Rhiannon's choice is a concept from a science-fiction novel to describe a common dilemma for that society. I just can't recall where is it from or what it is about!

I recalled it while reading Seth Dickinson's "Three Bodies at Mitanni" which is a story about 3 officers whose job is to visit seeded worlds, see how humans have evolved, then make an assessment about whether should be connected with the rest of the universe. If they find a ‘Duong-Watts malignant’, the worst of all possible worlds, then they give a kill order (genocide and ecocide). 

I remember that somewhere else, there was "Rhiannon's Choice". I originally thought it was from Le Guin, and was about a decision to leave a grounded world and join humanity in light-speed travel, forever leaving behind your family and friends in time. But reviewing my notes on Le Guin, I couldn't find that concept anywhere. Then maybe I thought it might be part of Ken Liu's singularity concepts, where biologically natural parents have to choose whether to cybernetically augment their children, either they are left behind to a rapidly advancing society thinking at lightspeed, or are forever lost to their parents because they have been wired to be superhuman. But 'Rhiannon' doesn't sound like a name Ken Liu would use, so now I'm thinking about Peter Hamilton...

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    Le Guin has a novel called Rocannon's World. Never read it but wondering if there is any connection? Rocannon - Rhiannon?
    – skyjack
    Apr 20 at 6:54
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    How confident are you that the name is "Rhiannon"? When you say it "is a concept from..." do you mean that the phrase is used in-universe in the story, or that you / other people have used it in real life, in reference to the story? Do you have any idea of timeframe when you read about it?
    – IMSoP
    Apr 20 at 7:25
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    Rhiannon is a woman (possibly of semi-divine descent depending on the source) in Welsh mythology. Her father, Hyfaidd the Elder, had betrothed her to a powerful ally, Gwawl aub Clud. Yet, she was in love with Pwyll of Dyfed, Lord of the seven Cantrevs. She then had to make a choice - to follow her heart and spark a three-side conflict, or to accept the marriage as was the custom and her family duty. Some mishaps notwithstanding, she and Pwyll got married. It seems to me that the choice between family and one's own yearnings might be germane.
    – LSerni
    Apr 20 at 8:38
  • I keep thinking about the Rhiannon song by Fleetwood Mac with the lyrics "Would you stay if she promised you heaven?"
    – Danny Mc G
    Apr 20 at 21:35
  • Rocannon's World begins with a short story separately published as "Semley's Necklace" or "The Dowry of Angyar". It has this plot element. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dowry_of_Angyar Apr 23 at 12:51

1 Answer 1


I can think of at least two places that this concept appears in Le Guin's work, although neither is associated with the name Rhiannon. The first is in the short story "Semley's Necklace". This story was used as the first part of the book "Rocannon's World" (possible conflation of Rocannon with Rhiannon?).

The other is the novella "Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea". A relevant quote from the start of this tale:

The distance between Hain and my home world is just over four light years, and there has been traffic between O and the Hainish system for twenty centuries. Even before the Nearly As Fast As Light drive, when ships spent a hundred years of planetary time instead of four to make the crossing, there were people who would give up their old life to come to a new world. Sometimes they returned; not often. There were tales of such sad returns to a world that had forgotten the voyager.

The narrator then goes on to relate the story of the Fisherman (more or less analogous to Rip Van Winkle or to a fantasy tale of a human taken to Faerie) before launching into his own account of between-world travels and the disruptive effects of time-slip on family and interpersonal relationships.

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