Introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin
This book is not extrapolative. If you like you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought-experiment.
Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.
Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.
In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.
The Left-Hand of Darkness
“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?” “No—” “To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.” (Page: 57)
The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” (Page: 58)
There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter. (Page: 77)
To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness. (Page: 126)
After all he is no more an oddity, a sexual freak, than I am; up here on the Ice each of us is singular, isolate, I as cut off from those like me, from my society and its rules, as he from his. There is no world full of other Gethenians here to explain and support my existence. We are equals at last, equal, alien, alone. He did not laugh, of course. Rather he spoke with a gentleness that I did not know was in him. After a while he too came to speak of isolation, of loneliness.(Page: 194)
Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way. (Page: 195)