The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and the Pushcart Prize, Ursula K. Le Guin is renowned for her lyrical writing, rich characters, and diverse worlds. The Wind's Twelve Quarters collects seventeen powerful stories, each with an introduction by the author, ranging from fantasy to intriguing scientific concepts, from medieval settings to the future.
Including an insightful foreword by Le Guin, describing her experience, her inspirations, and her approach to writing, this stunning collection explores human values, relationships, and survival, and showcases the myriad talents of one of the most provocative writers of our time.
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About the Author
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2014, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry, and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, and PEN/Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories.
Date of Birth:October 21, 1929
Place of Birth:Berkeley, California
Education:B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
Read an Excerpt
The Wind's Twelve QuartersStories
By Le Guin, Ursula K.
This story, written in 1963, published as "Dowry of the Angyar" in 1964 and as the Prologue of my first novel, Rocannon's World, in 1966, was actually the eighth story I got printed; but it opens the book because I think it's the most characteristic of my early science fiction and fantasy works, the most romantic of them all. The progress of my style has been away from open romanticism, slowly and steadily, from this story to the last one in the volume, written in 1972. It has been a progress. I am still a romantic, no doubt about that, and glad of it, but the candor and simplicity of "Semley's Necklace" have gradually become something harder, stronger, and more complex.
How can you tell the legend from the fact on these worlds that lie so many years away? -- planets without names, called by their people simply The World, planets without history, where the past is the matter of myth, and a returning explorer finds his own doings of a few years back have become the gestures of a god. Unreason darkens that gap of time bridged by our lightspeed ships, and in the darkness uncertainty and disproportion grow like weeds.
In trying to tell the story of a man, an ordinary League scientist, who went to such a nameless half-known world not many years ago, one feels like an archaeologist amid millennial ruins, now struggling throughchoked tangles of leaf, flower, branch and vine to the sudden bright geometry of a wheel or a polished cornerstone, and now entering some commonplace, sunlit doorway to find inside it the darkness, the impossible flicker of a flame, the glitter of a jewel, the half-glimpsed movement of a woman's arm.
How can you tell fact from legend, truth from truth?
Through Rocannon's story the jewel, the blue glitter seen briefly, returns. With it let us begin, here: Galactic Area 8, No. 62: FOMALHAUT II. High-Intelligence Life Forms: Species Contacted: Species I. A. Gdcmiar (singular Gdem): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid nocturnal troglodytes, 120-135 cm. in height, light skin, dark head-hair. When contacted these cave-dwellers possessed a rigidly stratified oligarchic urban society modified by partial colonial telepathy, and a technologically oriented Early Steel culture. Technology enhanced to Industrial, Point C, during League Mission of 252-254. In 254 an Automatic Drive ship (to-from New South Georgia) was presented to oligarchs of the Kiriensea Area community. Status C-Prime. B. Fiia (singular Fian): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid, diurnal, av. Ca. 130 cm. in height, observed individuals generally light in skin and hair. Brief contacts indicated village and nomadic communal societies, partial colonial telepathy, also some indication of short-range TX The race appears a-technological and evasive, with minimal and fluid culture-patterns. Currently untaxable. Status E-Query. Species II. Liuar (singular Liv): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid, diurnal, av. height above 170 cm., this species possesses a fortress/village, clan-descent society, a blocked technology (Bronze), and feudal-heroic culture. Note horizontal social cleavage into 2 pseudo-races: (a) Olgyior, "midmen," light-skinned and darkhaired; (b) Angyar, "lords," very tall, dark-skinned, yellowhaired --
Galactic Area 8, No. 62: FOMALHAUT II. High-Intelligence Life Forms: Species Contacted: Species I.
A. Gdcmiar (singular Gdem): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid nocturnal troglodytes, 120-135 cm. in height, light skin, dark head-hair. When contacted these cave-dwellers possessed a rigidly stratified oligarchic urban society modified by partial colonial telepathy, and a technologically oriented Early Steel culture. Technology enhanced to Industrial, Point C, during League Mission of 252-254. In 254 an Automatic Drive ship (to-from New South Georgia) was presented to oligarchs of the Kiriensea Area community. Status C-Prime.
B. Fiia (singular Fian): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid, diurnal, av. Ca. 130 cm. in height, observed individuals generally light in skin and hair. Brief contacts indicated village and nomadic communal societies, partial colonial telepathy, also some indication of short-range TX The race appears a-technological and evasive, with minimal and fluid culture-patterns. Currently untaxable. Status E-Query.
Liuar (singular Liv): Highly intelligent, fully hominoid, diurnal, av. height above 170 cm., this species possesses a fortress/village, clan-descent society, a blocked technology (Bronze), and feudal-heroic culture. Note horizontal social cleavage into 2 pseudo-races: (a) Olgyior, "midmen," light-skinned and darkhaired; (b) Angyar, "lords," very tall, dark-skinned, yellowhaired --
"That's her," said Rocannon, looking up from the Abridged Handy Pocket Guide to Intelligent Life-forms at the very tall, dark-skinned, yellow-haired woman who stood halfway down the long museum hail. She stood still and erect, crowned with bright hair, gazing at something in a display case. Around her fidgeted four uneasy and unattractive dwarves.
"I didn't know Fomaihaut II had all those people besides the trogs," said Ketho, the curator.
"I didn't either. There are even some 'Unconfirmed' species listed here, that they never contacted. Sounds like time for a more thorough survey mission to the place. Well, now at least we know what she is."
"I wish there were some way of knowing who she is ...
She was of an ancient family, a descendant of the first kings of the Angyar, and for all her poverty her hair shone with the pure, steadfast gold of her inheritance. The little people, the Fiia, bowed when she passed them, even when she was a barefoot child running in the fields, the light and fiery comet of her hair brightening the troubled winds of Kirien.
She was still very young when Durhal of Hallan saw her, courted her, and carried her away from the ruined towers and windy halls of her childhood to his own high home. In Hallan on the mountainside there was no comfort either, though splendor endured ... Continues...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Le Guin shines far brighter in her novels than in these short stories, though some of them do capture that same magic.
Unlike Four Ways to Forgiveness, this is an uneven collection, a mixed bag of Le Guin's early short stories.My favorite are definitely the sci-fi stories: from Hainish cycle - Winter's King (a prequel to The Left Hand of Darkness), The Day Before the Revolution (a prequel to The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia), Vaster than Empires and More Slow (humans try to communicate with a different type of intelligence, reminiscent of Solaris); and independent - Nine Lives (about cloning) and The Field of Vision (explores mysterious structures on Mars).A couple of Earthsea shorts are great too - The Word of Unbinding and The Rule of Names. I wasn't sure I wanted to try Le Guin's fantasy before, but now I am certain I will, her magic system is quite interesting.The worst for me are the psychomyth category of stories (very much like Margo Lanagan's writing) and the acid-trippy ones. They are just weird and most of the time I didn't even understand them. The best in this bunch are - The Masters and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, hard to explain what they are about though...Almost forgot, another good thing about the collection is that all stories are preceded by the author's introductions. Interesting to learn about Le Guin's creative process. She is a very smart woman.P.S. I would really appreciate if someone could explain Darkness Box to me. It seems to be a favorite of many readers, but I have absolutely no idea what happened in it.
In her foreword to this short story collection, Le Guin refers to it as a retrospective. 17 short stories are assembled here from the first 10-12 years of Le Guin's publication. They cover the period 1962 to 1974 and originally appeared in anthologies such as Orbit, New Dimensions and various magazines. I had read one or two of these stories several decades ago, but such time has passed that I have no real recollection of them other than the title. I picked this up primarily to read two Earthsea "prequel" stories, ones that were written before any of the Earthsea novels. However, I am discovering that there are a number of seminal stories in the book, including the first story "Semley's Necklace", which became the spring off point for [Rocannon's World], a novel I liked a lot as a youngster. It was a treat to read this and it had echoes of remembrance for me. There is also a brief mention of Rocannon in the story "Vaster than Empires and More Slow".In addition to the foreword to this collection from Le Guin, she prefaces each story within with background information about the story. This is a real bonus giving us insight into the writer's mind, trivia and ideas. I also liked discovering that Le Guin had a short story rejected from John Campbell at Astounding - and was proud of the rejection slip - she had written and submitted the story at the age of 12. It would be dozens of stories and about twenty years before a story of hers was finally published in Fantastic Magazine at the age of 32. Slightly annoying, though, was Le Guin's constant use of a term in relation to her writing, one I had never heard before and which perhaps she made up, and which really didn't have meaning to me: "Pschomyth". So her repeated references to something either being or not being a psychomyth was not instructive.What is possibly Le Guin's most famous or renowned short story, "The ones who walk away from Omelas" is included in this collection. This book provided the reason for the name Omelas. I was rather surprised. The story never rocked my world.The oldest story in the collection, "April in Paris" is nearly 50 years old as I write this, and it is a fairly good tale. The quality of the stories overall is somewhat uneven, and I was even bored a bit at times ("Darkness Box", "The Trip") and rather disinterested in some of the others. I didn't care for the style of writing in a number of the stories. The two Earthsea stories, which prompted me to read this collection were quite short (about 22 pgs total including the introductions by Le Guin) and are mostly of interest from a historical view as the beginnings of the Earthsea world. I'm surprised, though, that Le Guin did not set more short stories within Earthsea. The "Left hand of Darkness" related story "Winter's King" was interesting and quite good. My least favorite stories and the ones that felt the most dated were the stories told in a "hip" or with a bit of a trippy stream of consciousness manner. Overall this is an uneven collection that I expected to enjoy a lot more than I did. I'd rate it at the low end of my average reading.