The Unreal and the Real: Where on Earth

Ursula K. Le Guin  - published November 2012

Selected Stories Volume One
Second Printing: January 2013
9781618730343 · trade cloth · 281pp · $24
9781618730367 · ebook · $14.95
Audio book available here from Recorded Books.
[See Volume 2 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.

“There is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin,”wrote Choire Sicha in November. This two-volume collection of her masterful short stories – one book of science fiction, the other of the mundane – “guns from the grim to the ecstatic, from the State to the Garden of Eden, with just one dragon between.”
Slate Top 10 Books of the Year

“Ursula K. Le Guin is a gift to the world, to the cosmos even. Her works have inspired generations of readers to imagine the endless possibilities of the universe and our own imaginations. Nowhere is the power of Le Guin’s voice more evident than in the nearly forty stories selected for these stunning collections. The first volume includes terrestrial stories full of magical realism and satirical wit. The second volume covers the celestial and the fantastical, straying to the stars and beyond. Both volumes leave the reader in awe of Le Guin’s range and craftsmanship. A perfect addition to any library.”
—Casey Stryer The Elliott Bay Book Co.

“A century from now people will still be reading the fantasy stories of Ursula K Le Guin with joy and wonder. Five centuries from now they might ask if their author ever really existed, or if Le Guin was an identity made from the work of many writers rolled into one. A millennium on and her stories will be so familiar, like myths and fairytales today, that only dedicated scholars will ask who wrote them. Such is the fate of the truly great writers, whose stories far outlive their names.”
The Guardian

For fifty years, National Book Award winner 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 craftswoman.

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.

Where on Earth focuses on Le Guin’s interest in realism and magic realism and includes eighteen of Le Guin’s satirical, political, and experimental earthbound stories.

Highlights include World Fantasy and Hugo Award winner “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” the rarely reprinted satirical short, “The Lost Children,” Jupiter Award winner, “The Diary of the Rose,” and the title story of her Pulitzer Prize finalist collection Unlocking the Air.

Stories in this volume were originally published in venues as varied as Playboy, TriQuarterly, Orbit, Redbook, and The New Yorker. 

Companion volume Outer Space Inner Lands includes Le Guin’s best known nonrealistic 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.

New: Ursula K. Le Guin interviewed on The Millions.

Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin on BBC’s The World.

Robin Morgan interviews UKL, Women’ Media Center live.

Listen to an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin on the Writer’s Voice.

Read an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin on Wired.

LA Times Holiday Gift Guide.

Reviews for Simon & Schuster’s 2016 one-volume hardcover edition

“A truly majestic collection from one of our finest writers, The Unreal and the Real includes a wide range of Le Guin’s short fiction. Filled with keen observations and splendid storytelling, Le Guin’s prose is effortless and graceful, encompassing a multitude of worlds and the people who inhabit them.” — Mary J, Powell’s Books

“Le Guin’s storytelling talent and expressive language make every character’s choices feel true and significant, and all of the stories resonate with the reader.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“Ursula K. Le Guin is the rare writer whose fiction is equally at home in the New Yorker or in Asimov’s Science Fiction. . . . Whether her stories are set in worlds beyond this one or in the building down the street, Le Guin is an astonishing creator and chronicler of communities, and an observer of the ways in which we interact, for good and for bad. These books serve as a fine reminder of that.”
—Tobias Carroll, Minneapolis Star Tribune

From Julie Phillips essay in Bookslut:

“In an email interview, [David Mitchell] spoke of how Le Guin could dream up a nonexistent world ‘and make it feel more real than the ‘real’ here and now around me, this Worcestershire I’m growing up in. Sometimes I think my writing life is the theory, practice and emulation of that same trick.'”
—David Mitchell

“I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism. She never turns away from how flinty the heart of the world is. It gives her speculations a resonance, a gravity that few writers, mainstream or generic, can match.”
—Junot Diaz

“A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell stories, and what stories look like. She’s been extremely influential on me in that area of what I, as a beginning writer, thought a story must look like, and the much more expansive view I have now of what a story can be and can do.”
—Karen Joy Fowler

 “I feel possible with her in the world. Too much else denies who I am or who I could imagine myself to be.”
—Andrea Hairston

“Le Guin’s science fiction, including The Lathe of Heaven and the antiwar The Word for World Is Forest, ‘helped shape my way of thinking about men and women, love and war. She was and remains a central figure for me.'”
—Michael Chabon

“What can be said about Le Guin that hasn’t already been said? She is one of the most iconic of all living writers, in or out of genre. This two-volume set provides an amazing look at the sheer depth and breadth of her short fiction—and should further add to her influence and her legacy.”
Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012

“A career-spanning two-volume sampling of Ursula Le Guin’s short stories, in beautiful hardbacks, as chosen and introduced by the author herself. The stories add up to a masterclass in contemporary fiction, divided according to setting—the ones in Where On Earth all take place on some version of this planet, with Outer Space, Inner Lands visiting locations further afield. Even if, like me, you own all nine of Le Guin’s original collections, these books are too beautiful to resist.”
New Zealand HeraldBest Books of 2012

“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”

“Le Guin has a tendency to write in a fascinating style, a hybrid of minimalism and just slightly pretentious pithiness; when the story can support that kind of emotional payload, it’s powerful stuff.”
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.”

“The first of a two-volume collection focuses on stories that are occasionally tinged with magic but remain primarily realistic…. This volume shows that SFWA Grand Master Le Guin can make as great a mark outside genre fiction as she did within it.”
Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

Volume One: Where on Earth

“Introduction: Choosing and Dividing”
“Brothers and Sisters”
“A Week in the Country”
“Unlocking the Air”
“Imaginary Countries”
“The Diary of the Rose” [audio; BBC Radio 7, read by Laurel Lefkow]
“The Direction of the Road”
“The White Donkey”
“Gwilan’s Harp”
“May’s Lion”
“Buffalo Gals”
“Horse Camp”
“The Lost Children”
“The Water is Wide”
“Hand, Cup, Shell”
“Ether, OR”
“Half Past Four

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

“An important writer. Period.”—The Washington Post

“Witty, satirical and amusing. Yet it is the author’s more serious work that displays her talents best, as she employs recurring themes and elements—cultural diversity, unlikely heroes and heroines, power’s ability to corrupt, love’s power to guide—and considers characters and types (women, children, the differently sexed and gendered) so often disenfranchised by other, more technologically oriented SF writers. . . . [A] classy and valuable collection.”
Publishers Weekly

“Her characters are complex and haunting, and her writing is remarkable for its sinewy grace.”

“Le Guin’s prose is so luminous and simple, and she always tells the truth, and when I’m with her people, I’m with living people, on worlds as solid and real as my own. Le Guin has a gift, which is to transform words into worlds.”
—Molly Gloss

“There is no writer with an imagination as forceful and delicate as Ursula Le Guin’s.”
—Grace Paley

“[Le Guin] examines the most public of politics and the most intimate of emotions, constantly challenging her readers to reconsider what it means to be human and humane.”
—Mary Doria Russell

“Le Guin brings reality itself to the proving ground.”—Theodore Sturgeon

“A master of the craft.”—Neil Gaiman

“[E]verything Le Guin does is interesting, believable, and exquisitely detailed.”—Los Angeles Herald Examiner

“Delicious . . . her worlds are haunting psychological visions molded with firm artistry.”—Library Journal

“There is no more elegant or discerning expositor than Le Guin.”—Kirkus Reviews

“‘Beauty’ is the word for what Ursula K. Le Guin has wrought here. She explores ways in which we can be foreign and alien to each other, yet still love. Sometimes I don’t even know why the tears had sprung to my eyes: I just knew that I was deeply moved.”—Nalo Hopkinson

“I don’t know anyone else who can do what Le Guin does. Her work is simple and brilliantly clear, like a Buddha’s laugh: joyfully serious, delighted with the joke that is life. Le Guin writes about love, pure and simple—love and all the ways in which it refuses to be bound—and she does so beautifully.”—Nicola Griffith

“Le Guin’s writing touches on something ancient in all of us—something atavistic, of folktales and sagas, that comes from deep inside.”—Carol Emshwiller

“Le Guin is a writer of enormous intelligence and wit, a master storyteller with the humor and the force of a Twain.”
The Boston Globe

Cover by John D. Berry.
Cover art: “Wildcat” 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