The Left Hand of Darkness

A human envoy from a collection of planets known as the Ekumen, Genly Ai arrives on a planet known as “Winter.” This other world is mostly glacier, with a thin strip of habitable land which several nations share uneasily but peacefully. The people of Winter vacillate between genders, living most of the time as neither man nor woman, but regularly and briefly changing into one or the other to partner. The envoy’s solitary mission is to welcome them to the Ekumen, but to do so he must first find welcome himself. In her world-building, Le Guin asks us to expand what it means to be human; in Genly’s story, we can only assent.