Ursula K. Le Guin's The Birthday of the World is a short story collection (some previously published) in which Le Guin shows in each story her mastery of weaving new universes.

This book collects in one place many of her stories that describe truly alien societies. While the members of these societies may be human (though their Hainish ancestry), and the emotions, desires, and motivations may be very human, the structure of their society is not familiar at all. These are stories of xenosociology, rather than xenobiology.

Le Guin convincingly builds new worlds and societies to go in them, starting with their sexual underpinnings, continuing on to social relationships, power plays, and hierarchal authority (or lack of), exploring economic, political, and military constituents of the societies which are in a state of stability, instability, prosperity, decay, recovery, war, revolution, and rediscovery.

In each story, a we see the society a character lives in through their eyes. Some stories are told by natives of those societies, others are told by outside "observers" who have become involved in or grow up in these societies. Many of the stories are coming of age stories which may be ideal for showing the differences between our society and theirs.

Le Guin is not satisfied with merely telling you about her foreign societies, but involves you emotionally with each protagonist's problems, desires, pain, love, lust, marriage, torture, xenophobia, loneliness in a crowd, loneliness among family, xenophilia, joy, despair, and hope. Many of the stories are tender and touching. Some also have their fair share of violence.

Each story in the book is a little more complex and involved than the previous, with the final story (novella?) including all of the emotions and concepts in the list above.

The short stories in this book are:

Coming of Age in Karhide
This story further explores aspects of the androgynous sexuality of the natives of Karhide, originally depicted in The Left Hand of Darkness.
The Matter of Seggri
excerpts from an observer's report on Seggri, a matriarchal world with a severe shortage of men, due to an apparent genetic deformity.
Unchosen Love
Mountain Ways
These two stories deal with aspects of the "moiety" -- a marriage consisting of a set of 4 marriages between 4 people.
Observer's report on a world where men and women live semi-separately, with the women living in villages surrounded by men practicing "natural selection" in solitude.
Old Music and the Slave Women
Old Music is the nickname of the protagonist (a Hainish Envoy) who becomes involved in a civil war between slaves and masters.
The Birthday of the World
A stable and prosperous society falls into decay and barely averted ruin through civil war and interference from the Gods.
Paradises Lost
story of a generation starship; while similar to Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky, and the Star Trek (TOS) episode "For The World Is Hollow, And I Have Touched The Sky", but digs deeper in both foundations, social structure, and results, giving a very believable and complete story.

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