Tag Archives: science fiction

New Book Promo: The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

It’s a book birthday for a fellow author! Book two in J. Scott Coatsworth’s queer SF series is out today. He’s a sweetheart, so I’m thrilled to host him here. And isn’t that cover pretty? Here are all the details about The Rising Tide


The Rising Tide

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out: “The Rising Tide.”

Earth is dead.

Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever, a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind.

Control the AI, control the people.

Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide.

Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history.

Series Blurb: Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

DSP Publications | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away two prizes with this tour – a $25 Amazon gift card, and a signed copy of “The Stark Divide,” book one in the series (US winner only for the paperback). For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4734/?


Excerpt

The Rising Tide Meme

Eddy Tremayne rode his horse, Cassiopeia, along the edge of the pastures that were the last official human habitations before the Anatov Mountains. Several ranchers along the Verge—the zone between the ranches and the foothills—had reported losses of sheep and cattle in the last few weeks.

As the elected sheriff of First District, which ran from Micavery and the South Pole to the mountains, it was Eddy’s responsibility to find out what was going on.

He had his crossbow strapped to his back and his long knife in a leather sheath at his waist. He’d been carrying them for long enough now—three years?—that they had started to feel natural, but the first time he’d worn the crossbow, he’d felt like a poor man’s Robin Hood.

He doubted he’d need them out here, but sheriffs were supposed to be armed.

He’d checked with Lex in the world mind via the South Pole terminal, but she’d reported nothing amiss. In the last few years, she had begun to deploy biodrones to keep an eye on the far-flung parts of the world, but they provided less than optimal coverage. One flyover of this part of the Verge had shown a peaceful flock of thirty sheep. The next showed eight.

The rancher, a former neurosurgeon from New Zealand named Gia Rand, waited for him on the top of a grassy hill. The grass and trees shone with bioluminescent light, and the afternoon sky lit the surrounding countryside with a golden glow. The spindle—the aggregation of energy and glowing pollen that stretched from pole to pole—sparkled in the middle of the sky.

The rancher pulled on her gray braid, staring angrily at something in the valley below. “Took you long enough to get here.”

“Sorry. The train was out of service again.” Technology was slowly failing them, and they had yet to come up with good replacements.

She snorted. “One helluva spaceship we have here.”

He grinned. “Preaching to the choir.” Forever didn’t have the manufacturing base yet to support anything close to the technology its inhabitants had grown used to on Earth. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you asked him. With technology came new and better ways to kill. He’d seen it often enough in the NAU Marines. “What did you find?”

“Look.” Her voice was almost a growl.

Eddy looked down where she was pointing. “Oh shit.” Her missing sheep were no longer missing. They had been slaughtered.

He urged Cassiopeia down the hillside to the rocky clearing. A small stream trickled down out of the mountains there. He counted ten carcasses, as near as he could tell from the skulls left behind. Someone had sheared a couple of them and given up. It looked like they had skinned and cut the rest up for meat, the skin and bones and extra bits discarded.

Gia rode down the hillside behind him.

“Didn’t you report twelve sheep missing?”

She nodded. “Bastards took the two lambs. Probably for breeding.”

“That actually might help us.”

“How’s that?”

He dismounted to take a closer look at the crime scene. “They’ll have to pasture them somewhere. May make it easier to track them down.”

“Maybe so.” She dismounted and joined him. “This was brutal work. Look here.” She picked up a bone. “Whatever cut this was sharp but uneven. It left scratch marks across the bone.”

“So not a metal knife.”

“I don’t think so. Maybe a stone knife?”

He laughed harshly. “Are we back to caveman days, then?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question.

She was silent for a moment, staring at the mountains. “Do you think they live up there?”

“Who?” He followed her gaze. Their highest peaks were wreathed in wisps of cloud.

“The Ghosts.”

The Ghosts had been a persistent myth on Forever since their abrupt departure from Earth. Some of the refugees had vanished right after the Collapse, and every now and then something would end up missing. Clothes off a line, food stocks, and the like.

People talked. The rumors had taken on a life of their own, and now whenever something went missing, people whispered, “It’s the Ghosts.”

Eddy didn’t believe in ghosts. He personally knew at least one refugee who had disappeared, his shipmate Davian. He guessed there must be others, though the record keeping from that time had been slipshod at best. He shrugged and looked at the sky. “Who knows?” It was likely to rain in the next day or so. Whoever had done this had left a trail, trampled into the grass. If he didn’t follow it now, it might be gone by the time he got back here with more resources.

Gia knelt by one of the ewes, staring at the remnants of the slaughter. “Could you get me some more breeding stock? This… incident put a big dent in my herd.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He took one last look around the site. It had to have taken an hour or two to commit this crime, and yet the thieves had apparently done it in broad daylight. Why weren’t they afraid of being caught? “I’m going to follow the trail, see where it leads.”

Gia nodded. “Thanks. We’re taking the rest of the herd back to the barn until you get this all figured out.”

“Sounds prudent. I’ll let you know.”

Slipping on his hat, he climbed back up on Cassie and followed the trail across the stream toward the Anatov Mountains.


Author Bio

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ/

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

Advertisements

Double Anthology News: Timeshift and Impact

Iblog promo - Timeshift antho - ed Eric Fomley - Aug-18 have two pieces of news to share with you today…

First, the anthology I’m in, Timeshift, is now available for preorder on Kindle. It beat its Kickstarter goal, which means all the authors get paid the industry-standard rate for reprints. Yay!

Timeshift features all sorts of speculative short stories related to time — time dilation, time manipulation, time travel (of course), and more. There are some pretty big names in it, so I’m delighted to be included. It releases August 1.

blog-impact-cover-image-Jul-18Second, there’s an anthology I’m not in, but got to help judge. I read 178 flash fiction stories on the theme of IMPACT, and rated them according to a rubric (these folks are organized!). Then we held an online meeting and hashed out our favourites. There were a lot of strong contenders. Things got tense. There was blood! (Not really.)

We eventually managed to agree on three winners. It helped that we each got to pick one story that didn’t make it into the top three. Here’s what I said about my Judge’s Pick, “Low Impact” by Tray Ellis:

This story makes me cry every time I read it. It’s straightforward, yet so effective. I’m always astounded when an author manages to use 300 words to span multiple years, making a tiny flash fiction piece into an epic tale. There’s a big relationship story here that’s just hinted at, but the hints are all that’s needed. I also liked that this isn’t an Issue Story: the queer relationship just is, no big deal. (Of course it’s important to tell those stories too, but not to the exclusion of all other queer stories.) And finally, like many of the best science fiction works, this piece filters science through characters to say something thoughtful about the world. Well done.

Impact: Queer Sci Fi’s Fifth Annual Flash Fiction Contest is available on ebook from all the usual suspects, releasing July 25.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Angus & Robertson

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: Planet of Exile

blog-ursula-le-guin-worlds-of-exile-and-illusionToday in the Ursula K. Le Guin (re)read, we’re returning to the Hainish cycle with book 2, Planet of Exile. (If you missed the discussion of Book 1, Rocannon’s World, click here.)

Le Guin herself didn’t see the Hainish books as any kind of coherent series–they’re a set of loosely connected stories all set in the same universe, but widely separated by distance and time. They’re linked by ideas such as the ansible (a faster-than-light communication technology, available even though her universe specifically does not have an FTL drive for ships) and a Federation-like entity that is sometimes called the League of All Worlds and sometimes the Ekumen.

What the Hainish books do not have are recurring characters or overarching plots across the series. What they do have are thematic links. And sometimes more…but we’ll get into that when we hit City of Illusions.

So, on to Planet of Exile…

Basic premise: A young woman (Rolery) from a low-tech alien culture meets a man (Jakob) whose people were stranded on her planet long ago. Both cultures are facing pressure from change, external forces, and the unforgiving nature of the planet itself.

This is still very early Le Guin, but you can already see her preoccupation with culture and her way with language. (I want to be her when I grow up.) I read this shortly after Rocannon’s World, which aside from the prologue (“Semley’s Necklace”) is a standard quest story / planetary romance, and pretty lightweight emotionally. Planet of Exile starts out in a similar vein, but midway through it takes a turn into classical tragedy, and I was surprised how affecting the ending was.

On an SFnal level, the planet’s orbital period is 60 Earth years long, with four seasons. That allows for a lot of fun worldbuilding. For one thing, it means the locals (the Tevarans) have a very different way of thinking about time, especially since they are nomads and live in a different place each season. Their winter homes, for example, fall out of living memory and become semi-mythical…as do the stranded aliens, who live in the same place all Year. The result is a mythic or allegorical feel to the book.

Sadly, its age is showing. The gender relations are distinctly old-fashioned — the old Tevaran leader Wold is the most obviously sexist character, but nobody questions, for example, the idea that Rolery should hide in a safe place nursing the wounded while Jakob goes off to fight. It’s amazing to think that this was published only three years before The Left Hand of Darkness (famous for its exploration of gender).

Similarly, the race relations are clunky — both the Tevarans and the aliens look down on the other and see themselves as the “humans”. The indigenous Tevaran people see the alien exiles as “not really people” and arrogant for acting like they think they ARE people; the aliens can’t believe the locals haven’t even invented the wheel. The aliens are dark-skinned, the Tevarans are light-skinned (and a third group, the Gaals, are even more so), and both can’t stop commenting on the other’s looks. The Gaals are even more “othered” — they’re not really thought of as people at all but as a biological force, like the years-long winter, until one character comments on this very late in the book.

A side note before I get into the real spoilers: The aliens follow a form of the Prime Directive, laid out by the League of All Worlds — no exposing the locals to high technology. Since they’re stuck on the planet, this means that they too are losing their technology despite efforts to the contrary. This is a shift from Rocannon’s World, where some of the locals were explicitly taught high technology (and lost some of their artistry in the process).

[SPOILERS for the ending…]

 

There’s a sense of melancholy among the aliens — their society is stagnant and slowly dying, because they’re stuck on a world that’s not theirs. (They seem to be Earth humans.) Until… (dun dun dun) That’s the real conflict in the book: the sense of dislocation and isolation of a people. Jakob and Rolery are just proxies for its resolution (another thing that gives the book a mythic quality). I was sort of expecting the aliens to escape the planet at the end, maybe because I mistook the Stack for a forgotten spaceship over the mantelpiece. The aliens are forced by circumstances to work with the locals, it all goes wrong at the midpoint, but they still end up retreating together and starting to integrate. The biological part of the solution comes out of nowhere near the end — it would have been better if hinted at earlier. Though I guess it kind of is, with Jakob being able to mindspeak with Rolery early on — that’s a proxy for biological transmission. Regardless, watching the aliens have their idea of “home” shift from “a place we’ll never see again” to “here in this place we’ve made”…that’s what tilted this book, despite all its imperfections, into a classic for me.

 

[END SPOILERS]

By the way, here’s some neat Le Guin news:

(1) The Earthsea novels are being reissued this fall in a new collected edition, illustrated by Charles Vess (!!!). Details and sneak peeks available in this article at The Verge.

(2) There’s a new feature-length documentary about Le Guin, by filmmaker Arwen Curry, and you can watch the trailer and read a bit more about it right here.

Next up, we’ll be looking at a couple more short stories from The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, and then it’s on to City of Illusions, more shorts, and then the biggie, The Left Hand of Darkness (which I’m rereading right now). Hope you’ll join me!

 

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: “April in Paris” and “The Masters”

Welcome back to the Le Guin (re)read! Today we’re tackling the first and second stories she sold to paying markets. “April in Paris” was published in the magazine Fantastic in 1962, and “The Masters” was published in 1963 in the same magazine.

I’m reading them in a collection of her early stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. According to her introductory notes, before she was published she amassed a long string of rejections (and practiced her perseverance!). This for a writer who would later go on to win all of the major science fiction and fantasy awards, become one of only five women to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by her peers in SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and be awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. So if you’re an aspiring writer in the “collecting rejections” stage, take heart!

But I digress…

Note: This post is an analysis of two stories, so there will be minor spoilers throughout. I’ll flag those that are more major.

April in Paris

The first thing you notice as a reader is that the speculative element isn’t immediately apparent. Le Guin devotes a chunk of words to describing the forlorn state of Barry Pennywither, and then another chunk on the even more forlorn state of Jehan Lenoir before finally introducing the summoning/time-travel spell that connects the two. I suspect that if this had been a later story, she would have gotten there quicker.

As in her novels, she stays in deep third-person POV, describing the moment of connection first from Lenoir’s perspective, then from Barry’s very different one. There’s a funny moment when Barry realizes that the other man is speaking not English but French…and there’s something funny about his French…and then a page later he realizes that the man’s speech is odd because it’s very old French, something he has only ever seen written. (Le Guin uses the same device in City of Illusions – coming up a little later in this blog series – when a character has to draw on his knowledge of an ancient language that he has never heard spoken.)

[SPOILERS]

Although this is an early story, it’s clearly in dialogue with others of its subgenre: she has obviously read other time-travel tales and decided to explore a different angle. So her characters exchange knowledge, but quickly realize there’s no point in trying to apply that knowledge in their respective times. What would they do with it? Who would believe them? What would be the point, really? Instead, they simply revel in having it, and even more, sharing it.

For that is the crux of the story: the human connection. That’s what our duo is really looking for, not knowledge for its own sake. Later on, when more characters join the initial pair, they build even stronger connections (though rather heteronormative and even sexist to today’s sensibilities). Finally, they realize that connection (and its flip side, loneliness) is what has created the magic at the core of the story, literally. And ta da, there’s the theme.

[END SPOILERS]

So the story is pretty straightforward, by Le Guin’s later standards. But one can already see the preoccupation with relationships and psychology over the speculative-fiction trappings. She’s using SF to say something; she’s not interested in the cool SF ideas for their own sake, but what she has to say cannot be said without SF.

The Masters

By contrast, this story is all about knowledge: the control and withholding of it, the reinvention and secret sharing of it.

Again, it starts with a very tight focus (though the initial point of view is omniscient): the protagonist, Ganil, in the middle of a scene that’s vivid and visually arresting but has no context. Gradually Le Guin pulls back to give us information about the world (aka worldbuilding): this is an initiation, and Ganil is a Master of what in our world we would call a guild.

One interesting note: Ganil’s friend and mentor, Mede, is described as having blue eyes, but this is so unusual in Ganil’s world as to be seen as a deformity. Le Guin’s Earthsea world is famous for being a rare early fantasy setting full of brown and black people. “The Masters” is six years before the first Earthsea book, with the desire to upend racial assumptions already on her mind.

We learn that although Ganil is a master of his craft, being a master doesn’t involve calculation or critical thinking, just memorization. Mede is the one who nudges Ganil along to (re)discovering this dangerous knowledge, not by telling him outright, but by planting the seeds for Ganil to figure it out himself. It’s exhilarating watching this happen, the excitement of discovery and then of explaining it — rather like “April in Paris”, in fact.

[SPOILERS]

The only woman in the story is Ganil’s love interest. It’s a rather feeble attempt at inclusion, as in Le Guin’s early novels. Thank goodness she realized that she could write about women (and other genders, as in The Left Hand of Darkness) if she wanted to.

By the end, control has come down heavily on our thinkers. Mede is dead, and Ganil is forced to endure terrible punishments and then flee. But, like Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451, he flees with his knowledge and Mede’s still intact. All is not lost; there is hope in the darkness.

[END SPOILERS]

“April in Paris” is a story that would not be possible without its core fantastical device, and it centers around two intellectuals who bond over sharing knowledge, but it’s really about human connection. By contrast, “The Masters” is less about science fiction than it is about science, the joy of it and the suppression of knowledge and the unbeatable relentlessness of human curiosity.

 

Next up, we’ll return to the Hainish Cycle with Planet of Exile. I hope you’ll join me!

 

 

 

Publishing News: Timeshift Anthology Kickstarter and New TDP Story

Just a quick post today, with two pieces of exciting news…

blog-Timeshift-anthology-banner

First, my flash fiction piece “When the World Stopped” has been accepted (as a reprint) into an anthology called Timeshift: Tales of Time, edited by Eric S. Fomley and featuring authors such as Robert Silverberg (!), Cat Rambo, Ken Liu, Kevin J. Anderson, and Mike Resnick…some illustrious company!

Timeshift is a reprint digital anthology collecting time and time travel flash fiction stories from 36 authors in the genre. In the anthology are time stories spanning the adventures (and mishaps) of time travel, time manipulation, time zones, time loops, paradoxes, accidents, twisted futures and so many more penned by both established and emerging authors in the genre.

But the anthology is being funded via Kickstarter, and with only 12 days to go, it hasn’t made its goal yet. If you’d like to read these stories, please consider donating and/or spreading the word. $10 will get you a copy (plus additional perks). Here’s the Kickstarter link: Timeshift

Second, my City of Hope and Ruin co-author, Kit Campbell, has a new short story up at Turtleduck Press. She’s much better than I am at writing humour. I’m particularly fond of this one, and you can read it for free right here: 1-800-HAUNTME

All for now. Stay tuned for more Le Guin next week!

 

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: Rocannon’s World

blog-ursula-le-guin-worlds-of-exile-and-illusionWelcome back to the Ursula K. Le Guin (re)read! In our third installment, we’re talking about her first published novel, Rocannon’s World.

(Previous installments: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and “Semley’s Necklace”/”Dowry of the Angyar”)

As I mentioned last time, Rocannon’s World starts with a prologue, “Semley’s Necklace”. It sets up the various sentient races of the planet in question, and briefly introduces the novel’s main protagonist, the scientist Rocannon. But it’s not closely related to the main action, and here’s why…

The universe of the Hainish tales has FTL communication technology. (Le Guin coins the term “ansible” here; it will later be picked up by other SF authors — see the Wiki article on ansibles.) But what it doesn’t have is FTL transportation for humans. Le Guin will explore the implications of this in various ways as she goes on.

For Rocannon’s World, the initial significance is that due to the quirks of non-FTL travel, Rocannon meets Semley on a space station, then she returns to the planet, but when Rocannon follows, he lands many years later, when Semley is dead and her grandson Mogien is already an adult. It also means that when Rocannon’s ship is destroyed along with his shipmates shortly after landing (not much of a spoiler — it happens in Chapter 1), he is stranded and his home planet is in danger…unless he can make his way across the planet to send a warning.

So we arrive in a pretty straightforward fantasy quest story, trekking across vast stretches of land while exploring varied landscapes and peoples along the way. The fantasy resonances go right down to the multiple sentient races — the Bronze-Age feudal tribespeople (the Angyar), hobbits (Fiia), dwarves (Gdemiar/Clayfolk), and more that Rocannon meets along the way. The inhabitants call Rocannon a Starlord, although they don’t think he’s a god. There are even giant flying cats that can be ridden. (Le Guin would later repurpose the idea in her children’s series Catwings.)

Still, Le Guin has fun with the SF side as well, showing both the low-tech and high-tech perspectives. Semley’s story does a neat job of exploring spaceflight and other high-tech stuff from the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand it at all. In the main part of the novel, there’s a battle of wills between Rocannon and a random belligerent hall-leader who clearly does not understand Rocannon’s protective suit but is determined to beat Rocannon (spoiler: he loses, partly because of the suit but also because Rocannon gets rescued by someone whose life he saved earlier).

[SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Le Guin is also engaging with some big themes while telling an adventure story. For example, what does loyalty mean and what is a life worth? Yahan pledges his life to Rocannon to protect himself from Mogien after he defies Mogien’s orders, then saves Rocannon’s life by rescuing him from the warlord (as mentioned above). Rocannon later gives up the necklace to save Yahan’s life. Several of his companions die to get him to his destination (in fact, Mogien dies as payment for Rocannon’s newfound telepathy, which proves to be essential for Rocannon to complete his quest).

There’s also a running theme of naming. What’s in a name? Are names necessary when you (a) are telepathic, and (b) can describe everything in relation to everything else? Kyo, the little Fiian, is actually named after his village; Rocannon first loses his own name’s pronunciation (the locals call him Rokanan) and then his birth name (he gains the epithets Olhor, the Wanderer, and pedan, the god).

And there are a few stellar moments of “sense of wonder”: the flying on giant winged cats; the creepy but cool Winged Ones and the little word-collecting Kiemhrir; flying through a mountain pass in a snowstorm and emerging high above a MUCH lower plain.

[END SPOILERS]

This is early Le Guin, and it shows — it’s much less sophisticated than her later work, but you can see the seeds of the writer she will develop into. For example, she’s already paying a lot of attention to the prose, which makes this a treat to read. Surprisingly (if you’ve read her later work), there’s no exploration of gender, and it’s a heavily male-dominated story; the few female characters are very much sidelined, but at least they’re not stereotyped.

The worldbuilding isn’t terribly complex, but she clearly made an effort to keep things consistent. For example, most of the fauna (of all sizes) are mammals with wings. There aren’t any insects, and therefore there are no flowers – tree pollen simply releases itself. And not one but several of the humanoid races are telepathic to some degree (she was writing in an era where telepathy was firmly in the science fiction arena).

Rocannon’s World forms a loose trilogy with Planet of Exile and City of Illusions, linked by the shadowy Enemy that Rocannon faces. We’ll be talking about those two in the near future, probably with some short stories interwoven (to make a readalong easier). But coming up first, a few announcements. Stay tuned!

 

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: Semley’s Necklace

First, a quick note to say that I have the beginning of a new serial story up at Turtleduck Press. It’s called Coat of Scarlet, and it’s a gay steampunk romance. With pirates, because I can.

Anyway, welcome to the second installment in the Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read! (If you missed the first installment, it’s here: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.) Today we’re talking about the short story “Semley’s Necklace.”

“Semley’s Necklace” was first published in 1964 under the title “Dowry of the Angyar”, and then reappeared as the prologue in Le Guin’s 1966 novel Rocannon’s World. In the collection of her early stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, she writes that “Semley’s Necklace” was the “germ of a novel” that became Rocannon’s World, the first in her loosely connected Hainish cycle.

Rocannon himself appears only briefly, in a sort of frame story that places “Semley’s Necklace” in perspective. He is a scientist in the galaxy-spanning League of All Worlds (later called the Ekumen), which forms the backdrop of most of the Hainish novels and stories. Against this backdrop, Le Guin is free to tell whatever stories she likes, each set on a different planet, starring different characters, at a different point in history — which is why the Hainish cycle is not called a series. These days we might call it a ‘verse (at least those of us who are fans of Firefly, or of my fellow Turtleduck Press author KD Sarge).

The protagonist of “Semley’s Necklace”, the Lady Semley, has only the dimmest concept of all this. From her perspective, she might as well be in a fantasy story populated with hobbits (the Fiia) and dwarves (Gdemiar/Clayfolk). Not only does she not understand technology or spaceflight, she’s not interested in understanding. The story implies that this is more a trait of her people, the Angyar, than a personal failing of Semley’s. Or is it? What do you think?

Either way, the story presents an interesting contrast in perspectives. Semley is scornful of the funny-looking Gdemiar, but according to the documentation that Rocannon has access to, the Gdemiar are considered the most advanced race on the planet. They have a curiosity and cleverness that the Angyar and Fiia simply don’t. There’s also a throwaway line about how the Gdemiar are probably no longer capable of making beautiful things like the necklace of the title, since they’ve been guided into industrial production (no Star Trek-style Prime Directive here!).

[SPOILERS…]

The core of the story, Semley’s quest to find a lost heirloom necklace, is a Greek-style tragedy about the danger of pride – a character going on a quest she doesn’t fully understand (and doesn’t try to understand), attaining her goal, but losing the reason for it in the end. It makes spaceflight sound like a visit to Faerie, with all the tricksy agreements and bittersweet results one might expect from such a visit.

[END SPOILERS]

Le Guin writes in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters that this is the most “romantic” of her stories; later on she moves more into psychology, losing the fairy-tale feel. She’s not doing anything with gender yet, and the writing isn’t as controlled or sophisticated as her later works. But even in this early story, one can already see her interest in ethnology, in differing worldviews, in the collision of low-technology and high-technology cultures that keeps recurring throughout the Hainish tales. And I found “Semley’s Necklace” to be more emotionally affective than I expected, given how early it is in her oeuvre.

If you have thoughts about “Semley’s Necklace”, please share! I’d love to chat.

Next up: the rest of Rocannon’s World, in which Rocannon is stranded on Semley’s planet and must embark on a quest of his own. Come back the week of May 21 and we’ll discuss!