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Bren's Opponents-why Oppose Him?; Is there a message from CJC behind them?
Topic Started: Sep 11 2017, 04:57 AM (402 Views)
lynxlacelady
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I have read and re-read the foreigner series from end to end several times. I am still endlessly fascinated by themes and ideas which span the entire series. I think there was a clear set of terms and issues that CJC started with, and continues to pursue. Small bits of the story may change or mutate from one volume to the next, but the basic ideas are all there at the beginning. One way to explore this is to look at the various people who oppose Bren and what he does. Why do they oppose him? The reasons aren’t all the same. Even among humans, or among atevi as a group, the reasons aren’t all the same.

I will start with the humans who oppose him, Deana Hanks being the first whose voice we actually hear. In book2, INVADER, Banichi gives Bren a recording of a broadcast message from Deana. while Bren and company are on the way to Taiben to meet the ship folk who are parachuting in. She says:

“He has … participated with the aiji’s authority to place me under communications blackout and, I am warned by reliable sources, to have me assassinated … He has suggested boycott as a tactic … has gone on a remarkable excursion to a remote observatory supported by the aiji of Shejidan and brought back a warped space theory that I strongly believe is not based on atevi research, but on unauthorized translation of classified human mathematical concepts.”

Her speech, apparently intended for broadcast to Mospheira, accuses Tabini of a power grab at the expense of the lords, and greed for monetary gain from control of trade. She goes on to say that the aiji will have the ship’s mediator to Mospheira assassinated and will place the blame on his opponents. In her long tirade the only true element is the “excursion to the observatory” and “suggested boycott as a tactic.”

In her speech you can hear echoes of Bren’s interrogation in Ilisidi’s basement. He is urged to cooperate, while in pain, but refuses. Deana’s content sounds an awfully lot like what the conspirators had wanted from Bren, but one doubts they used force on Deana – they didn’t need to. In book 1, FOREIGNER, the interrogator says:

“… if you provided the aiji-dowager the necessary evidence to remove the aiji, if you became a resource useful on our side – we’d be fools to turn you over to more radical factions of our association.”
“Cenedi said the same things. And sent me here.”
“We support the aiji-dowager. We’d keep you alive and quite comfortable, nand’ paidhi. You could go back to Shejidan. Nothing essential would change in the relations of the association with Mospheira—except the party in power ..… so long as you’re willing to provide us statements that serve our point of view. It costs you nothing. It maintains you in office, nand’ paidhi.”

Earlier in INVADER she seems to think that Bren has had her phone disconnected, and that he is in charge of the security outside her door. We know that isn’t so. Tabini is in charge of those things. Bren’t only interference in Tabini’s handling of Deana is to ask her life be spared. One can hear the atevi who have captured her feeding her false information, which she appears to believe without hesitation: Bren wanting her assassinated, and the possible death of one of the ship folk wrongly attributed.

So just why does Deana see him as she does? Why does she oppose him? One reason is simply different politics. The Heritage party wants humans to dominate, and believes they can succeed at it. Bren’s position is that it is the atevi’s planet, and they should be in control of their own futures. This requires the existence of something like the aishidi’tat which can give them a unified voice in dealing with humans. The Heritage party also has no trouble contemplating a world in which the ship captains and pilots’ guild controls Mospheiran politics, and the world itself. Part of her opposition is just plain ignorance. She doesn’t understand atevi society or civilization and has no intention of learning to understand it. A small group of Mospheirans believes it should be dominating the world and imposing its ideas and program on everybody else. And part of her false beliefs may just be a question of projection, she is imagining her own motives as existing in him.

So what is wrong with all that? Thee to four million humans, even with the ship, cannot possibly control several hundred million atevi. They forget that humans lost the war the first time. The first time around Tabini’s ancestor has all the fighting humans surrounded and ready for extermination. But he refrained and offered them a deal – a place to live in return for human technology. Why would a 2nd war end any differently? Also ship’s officers are even more ignorant of atevi civilization than the Mospheirans are. They cannot possibly create a manageable accomodation, given that vast ignorance. And soon after, in Book 4 PRECURSOR, we see that hopeless ignorance played out graphically when Bren goes up to the station the first time.

Basically Bren’s human opponents are out of touch with reality in various ways and to various degrees. Deana, the Heritage party, even the ship captains, just can’t see what is right in front of them.

By the way, the deal Tabini’s ancestor Barjida dealt with humans after the War of the Landing, is just the same method that Tabini uses against Machigi in Tanaja.
What do you all think?
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Eupathic Impulse
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We see the world entirely though Bren's eyes, and later through Cajeiri's, and of course their views make sense. You have to consider how Hanks made common cause with Direiso and the Kadagidi, the interest they had in common is the key here.

From the Kadagidi (and other) perspective, the extended Barjidi rule was an artifact of human contact and technology. And even making common cultural cause with Malguri and the East didn't save that, because Malguri (Ilisidi) was happy to make an accommodation with the Barjidi if a principled traditionalism was maintained. Bren proved that humans did not necessarily have to be a barrier to atevi traditionalism -- therefore the last barrier to a full on alliance with the aishi'ditat under Tabini was removed.

The acquisition of technological parity with humans hardly helped matters, because if Barjidi power seemed unbreakable at *that* point, just imagine when Tabini sends spaceships out into orbit and into the void under *Barjidi* man'chi! And with a planet-spanning family alliance (in the person of Cajeiri), opponents of the Barjidi had exactly two opportunities to prevent effectively being locked out of power for all eternity. One was to block technological parity, the other was to supplant Tabini and somehow take over the space program.

The Kadagidi alliance with Deana Hanks was supposed to achieve the first goal and failed. The second attempt was Murini's pretendership, including his kidnapping of Cajeiri, which was a takeover attempt by people who didn't understand the system they were attempting to take over, and thus (I suspect) would eventually have collapsed one way or another. Bren and Tabini's challenge in that case was to take back power before that happened.

The human side of things is much more speculative because (as I have frequently complained) we have hardly seen the effect of these events on Mospheira and its society and politics, even though it seems like it should be economically significant and profound. However, you can extract some sense from Bren's opponents there too, especially if you think of Ginny Kroger as the human foil on Ilisidi.

Prior to Bren, humans have a slight technological edge that partly guarantees, not domination of the atevi, which as you say is entirely impractical and no one has ever mentioned seriously, but rather human sovereignty/political equality as a unit, despite the relatively small human population. Humans sit at the table as humans. For the Heritagists, humans are running a Red Queen's Race -- they must use what little technological edge they have left to keep ahead of the atevi in one way or another, including an earlier return to space if possible.

Worse, if the atevi go to space first and achieve full technological parity (and then pull ahead due to numbers and economic heft), humans are reduced from a sovereign partner of the aishi'ditat to a (frankly more appropriate) status of being merely another, rather odd province of the aishi'ditat, and indeed, will have to awkwardly negotiate new interfaces to a political system run on lines of man'chi.

CJC herself identifies two factions among the Heritagists (at the outset), though she doesn't name them consistently: I'll call them "Hanksians" and "Krogerists". Hanksians think that the main practical solutions are political and must be focused on retarding atevi technological development, so that humans can continue to run the Red Queen's Race. That is what Deana Hanks is willing to cooperate with the Kadagidi -- because she sees correctly that they also want to keep the atevi economy and society pinned down long enough, at least, for them to mount a (probably catastrophic) bid, as we see, for the aijinate.

The Krogerists, however, are the part of the Heritage movement that is about keeping ahead of the atevi by reviving archived human technologies or inventing new ones. The arrival of the ship (and therefore the prospect that humans may be sovereign elsewhere), and the willingness of the aiji to include humans in the space program, allows Ginny Kroger to pull an "Ilisidi" and come over to Bren's side.

An interesting thing I've noticed is that CJC keeps emphasizing how important the physical integrity even of enemy minors is to atevi. Atevi have low tolerance for assassination or abuse of children -- and furthermore, they extend this feeling towards human children (see Irene). Political kidnapping is allowed but treatment must be kept within certain parameters. This I think hints that the underlying genocide-anxiety that *must* remain under the surface for many Heritagists is probably wrong-headed.

That's basically how I see the opposition to to Bren. But of course, to Bren himself, the only real answer is acceptance of the situation and merger of human interests with those of atevi, and to prove that it is possible. He's probably right, but as I said, we only ever get his political take on things, his morality, his personal attachments...
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lynxlacelady
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Eupathic -- An interesting perspective. The only part I disagree with is on Kroger. I think CJC explains that Kroger had maintained the appearance of agreeing with the heritage animosity to Atevi. She wasn't herself hostile to Atevi, she wanted to get into space. She wanted humans in space. That was all her motivation. I think she merely appeared antagonistic as protective coloring to preserve her position as an advocate for human space endeavors, among heritagers. This is a position Bren arrives at in book 4 when he is trying to figure out how to work with the Mospheiran delegation on the station.

I enjoyed hearing your views. This is why I joined Shejidan. I have desperately wanted to talk to people who are as enamored of those books as I am.

I'm going to think about Bren's other opponents.
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Xheralt
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Let's go back to the very beginning, the warpdrive accident and the arrival of Phoenix at atevi-earth. Humans don't know where they are, starmaps offer no clues, no positional data. They don't know the security concerns that secretly wiped/corrputed the maps. They don't know if they're in another galaxy, drastically time-shifted, in another universe...with no "real scientific" answers available, ones that would be science-fictional (even to them!) would end up being considered. But the fact is...no other sign of humanity. Anywhere. As far as Phoenix-crew knows, they are the last/only vestige of the human race. That adds extra impetus to survival.

War of Landing almost wipes them out. Genocide averted, at a cost. The gradual surrender of humanity's closely-held trump cards, technology. The hand is very large. Noone even knows with any certainty exactly how many cards there are. But they know that it is a FINITE number. And that uncertainty of course gives rise equally to optimism (we can win the Red Queen's race) and pessimism (The End Is Nigh!)

What happens when the last card is played from humanity's hand? When there are no more secrets to surrender? In the Heritage Partier [non-Hanksian] view, Humanity becomes superfluous, and would be wiped out at (and for) the atevi's convenience. With zero understanding of atevi, and rejection of learning anything about atevi as core values, they don't understand that atevi don't do the genocide thing. They can only envision what a human might (or would) do.

The Hanksian tactic was to make atevi allies, in the Human fashion, using the man'chi-to-mutual-ideals that atevi are capable of. And casually dropping words never meant to be heard by atevi, because in her heart of hearts she doesn't really believe that atevi are that different from humans.
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lynxlacelady
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xheralt
Good point. Hanks keeps on assuming atevi are just like humans, both in terms of potential genocide and making alliances on the basis of similar programs. The enemy of my enemy is my friend: anti-Tabini atevi (who want to shatter the aishidi'tat or just replace Tabini), and anti-Tabini humans (who don't want tech in atevi hands or the close cooperation between Tabini and Bren). And she fails to comprehend the probable consequences of achieving what she wants. If Dereiso wins she might actually exterminate humans; that does seem to be her goal. Breaking up the cooperation between the mainland and Mospheira would result in a much more tense world situation.
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Blond Tekikin

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And yet there is a machimi referred to in the early books about an allegiance arising between two clans that hate each other because they realize they both hate a third party more. Atevi do have that concept. Not exactly the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but something sidling up to it.
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lynxlacelady
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Yes, and if Hanks and Dereiso won, Hanks would get a big surprise when Dereiso pursued her program -- extermination of humans.
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lynxlacelady
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Eupathic - I have just reread your post of Sep 11. You have seen something that I have had trouble seeing -- the desperate urgency of Tabini's enemies to try and regain some chance of attaining real power again. I have trouble seeing it because I reject it, personally. But I think you have an interesting view. Ultimately, what accommodation can be made with people who see their chance of power slipping away, permanently. I suppose that is also a legitimate point of view.

Cherryh's work is much more than just entertaining stories.
--------------------
On to my other topic.

I want to continue with my thoughts on the motivations of the various people who either oppose him outright or place obstacles in his path. This now deals with people in book 16 – TRACKER – in which the Kyo are spotted in the solar system and Bren and company go to the station to meet them. He talks to Ogun while still on the planet, and again when he arrives on the station. And he talks to Tillington on the evening of the day he arrives on station, and again the following morning.

Ogun is an interesting example. He says Bren is groundbound politics personified, and Ogun doesn’t care about those issues. He also says to Bren “how are you at taking orders?” Ogun isn’t really an opponent but he is an obstacle. His problem is that he sees people divided into 2 categories: those who take his orders readily and those who don’t. He seems to believe that no sane or useful person could possibly belong to the 2nd category. The result, one supposes, of being a ship captain. He just can’t imagine anything about Bren’s real motivations, or his loyalty to Tabini. And he really has no idea what Bren’s actual position is in Atevi society. Ogun’s limitation is that he has narrowed his horizon to what he himself has directly experienced on his ship and the station. Anything outside of that just doesn’t exist.

Tillington is definitely an opponent. His complaints are hard to characterize. I keep wanting to say he is just nuts, but that isn’t really it. He believes that Sabin made a deal with Braddock to control the ship and the station. But Bren and Jase both were seriously worried, on the way to Reunion, about whether Sabin is secretly Pilots’ Guild. But they both stop short of giving that worry any solid validity until they have direct evidence. And Bren obtains such evidence. When Reunion has to fake Sabin’s voice in a message, that is proof that Sabin did not cooperate with Reunion’s demands. And returning the over loaded ship to Alpha is proof that she works WITH the captains’ council, not in opposition to it. But Tillington doesn’t bother with evidence. He just convinces himself about Sabin’s supposed political machinations, in which he states that Bren is complicit. He also attacks Bren on the ground that he abandoned his post to go on the ship to Reunion, and that he has no authority as a result. Tillington omits to consider that going on the ship might not have been Bren’s choice, but that he goes where he is sent by Tabini or Ilisidi. Tillington also does not consider the possibility that Tyers has asked Bren to function as Mospheira’s representative in the Kyo matter. He insists that Bren has no authority.

Tillington’s aberrations seem to be based primarily on his emotional needs. He needs someone to blame for damage to his careful building on the station, and he blames Sabin. He is worried about the role the Reunioners may play in the future and concocts a story which combines the Reunioners and Atevi as oponents to Mospheiran humans. He shoves both boogiemen – Atevi and Reunioners - into the same sack. Bren’s divorce from Mospheira is a real grievance with Tillington, and may be the only point at which his opposition touches reality.

Both these men are out of touch with reality to some extent. Ogun’s blind spot is less troublesome because he is also capable of seeing objectively what works and what doesn’t. He makes a list of demands to Bren, and must be quite surprised when Bren solves most of them in less than 24 hours from his arrival on station.

Tillington’s irrationality is quite entertaining in some respects. I regard Bren’s 2 confrontations with him as some of the high spots in the whole series. I really love the account of Bren’s whole first full day on the station – his confrontation with Tillington (with massive Guild support accompanying him), followed by his contact with Gin while she is still in transit. That whole scene in human central is one of my favorites.

So why am I making a fuss about the motivations of these various people. I think that Cherryh is deliberately exploring the issue of political motivation throughout this series. In the Chanur books she began trying to invent believable political complications, but it often seems forced, to me, and just a bit too complex for comprehension. But in the Foreigner series she has reached master status in exploring this issue. All these various people who oppose Bren, with all their reasons, well, I have met such persons in my lifetime. I see evidence of it every night on the evening news. HER constant message is that everybody has a point of view, motives and agendas. And, mostly, no one is the only one who is right. Instead, some accommodation for all the different viewpoints must be found in politics.

What do you all think?
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griffinmoon
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I think I'm a real ignoramous in light of such enlightened conversation.
*retires to a corner & surreptitiously wipes running nose with sleeve*
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lynxlacelady
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Griffi-ji

I have arrived at all these opinions only after reading each book several times, and reading the whole series all the way through, in order, at least 3 or 4 times. I'm obsessed. The first time I read one of her books I miss a great deal of what is there. As I re-read each one I hear echoes from the earlier ones and realize there are connections to other parts of the story.
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bmills
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Early in the first book there's that period when the ship's crew sacrificed itself for the group, taking on the dangerous work of exposing themselves to radiation while working outside to fuel the ship. But after that genuine nobility, they took upon themselves a self-righteous authority and became a hereditary aristocracy, arguing that their sacrifice was proof that they were a better class of people and therefore they had earned the lion's share of political authority.

This is a sort of original sin which is a factor in just about everything that has happened since. Some humans left the ship and stranded themselves on the planet to get away from this oppressive hereditary ruling class. But once there, the people who became the Heritage party leadership continued that social model of identifying themselves as a ruling class. They re-created the problem with simply another group at the top.

The ship went off and built another station, but then the same thing happened again. The station leadership tried to exert authority over the ship, and the ship parted ways and went to look for the home worlds or even just somewhere else to settle.

So that's been a repeating theme of the human side of the saga all along. There's this branching set of sub-aristocracies, each of which is convinced that it alone is able to and deserves to set policy for all and rule everyone, including the non-humans they encounter, and all of them descended from that original generation of self-sacrificing ship's crew.

So to finally get back to the actual discussion question, my feeling is that Bren's enemies oppose him simply because they each want to place themselves in sole authority, whereas Bren's specialty is sharing authority and bringing disparate parties together in such a way that no one party or figure is receiving all the benefits and power.

Um, I was sure I had a point to make, and I'm not sure if I've made it. Anyway, it was interesting to talk about.
Edited by bmills, Feb 4 2018, 10:16 PM.
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lynxlacelady
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bmills - I agree with your summary of why Bren's enemies oppose him.
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Xheralt
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:note: Hail to the new boss, same as the old boss...

edit: WTF the music-note smiley ia AWOL?!
Edited by Xheralt, Feb 6 2018, 12:02 AM.
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BlueCatShip
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/* methinks the smiley codes, images, and crucially the links between them, have become, er, disassociated ;) during the changeover from one forum software to another. This doesn't affect some of the markup transformations that are built into the new forum, but it looks like it does affect some or many of the custom smileys particular to Shejidan. Possibly one or more subdirectories plus the custom smiley codes are affected, those being two ends of the same candle. */

-----

One thing that seems to be constant and recurring in the Foreigner series is provincialism, insularism, xenophobia, racial and species prejudice. Another is both fear of the unknown and fear of change, fear of changing to what is new versus clinging to what is old and traditional.

I'd note that different people and groups, and both humans and atevi, are prone to this in different, sometimes seemingly contradictory ways.

As a prime example, nand' Ilisidi is both very traditional in some ways, yet very modern and open to change in others. She holds some practices as worth keeping and others as optional and others as in need of revision. (Hmm, that's too general a way of defining her as opposed to others, but the point I'm trying to make is the apparent contradiction, while really it means she's selective and has opinions about what to keep and what to toss and what is up to individual or group choice.)

Lady Ilisidi has one conservative, traditional, yet also progressive bent, and she's primarily from her region around Malguri.

Tabini-aiji, even though he's her son, has his own, differing opinions on this, more progressive and wanting a more rapid change, and primarily from around the Bujavid.

Cajeiri has his opinions, but they are only forming, and largely influenced by Ilisidi and Tabini and by having accompanied Bren aboard ship. He, and the human children (later teens) he's formed an association with, have lived closer, interacting with both species, and represent the possible future of cooperation or -- integration. (So, species and racial integration and future change and progress.)

Bren started as somewhat conservative, yet open to change, forward-thinking, and importantly, he, as a translator, is strongly enamored of the atevi language, culture, mindset, and of the exotic (foreign) in general. (I get that, since I have a linguistic bent too. I like the exotic or foreign, the "otherness" or "alienness" of languages and cultures. There's a bit of naive idealization in that, but less so once one has matured and had some experience of life and people. And personally, I can also have a distance or not-quite-trust, a cynicism or misanthropy, about how people act, due to long personal early experience. Kids and adults are not angels, but there can be good people, and most people are, well, OK or good, if given a chance.)

But getting back on topic, Bren is a catalyst. His positive attitude and interest in learning and using Ragi, to seek to understand atevi cultures and thinking and their emotions, begins that. Under his term as paidhi-aiji, we see him, with Tabini, (or the other way around equally) shepherd technology, ideology, and relations between the species, move toward a new point, and more toward an equal relationship where both species are more onto the same level.

Bren is, by nature and by his interest in atevi ways, not prejudiced against atevi. He is instead one who would actively accept atevi as equals, and seeks, well, friendly relations in human terms, and (positive) associative relations in atevi terms. He's the type to want a good deal for both sides, and fair-minded and cool-headed enough to be a good mediator and negotiator, despite nonsense or good sense on both sides.

You have elements in atevi society who are conservative, elements who are prejudicial, and note the two do not have to coincide. You have atevi who simply don't know any different. And then you have atevi who are actively fearful of humans, or of change or the future. -- Remember how, at first, and it keeps cropping up even currently, atevi popular opinion has many superstitions, various quasi-religious beliefs, but more tellingly, that fear of "death rays from space" and not knowing or trusting what the 9foreign) alien humans are really like. The tourists to Malguri who get to meet Bren are very ordinary everyman characters, and so are a thermometer of popular opinion then, and misunderstandings or questions or curiosity about, how humans are and what humans would do. The adults and the children among those atevi have lots of questions (and fears) to express to Bren about what humans are like. The children send letters asking questions. The adults ask questions or make comments when they meet Bren. Bren's public appearances on atevi television, and answering questions in press conferences and interviews, go toward answering those, and toward influencing public opinions and information.

The atevi get to do some of that also, in televised coverage that goes back toward the public on Mospheira.

Then you have some progressive elements among Mosphei' humans, allied with or sympathetic with Bren's views.

Ah, but then you have human prejudices and conservatism, political and religious and secular ideologies that interfere with things. -- And in this, we get to see human foibles that we know from recent history, about racial and class prejudice, conservatism (both radical and reactionary, left-wing and right-wing). We get things like the Pilot's Guild and the Heritage Party, interested in keeping power for themselves and prejudiced toward other groups, especially against atevi, who aren't just a different race or religion, but an entirely different species, so the fear and hatred can really run rampant...yet disguised, because these are humans whose ancestors came down from space, so the idea that aliens exist is not unknown (foreign?) and yet they're still xenophobic. (Oh no, the aliens must be bad guys, let's kill them before they kill us!) That kind of thing. ("Oh, aliens can't possibly be as good and noble as us humans. Why, they're aliens, they probably don't have souls or know how to act like moral, civilized beings, they're no better than animals. Are they even intelligent?) I'm stretching it using things people say now about aliens, but the same sorts of things, in disguised form, seem to be what's going on with the Heritage Party.

Er, compared to recent events, if I may -- We're seeing currently how racial prejudice and nationalism and fascism and religious and political extremism can be covert or overt, wrapped up in existing symbols as if that's what those symbols meant all along, and repackaged and sold to gullible people as a new, popular ideology. Up until recently, I'd considered the Heritage Party in the books as more an amalgam of historic groups. But with current events going as they are, I'd say there's more realistic warning than simple historical analogy or satire/parody. -- But people like Deana Hanks or Heritage Party members on Mospheira, are the same sort of people who'd go for a fascist, nationalist, and racially (speciesist) prejudiced (and twisted) ideology, a mindset, a worldview. -- Deana is supposed to be a translator, a woman who's spent almost her entire education, even before university and definitely undergraduate and post-graduate, studying everything about atevi, seeking to become a paidhi, like Bren did. She's next in line after him, supposedly, in qualifications. And yet her personal ideology does not allow a positive or neutral view of atevi. She's xenophobic, she's eager to believe conspiracies, to believe Bren and Tabini are both corrupt and acting against her and humans, and...ugh. It comes across to me as a twisted, perverted way of paranoia, prejudice, xenophobia, and a belief in one's own person and group as superior, morally, intellectually, and so on. Just...not what a translator and mediator and a student of, admirer of, a species, language, culture, ought to be. (See, I have trouble personally understanding people like her, and especially as, to me, if you're going to spend your life studying a people, their thinking, feelings, culture, history, language, biology, behavior ... how in the world can you do that without being enthusiastic about, enamored of the subject(s) to some degree? I can understand, if you study something awful (like the real-life counterparts throughout history to prejudiced groups, etc.) how that is not something you might admire, and yet you could study it to understand and counteract it. I could understand having a moral and intellectual disconnect from it. But yet if you're going to study everything about a species (or a race, religion, culture, language) then I have trouble seeing how you couldn't also have some degree of fascination and liking/loving for it. -- Yet it seems like Bren has that love of all things atevi, while Deana seems to dislike or hate all things atevi, or if not, she sure does seem to have that moral and intellectual disconnect, as if she's studying atevi because she thinks they're somehow dangerous or inferior, not to be liked or trusted.

So we get this wide range of people doing things that covers these sorts of recurring themes.

Ah, and we also get, a strong bit of parody and satire, I think, of just how closed-minded and insular the average Mospheiran humans are, with all the suburban 50's/60's imagery going on. That seems to be both for humor value, and for a more serious poking fun at our own cultural chauvinism and nonsense from the World War II era on. I have this image sometimes of garish colors and patterns and bad clothing and interior decorating fashions, and hairdos, and probably strict social mores, and popular shows that would favor, say, that ideal 1950's American TV family, and pretend certain things (like Archie Bunker or Mrs. Bucket) could not exist. What? Oh, we can't show that on the show, it's too vulgar, indecent, naughty, sexy, anti-religious, etc.) For some reason, I also envision a lot of Tupperware, Avon ladies, and bad casseroles, and weird Jello or Spam concoctions. Ah, and probably the old-style TV dinners and TV trays.) -- Ahem, yeah, sorry, I recognize the stuff I grew up with; only in my case, if you'd ever seen That 70's Show when it was on, yeah, some of my elementary and junior high photos, oh, I could've been on the show easily. A whole junior high class that looked like that. Or the 80's hair in high school graduation photos....

I think CJC is poking at 20th Century history and American (and European and other) nonsense with that sort of thing, as comic relief but as satire and parody, in there. The bits with the atevi being afraid of those "death rays from space" also.

The numerology and kabiu beliefs seem to be both a way of giving the atevi believable alien characterizations, yet their own systems of things that are a mix of religion and tradition, sense and nonsense and simply how they've developed a way of doing things. Human customs can (and sometimes are) like that. There are comparable things about fortune/luck, aesthetics, religious and secular beliefs, folkways, from various times and places in human history, that are very similar to, but only somewhat different than, those atevi customs and outlooks.

(Ah, except that CJC has given a more conscious difference with the odd numbers instead of even, and a few other things, specifically counter to most human preferences, to show the atevi effectively as aliens.)

I get the sense from the Foreigner books, that although CJC includes these themes and cheerfully parodies, satires, or critiques them, that she's not necessarily intending any overt political or ideological bent to it. That is, I don't think she's necessarily pushing a particular ideology of hers as the be-all and end-all, the one way to go. Both her academic training in history, languages, and classics, and her personal take on things, I think, are sophisticated enough to know that's not going to last anyway. Meaning, people change ideas as societies over time anyway, so historically, no single ideology really stands up much.

I think instead, she's critiquing recent history and how people (worldwide, West and East, but not limited) have acted as groups, the mistakes made as societies in interacting, or the harm groups have done to each other -- and how other groups and persons have coutneracted that. -- She doesn't seem (to me) to be offering up a single must-have solution, but instead, she seems (to me) to be pointing out problems and solutions, tendencies, things to be avoided, and how people got around them.

I think she does have a message in there that being prejudiced or overly strict in beliefs, clinging too much to "the way we've always done it" or to "us versus them" are not workable, productive, beneficial ways of doing things, and don't lead to progress or to a sustainable world. Instead, they lead to people fighting, warring, destroying, instead of creating and building and flourishing.

Compared to her other story-universes, such as the Chanur/Compact books, or Alliance/Union, or some of her earlier experimental stuff, (good stuff and much missed, IMHO) -- she seems to have integrated a lot, thrown everything into the Foreigner books in a more cohesive whole way. I would almost say that the things she was trying out in a very fleshed-out, very polished and finished way, in the Chanur books, or in some of Alliance/Union, she recombined and then went further, in building the world and story for Foreigner. -- I also think she had an initial large story arc planned, and then both enjoyed it so much and got further ideas, plus further contracts, that she's extended it as long as sales and contracts, and her own neat ideas to play in the Foreigner universe, have continued.

I would say, as my usual opinion, that I like the Foreigner books a great deal, but I also like, and very much miss, forays into her other story-universes, and would welcome more books in those. Plus, I would like very much to see what brand new stuff she might have percolating in her writerly brain. She's always come up with really good stuff, so I think it'd be wonderful to see what else is new that she'd write. So I want all three, more Foreigner, more in her other existing story-universes, and more brand new stuff to challenge and surprise us. Because she has a real knack for doing that in a way that tells a story in a compelling way and in a style that has few other, if any matches. Whether science fiction or fantasy or some speculative fiction that's hard to classify, the lady can write one heckuva tale.

I've also said before, I think she'd do great writing historical fiction, but any time I've written that, she's said she can't, because her historian's brain wants it to be perfect and has too much trouble nitpicking and editing it, because of that. I can understand that, but I still think she'd do a fantastic job at it.

She prefers long-form storytelling over short stories. I understand that, but I really like short stories also. -- Some people, ya just can't satisfy everybody all the time, huh? :D


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bmills -

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branching set of sub-aristocracies, each of which is convinced that it alone is able to and deserves to set policy for all and rule everyone, including the non-humans they encounter,


Yes, the branching set of sub-aristocracies. This idea is definitely there, in her work. And I have begun to see it as part of my personal worldview. Humans are social primates with a status hierarchy. The top layers of the hierarchy believe they have the right to take the vast majority of the resources for themselves. (I recall seeing a documentary in which one high status monkey was literally taking food out of the mouth of a low status monkey.) I have seen evidence of this "we are on top because we are superior beings" attitude in certain living politicians.

Personally, I think the low status individuals among real life humans have a different survival strategy -- they offer each other assistance when it appears necessary. Doing this allows more low status individuals to survive. It is an effective strategy.

Her work does not contain this high-status/low-status division. Bren's attitude is indeed cooperative and keeps people of whatever species from killing each other, or allowing each other to die when assitance could prevent that. I do think you made your point, and I agree. I see that, too.
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