The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space, Inner Lands

Ursula K. Le Guin  - published November 2012

Selected Stories Volume Two
Second Printing: January 2013
9781618730350 · trade cloth · 333pp · $24
9781618730374 · ebook · $14.95
Audio book available here from Recorded Books.
[See Volume 1 here.]

New: Now available in one volume from Simon & Schuster/Saga.
— Four Questions from Publishers Weekly

Don’t miss Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech upon receiving the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.
— Profiles in: Boston Globe · The Guardian · NPR · Los Angeles Times · New Yorker · Salon ·

Read the Paris Review interview.

Oregon Book Award winner.
World Fantasy and Locus award finalist.

For fifty years, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories have shaped the way her readers see the world. Her work gives voice to the voiceless, hope to the outsider, and speaks truth to power. Le Guin’s writing is witty, wise, both sly and forthright; she is a master craftswomen.

This two-volume selection of almost forty stories taken from her eleven collections was made by Le Guin herself, as was the organizing principle of splitting the stories into the nominally realistic and fantastic.

Outer Space, Inner Lands has twenty stories, including such modern classics as “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” and “Nine Lives” (both of which have been reprinted more than twenty times); Tiptree Award winner “The Matter of Seggri”; Nebula Award winner “Solitude”; and the secret history “Sur,” which was included in The Best American Short Stories.

Le Guin’s stories range from somber (“Small Change”) to hilarious (“The First Contact With the Gorgonids”), from fairy tales (“The Poacher”) to the quiet end of the world (“She Unnames Them”).

Stories in this volume were originally published in venues as varied as Amazing Stories, Playboy, Universe, The New Yorker, and Omni, and received the Hugo, Tiptree, Nebula, Asimov’s, and Locus awards.

Companion volume Where on Earth explores Le Guin’s satirical, political and experimental earthbound stories. Both volumes include new introductions by the author.

The Unreal and the Real is a much-anticipated event which will delight, amuse, and provoke.


“Ms. Le Guin, though, has matured from the vividness and imagination she had from the beginning into wisdom and a clearsightedness that reaches past sympathy.”
—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal

“The Unreal and the Real guns from the grim to the ecstatic, from the State to the Garden of Eden, with just one dragon between. (Every collection needs one dragon.) In every good career-spanning collection, you can observe an author growing into her authority. Here, every story, in its own way and from its own universe, told in its own mode, explains that there is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin.”
Slate“No Better Spirit”

“The metaphorical language of fantasy has the capacity to touch us in the most profound ways. But many otherwise great fantasy writers, including JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, fall too easily into the traps of dogma and moral superiority, making their medicine sometimes hard to swallow. The stories of Ursula K Le Guin manage the sublime trick of touching our hearts while also satisfying our cynical, modern minds. For this reason her stories will pass into legend, to touch many generations to come.”
The Guardian

“Consistently excellent.”—Nerds of a Feather

“Only ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight’ and ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ are among the author’s well-known classics. On the other hand, read ‘Hand, Cup, Shell’ or ‘The Matter of Segri.’ Then consider that there may really be no such thing as minor Le Guin, particularly if one is disposed to savor a command of the English language that remains nearly unequaled in the ranks of English-language sf and fantasy. Equally good as an introduction to the author’s short fiction or to fill in gaps that may remain in larger collections.”— Booklist

“Second of a two-volume set, this bare-bones collection focuses on SFWA Grand Master Le Guin’s overtly fantastic visions. Settings of 20 stories, all previously anthologized, include both the science fictional Ekumen, a community of worlds populated by humans shaped by the hubristic Hain of the distant past, to such fantastical realms as the West Reach, “where dragons breed on the lava isles.” Le Guin’s imagination ranges widely; the most interesting sequence involves the world Seggri, whose gender politics are charmingly different from ours but equally constrained. This short collection, offering samples from across Le Guin’s career to date, shows why she has been a major voice in science fiction and fantasy since the 1960s.”
Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
“Semley’s Necklace”
“Nine Lives”
“The First Contact With the Gorgonids”
“The Shobies’ Story”
“The Matter of Seggri”
“The Wild Girls”
“The Fliers of Gy”
“The Silence of the Asonu”
“The Ascent of the North Face”
“The Author of the Acacia Seeds”
“The Wife’s Story”
“The Rule of Names”
“Small Change”
“The Poacher”
“She Unnames Them” [podcast, read by the author]

Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story collections:

“She is the reigning queen of…but immediately we come to a difficulty, for what is the fitting name of her kingdom? Or, in view of her abiding concern with the ambiguities of gender, her queendom, or perhaps—considering how she likes to mix and match—her quinkdom? Or may she more properly be said to have not one such realm, but two?”
—Margaret Atwood, New York Review of Books

“She is a splendid short-story writer…. Fiction, like Borges’s, that finds its life in the interstices between the borders of speculative fiction and realism.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Ursula Le Guin’s prose breathes light and intelligence. She can lift fiction to the level of poetry and compress it to the density of allegory.”
—Jonathan Lethem

“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.”
The Boston Globe

“Admirers of fine literature, fantastic or not, will cherish this rich offering.”—Publishers Weekly

“She wields her pen with a moral and psychological sophistication rarely seen… and while science fiction techniques often buttress her stories they rarely take them over. What she really does is write fables: splendidly intricate and hugely imaginative tales about such mundane concerns as life, death, love, and sex.”

“Le Guin’s powerful work illustrates that fantasy need not be escapist, that gender studies need not be dry or strident, and that entertainment need not be mindless.”
The Onion

Cover by John D. Berry.
Cover art: “Golden Apple Tree” copyright 2010 by Paul Roden & Valerie Lueth, Tugboat Printshop.

Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and received the Hugo, Nebula, Endeavor, Locus, Tiptree, Sturgeon, PEN-Malamud, and National Book Award and the Pushcart and Janet Heidinger Kafka prizes, among others.

In recent years she received lifetime achievement awards from Los Angeles Times, World Fantasy Awards, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Willamette Writers, as well as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the Library of Congress Living Legends award. Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award.

Her recent publications include three survey collections: The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas; The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories; and The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena, Stories and Songs (Library of America) as well as a collection of poetry, Late in the Day, and a nonfiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters. Her website is