Always Coming Home

Originally published at:

This work by Ursula K. Le Guin notably differs from most of the fantasy and science fiction novels that have deservedly made her a legend. Insane masterful in-depth worldbuilding, seems to be the thing here! Always Coming Home is an immersive exploration of a fictional culture; “a liberal utopian vision” exquisitely rendered. I’ve only read…

Saw this discussed in the UKLG documentary I saw with some LG folks a couple weeks back! Super interesting in light of learning about how she grew up with prominent anthropologist parents.

This book seems like a delightful encyclopedia of an entire culture…but fictional!

Saw this in my inbox today — new Library of America edition of this very book! And…it includes new material!

Library of America’s Ursula K. Le Guin edition has just grown substantially with the release of Always Coming Home, originally published in 1985 and arguably her most ambitious work. This richly-woven vision of post-apocalyptic California now appears in a newly expanded version prepared in consultation with the author shortly before her death in January 2018. It includes sixty-five pages of new writing by Le Guin; the complete text of the novella-within-the-novel, Dangerous People ; and several essays in which Le Guin reflects on the novel’s genesis and larger aims.

More info and a great interview with the editor here:

This looks great; I already have an older edition but just may have to pick this one up at some point. FYI Library of America has a Spring Sale, 20% off til April 10!

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I just bought this last week! Exactly the same aspects attracted me. It’s not so much a text as a whole context. Chris Ware’s “Building stories” is somewhat similar in this regard, consisting of a collection of different types of printed materials that can be read independently and in any order.

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Finally ordered the new LoA edition of Always Coming Home (I think today’s the last day of their spring sale). And yes, agree the whole context of the work is fascinating! Really seems like one of the most richly detailed examples of worldbuilding I’ve ever seen. It also strikes me that worldbuilding, particularly in sci-fi and/or fantasy, includes lots about things like history, politics, technology…but this one has all kinds of stuff on culture, mythology, stories and other forms of expression. Look forward to digging in at some point…maybe this would be a good candidate for a virtual book club :smiley:

I just started reading the first chapter, but also enjoying just browsing through it haha :blush:

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+1 virtual book club

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I’m thinking maybe we can aim to get a reading group going for this ~ June. What kind of discussion format seems best for this sort of “virtual book club”…should we set up regular weekly time to chat, or just loose back and forth posting as we go?

The new LoA edition has some fun extras and will make shared references a bit easier, but really any edition of the book should work.

All are welcome; if you have friends who may be interested, point them here!

I just started reading this book and I have to say, it’s incredible so far! I’m absolutely enchanted by her story-telling and the meandering narrative (meandering in a very good sense, like a stream gently making its way down a mountain).

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Awesome! Looking forward to starting this one, going to try to get into it this weekend-ish.

@wolkenmachine @gabekelley want to join in for a loose virtual book club? Doesn’t have to be too structured, maybe we can aim to dip in here every week or two to share thoughts / questions as we go. (If slightly more structure seems like it’d be useful I’m open to that too!)

Yeah that sounds great! Count me in.

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Aside - Brendan this book looks like a fun read alongside Emissaries!

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Totally! Will try to surface any resonances in the group chat…and post some Emissaries thoughts up here at some point as well. Seems to kind of fit with the theme of ‘Worlding’ to talk about it in parallel contexts, platforms, etc. :grin:

Wanted to check in here with anyone reading Always Coming Home (or planning to soon!) I started earlier this month, a couple hundred pages in now, and really enjoying it.

Such a cool blend of formats, so far I think I’ve read: novella excerpt, history passages, poems, short stories, geographical overview, and anthropological surveys of cultural structure and death rituals.

I just got to the part, Time and the City, where [very mild spoiler alert] things actually get a bit sci-fi as we learn that there’s this like advanced networked hypermind living parallel to human civilization (basically the internet! run by some sort of advanced AI!) — I love that it starts out seeming like this heavily nature / mythology-based culture that could be hundreds of years in the past…but then you realize nope it’s actually in the future and now I’m excited to find out what other surprises this book holds.

Since it’s a patchwork of story fragments and not a single driving narrative I feel less compelled to read this straight through, I may come back to it between other books here and there for the rest of the year. This can be a verrryyy sllooooowww book club which I’m totally cool with!

@wolkenmachine @gabekelley @morgane + anyone else interested — thoughts on the book so far?

I finished it a few weeks ago! I agree that the Time and the City part is very very cool and her approach to sci-fi is so refreshing.

I also think you have the right idea, not reading it linearly. It ended up feeling a little bit like a slog near the end because there isn’t that much narrative; it’s like reading an encyclopedia. I tired myself out trying to get through it all at once.

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