Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real (2012). According to the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Ursula Le Guin has written over 150 pieces of short prose fiction. This 2-volume anthology has 38 pieces that she herself chose as her best, the first volume more realistic ones, and the second volume more in line with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy. I read her collection The Compass Rose a week ago, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea some 20 years ago, so many of the stories were already familiar to me. One story in the Hainish cycle describes a race of humanoids where sixteen girls are born to each boy; in their society, men are little more than sex objects and inseminators, denied education and normal jobs. When interstellar masculinist imperialists demand that men be given equal rights, cultural tensions result. This story made me look up Fisher's principle from evolutionary biology: a mutation that brings the ratio of the sexes closer to 1 to 1 will spread through the population like wildfire; perhaps in the imaginary biology of the humanoids all such mutations are lethal. Another story looks at a mouse in a maze from the point of view of an intelligent mouse. The mouse refers to the human researcher as an alien, although mice have been pests of humans for 10,000 years; surely, they must have gotten used to us. There is a dark ghost story involving slavery, rape and murder set in a Bronze Age caste society. There is a story gradually revealed to be about a wolf who is a were-human. There is a story about feathered humanoids, among whom one person in a thousand grows wings during puberty and can fly. I cannot say that all or even most stories touched me emotionally, but a few did very much so.
Tags: books, science fiction