Science Fiction Studies

# 5 = Volume 2, Part 1 = March 1975

Ian Watson

Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven and the Role of Dick: The False Reality as Mediator

Ursula K. Le Guin's work to date has been remarkable for its overall thematic consistency—both in the "outer space" of the Hainish cycle and in the inner lands of the Earthsea trilogy (to quote a distinction she herself makes in an autobiographical essay).1 The Lathe of Heaven (1971) at first sight seems to represent something of an anomaly—a sport from the true stock—as though in this one particular instance she has been becharmed by that master trickster of false reality states, Philip K. Dick. Not to write a poor book, I hasten to add, for Lathe is splendid—but let's say a tour de force in the Dick mode, something out of key with the rest of her opus; perhaps even, the suspicion lurks, contradicting the general drift of it? It is as though while writing of those inner lands with her left hand, and of outer space with her right, a third hand has mysteriously intruded on the scene, attached to Palmer Eldritch's prosthetic arm, and it is this hand that has tapped out Lathe on the typewriter. Obviously good writers only break new ground (delighting or horrifying their readers, as the case may be) by changing, growing, "pushing out toward the limits—[their] own, and those of the medium," to quote Le Guin again; and I've no wish to fit her with a straitjacket in the guise of a critical essay. But equally clearly an important question of internal consistency arises here with Lathe: that deeper consistency of aims and method which is the hallmark of the great, as opposed to the merely good, artist. It is the question of the authentic "voice," which Sartre finds Tintoretto—who could paint anybody's pictures but his own—so tragically deprived of.2 This hallmark appears with increasing clarity from Le Guin's earlier, slighter novels through to the triumphant Dispossessed. And Lathe seems anomalous. But is it really so? Let us try to locate Lathe in the context of Le Guin's progression as a writer, and see what happens.

Lathe is about paranormal3 events impinging on an initially realistic Earth of the near future—about a dreamer whose dreams can change the whole fabric of reality. They replace history with false histories that become objective truth, only to be overthrown and modified by further dreams as his well-intentioned yet power-hungry psychiatrist manipulates him, and the whole objective world along with him, trying to steer it away from pollution, overpopulation, social evil, yet only producing successive devastations as a consequence: plague, "citizen arrest" of the sick, alien invasion. And all along the irony lurks that we have been in a "false" world from the very start; for, before ever being referred to a psychiatrist for illegally obtaining drugs to stop himself dreaming, George Orr had "effectively dreamt" a nuclear holocaust out of existence; there is in truth no way to go homeward.

It's perhaps easier to see how Lathe meshes with the magic-regulated world of Earthsea than to bring it into line with the Hainish books and stories (with the apparent exception of "The Word for World is Forest," which is also concerned with dreams). But if we plot the chronology of events depicted in the Hainish stories, and the development of the use of the paranormal there, against the order in which the stories were written, an interesting pattern emerges. A chart then for Hainish history and for Le Guin's concern with the paranormal:

Put into words, Le Guin works forward chronologically in her first books and opens up increasingly enlarged possibilities for paranormal experience; then, after Left Hand, begins to head backward through time toward the present, in an increasingly political, sociological, "normal consciousness" mode. The basic orientation of "The Word for World is Forest" is, in fact, political/social/ecological; the paranormal—dreams magically altering reality—is shunted off into Lathe, which can thus in a sense be said to constitute a "goodbye to all that" to the material with which the four early Hainish books seemed increasingly preoccupied.5

The particular danger inherent in SF treatment of the paranormal—and particularly in adopting a time scheme for a "future history" which indicates increasing prominence of paranormal talents as an index of increasing human wisdom—is that this can too easily become a quasi-mystical escape route from real problems: ethical, psychological, epistemological, and practical. A seductive nonsense supervenes. The meaningful pole in SF is represented by Philip K. Dick, and the nonsense pole by A.E. van Vogt. Dick invariably subsumes the paranormal within a zone of genuine social concerns, and thus avoids mystification. His pre-cogs, time-shifters, and other characters with "wild talents" are presented with tact, zany wit, and, most important of all, in an organically structured relation to society—whether this society is human, quasi-human (android, robot), or alien. Van Vogt's use of the paranormal, on the other hand, is a bag of conjuring tricks, amounting to a negation of any society—alien, human, or "post-human." The climax to Le Guin's City of Illusions, with the "double-minded" hero leaping out of telepathic ambush, is redolent of the Vanvogtian Superhuman; and though there is no such occult bravura in Left Hand, this element nonetheless remains embedded in the Hainish cycle, built into its dynamics—lying in ambush somewhere ahead down the time-line, tempting towards false solutions.

Positing Lathe in this way as a summation and discharge of a particular theme that has been gathering momentum in tandem with the forward movement of the Hainish cycle—the movement which Le Guin is now negating chronologically—we can perhaps usefully read the books as a use of the Dickian mode to discharge this particular accumulation of energy.

Two objections might be raised from Le Guin's publishing history against such a reading. First, does not the Earthsea trilogy represent a definite branching in Le Guin's work: a conscious separating of fantasy from SF? There is much in Earthsea about dreams, the minor magical powers of illusion on the one hand, and the major magical powers of altering reality objectively through "renaming" of the world on the other. There is also much emphasis on the vital importance of equilibrium (ignoring which provokes the disasters of Lathe)—and equilibrium is a social/ecological concept to be taken up again in quite a different vein in The Dispossessed, carefully distinguished from static conservatism by its dynamic concept of a constant, complex remaking of the world, without overloading any variables. Thus, it might seem that Le Guin has already adequately sifted the two strains, the paranormal and the "normal," by the invention of Earthsea and magic as a workable proposition—leaving Lathe, again, as a sport. Yet Earthsea does not exactly discharge the accumulated energy vested in the paranormal theme. With the completion of the trilogy, in The Furthest Shore, balance is conserved—yet still within a world of magic. In this context it is hardly possible to effect a full discharge of what, adopting a term from Gregory Bateson, we may call "schismogenic tension"13—the increasing emphasis on the paranormal, fed by the flow of Hainish history itself. For that, we must look to Lathe. Its image of "The Break" (the popular name for the discontinuity between Old Reality and New Reality, once affairs have been tidied up and balance restored) is, in a sense, an image of the break in the Hainish cycle between "early" Le Guin and "mature" Le Guin—a break that occurs when the arrow of time is reversed, while simultaneously social and psychological depth increases massively.

Second, it could also be objected that "The Word for World is Forest" is a post-break story in the Hainish cycle, dealing largely with dreams (as well as with the politics of ecology). So is there not some considerable osmosis of the paranormal here? A further eruption of Lathe material? Not so. For reality is not altered by the power of dreams in "Forest" in the way it is in Lathe, falsifying a whole world-line retrospectively. The world of the dreamers never experiences such a "false-reality" dislocation. But rather, the dreamers are simply in conscious rapport with their dreams; the dream is principally a heuristic tool and—in time of crisis—a decision-making apparatus which permits the total individual to be involved in shaping his destiny. The tragedy of "Forest" is that the dream that has to be dreamt, the new psychological trait that has to be generated (dreamt into being) in response to Terran deforestation and enslavement, is the art of killing one's fellows. Principally, this is an extension of Hadfield's concept of the dream as teaching aid, problem-solving device, and governor of our conscious lives (on a principle of positive feedback: the maximising of a dubious situation in order to discharge awareness of danger and self-deceit across the interface between subconscious and conscious).7

Theories more pertinent than Hadfield's or Dement's to the dream situation imagined in Lathe, and more in key with a "false reality" premise, can be found collected in Charles Tart's Altered States of Consciousness;8 and the dream background of Lathe is today best approached via Tart's book.9 The temporal setting of Lathe, A.D. 2002, seems almost unnecessarily far in the future when we read Tart's speculations on techniques of dream control by post-hypnotic suggestion and other means and in addition learn that the UCLA Brain Information Service already publishes a weekly Sleep Bulletin for researchers and that the Association for the Psychophysiological Study of Sleep already convenes yearly meetings. Particularly pertinent are Tart's investigations of the "lucid dream" (the waking to full consciousness of a dreamer within a dream) and the technique for evoking such dreams and for manipulating the fake world.

Also germane to the psychology of Lathe's central character is Tart's observation that "we have no 'choice' about dreaming."10 To be sure, he is here referring to the proven necessity for dream sleep. Studies of dream deprivation have shown the dire effects of preventing dreaming. Yet, twist this vital concept of the role of the dream through an axis of the imagination—for this is the art of speculation—blend it with Le Guin's ethic of Balance, and we have the given character of her dreamer George Orr: a man who consistently falls in the median range of every personality test and whose prime characteristic is his inability to "choose" in conscious waking everyday life. He is a quiescent-acquiescent type, whose character aligns him with the Joe Normal heroes on whom Philip Dick's false realities characteristically impinge. Barney Mayerson in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Joe Chip in Ubik, Seth Morley in A Maze of Death (though this book was most probably too late to exert any stimula on Lathe)—these heroes are all failures in one way or another, foundering in their attempts to manage their lives, yet genuinely heroic for all their mistakes, and achieving, or being involved in, the transcendent (with a devilish twist in Ubik). Their very inertia contains a potential for strength and heroism—as does George Orr's (in keeping with Le Guin's Taoist dialectic of strength and weakness). Inertia—the tendency of a body to preserve its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line—may appear like passivity, but is in fact a powerful force. Joe Chip's dogged, nightmare battle to get upstairs to his hotel bedroom while the masquerading Jory drains his body of energy (Ubik §13) is almost a mirror image of George Orr's dogged, nightmare journey through a decaying reality to switch off Haber's dream machine (Lathe §10); the restoration of vitality as soon as Joe Chip reaches his bedroom, finds Glen Runciter there, and gets sprayed with Ubik, is echoed by George Orr's restoration of vital solidity to the world. Similarly, Barney Mayerson's decision to continue as a colonist on barren Mars and accept its dull reality (Three Stigmata §13) seems like defeat, but is really an act of strength and commitment; earlier (§§11-12) Palmer Eldritch traded on this very desire of Barney to become a static object such as a stone or wall plaque, to trick him—only to have his trick rebound. Inertia is strength. Pat Conley, who changes time lines—initially in her dreams (Ubik §3), prefiguring Le Guin's George Orr, but subsequently by conscious choice (§5)—also has "unbelievable power" (§5) yet at the same is an "inertial" who feels distressed by her own apparent negativity: " 'I don't do anything; I don't move objects or turn stones into bread.... I just negate somebody else's ability. It seems—' She gestured. 'Stultifying.' " And Joe Chip's response to this remark is a very Le Guinish one: "'The anti-psi factor is a natural restoration of ecological balance.... Balance, the full circle...' " (§3).

In Lathe Le Guin is certainly exploring the Dickian mode; yet she is not exploring it in a contingent, happenstance, tour de force way since she is discharging the schismogenic thematic tensions generated by her reversing and deepening the Hainish cycle. On the contrary, Lathe fits logically into the set of her ideas as a pivotal work, working out a tension that clears the way for The Dispossessed. Moving on from particular details to the general ethos of the two writers, then, what sea-change does Le Guin work on the Dick model?

If we take as representative of this model in its mature form the three Dick novels already mentioned, one rule of Dick's false realities is the paradox that once in, there's no way out, yet for this very reason transcendence (of a sort) can be achieved. The religion of A Maze of Death is a construct imposed on the crew of a starship during a voluntary trance state by a computer originally provided as a toy to while away the long years in space, which has become their only form of mental "salvation" once their ship is crippled. Yet the godlike figure of the Intercessor, invented as part of the false reality, reaches into the reality of the ship objectively, to offer salvation of a kind. (Seth Morley's salvation is to be reborn as a desert plant on a world where no one will bother him, where he can be both conscious of life, and yet asleep, enjoying a vegetable dream consciousness [§16]). Thus the human generates God. In Three Stigmata, while it's arguable whether any objective reality persists after Leo Bulero enters the primary Chew-Z hallucination, the dominant probability is that while objectively reality is hopelessly contaminated with false realities induced by a godlike alien, yet the human is divinized nonetheless, in opposition to the manipulations of this (pseudo-)God. Ubik constructs an even more devious maze in a post-death mind-storage unit, the sting in the tail being that the live helper of the inmates from outside may have been dead, and inside, all along. Yet the struggle of mind (the battle between the "Mentufacturer" and "Form Destroyer" in Maze of Death terms) is carried on, and the Ubik substance which has passed through so many consumer product formats during the course of the story finally declares its divinity, and would certainly seem to be the invention of the trapped, and dead, Glen Runciter. Once in, never out; and yet....

The same rule applies to Lathe. A nuclear war has already been averted by effective dreaming when the book opens; so the characters are committed to the false reality from the start (else they perish). Subsequent fluctuations in population size, skin colour, and urban geography, due to Dr. Haber's programming of George Orr's dreams, are vast enough, yet all are basically quantitative changes in the structure of Earth reality. The qualitative change, and the haunting mystery of the book, comes with the dreaming into being of the aliens—initially as invaders, later as compassionate if enigmatic friends. Conceivably George dreamt a hostile invasion into a peaceful one; yet the dominant probability is that the aliens are, as they maintain, "of the dream-time" (§10), that their whole culture revolves round the mode of "reality dreaming itself into being," that they have been attracted to Earth like the Waveries in Fredric Brown's story, only by dream-waves rather than radio waves.

Arguably, there is an essential difference between Dick's false realities and Le Guin's, in that Dick's warping of reality is quite Machiavellian in its tricksterism and involves the reader himself ultimately in a dissolution of the sense of reality; whereas Le Guin proceeds from change to change far more definitively, ending up with a solid, unambiguous conclusion (a process that paradoxically makes her book more precarious, since the initial premise has to be swallowed whole, whereas with Dick it's difficult to pin down an initial premise as such, and by the time the reader starts wondering, distortion has metastasized wildly). Yet this doesn't really seem to me to be the case. Consider the thread of continuity-awareness that persists through all transformations of colour and temperament wrought upon Heather LeLache (and compare this slender thread with Joe Chip's equally tenuous intuition of what Pat Conley has brought about, in Ubik §5, which provides a kind of inverted kinship model of George's love for Heather). But, particularly, consider Le Guin's aliens. If they are not indeed vectored to Earth, Wavery-like, from an actual Aldebaran dream culture but only seen as manifestations of George Orr's human subconscious, they have still become objective realities in the universe and can set up shop—actually, as well as metaphorically. Dream and reality are inextricably interwoven henceforth, by their agency—whatever agency was responsible for their origin. It also follows the Dickian pattern of ultimate, if equivocal, transcendence: both in the sense of a dialectical supersession of a previous state, and also in the luminous sense

  "Everything dreams," George warns Haber, as the psychiatrist prepares to produce effective dreaming in himself:

"The play of form, of being, is the dreaming of substance. Rocks have their dreams, and the earth changes.... But when the mind becomes conscious, when the rate of evolution speeds up, then you have to be careful. Careful of the world. You must learn the way. You must learn the skill, the arts, the limits. A conscious mind must be part of the whole, intentionally and carefully—as the rock is part of the whole unconsciously." (§10)

When the mind becomes conscious.... Matter is therefore immanent with consciousness, with godhood, teleologically. Dr. Haber's effective nightmare ruptures time-lines disastrously and is only suppressed when George Orr wills the route to the dream machine, and its OFF switch, back into existence. Yet the "real" world remains a chaotic melange of different continua; and the aliens of the dream time are still with us objectively, their knowledge available to us. The question whether they "actually" arrived, Wavery-like, from Aldebaran remains as open-ended as any riddle set by the "conclusion" of a Philip Dick novel. Thus, as in Dick, once in, never out, yet transcendence occurs: "'Take evening,' the Alien said, 'There is time. There are returns. To go is to return'" (§11).

The words "True voyage is return" will appear on Odo's grave, in The Dispossessed, which can now be written. For the thematic tension has been discharged. Lathe, superficially an uncharacteristic pièce de résistance, is logically validated as mediator by accepting this discharge. For the book mediates structurally, just as its alien characters mediate, between the real and the parareal.

Lathe, too, might seem to represent a warning against overmuch "scientific meddling" in the world about us, since Dr. Haber demonstrably ends up as the archetypal "mad scientist"—from an initially well-intentioned, albeit ambitious, egoistic stance. However, if we contrast his role with that of the scientist Shevek in The Dispossessed, and take into account the suggestion that Lathe represents a discharge of tension, then we will see that Haber has to be as he is: both benevolent scientist and malign anti-social force. For his is the wasteland to which the paranormal as false solution leads.

In The Dispossessed, Shevek fights to remain in balance with social necessities and values—he is no "egoizer." His search for a scientific method runs hand in hand with his search for a social method. Consequently, his is a genuine dialectic of science and society—which Haber disastrously attempts to short-circuit. This short-circuit is a pitfall inherent in the SF of the paranormal—responsible for the ridiculous, if pyrotechnic, excesses of a van Vogt: the "brainstorm" solution. Shevek does not fall under the same curse: the curse has been lifted. Yet it could only be lifted effectively, and honestly, by the catastrophic release of thematic tension that Lathe so strikingly embodies. The Hainish faultline was under strain. It took a worldquake to set the matter right.


1"A Citizen of Mondath," Foundation #4 (July 1973), pp. 20-24.

2Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Venetian Pariah," in his Essays in Aesthetics, tr. Wade Baskin (London 1964), p. 41: "But this is precisely the thing that arouses suspicion. Why would he need to play their game and submit to their rules if he could outshine them all by being himself? What resentment in his insolence! This Cain assassinates every Abel preferred over him: 'You like this Veronese? Well, I can do much better when I imitate him; you take him for a man and he is nothing but a technique.' And what humility. From time to time this pariah slips into the skin of another person in order to enjoy in his turn the delight of being loved. And then at times it would seem that he lacks the courage to manifest his scandalous genius; disheartened, he leaves his genius in semi-darkness and tries to prove it deductively: 'Since I paint the best Veronese and the best Pordenones, just imagine what I am capable of painting when I allow myself to be me.'"

3The term "paranormal" is taken as referring to phenomena/events outside our current consensus-reality view of the universe—phenomena which negate our present concepts of cause and effect and the material nature of the universe, and drive a wedge through the causal, material mind-body interface, to split off "mind" as a force in its own right; or which seem to do so, since a material base for these postulated phenomena is as yet unproven (though not necessarily unprovable, in part, if not in whole). Conjectural mental powers such as telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, teleportation, and psychokinesis all fall within this "mind over matter" zone. George Orr's effective dreaming in Lathe—the refashioning of entire world-lines by the force of thought—is an extreme instance of this, as is the "effective magic" of Earthsea.

4This chart is based on internal dating in the stories with two provisos. Firstly, League years, Ekumenical years, Terran years, etc. (but not the Werelian Great Years of Planet of Exile!) are all assumed to be roughly equivalent. Secondly, the baseline date of AD 2300 for The Dispossessed is taken from the description of Earth in that book (§11) as having passed through an ecological and social collapse with a population peak of 9 billion to a low-population but highly centralized recovery economy. Earth's old cities are still visible everywhere, in ruins: the concrete crumbles, though the plastic lingers on, non-biodegradable. There were centuries of mismanagement. (But starting when? With the industrial revolution? Or did the mess continue through the 21st century—and recovery take proportionately longer?) The reader who disagrees with my 2300 dating as wrong by a century or two is invited to alter my chart accordingly, but I don't think it's so far out—and it does establish a baseline. The Dispossessed is dated 50 years before the League of Worlds came into being, since the ansible (instantaneous transmitter) theorem would have to be transported physically, or transmitted by conventional radio, at no faster than light speed from Tau Ceti to Earth and Hain, then considerable R & D engaged in (if early ansibles cost the equivalent of a "planetary annual revenue") before the meeting of the ambassadors mentioned in "The Word for World is Forest" (§3) could take place. The latter story is located in League Year 18 (not, as Douglas Barbour says in SFS #3, in LY 1) by the statement "The League of Worlds.... has existed for 18 years" (§3). Rocannon's World is given the date mentioned in the Prologue (the "League Mission of 252-254"), with eighty years added on for the time the necklace has been missing (lost before Semley's father was born, some time during her great grandmother's life). Planet of Exile is exactly dated by two systems in §3: it is the "Year 1405 of the League of All Worlds" and also the "45th moonphase of the Tenth Local Year of the [Terran] Colony" on Werel. The Werelian year is equated with 60 league years in this chapter and to 60 Terran years in §7 of City of Illusions; in the latter book (§9) we also learn that a Werelian moonphase is approximately equal to a Terran year; which all adds up to LY 820 or AD 3170 for the establishment of the Terran colony on Werel. The events of City of Illusions are then dated LY 2020 or AD 4370 by numerous references to 1200 years having passed since that event—or since the coming of the Shing (the "Enemy") five years later. City of Illusions ends with Falk-Ramarren's setting out for Werel, 142 light years away, in hope of finding there whatever is necessary to free Terra from the Shing; if we allow him 300 years for this mission, and assume that its success brings the end of the Age of the Enemy, then we can date this last event LY 2320, AD 4670. The events of The Left Hand of Darkness can then be dated LY 2520, AD 4870 by Genly Ai's putting the Age of the Enemy "a couple of centuries ago" (§10). Since Left Hand is explicitly assigned to Ekumenical Year 1491-92 of Hainish Cycle 93 (we are not told how many years are in a cycle), we are now able to equate EY dates with LY dates and, of course, AD dates. Having said all this, we must grant that Le Guin has left her options wide open with the change from LY to EY dating: the end of the Age of the Enemy could be made to occur not only (as in our chronology) 300 years after the events of City of Illusions but also immediately thereafter—or any number of centuries or millenia thereafter. On the other hand, Genly Ai's statement that Terrans "were ignorant until about three thousand years ago of the uses of zero" (§18), while giving us a date a thousand years too early by our chronology for Left Hand (i.e., AD 3850 rather than our AD 4870), still suggests that we are right in dating Left Hand a few centuries rather than many centuries after City of Illusions. Certain dates in Hainish history can now be tabulated, with asterisks to mark those given in Le Guin's text, as follows:

5"The Word for World is Forest"—in Harlan Ellison's anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions (1972)—was in fact written about three years earlier than publication date, at the same time as the research leading to Lathe (Le Guin's personal communication). However this does not substantially alter my thesis, as the story clearly postdates Left Hand. Simply, the release of thematic tension was already under way in the dynamics of Le Guin's creative thought culminating shortly thereafter in the actual physical writing of Lathe.

6Gregory Bateson, "Bali: The Value System of a Steady State," in his Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972). The term "schismogenesis" is used by Bateson to describe a broad range of potentially harmful human activities—such as boasting, commercial rivalry, arms races—where the actions of group/individual A either generate a symmetrical reaction in group/individual B, which provokes a symmetrical or stronger response from A (of the form boasting/more boasting, and so on), or alternatively a complementary opposite reaction (of the form: dominance/submission) which also initiates a new round. The tension between A and B, produced by an interaction from which neither side can withdraw, can only generally be resolved by a release through total involvement, of catastrophic or orgasmic character. In Bateson's view, war, commerce, and even the process of mutual falling in love all betray certain schismogenic features. Thus the phenomenon should by no means be localized within a purely "social anthropology" frame of reference, but rather be located within a general "ecology of mind." In the context of Hainish history, the schismogenic circuit is as follows: the arrow of time (a sequence concept of the universe that Le Guin is only able to supersede, after Lathe, in The Dispossessed) enforces a progressive revelation of paranormal powers—which leads the action (in a positive feedback circuit) further on into the future in search of even wider paranormal powers, since these seem to represent an inevitable evolutionary progression. (Yet at each stage consensus "reality" is in fact receding further.)


7J.A. Hadfield, Dreams and Nightmares (Harmondsworth 1954).

8Charles T. Tart, ed., Altered States of Consciousness (2d edn. NY 1972). Hadfield and Dement—the sources cited by Le Guin in her Afterward in Again, Dangerous Visions—serve well enough for an interpretation of "The Word for World is Forest." Even so, there is in Tart an essay by Kilton Stewart, "Dream Theory in Malaya," which tells of the Senoi of Malaya, a people who traditionally practiced dream interpretation on a remarkable level of sophistication; and even engaged in lucid "waking-dream" states while not asleep. Stewart comments: "Observing the lives of the Senoi it occurred to me that modern civilization may be sick because people have sloughed off, or failed to develop, half their power to think. Perhaps the most important half" (p. 168). The Senoi mirror Le Guin's Athsheans, even to the balance of male/female status in a dreamer culture, quite remarkably (but coincidentally!). Since Tart (p. 117) confesses that he has "not been able to locate any other literature on the Senoi other than Stewart's," interested readers may usefully be referred to Robert Knox Denton, The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya (NY 1968), a volume in the series Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology, which predates Tart's first edition of 1969 and contains a useful bibliography, recommending inter alia H.D. Noone, "Report on the Settlements and Welfare of the Pre-Temiar Senoi of the Perek-Kelatan Watershed," Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums, Vol. 19, Pt. 1, 1936. That H.D. Noone was reporting on precisely the same group as Kilton Stewart is indicated by Richard Noone, Rape of the Dream People (L 1972), which refers in some detail to the dream psychology researches of Stewart and the elder Noone, though this particular book is a ghost-written war memoir in dubious taste. Confusion as to the correct naming of the Senoi arises since the word senoi simply means person in the Senoi language, and semai refers to people who speak dialects of Semai, which is closely related to Senoi (if not, in fact, simply a variant group of dialects!). Together the Senoi-Semai form a linguistic enclave among tribes speaking non-Austro-Asiatic. An ethnic way of dividing the group is to call them all Senoi, and describe the southerners as Semai, the northerners as Temiar. It is this northern group that Stewart and the elder Noone were working with; consequently, adopting Noone's classification, the Malayan dreamers described in Tart's Altered States are properly Temiar, or Pre-Temiar Senoi.

9Tart is useful as highly relevant information about the current state of the art of dream research (with an invaluable bibliography) rather than as a direct primary source. Le Guin, according to a personal communication to me, was unacquainted with Tart's work as such at the time of writing Lathe—although well aware of other areas of this research field, such as the work of Aserinsky, Berger, Oswald, Hartman, et al (Lathe §2), all of which Tart surveys concisely.

10Tart, "Introduction to Section 3, Dream Consciousness," in Tart (Note 8), p. 115.


 Ursula K. Le Guin’s work to date has been remarkable for its overall thematic consistency—both in the "outer space" of the Hainish cycle and in the inner lands of the Earthsea trilogy. The Lathe of Heaven (1971) at first sight seems anomalous—a sport from the true stock—as though in this one instance she has been charmed by that master trickster of false reality states, Philip K. Dick. Not impelled to write a poor book, for Lathe is splendid—but let’s say a tour de force in the Dick mode, something out of key with the rest of her opus; perhaps even, the suspicion lurks, contradicting the general drift of earlier novels? It is as though while writing of those inner lands with her left hand, and of outer space with her right, a third hand mysteriously intruded on the scene, attached to Palmer Eldritch’s prosthetic arm, and it is this hand that has tapped out Lathe on the typewriter.

Back to Home