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The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin
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The Found & the Lost discussion > "Vaster Than Empires And More Slow" by Ursula K. Le Guin

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 10, 2018 06:51PM) (new)

This is our discussion of the short story....

" Vaster Than Empires And More Slow " by Ursula K. Le Guin

(Originally published 1971. New Dimensions 1 & The Wind's Twelve Quarters)

From the anthology The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin by Ursula K. Le Guin. See The Found and the Lost anthology discussion hub for more info on the anthology and pointers to discussion of its other stories.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

A stand-alone scifi in Le Guin's Hainish universe. (We'vre read a couple of Le Guin's Hainish stories in the past, most recently The Dispossessed and some time ago The Word for World is Forest. A galaxy full of human diaspora (originating on Hain, which seeded Earth/Terra) and mostly humanoid aliens. No FTL travel, but NAFAL = Nearly as Fast as Light. FTL communication, the ansible, though in this story Le Guin uses distance to negate it, much as modern writers contrive to negate cell phones :) None of that is really important to the story.

I liked Le Guin's quip in the introduction, "I could see where a reader about halfway through might find the title all too descriptive of the story itself." I didn't find it especially apt of this story, though.

An exploration team sent to a very remote planet. The crew has an empath, Osden, who receives & reflects emotions back to others. (Poor choice :)

(view spoiler)

I thought the story had a cople of characters too many. Needed to make a credible exploration team, I suppose, but making it harder to get through the opening introductions and keep them straight.


message 3: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 2569 comments Ok, so I wasn't the only one that didn't quite get that quip, it certainly wasn't a spoiler like she seemed to think people would find it to be.

I was immediately positively inclined towards it because I was suprised to find a Hainish story here, I even caught the reference to Rocannon's World (own it but haven't read it yet). Of course I was quick to find out that most of the stories are based in her Hain universe, but at this point I didn't know that. I like how all her "humans" are slightly different from each other, but she doesn't make a big point of it, like how in the Dispossessed she just happens to mention that the people on Antarres are fuzzy.

This is probably the only story I've read when an empath is actually maladjusted, generally they seem perfectly fine feeling everyone else's feelings but this felt more realistic. Also how people generally meet strangers with a bit of wariness, even more so if they know there's something "special" about that stranger, and how that caused him to respond in kind, reinforcing the negative reaction and building on it.

I was about to say that I didn't find that in the other stories the characters that travelled space were equally mentally unstable, but in retrospect, they did each have some reason for leaving their home even if that meant everyone they ever knew would be dead by the time they came back.


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments This was my second or third time reading this story. I appreciated it more this time. It's a difficult story, filled with deliberately unlikeable characters and an opposing force that's incomprehensible by design.

Andrea wrote: "I was about to say that I didn't find that in the other stories the characters that travelled space were equally mentally unstable"
In the timeline of the Hainish cycle this is one of the earlier stories and i guess the idea was abandoned by the time we get to the later stories. Probably a good thing they did.

G33z3r wrote: "I didn't find it especially apt of this story, though."
(view spoiler)


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Brendan wrote: "G33z3r wrote: "I didn't find it especially apt of this story, though."
(spoiler redacted) ..."


No, I meant I didn't find the quip apt, that the story's pace was vast & slow, not that the title wasn't apt,... never mind, I'm a failure at communication. (Though I wouldn't have found the title apt, either, if Le Guin hadn't expanded the source of the title in the intro, 'cause I'm not 1% as well-read as she was.)


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrea wrote: "This is probably the only story I've read when an empath is actually maladjusted, generally they seem perfectly fine feeling everyone else's feelings but this felt more realistic...."

I thought the interesting aspect of Osden was that he was more like a psychic mirror or amplifier: He picks up even slight disapproval from others and that emotion projects back on them, so they dislike him more, which projects back, and eventually he hates everyone and they hate him. The man needs some sort of psychic shielding. I also liked the notion that at first he was autistics as a means of self-defense from other emotions, but they "cured" his autism and now he's just loathed.


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