‘The Day Before The Revolution’ by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Day Before The Revolution by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1974

The magic trick:

Telling a very specific – and larger – science fiction story built around the very human concern of a woman aging and looking for meaning through her life’s work

We have a weekend double of Ursula K.

So evidently this story is the beginning of Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed. It’s a big science-fiction world-building thing, so it’s interesting that I read this entire story unaware of any continuation beyond the text here. I think that speaks highly of the story’s quality.

Looking back, I can definitely see where a lot of it was world-building. I didn’t really understand the political intrigue or the references to different races and civilizations. Generally speaking, I just don’t really enjoy that kind of thing, so it was easy for me to ignore. It’s to the story’s credit that there is plenty of recognizably human concerns here to latch onto.

Which really is the point of my magic trick entry here. Yes, it’s a story set in a science fiction world. But the heart of the story is an aging woman, reflecting on her life, her decisions, and her impact.

And that’s quite a trick on Le Guin’s part.

The selection:

The young people went about the halls of the House in becoming immodesty, but she was too old for that. She didn’t want to spoil some young man’s breakfast with the sight of her. Besides, they had grown up in the principle of freedom of dress and sex and all the rest, and she hadn’t. All she had done was invent it. It’s not the same.


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