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Literature / Changing Planes

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I never saw such a variety of people as were in that car - all shapes, sizes, colors, degrees of hairiness, featheriness (the street sweeper's tail had indeed been a tail), and, I thought, looking at one long, greenish youth, even leafiness.

A cycle of stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, each taking place on another plane - the word "plane" being used not unlike in the universe of Planescape or Magic: The Gathering, the main difference being that in Le Guin's book one can get to another plane only from the waiting lounge at the airport, provided that one is sufficiently stressed and tired. Differences between particular planes are primarily cultural, even if they are of biological or technological origin. People from Earth practice interplanary travel either out of boredom at the airport or as tourists who want to spend their holidays on a particular plane. When the stories focus on them instead of the natives of the other planes, it is done for Aesopian purposes. The stories are not very action-laden, as they resemble anthropological descriptions of foreign cultures and are based on the exploration of large but simple differences between the inhabitants of Earth and other planes.


The book contains:

  • Sita Dulip's Method
  • Porridge on Islac (Islac)
  • The Silence of the Asonu (plane of the Asonu)
  • Feeling at Home with the Hennebet (Hennebet)
  • The Ire of the Veksi (Veksian plane)
  • Seasons of the Ansarac (plane of the Ansarac)
  • Social Dreaming of the Frin (Frinthian plane)
  • The Royals of Hegn (Hegn)
  • Woeful Tales from Mahigul (Mahigul):
    • Dawodow the Innumerable
    • The Cleansing of Obtry
    • The Black Dog
    • The War across the Alon
  • Great Joy (Musu Sum)
  • Wake Island (Orichi)
  • The Nna Mmoy Language (plane of the Nna Mmoy)
  • The Building (Qoq)
  • The Fliers of Gy (Gy)
  • The Island of the Immortals (Yendian plane)
  • Confusions of Uni (Uni)


Provides examples of:

  • Big Labyrinthine Building: on Qoq, one is built by the Aq for hundreds of years, for incomprehensible reasons.
  • Blue Blood: Averted on Hegn, where the commons are much less numerous than members of aristocracy.
  • Christmas in July: on the Great Joy plane, Christmas lasts all year. Just like Halloween. And Easter. And the Valentine's Day. And any other holiday you could wish for.
  • Women Are Wiser: On Mahigul, women from the opposing tribes of Hua and Farim make the war less violent by the intentional killing of the creature supporting the warriors.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Why are they building the giant building on Qoq? No one can tell you. Even the builders know nothing more than that it's for the other race.
  • Psychic Link: between the Frinth, who are able to share the dreams of those around them.
  • Starfish Language: The Nna Mmoy language is this literally: "Texts written in Nna Mmoy are not linear, either horizontally or vertically, but radial, budding out in all directions, like the branches or growing crystals, from a first or central word which, once the text is complete, may well be neither the center nor the beginning of the statement. (...) We talk snake. A snake can go any direction but only one direction at the time, following its head. They talk starfish."
  • The Voiceless: The Asonu. Slightly subverted, as their silence is considered the proof of unspeakable wisdom, which eventually leads to breaking contact with them.
  • Winged Humanoid: Some of the people from Gy have wings (and can fly, but most never do it, as winged Gyr are subject to the risk of sudden, catastrophic wing failure).


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