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Ranking all of Le Guin's fiction

[work in progress]


STORIES
  1. Things or The End (1970). Beautiful study of apocalypse and mass psychosis. Planting an apple-tree. I gasped. Romance: 5/5.
  2. The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas (1973). Intuition pump for utilitarianism. Details about this toy society are added one by one, and your mood darkens. She condemns it but not loudly. I'm afraid I think she is a coward, but I appreciate her clarity. If you walk away from Omelas you must believe in banning reproduction immediately. Romance: 1/5.
  3. Two Delays on the Northern Line (1979). Incongruous realism about missing things, about undramatic realisations, about adult detachment. Not ideas-based, but still very large. Romance: 2/5.
  4. Direction of the Road (1974). Wonderful squib about the worldview of an oak and the madness of cars. Romance: 2/5.
  5. Small Change (1981). Horrifying still life of orphanhood; proper, pre-welfare helplessness. Also imaginary friends. Romance: 1/5.
  6. Some Approaches to the Problem of the Shortage of Time (1979). Fictional physics, fictional philosophy. An excellent joke.
  7. The Stars Below (1973). Looks like a straightforward celebration of individual reason against crushing institutions (Galileo) but there's more going on. e.g. The irrelevance of class to real inquiry, to real inquirers. Romance: 4/5.
  8. The Phoenix (1985). Monologue directed at someone who can't answer. Or, a dialogue with one voice and one body. Past as speaker. Transcends its revolutionary, bibliophile trappings. Romance: /5.
  9. The Diary of the Rose (1976). Another psychometrics and fascism sketch, but heartbreaking rather than didactic. Mind-reading as insufficient to bridge our gap. Information as insufficient for right action. Love as insufficient. Romance: 2/5.
  10. April in Paris (1962). Delightful time-travel squib. A lovely rejection of modernity. Once again, LeGuin implies worldviews completely opposed to mine and I am left unable to resent and unwilling to critique them. Which never happens otherwise. Romance: 5/5.
  11. Vaster than Empires and More Slow (1971). Tense, nasty study of the downside of empathy. Romance: 2/5.
  12. Mazes (1975). About accidental brutality and ignorance. About humans and rats. Romance: 3/5.
  13. The Day Before the Revolution (1974). Excellent bit about radicalism vs age. The annoyance of followers, and the passing of the itch to agitate. Even when LeGuin is at her most political, she retains realism and unpretentiousness.
  14. The Author of the Acacia Seeds. Excellent satire / endorsement of arcane academia. Ethnography of the other. Romance: 4/5.
  15. Winter's King (1969). First Gethen story. Exposition-heavy, but darkly satisfying. Duty and time. Changing someone's values as the ultimate invasion. Romance: 2/5.
  16. Semley's Necklace (1963). Beguiling genre mashup; High Fantasy and ironic science. The charisma of myth / innocent ignorance. Romance: 5/5.
  17. Darkness Box (1963). Tiny, spare, dark fairytale. Argument in favour of death over boredom. Boo, but also yay. Romance: 3/5.
  18. The Pathways of Desire (1979). Seems like an ordinary adventure anthropology story until the end, where hilarious tragic metaphysics bursts in. Romance: 5/5.
  19. Nine Lives (1968). Very pure Golden Age sci-fi, one solitary idea with an excellent character study bolted on top. Excellent conception of male relationships. Romance: 2/5.
  20. The Wife's Story (1980). Good squib with a excellent twist. Romance: 2/5.
  21. Gwilan's Harp (1977). Great squib about age and success and failure. Romance: 4/5.
  22. The White Donkey (1980). Good squib about forced marriage. Romance: 3/5.
  23. The Eye Altering (1974). Space kibbutz. About underdetermination and local evidence (which is not the same as subjective self-report). Didactic but sweet. Romance: /5.
  24. The Word of Unbinding (1964). The first Earthsea story. Argument in favour of death over bondage, and death over pride. Romance: 4/5.
  25. First Report of the Shipwrecked Foreigner to the Kadanh of Derb (1978). Great because it uses science fiction as a sashimi-thin pretext for talking about Venice. A la holodeck.Romance: 3/5.
  26. Malheur County (1979). Curious squib about the ritual of dissolving temporary relationships. About choosing loss, loss you can't protest. Romance: 2/5.
  27. Intracom (1974). Funny squib about a ship's crew going insane with an alien aboard. Romance: 2/5.
  28. SQ (1978). Polemical, unsatisfying bit about fascism, psychometrics, the UN. Romance: 1/5.
  29. The Rule of Names (1964). Merely a satisfying twist. The wages of greed. Romance: 3/5.
  30. Sur (1982). Elderly / pregnant women reach the South Pole first without any of Scott's bloody fuss. A bit knowingly twee; "what women know that men don't" har har. Romance: no realism, but also no sentimentality.
  31. The Field of Vision (1971). Nasty Cthulhu-like perception bender, with depressingly religious angle too. Conversions. Romance: 1/5. and 4/5
  32. The Water is Wide (1976). Love and mental health. The loss of your intellectual power when that is your main attribute. Indistinct. Romance: 1/5.
  33. The New Atlantis (1974). Kind of muddled, didactic science-and-environment-and-also-true-culture versus commercialism-and-fascism bit. Romance: 2/5.
  34. Schrödinger's Cat (1974). Squib under which the ground of cliche has shifted. Romance: 4/5.
  35. A Trip to the Head (1970). Beckettian dialogue in a Weird post-apocalypse. I guess it's formally interesting but I skimmed it.
  36. The Good Trip (1970). Sixties cash-in. On pareidolia and being high on life. ("people who expand their consciousness by living usually come back with much more interesting reports") Romance: 1/5 and 5/5.
  37. The Masters (1963). Formulaic bit on reason and divinity, heresy and orthodoxy.

The Romance scores are not about being happy or optimistic about human nature; all of her work is about our collective weakness. But she used to endorse individual virtue and the essential beauty of things (death, deontology), as well as consciousness-centric metaphysics, and that's the romance I mean.

When I say "squib" I mean a very short elaboration on one idea. It is not pejorative; I like squibs more than heavy literary conceits.


NOVELS
  1. Tehanu (1990).
  2. The Farthest Shore ().
  3. A Wizard of Earthsea (). Sometimes described as most suitable for children, but I read it at 26 and felt no deficiency of tone or .
  4. The Tombs of Atuan ().
  5. Lathe of Heaven (1971). Grand psychedelic indictment of utilitarianism. Endorsement of psychoanalysis and Daoist woo. I don't care, it's amazing.

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