Ursula K. Le Guin, confronting sexism in sci-fi publishing since 1987

Image: Hugh D’Andrade (Click image to enlarge)

Dear Mr Radziewicz,

I can imagine myself blurbing a book in which Brian Aldiss, predictably, sneers at my work, because then I could preen myself on my magnanimity. But I cannot imagine myself blurbing a book, the firt of a new series and hence presumably exemplary of the series, which not only contains no writing by women, but the tone of which is so self-contentedly, exclusively male, like a club, or a locker room. That would not be magnanimity, but foolishness. Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here.

Yours truly,
Ursula K. Le Guin

One of the commenters on Facebook suggested that the book Le Guin is referring to is the first volume of the Synergy science fiction anthology of stories authored exclusively by men, published in 1987.

Synergy volume 1 science fiction

Her firm but polite response shows she’s one classy lady. I really need to read one of her books.

14 thoughts on “Ursula K. Le Guin, confronting sexism in sci-fi publishing since 1987

  1. What a wonderful letter! hard to believe they had the gall to ask her to write a forward to that volume.

    I wonder if Brian Aldiss really did sneer at her, and what he said.

    As for her books, if it’s gender you’re interested in, The Left Hand of Darkness is an early classic of hers. I love the EarthSea series, which I read as child. She’s also written some good non-fiction but I can’t recall any titles – possibly just essays here & there. I admit I haven’t read much of her more recent stuff, I should do that.


    1. I didn’t know she wrote non-fic, I’ll definitely be on the look out for that. The Left Hand of Darkness looks interesting. Just looking at the first pages of Earthsea on Amazon was a little intimidating, but I do vaguely remember watching the TV adaptions some years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In addition to what mmaamej said, If you like short fiction The Wind’s Twelve Quarters is brilliant. My favorite Le Guin novel is The Dispossessed.


    1. I’ve added those to my wish list. I didn’t realise The Dispossessed was a utopian novel. I’m reading Utopia by Thomas More next month, so perhaps I’ll read this one after that.


  3. The Left Hand of Darkness is an excellent place to start; you might also want to try The Dispossessed, which pits a exaggeratedly socialist society against an exaggeratedly capitalist society (I actually like The DIspossessed better, but opinions vary). And The Lathe of Heaven, a shorter work, has been made into several films/plays/etc.


  4. You know in a free society driven by capitalism and the all mighty dollar.

    What exactly is the excuse for women? That they are repressed because men have bigger muscles or eye brows?

    Because it sure isn’t because they cannot vote or write and buy books. They have a majority and Visa isn’t lining up to cock block(Beaver dam) them on the credit line.

    And what does Romance, Fantasy, Young Adult genres say about the female mentality. Like the Behemoth selling S&M Shades series which ironically points out that women are a market unto themselves and publishers do aim plenty of sellable goods there way.

    I think pointing out this every chance one gets doesn’t always equate to a group being repressed but of self victimization. Something hardly rare in appearance.

    Flame away.


  5. I’ve only recently started to read Ursula K Le Guin’s books and I can honestly say that I wished I’d started years ago. The Left Hand of Darkness is a classic. Ursula writes about gender in a way that has really made me think about my own attitudes to the opposite sex. Enjoy reading.


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