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What are Ursula K. Le Guin’s Best Short Stories?

Back in the day, reading speculative fiction was something young people did outside of school. Today it’s much more common to find speculative fiction books in their book bags. [grumble, grumble…these kids don’t know how good they have it…grumble, grumble] While it may be some of the same standard speculative fiction books that are assigned, there are always a great list of alternative science fiction titles that should be assigned to students.

We received an email from one student, Ryan Bonick, who is supposed to read 2 short stories for a paper he is writing. His assigned author is Ursula K. Le Guin and has a simple question that I am passing along to our readers for their opinions:

Q: What are Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories?

Leave a comment after the beep….

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

13 Comments on What are Ursula K. Le Guin’s Best Short Stories?

  1. Bob Blough // February 1, 2010 at 1:07 am //

    Ursula Leguin has written a lot of superb stories – it depends on what length you would be expected to read.

    For Novellas – or almost novel size stories – you can’t go wrong with “A Woman’s Liberation” from the book FOUR WAYS TO FORGIVENESS or – if you liked AVATAR – then read “The Word for World Is Forest” which is published seperately as a short novel.

    Shorter really good stories are “Nine Lives”, “The Ones that Walk Away from Omelas”, “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”  – all from THE WIND’S TWELVE QUARTERS

    “The New Atlantis” and “Sur” are in COMPASS ROSE

    “The Matter of Seggri”, “Solitude” or “The Birthday of the World” from THE BIRTHDAY OF THE WORLD

    There are so many more – but this list is a good start.  To start with I’d go for the stories in THE WIND’S TWELVE QUARTERS and/or “The Word for World Is Forest”

    Hope this helps.  I hope you enjoy reading her.  I think she is one of the greatest Science Fiction/Fantasy writers there ever has been.


  2. Dino Mascolo // February 1, 2010 at 2:36 am //

    You had a Mind Meld on favorite short stories. Brenda Cooper talked about ‘The Ones That Walk Away From Omelas’. I looked it up, I read it, I loved it.

  3. A few come to mind:

    “The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics”– SETI was never like this. A mind-blowing thought-experiment.

    “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and “The Day before the Revolution” — I guess I like polemics, but I also found both of these rather moving, too.

    “Vaster than Empires…” — Hard to argue with any of Bob’s choices above, really.

    I forget the name of the one told from the POV of a tree, from her first collection.



  4. I’ll put in another vote for “Vaster than Empires and More Slow.” Brilliant, and still very relevant.


  5. “The Shobies’ Story” is a lot of fun.

  6. i second “the author of the acacia seeds” and “the day before the revolution”, and add “mazes”.


    tom, the one about the tree is “direction of the road”.

  7. “The Ones that Walk Away from Omelas” (theoretical philosophical question given a very real, realistic treatment) and ‘The Day before the Revolution’ (what can I say, it’s just good).

  8. Throw 100 strips of paper, each bearing the name of a Le Guin story, into a hat. Stir well. Pick two.

    Seriously, the story that blew me away was “Ether, OR”, which I read in the Asimov’s 30th Anniversary Anthology, edited by Sheila Williams.

    There are several narrative voices in the story, and I found the beauty and the reflective wisdom of some of these passages in different voices to be simply transcendantly good writing. Perhaps some of the attitudes and reflections resonated with me, or perhaps the writing really was that good. I think the latter.

    I have a friend who likes UKLG even more than me, and she thinks “Coming of Age in Karhide” is the author’s most moving story.

  9. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is definitely Le Gun’s best story.

  10. Tim Bartik // February 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm //

    I would recommend  “Another Story, or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea”.   This was published in a collection with the title “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea”.  This is a science fiction story set in the same “Hainish” universe as her novels “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “The Dispossessed”.  As these novels do, it explores an unusual variant of human culture. But I think the real focus is the issue of what really matters in a life. And without giving the plot away, let’s just say that it explores one traditional science fiction device or trick that she does not, to my memory, use in any other of her novels or stories. 

  11. I would like to also vote for “Omelas,” a story that I cherish and that taught me a powerful lesson when I read it as a younger man.

    Second choice?  A bit harder.  “Vaster Than Empires. . .” is great, but maybe “The Birthday of the World” would be better.   I wish novellas could be included, because I would heartily recommend The Word of World is Forest and Forgiveness Day.

  12. Those Who Walk Away from Omelas.

    The original short Rocannon’s World was based on (later expanded into a novel).

    Does every other chapter of LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS count as short stories? No other author before this did her world-building by means of fragments as if collected by anthropologists — it was a brilliant conceit, as, as far as I know, unique.


  13. ted fordyce // February 11, 2010 at 9:27 am //

    “The Barrow”

    “Malheur County” anyone’s whose been there will know how will she captured the feel of the place

    “The Rule of Names” fun addition to Earthsea collection

    “The Direction of the Road” absolutely love the perpective play

    “Author of the Acacia Seeds” excellent experiment in non-narrative form (or maybe just non-traditional narrative) my favorite

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