Ambling Along
the Aqueduct

The Cascadia
Subduction Zone

The Aqueduct Bulletin

Subscribe to our

Catalog for 2023

Our Mission


PO Box 95787
Seattle, WA 98145-2787

Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens

by Eleanor Arnason

$19 (paperback)
$8.95 (e-book) EPUB
 Add to Cart
 Add to Cart

Read a sample from the book.

Nominated for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award

2016 James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List

Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens collects a dozen Hwarhath tales with commentary by their translator. As the translator notes, "Humanity has encountered only one other species able to travel among the stars. This species, who call themselves the hwarhath, or 'people,' are also the only intelligent species so far encountered. Of course, we interest and puzzle and disturb each other... The stories in this collection were written after the hwarhath learned enough about humanity to realize how similar (and different) we are. Our existence has called into question many ideas about life and morality that most hwarhath would have called certain a century ago..."

Advance Praise

"One of the strongest collections of science fiction stories you’re ever likely to find. It’s hard to think of anybody other than Ursula K. Le Guin who was written better anthropological science fiction than Eleanor Arnason, and this very strong collection gather some of the best stories published by anybody during the last two decades."
  —Gardner Dozois, author of When Great Days Come, editor of Year's Best Science Fiction series


"These are magnificent stories, wise, witty, science-fictionally fascinating, moving. This may well end up being the story collection of the year." 
  —Locus, Rich Horton, April 2016

"Arnason's aliens are almost uniformly bisexual, and forbidden from engaging in heterosexual love beyond what’s needed for procreation. This behavior allows Arnason to adapt timeless folkloric tropes to her own modern, progressive, and wholly original reality, which comes alive in her precise, classically beautiful prose."  
  —Publishers Weekly, February 29, 2016

This is anthropological science fiction at its best, with only Ursula K. Le Guin rivaling Arnason in cultural insight and in the sophistication, complexity, and evocativeness of her worldbuilding. The hwarhath serve as a distorted mirror in which we can clearly see our own follies, foibles, peculiarities, and the inequalities of our society; the hwarhath, meanwhile, see humans as a distorted mirror in which they can see the peculiarities and inequalities of their own society. Arnason does her best work here at novella length, and I consider "The Potter of Bones" and "Dapple" to be among the very best novellas of their respective years, and as having an honorable place amongst the best SF novellas ever written. "The Hound of Merlin", "The Actors", "The Lovers", "The Garden", and "Holmes Sherlock" are also very strong; in fact, there's really nothing here that isn't worth reading. Coming as it does from a small press, you may not see Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens included on many lists of the best collections of 2016 as the year comes to an end, but believe me, it's one of them. It may even turn out to be the best collection of the year.  
  —Locus, Gardner Dozois, May 2016

Since the publication of Ring of Swords in 1993, Eleanor Arnason has been producing stories not so much about her furry, logical, matriarchal, alien hwarhath as by them. Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens gathers a dozen such published between 1993 and 2012 and adds an introduction and comments (about which more below). As the crucial preposition in the subtitle suggests, these are tales the hwarhath tell themselves as they begin to question some of their previously unquestioned assumptions about their nature and culture—questions generated by encounters with the puzzling, disturbing, dangerous, gender-strange creatures called humans.  
  —Locus, Russel Letson, May 2016

The alien species Hwarhath is an intelligent population whose inhabitants share many similarities to, and differences from, humans. This collection by the James Tiptree Jr. Award–winning author Arnason (A Woman of the Iron People) details Hwarhath society from the perspective of a cultural anthropologist and translator. The first story, "Historical Romances," details the differences in Hwarhath literature and popular fiction, showcasing the latter in "The Actors," "Dapple," and "The Potter of Bones." Sexuality, its fluidity, and its defined gender roles in this extraterrestrial community are highlighted in the myth-based tale, "The Gauze Banner." Delivered in a clear voice with scholarly touches, Arnason's book brings a fantastic species to life. Verdict These stories mostly date back to the 1990s, but the intelligent tone and anthropological view is as impressive nearly two decades years later. Readers who favor robust cultural development in related speculative works will find this collection a joy to absorb.  
  —Library Journal, April 2016

Eleanor Arnason's witty and sophisticated anthropological fiction has long been admired by readers and editors of literary science fiction, but it has escaped wider recognition by appearing largely as stories and novellas. The central conceit is that these tales are the work of an alien race, the Hwarhath, who only late in their long history come in contact with humans, whom they don't like very much but find fascinating. This first collection reveals a complex history of the Hwarhath through their myths, legends and even their science fiction, revealing a culture worthy of comparison to those of Ursula K. Le Guin.  
  —Chicago Tribune, Gary K. Wolfe, June 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61976-095-0 (13 digit)
Publication Date: May 2016
paperback 392 pages