal bogs, where millions of wading birds gather to mate and nest. Ruins of an enormous bridge are visible on the landward side, and another half-sunk fragment of ruin is the basis of the town's boat pier and breakwater. Vast works of other ages encumber all Hain, and are no more and no less venerable or interesting to the Hainish than the rest of the landscape.Zhiv begins life as a pueblo-dweller but follows a lover to the temple society and thence into Ekumenical service.City of Illusions
City of Illusions is a 1967 science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. It is set on Earth in the distant future, and is part of her Hainish Cycle. City of Illusions lays the foundation for the Hainish cycle which is a fictional world in which the majority of Ursula K. Le Guin's science fiction novels take place.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.Four Ways to Forgiveness
Four Ways to Forgiveness is a collection of four short stories and novellas by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. All four stories are set in the future and deal with the planets Yeowe and Werel, both members of the Ekumen, a collective of planets used by Le Guin as part of the background for many novels and short stories in her Hainish Cycle. In 2017 it was reissued as an e-book, augmented with a fifth related story by Le Guin, as Five Ways to Forgiveness.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.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."Planet of Exile
Planet of Exile is a 1966 science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, part of her Hainish Cycle. It was first published as an Ace Double following the tête-bêche format, bundled with Mankind Under the Leash by Thomas M. Disch. In 2017, the rights for a movie have been acquired by Los Angeles Media Fund.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.Rocannon's World
Rocannon's World is a science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, her literary debut. It was published in 1966 as an Ace Double, along with Avram Davidson's The Kar-Chee Reign, following the tête-bêche format. Though it is one of Le Guin's many works set in the universe of the technological Hainish Cycle, the story itself has many elements of heroic fantasy. The hero Gaveral Rocannon encounters lords who live in castles and wield swords, and other races much like fairies and gnomes, in his travels on a backward planet.
The word "ansible" for a faster-than-light communicator, was coined in the novel. The term has since been widely used in science fiction.Shing
The Shing are a fictional alien race, in the Hainish Cycle of novels and short stories of the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin. They are only explicitly described in City of Illusions, but seem to be the same as the distant but threatening 'enemy' mentioned in Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile. In The Left Hand of Darkness, brief reference is made to an earlier 'Age of the Enemy' which is now past. It seems the planets of the former League of Worlds have re-united as the Ekumen.
In her introduction to the 1978 hardback edition of City of Illusions, Le Guin regrets the improbable and flawed depiction of the villains, the Shing, as not convincingly evil.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 Dispossessed
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (the Hainish Cycle). The book won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974, won both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1975, and received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1975. It achieved a degree of literary recognition unusual for science fiction works due to its exploration of many themes, including anarchism and revolutionary societies, capitalism and individualism and collectivism.
It features the development of the mathematical theory underlying the fictional ansible, an instantaneous communications device that plays a critical role in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle. The invention of the ansible places the novel first in the internal chronology of the Hainish Cycle, although it was the fifth Hainish novel published.The Dowry of the Angyar
"The Dowry of the Angyar" is a science fiction short story by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in 1964. It is the first work of the Hainish Cycle. The story is set on a fictional planet of the star Fomalhaut, and follows a highborn woman as she tries to track down a family heirloom. It was framed by commentary from ethnologists studying the intelligent life-forms of the Fomalhaut system. The story drew from Norse mythology, and explored the concept of time dilation. "The Dowry of the Angyar" drew comments for its stylistic devices, while a review praised Le Guin's writing as "crystalline prose". It was later used as the prologue to Le Guin's 1966 novel Rocannon's World. In later publications, the story was given the title "Semley's Necklace".The Matter of Seggri
"The Matter of Seggri" is a science fiction novelette by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. It was first published in 1994 in the third issue of Crank!, a science fiction – fantasy anthology, and has since been printed in number of other publications. In 2002, it was published in Le Guin's collection of short stories The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories. "The Matter of Seggri" won the James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1994 for exploring "gender-bending" and has been nominated for other honors including the Nebula Award.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.The Telling
The Telling is a 2000 science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin set in her fictional universe of Hainish Cycle. The Telling is Le Guin's first follow-up novel set in the Hainish Cycle since her 1974 novel The Dispossessed. It tells the story of Sutty, a Terran sent to be an Ekumen observer, on the planet Aka, and her experiences of political and religious conflicts between a corporatist government and the indigenous resistance, which is centered on the traditions of storytelling, locally referred to as "the Telling" (for which the book is named).The Wind's Twelve Quarters
The Wind's Twelve Quarters is a collection of short stories by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, named after a line from A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad and first published by Harper & Row in 1975. Described by Le Guin as a retrospective, it collects 17 previously published stories, four of which were the germ of novels she was to write later: "The Word of Unbinding" and "The Rule of Names" gave Le Guin the place that was to become Earthsea; "Semley's Necklace" was first published as "Dowry of the Angyar" in 1964 and then as the Prologue of the novel Rocannon's World in 1966; "Winter's King" is about the inhabitants of the planet Winter, as is Le Guin's later novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Most of the other stories are also connected to Le Guin's novels. The story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" won the Hugo Award in 1974, while "The Day Before the Revolution" won the Locus and Nebula Awards in 1975.Ursula K. Le Guin bibliography
Ursula K. Le Guin was an American author of speculative fiction, realistic fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, librettos, essays, poetry, speeches, translations, literary critiques, chapbooks, and children's fiction. She was primarily known for her works of speculative fiction. These include works set in the fictional world of Earthsea, stories in the Hainish Cycle, standalone novels and short stories. Though frequently referred to as an author of science fiction, critics have described her work as being difficult to classify.Le Guin came to critical attention with the publication of A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968, and The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The Earthsea books, of which A Wizard of Earthsea was the first, have been described as Le Guin's best work by several commentators, while scholar Charlotte Spivack described The Left Hand of Darkness as having established Le Guin's reputation as a writer of science fiction. Literary critic Harold Bloom referred to the books as Le Guin's masterpieces. Several scholars have called the Earthsea books Le Guin's best work. Her work has received intense critical attention. As of 1999, ten volumes of literary criticism and forty dissertations had been written about her work: she was referred to by scholar Donna White as a "major figure in American letters". Her awards include the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, and multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards. Feminist critiques of her writing were particularly influential upon Le Guin's later work.Le Guin's first published work was the poem "Folksong from the Montayna Province" in 1959, while her first short story was "An die Musik", in 1961; both were set in her fictional country of Orsinia. Her first professional publication was the short story "April in Paris" in 1962, while her first published novel was Rocannon's World, released by Ace Books in 1966. Her last publication was a 2018 collection of non-fiction, titled Dreams Must Explain Themselves and Other Essays 1972–2004. This bibliography includes all of Le Guin's published novels, short fiction, translations, edited volumes, and all collections that include material not previously published in book form, as well as any works mentioned in commentary about Le Guin's writings.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.