Ursula LeGuin estate posthumously changes 7 words across 3 different LeGuin books

Originally published at: Ursula LeGuin estate posthumously changes 7 words across 3 different LeGuin books | Boing Boing


Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” had to get revised twice.


I doubt the offended right will be clutching their pearls and Ursula LeGuin, at least not for long.


Sounds like a good move to me.

And if anyone’s worried that this is some kind of censorship or erasure, earlier editions will continue to be readily available.


I expect that UKLeG would have approved the changes herself; she was fairly responsive to updating her works as needed.


“I strongly reject this censorship of great authors like Ursula K. Le Guin and her great works should remain unchanged, and in fact should be read as much as possible in their original form. I’m reading The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas right now!”


I didn’t think I could have any more admiration for ULG, but that note above her desk… Pretty clear her son made the right call.


That I’m reading about this probably means it’s the same kind of financially-motivated PR exercise as the Roald Dahl “story”. But if the book industry is going to do these shenanigans, I’d much rather see Ursula Le Guin’s work get the attention.

I doubt the magaverse will pick it up, but who knows? It’s not like they ever read any Roald Dahl or Dr Seuss books either.


I didn’t know that some editions of Left Hand of Darkness had changed the gender of the people of Gethen, but this is surprising to me. I only read this book a couple of years ago. This edition used “he” for (almost) all Gethenians. TThat the narrator uses “he” for these people is core to the story. It shows his unreliability, innate sexism, and narrow-mindedness. It would be fundamental change to the story to alter the pronouns.

An essay that was included with my edition of the book, which I think is this one, described it well (spoilers!).


I’m not sure that’s literally true




I have no special knowledge here and U.K.L. wouldn’t have known me from a fence post, but I did get to “open” for her at a reading once with one of my short stories. She said something kind, and I probably glowed bright enough to see from space. She was a great soul and a brilliant author and she deserves descendants that “get her” so well.


The alterations sounds reasonable to me. I’m rereading “The Dispossessed” at the moment. Kudos to the estate.


I’m curious what the new word choices are, but my googling was unsuccessful.

Roughly the “three sieves of Socrates”. Questions to ask yourself if you are presented with a rumor before you consider passing it on. Certainly applicable in other scenarios.


The narrator’s misuse of the masculine pronoun could be appropriate, but everyone else in the book shouldn’t use it. I’m pretty sure LeGuin mentioned that herself in an essay.


The premise of the story was that this alien society used gender-neutral pronouns which had no English translation, so the narrator chose to default to masculine pronouns. This choice tells the reader as much about the narrator’s internalized cultural biases as it does about anything else. Obviously, the English language has adapted to become more accommodating of gender-neutral pronouns since the novel was first published in 1969 but the language conventions still made sense for the culture and setting in which the story took place. Forcing the reader to confront their own biases regarding gender was a major theme of the story, after all.

Fast forward few decades and you have writers like Ann Leckie who created a vision of the future where several different human cultures inhabit the galaxy, many of which have very different conventions regarding gender. The Radch empire from the Ancillary trilogy uses feminine pronouns for all people, other cultures use masculine/feminine pronouns much like most human cultures today, and the culture at the center of Provenance uses gender-neutral pronouns until a given citizen comes of age and declares themselves as male, female, or nonbinary in a ceremony that is something in between a gender-reveal party and a bar/bat-mitzvah.


That’s certainly an effect the masculine pronouns had for some readers, but I’m not sure that was necessarily the intent.

Pardon the cached site, but I can’t seem to find this 1994 afterward from the book posted anywhere else.


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I think if most people ditched The Bible or whatever religious text that they “try to live their life by” and adopted these questions as their “guiding light” the world would be a better place.


I don’t want to dismiss the fact that this has been used to marginalize and insult people for decades, and I think it’s in the spirit of UKL’s work to go back over her text and consider these kinds of revisions. I’m interested in this one, though, because the origins of “queer” simply mean “strange, peculiar”, and were most commonly used to denote “a queer feeling” (sometimes in the sense of a supernatural or otherworldly feeling), or something that causes this feeling. I assume that it’s in this sense that UKL meant it. Do folks feel like this meaning of the word is problematic in older texts? And today should it never be used except as its reclaimed use by the Queer community?

As another thought, “queer” was being used to mean “gay” for decades before she wrote these books, and as a feminist author with an immense thoughtfulness about her language (see the great afterword linked by @GospelX) she would have been thinking about the word and its varied meanings. Was she wrong to use it then?


the main reason I’m sort of “OK” with this is that the reader is told of the changes.

Otherwise, I really don’t like other people making changes to any art. I mean, I get where her son is coming from, but as someone who has created various things in my lifetime, Id hate to have anyone monkey with my stuff