Hear Ursula K. Le Guin’s Pioneering Sci-Fi Novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, as a BBC Radio Play

Whether they con­sid­er it one of her most or least impor­tant works, fans of sci­ence-fic­tion writer Ursu­la K. Le Guin usu­al­ly have a great deal to say about her best-known nov­el, 1969’s The Left Hand of Dark­ness. But it does­n’t mat­ter to me whether a book has won a Hugo or a Neb­u­la — and The Left Hand of Dark­ness has won both — or how many read­ers — and The Left Hand of Dark­ness has many — have slapped on it the label of “mas­ter­piece.” No, I only get intrigued by descrip­tions like the one Wikipedia puts in its open­ing para­graph on the nov­el, which calls it “the most famous exam­i­na­tion of sex­less androg­y­ny in sci­ence fic­tion.”

Among its many oth­er fas­ci­nat­ing qual­i­ties, The Left Hand of Dark­ness takes place on an alien world with no fixed sex­es, per­form­ing a nar­ra­tive “thought exper­i­ment” about what kind of soci­ety you might get when, depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances, any­one might repro­duce with any­one else. This unusu­al con­cept has drawn the atten­tion of not only gen­er­a­tions of read­ers but sev­er­al dif­fer­ent adap­tors, most recent­ly the BBC. They’ve always done a redoubtable job con­vert­ing imag­i­na­tive lit­er­a­ture into radio dra­ma — take their recent ver­sion of Neil Gaiman’s Nev­er­where, or their clas­sic one of Dou­glas Adams’ The Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy, con­sid­ered by many fans bet­ter than the book. Now they’ve set their sights on Le Guin’s award-win­ner.

The first episode of the BBC’s Left Hand of Dark­ness has already aired, and you can hear it free online for about a month at the show’s site. (It runs almost an hour.) Episode two is now online here. You can get a taste of the pro­duc­tion from the pro­mo­tion­al video at the top of the post; the one just above gives a scrap of insight as to how Le Guin came to envi­sion the nov­el­’s world. Per­son­al­ly, I need no fur­ther incen­tive to tune in than that the series fea­tures Toby Jones, whose pres­ence (usu­al­ly in film) reli­ably indi­cates a just-askew-enough cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence. And if you still feel wary about engag­ing with any kind of sci­ence fic­tion, know that even Harold Bloom real­ly, real­ly liked the book.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Inven­tive Sto­ries from Ursu­la Le Guin & J.G. Bal­lard Turned Into CBC Radio Dra­mas

Hear Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and 84 Clas­sic Radio Dra­mas from CBS Radio Work­shop (1956–57)

BBC Radio Adap­ta­tion of Neil Gaiman’s Nev­er­where Begins Sat­ur­day: A Pre­view

Free: Isaac Asimov’s Epic Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy Dra­ma­tized in Clas­sic Audio

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­maFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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