“Nine Lives” was published in 1968 in Playboy Magazine. There’s a lot of lively back and forth between Ursula K. Le Guin and her literary agent Virginia Kidd about this in case anyone is interested in writing about the story and its publication history. It’s also worth noting that the Wikipedia entry for this story is a mess, so if there are any editors who want to work on revising Le Guin entries, this would be one to add to your to-do list. I couldn’t stop myself from correcting the worst errors, which you can see if you check out the page’s history.
Here are some questions meant to get our conversation going today:
- Who are the main characters? Where and when is the story set? Basic responses to the story?
- Le Guin says that “Nine Lives” is as close as she ever got to writing hardcore science fiction. What is hardcore science fiction and in what ways is “Nine Lives” an example of it?
- In her short introduction to this essay, Le Guin writes that she used “the scientific element, not as an end in itself, but as a metaphor or symbol, a means of saying something not otherwise expressible.” What do you think she means by this?
- How does the relationship between Martin and Pugh compare to the relationships among the clones?
- Why would human cloning be of general interest to a feminist writing in 1968?
- To what extent do race, gender, and sexuality matter to this narrative?