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Darkness Is Ambidextrous (an Overview of the Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, and a Poem)

John is a long-time poet, short fiction, and article writer. He loves story-telling and also has a Certificate in Permaculture Design.


Title Already Taken

Welcome to another of my 2016 articles inspired by the titles of Ursula Le Guin novels. This is number nine in the series so far.

As with most in the series I was going to give this article the same name as the book "The Left Hand of Darkness" but unfortunately the hubtool editor told me that title was already taken (even though a search didn't reveal another article with that name). So being the easy going guy I am I changed the name :)

I hope you enjoy "Darkness is Ambidextrous” in which I give you a brief synopsis of the novel followed by a poem “The Right Hand of Darkness” which has nothing at all to do with Le Guin’s story, other than it was inspired by the name.

Original cover design: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

Original cover design: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness (overview)

The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel published in 1969 by Ursula K Le Guin.

In 1970, The Left Hand of Darkness won "best novel" in both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, an accolade given by the convention participants and other science fiction writers. In the 1975 Locus magazine Poll & Survey covering "novels", The Left Hand of Darkness placed third behind Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1963). In 1987 Locus placed it second among "All-Time Best SF Novels", after Dune.

Also in 1987, Harold Bloom said in the introduction to a critical anthology on the novel: "Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time." (source: Wikipedia)

Fellow writer at this site, Besarien says, "The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite novels in any genre."

"The story is set in the fictional Hainish universe, which Le Guin introduced in her first novel Rocannon's World, published in 1966. In this alternative history, human beings did not evolve on earth, but on Hain. The people of Hain colonized many neighboring planetary systems, including Terra (Earth) and Gethen (Winter) around a million years prior to the setting of the novels. Some of these groups that "seeded" each planet were the subjects of genetic experiments, including on Gethen."

The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of Genly Ai a lone human emissary (from Terra) sent to Gethen, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change - their gender at certain times. His goal is to facilitate Gethen's (Winter's) inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must find middle ground between his own views and those of the totally different culture that he encounters.

Embracing many aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness is seen as a landmark achievement in the field of intellectual science fiction. (source: Goodreads)

If you are a science fiction (and fantasy) fan like me I hope you are now tempted to read this book by Ursula Le Guin and the others in the Hainish Cycle series. I have only begun reading her books in recent years and am sorry I didn't discover them earlier.

The Right Hand of Darkness

He does his master's bidding

No matter what the cost,

But all the riches he has gained

Scroll to Continue

Are not worth what he's lost.

He drips in gold and money,

Much more than he can count.

Sex and drugs on offer

Like a never-ending fount.

To attain these worldly riches

He offered up his soul,

No thought of what may lie ahead,

Fulfilling Satan's goal.

He thinks he is invincible

In this short Earthly life.

Rape, assault and murder,

Expert with gun and knife.

Cheating and deceiving

Are talents he has honed.

Evil deeds excite him,

But one day he'll atone.

What awaits us after death?

Imagine if you can.

But I don't think there's any doubt

For the Devil's right-hand man.


© 2016 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on May 31, 2021:

Sorry Brenda I didn't see a previous comment from you. Thank you for reading and I am glad you enjoyed the poem. Some people just seem to have no conscience.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 31, 2021:


I left a comment, but i don't see it.

This poem is awesome.

You definitely paint this picture well.

I wonder if this type if person really thinks it's worth it in the beginning.

The devils right hand man indeed.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on May 31, 2021:

You are too kind to me with your comments, Misbah. But I do appreciate them all. I am so happy you enjoyed this poem.

I love science fiction too, but have never really attemped to write it and I don’t know why. I have written fantasy and horror, so it should not be much different. Perhaps I will give it a try soon. Thank you My Friend.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on May 31, 2021:

Hi Alyssa, thanks for reading. It is one of those novels that can be read on its own so isn’t obvious that it is part of a wider series. But now you know so you search for the others and that’s a good thing.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 31, 2021:

Wow!! John, I enjoyed reading your poem. I like science fiction, but I am really bad at writing it. You have done a wonderful job with this poem. So creative!!

I loved the way you write these lines,

"To attain these worldly riches

He offered up his soul,

No thought of what may lie ahead,

Fulfilling Satan's goal."

You may not know that but you are awesome, my dear friend

Many blessings from me to you...

Alyssa from Ohio on May 31, 2021:

The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite novels! I never realized, however, that it was a part of a series. I'll be adding those in to my ever-growing reading list.

I love your poem!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on May 31, 2021:

Hi Mel, thanks for reading. Not for one moment did I think you had hijacked my article. I found it quite a coincidence that we had both read this same book let alone write about it and research the same article.

I haven’t encountered many others who have even read any of Le Guin’s work. I am yet to read any other books in the Hainish Cycle series, probably because I only ever buy 2nd hand and haven’t come across them. I hope you are able to, and then maybe review them. Yes, it certainly is a small world.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on May 31, 2021:

Now that was a brilliant poem, and a brilliant name too. I think it was a good thing thing you had to change the name, because it forced you to dig even deeper into your imagination.

One might think reading your article here, then reading mine on the same subject, that I hijacked some of your thinking. It's pretty obvious though that we used the same Wikipedia article, with the same quote by Harold Bloom. The Internet has definitely made the world a smaller place now, two people in two different hemispheres, sharing the same ideas. Thank God for that!

Great work. One of these I will take another lightspeed trip into the Hainish Universe.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on July 12, 2018:

Gilbert, thank you for reading this and for your comment. Oh, I wasn't aware Ursula had passed away. I obviously haven't been keeping myself informed. I appreciate you sharing that sad news.

Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on July 11, 2018:

Nice poem, John. I recently read a huge anthology on the works of Ursula Le Guin. I felt bad to learn from a book tribute of her works on the library table that she had passed away. I'm a big fan of her Earhsea trilogy books. I remember reading "The Left Hand of Darkness," several years ago.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 10, 2016:

Thanks for reading this, Alyssa, and good to see another Le Guin fan. I wrote about ten hubs using the titles of her books as prompts, and was pleased with the results. I too hope others are inspired to read her novels.

Alyssa from Ohio on September 09, 2016:

She remains one of my favorite authors. Great post! I hope others are inspired to check out her selection of novels.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 12, 2016:

Thank you Larry, the feeling is mutual.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on March 12, 2016:

Always a pleasure to read your writing.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 11, 2016:

Thank you Shauna for that wonderful comment. I am taking a break from the Le Guin inspired hubs for the moment. I may return to do a few more later in the year.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 11, 2016:

I'm not a sci-fi fan, but I enjoy this series of reviews and poems dedicated to the author nonetheless. You can make anything sound interesting, John!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 01, 2016:

Thank you Deb, I really appreciate that encouraging comment.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 01, 2016:

When I think that you have outdone yourself, you always tend to come up with something more. Bravo!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 29, 2016:

Hi Ann, thank you for the generous comment regarding the Poem. I am also glad that you are tempted to read "The Left Hand of Darkness" even though you aren't into sci fi. I must be doing something right :)

Ann Carr from SW England on February 29, 2016:

Superb poem and you make Le Guin's book a tempting read, though I'm not usually a sci-fi reader. It's an intriguing idea that is presented here.

Great hub and your poetry always delights.


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 27, 2016:

Thank you for the generous comment Vellur. So glad that my overview inspired your interest in the book too. Cheers.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 26, 2016:

A great introduction to the book and a great poem. Reading your overview has got me interested in this book, will read.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 22, 2016:

I appreciate your wonderful comment Genna. When I couldn't have the title I wanted I decided to be a bit of a "smarty pants" and came up with this as well as making the title of my poem "the Right Hand of Darkness." It probably won't do well in Google searches, but so be it. Thank you for your kind words about the poem, and I hope you do manage to read Ursula Le Guin's book. Sounds like it was quite ground breaking when first published.

Surabhi Kaura on February 21, 2016:

Thank you, my Dearest Jodah. I truly appreciate your advice. To me, you will always be a great fiction writer on HubPages. You are beyond compare. Now I won't take much time here. Much Love. Take care.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 21, 2016:

What an captivating title, John. I am a science fiction fan also, and am always on the lookout for good writing in this genre. I really liked your poem. "But one day he'll atone...." I believe this as well. The photos are terrific accompaniment to your words.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 20, 2016:

Surabhi, if you want my advice for what it is worth, don't pursue a career that your heart isn't in. Become a qualified lawyer for sure, so that you have that to fall back on. You have so much talent as a creative writer, I am sure you will be successful. It would be a shame if you don't make that your career. I wish I had started writing at your age and I could have turned it into a career I loved. I think you will be a much greater fiction writer than myself. Hugs back.

Surabhi Kaura on February 20, 2016:

Aww. Jodah, thank you so much, my Dear. It was my licensing exam to practice law with Dad. I am sure I did well though. The result will be declared in April. But you know something, I feel like I am not made for law. I feel suffocated when I go to Courts. I feel freedom in my room with my lamp, diary and pen on the table. I am more interested in the world of Creative Writing. Let's hope that I become a great fiction writer like you one day (Smile). I saw your loftiest feedback. It made my day :) You are such a sweetheart!!! Hugs. Hugs. Hugs!!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 20, 2016:

So glad your exam is over Surabi, and hope you get top marks. Good to have you back at HubPages. Thank you for reading this hub and glad you loved my poem. thank you also for writing that wonderful poem for me. I left a comment on your hub. Love ya back.

Surabhi Kaura on February 19, 2016:

Thank you for the review, Jodah. Loved your poem! I am now free with my exam and it feels nice to be back in the company of brliiant writers here on HubPages. Love ya!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 19, 2016:

Thank you for reading this, Tim, and for the generous comment and glad the poem led you to some internal contemplation. I do hope you have the time to read some of Ursula Le Guin's books.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on February 19, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this gift with words Jodah. Many gifts really as seems their is answer for new books to read in a favorite genre. I look forward to her works. I am just now renewing that along with writing again. The poem remains with me now with contemplation inwardly with mysteries unfolding. Thank you for those revelations I ponder now.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 18, 2016:

Same here Mike, I wish I had discovered her earlier. I have got good value out of writing hubs from her book titles but not sure I can do many more..some of the title left are a little ambiguous, besides I think my readers may be getting sick of everything I write seeming to promote her books :)

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 18, 2016:

Shyron, thanks for reading and your kind comment. A bit late to put my poem in a book written 5 years ago, although there could be a new addition I guess :) Who would have thought you like poetry? Blessings.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on February 17, 2016:

It seems as though I missed a lot by not discovering Ursula Le Guin during my SiFi days. It sounds as though I would have enjoyed the work.

Your poem fit well here. Nice blend of review and poetry - this Le Guin idea is working for you.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 17, 2016:

John, great poem, I am like Ruby, sci-fi is the least interesting reading, but you did the author proud, and if I were her I would put your poem in my book.

Did I ever tell you I love poetry.

Blessings and hugs my friend

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Thank you very much Abhimanyu gaur. Blessings.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Thanks Eric, you are too kind. I hope only a tiny bit of that Prince of Darkness is in you. I guess most of us have at some time strayed along those lines.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Thanks Frank....glad you like my poems..mostly too :)

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Hey manatita bro, thanks for that comment about the left and on. Cheers for your commentary on the poem too.

Abhimanyu gaur on February 17, 2016:

Amazing poem I enjoyed reading it.

Abhimanyu gaur on February 17, 2016:

Amazing poem I enjoyed reading it.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 17, 2016:

Great poem. I really liked how it flowed. The subject matter and how you project it is awesome.

I could not help but think while reading it that a piece of that prince of darkness is even in me.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 17, 2016:

Hey Jodah, the review was complete.. well done.. the poem goes places we can't predict then goes further.. that's why I enjoy reading your poetry.. mostly..:)

manatita44 from london on February 17, 2016:

Funny Bro, right at the beginning, I was thinking that we attribute so much darkness to the left hand, a bit like we do with 'black' or 'blackness.' Then I get to your poem and you speak of the 'right.' How charming! How appropriate in terms of money, power and some of your other examples.

An excellent poem, and a very vivid account of the power of darkness over us, in creating this alluring illusion of corruption and Greed. Peace!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Hi Chitrangada. Yes I have written a lot about Ursula Le Guin because all my hubs this year have used her book titles as inspiration, even though I haven't read them all. I am doing a good job promoting her though..maybe she should be paying me :) Glad you found the review interesting and the poem enjoyable. Thanks.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 17, 2016:

Excellent hub and an interesting read!

You have written a lot about Ursula Le Guin in your hubs. I am curious to read one of her books. Your poem is beautifully expressed as always.

A good review and a wonderful poem ---What a combination!

Thank you for sharing!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Dana, I am glad my review on Ursula's book is making it sound appealing, even to non sci-fi fans. I'm always glad to hear you loved my poem.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 17, 2016:

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement Theresa. Always happy to hear you like my poetry too. It seems a few of us are being directed to work on writing projects along a common theme at present. Jackie Lynnley told me she is almost ready to publish something similar to my poem as well. Looking forward to your finished project. Hugs and blessings back.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on February 16, 2016:

I haven't read much in science fiction but I will say your review made the book seem quite interesting. And, I absolutely loved the poem. "The devil's right-hand man indeed"

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 16, 2016:

Both titles are really cool, John ...maybe it is the actual book HP is referring to? Who knows ...

Great review and you are increasing my interest in Ursula's work via your hubs.

Wow, your poem is off the charts amazing, John! It is always the best part of this series in my mind.

I've been working on a two creative writing projects and one is along these lines too, and I hope to get them ready to publish soon. I have enjoyed working on them.

Hugs and blessings

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Missy, thank you for the praise of my poetry. It is always my favourite part of any hub I write. I must warn you though, my poems in no way reflect the content or storylines of Ursula's books. It is great if it inspires you to read them however. Hugs.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Glad I helped to make your Tuesday afternoon pleasurable Bill. Thanks for the kind comment too. It is Wednesday morning here and the roosters are crowing.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Same here Diana, for instance I don't like Star Wars or Star Trek butI like Dr Who, Lost in Space etc. it is the same with some sci fi authors like Robert Silverberg and Ursula Le Guin and not others. Thanks for the praise of my poetry.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Thanks for the great comment Jo. We all enjoy different genres, actually I like a bit of everything, but I do hope you check out Ursula Le Guin. I have only started reading her books recently but find them intriguing.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Thank you Swalia. I hope you take a look at some of her books. This genre doesn't appeal to everyone but I hope you enjoy her work. Yes, unfortunately a lot of people don't give the afterlife a thought o believe their is anything after this lif on earth.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

MizB, it is hard to believe this book is almost 50 years old. The concepts of sexuality etc portrayed must have been very controversial at the time. Like you I will have to read the hole series starting with Rocannon's World.

Missy Smith from Florida on February 16, 2016:

Hey John, I do, of course, like all you write in explaining Ursula's books, but I love it when I get to your poetry. I think your poem is what makes me want to read the books. A gripping poem, that is full of intrigue. :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 16, 2016:

Two things: I always appreciate a good book recommendation, and I always appreciate your poetry. So you have doubled my pleasure this Tuesday afternoon, and I thank you.

Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on February 16, 2016:

I like some types of Sci Fi better than others. I'm not sure how well I could follow this authors work, but you make her sound interesting. I enjoy your poetry.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on February 16, 2016:

I've always been an avid reader, but never a science fiction fan. My youngest daughter, though, was a huge fan beginning in elementary school, so I'm very familiar with the genre. And, I must admit, this book sounds fascinating. In any genre, it's so good to find an author you really like and lose yourself in their books. I may have to try this one.

Shaloo Walia from India on February 16, 2016:

You have written so much about Ursula Le Guin in your hubs that I am intrigued to pick up one of her books. I liked the poem in the end.

"What awaits us after death?" - Only if people give this question a serious thought, they would never resort to misdeeds.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 16, 2016:

John, as I've said before, I'm a scifi/fantasy fan. I read this particular Le Guin book so long ago that I've forgotten the story. Thanks for reminding me because I haven't read the series and may go back and read it, or at least I think I haven't read all of the Hain books. I like your poetic rendition of the devil's man, though, and I hope Karma catches up with him first.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

It is always good to get a comment from you Cris, and a wonderful one at that. Thank you so much from the land down under, and I wish you safe flying.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on February 16, 2016:

Brilliant and very fascinating indeed!

This is like getting a promo: Buy One Take Two --for getting a good review and a wonderful poem combined. Two thumbs up! :)

Love from the skies of the great north! ~

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Thank you for he great comment Jackie. It seems some higher force is directing our thoughts in a parallel direction at the moment, doesn't it Jackie? You have mentioned before that we seem to have a lot in common and recently we have been on the same wavelength with our writing. I look forward to reading what you come up with about the "evil one."

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 16, 2016:

Someone probably has the title but hasn't published yet. You could have used it and added a word or so probably.

I am a johnny come lately Sci-Fi fan and this does sound like it could hold my interest. (Although animal ones are my favorite.)

Love the poem and again it seems we are on the same wave length as I am doing research and writing about that evil one's domain!

Great job as always!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 16, 2016:

Thank you Ruby. I appreciate you reading and commenting even though you don't like science fiction. Have a great day.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 16, 2016:

I must admit that science-fiction is my least favorite genre, but you did this book justice with your review. I loved your poem which was excellent.

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