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Bren and Jago; Interspecies Relations
Topic Started: Mar 14 2018, 08:17 AM (304 Views)
Iron Chef Atevi
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I have often wondered if Bren and Jago's extra-professional relationship could be considered to be a form of Niven's rishathra (defined as "sexual practice outside one's own species but within the intelligent hominoids"). While Jago is not a homind, she is a humanoid, and rather fetching in the eyes of a certain Paidhi-aiji.. :atwink Discuss! :smile2

PS I would also humbly request that Herself :cherryh: please include a bit of nookie in the next novel, it has been far too long since they 'moved in that certain way' (paraphrasing one of the early descriptions since I can't remember it verbatim). Bed, bath, and beyond! :sm
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Neco the Nightwraith
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Living the Right Life
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Jago's interest in Bren is probably largely curiosity. A tiny part of it might be to ensure he is safe all the time- in bed and out of it. And it probably satisfies something she needs as well.

I have questioned whether Guild members might engage in casual "no strings attached" sex (either with each other or with someone outside of the Guild circle- be that lord, lady or commoner...?) to tend to their own needs. Surely those men and women of the Guild (particularly the young men and women) can't be such well trained automatons that they are capable of turning off their own physical needs and desires. And it's clear that some of them did have children at some point (Banichi in particular, but it has been noted that Narani has several children and grandchildren of his own, and he has been in the Guild all his life, I think). CJ mentioned on WWAS that the atevi birth rate was lower than that of humans, but she has also mentioned in the books themselves that atevi (especially young ones) suffer from what they call "hormonal foolishness" (I forget the word they used for it. It has apparently been a topic of conversation between Bren and Tabini, regarding love vs man'chi and this "hormonal foolishness").

And, in Deliberations, it was mentioned that Valasi apparently slept his way through his entire 15 year reign with multiple women at once, often causing scandal, so it's clear that *some* atevi have quite a high sex drive indeed. (Hell, even Bren in Invitations had three women at the start of his job, before clearly whittling the lot down to just Barb. What a playa!)
Edited by Neco the Nightwraith, Mar 14 2018, 10:04 PM.
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Unlabelled Browncoat Scaper
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Hah, maybe it's funny, or indicative, or something, of me, that, as conflicted as I am in some way, toward that aspect of (my) life, that I'd be willing to tackle (eh?) the subject from a Bren-and-Jago or literary or cross-species point of view? Or at least, in a general sense?

(I truly wish I could go back in time and convince, somehow, my younger self that it was really and truly OK for him to be who he was inside, instead of trying to hide those conflicted feelings. I also wonder what it would have taken for anyone to reach me and show me, somehow, that it was OK, that someone else (another boy) liked me "that way" in return, and that that was fine and good. I feel I am still learning and/or unlearning all that, even at this point in life.)

Well, that aside -- OK, Bren and Jago have a relationship. (And ker Hilfy and na Tully had some relationship out of mutual need during part of their ordeal, be it noted, in the Chanur books.)

Also, CJC has, in various ways, nearly always fairly subtly or carefully, addressed the subject of difficult opposite-sex relationships and of accepted, fairly low-key same-sex relationships. (In the latter, unless I'm forgetting something, she generally has it as quite unremarkable to others within the given culture that two people of the same sex would have a loving sexual and emotional relationship. That is, I don't recall it being a major issue for anyone to be in such a relationship, in her stories.) And in particular, when I'd first read Cyteen, back when it was in three separate volumes, I was college age, and I somehow, personal emotional blind spot and issues, probably -- missed, until fairly well along into the books, that Grant and Justin were not just best friends, co-workers, and roommates, but in a long-term committed same-sex relationship. (IIRC, I finally got it when they have one of their scenes with a disagreement which they take into a bathroom at work, then resolve it and make up, and I don't recall if it was a hug or kiss, but described just enough that I finally got the idea that, oh, duh, they were together, a couple, and loved each other, not just friends since their teens.)

I'm not sure how or if that ties into an overall thesis for me of CJC's depiction of a relationship like that between Bren and Jago, which is cross-species alien love. Bear with me a minute more, please. I think it's at least worth some mention for comparison.

We get a very complete relationship shown between ker Pyanfar and na Khym. We get true depth of feeling there, an understanding of the difficulties that their social structure and cultural beliefs put on them, concerning what is properly female hani and male hani, and we see other examples of how there are major difficulties in the hani world-view of what it is to be a hani couple, or a hani female, or a hani male. We see a few examples where it fails, too: Pyanfar's daughter and son in their failed attempted takeover of the estate from na Kohan, and specifically, though brief, Hilfy's lament over the early loss of a young male cousin, na Dahan, killed because he was either too male or not male enough to fit expectations and norms, and killed somehow in what was a tragic loss, but which fit within hani society's expectations. Ker Hilfy rails against it several times as a waste of potential, a great loss of a favorite male cousin she felt could have been great, like na Kohan or na Khym. Evidently, he wasn't much of a fighter, and was more of a dreamer, and when he got old enough that adolescence made him very male and therefore prone to others fighting him, or to have to leave the estate and go into Hermitage, he was killed somehow. (I don't recall the details, but I do recall Pyanfar noted it and Hilly was deeply affected by it for several mentions in one of the books.)

Then we get a couple of examples of stsho couples or triples, which are very lightly alluded to. (Pyanfar accidentally intrudes on one instance of two stsho in bed together and she politely withdraws, while she apparently notes, lightly, the anatomy involved is very stsho in nature; that is, it doesn't fit any male/female analogue too well, as they have three genders, which are not male or female, but otherwise.) It was only in later reads that I began to see just how masterful that is. CJC isn't only doing it for an unusual scifi twist on gender or sexuality. She's doing it to point out that there's more to it than either male or female might too easily imply, and that some species, including real ones on Earth, do some very non-human-normative things regarding that. (And that, incidentally, there's more to human biology and psychology than most of us usually think of.) So we get the idea of the stsho as significantly alien, and yet capable of loving each other delicately or deeply, along with the other ideas on sex and gender dealt with in the Chanur series. And even then, CJC is dealing with those as only one of the themes she's covering (uncovering?) in the Chanur saga.

I have always considered that the Chanur books were a very full expression of her themes, but that she chose to put many of the same things into how she built the Foreigner universe. She sort of upended her own tropes from Chanur, recombined them, and got Foreigner. (That's oversimplifying and shortchanging both series, I grant you, readers.) She seems to have had a great deal else to put into Foreigner, independent of the Chanur books' ideas.

Well, all right, I still don't see where I'm going with that as it relates to Bren and Jago or cross-species love / romance / sex. So pardon me for not feeling like that fits a thesis; and I'm working out my thoughts as I type, instead of any kind of proper attempt at an essay. I think I have some points; they're just not in any particular order to argue a certain thesis. So call this more, observations or thoughts, loose commentary? And I'll beg tolerance for that, because I also would prefer a polished essay and thesis presentation. Aw, heck. Here goes.

Bren and Jago's relationship does not feel central to me. It's important to them, but how much is it central, or casual, or out of a need for closeness without a better match available within their own species, available? Or...is that examining it too closely or with the wrong expectations? They arrive at it through a mutual attraction when Bren is very tired and sore and needs a massage to get him to relax and rest. He and Jago act on their feelings as they happen in the initial scene. Then, well, things develop after that.

I am not sure why, but I can simply accept that a human and an alien could form an emotional bond, a physical attraction, the things that go along with what we humans think of as love. -- And I feel it's important to make the distinction that what we call "love" in this sense involves emotional bonds, physical attraction and gratification, expression of physical affection, intellectual and mental compatibility, moral and philosophical compromises between two intelligent species, friendship, a sense of spiritual fulfillment...and oh, a host of other things, I suppose, all of which go into a romantic relationship. (Er, OK, and hot sex is its own thing, physical and hormonal, sensual, a release, want and need, a very basic thing like any other primal instinct.)

I'd also say, there's maybe a reason that people compare sex and food: We "hunger" for both. We need and want both as basic instinctual drives. Our (human) sense of enjoyment of either one is multi-faceted. Aesthetics, sensuality, all sorts of high and low elements of emotion and physicality go into fulfillment of our drives for food and sex. Because we are intelligent beings and not just animated robotic meatballs with instincts. (Caveat: I don't quite think most other mammals are that devoid of emotional depth either.) I don't pretend to know how other mammals "really" feel inside, but I am very sure that a cat or dog has strong emotional ties of a very cat or dog sort, towards another cat or dog, or in their own way, towards me. I get the idea that other apes and dolphins and cetaceans, in fact, most other higher mammals, seem to have some strong emotional ties with each other, within their species.

So OK, if humans have a multi-faceted approach to how we derive satisfaction from meeting basic instinctual needs, and if other higher mammals have strong emotional ties too, so what?

So presumably, if an alien species is both advanced enough to achieve space travel, and compatible enough with humans that we can get along with each other, mostly without annihilating each other, that says there is, already demonstrated, a high degree of compatibility. (Uh, this feels like I've restated the obvious in this paragraph in some circular way. Nuts.)

So could we assume that an advanced alien species that is enough like us that we and they can get along, likely also has strong emotions and attachments, in ways that are similar enough to our own species? -- That seems to make sense. -- If not, I doubt there'd be enough connection for humans or aliens in that context to form a relationship, unless it's, ah, a hormonal, physical, very brief release? (I suppose that could happen. Call it a sort of misfire of signals? It seems to happen that way among humans too. Either a date or a short-term relationship doesn't last, or it's a one-night stand, a brief encounter, or, well, something, but it doesn't do enough for us that we stay as a couple. It's a fling, a mere fulfillment of a short-term need.) That said, I suppose too, it could be fulfilling in and of itself, savory-sweet, a few fireworks, and on to something else? Taking care of that urge with someone like-minded could be important and meaningful. It could be significant or packed with feelings, responses. I'm not prepared to say it has too little meaning.

(I should maybe admit here that I come at this whole issue from, I was and am a romantic, a dreamer. I wanted true love, a long-term relationship. I haven't had that. And quite possibly, my starry-eyed idea, as a teenager and college student, that oh, I wanted true love, the love of my life, a long-term partner.... Maybe I missed something in how you get from, never had much of a relationship besides friendship before, to all the usual ups and downs of first couples' relationships, to finding the right one for you. Add to that the problems of being same-sex and from a really personally and familial and societally repressed background in terms of, was it OK for me to be with someone of the same sex, or for them to be with me, and...yeah, what I had from pre-teens and adolescence went from fumbling and negatives to an idea that I couldn't or wasn't supposed to, which was not healthy or constructive or conducive to working out this very basic, important, essential need for love with someone else.)

So...I may have an internal bias toward that idealized, long-term partner relationship, which may not quite fit with observed or experienced reality for most people. -- My parents had a mostly good relationship as friends and loves and life partners, which I mostly think was a good example of how to make that work. They loved each other. Neither of them were perfect people, but their love and their marriage mostly worked better than many or most people I have known. -- And I wish they had somehow let me know if they were more accepting of the gay thing than I thought. Because I grew up believing I could never talk to them about that, from as early as I first had any idea I was (earliest experimentation) to, yup, definitely gay, but how do I get that to work, and why can't my parents be OK with that, or me, if so? I always believed I couldn't talk to them about that, that neither of them would understand. My dad, I don't think would have, and he hardly ever talked to me about anything having to do with sex. My mom was a little bit better, and may have tried to talk to me more than once, but during the same time period, did and said things that showed (I thought) that she did not understand and would not accept it. -- So I have, on one hand, an example of a good, loving family relationship, a married couple who truly loved each other and were best friends along with it (and imperfect, but OK enough), and on the other hand, this very blocked and unaccepting thing which deeply affected my personal (and sexual, and loving) life.

Hmm, well, let's see -- Hilfy and Tully turn to each other under major duress, while being held prisoner by the kif, in the Chanur books. This evidently sort of works and sort of doesn't, for them. They don't seem to do much about it afterward, and my sense in reading was that they were both so distraught and lonely, and that the physical needs for affection and friendship and sexual love too, were there, and there was enough compatibility, that, uh, they made it work somehow. (Although the novelty song line about, "incriminating (claws) marks on (his) back" applied.) This was a private thing between them and seemed to be kept that way afterward, maybe not repeated. But at the time, it got them through the ordeal, by turning to each other for company.

Even as a conflicted and attitudinal college boy, I could understand that well enough. It seemed fine to me. Er, and just possibly, I could identify with that on some level, as I guess I felt "trapped" by my conflicted inner feelings, the need to be with someone and love and be loved, and yet this idea I'd grown up with that boys were not supposed to be with boys, for anything like that, physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually...and yet, that was how I felt, even so, and at that time, growing up, I couldn't see past my (religious) upbringing (very much internalized) that said God wouldn't love me if I did that. Uh, at the time, I could not seem to get past that to see, well, if I was made that way that early on, and there were other guys out there who felt like that, then maybe what I'd been taught wasn't as true as I believed it, and maybe God was fine with it, and it was only human beings who had issues with it.

So, but Hilfy and Tully together, that seemed understandable, acceptable, fine to me. (Be it noted, my mom read the Chanur books and liked them, and I don't recall what she'd said if/when that bit came up when we talked about the books. But the idea being, she, a fairly conservative and faithful/religious straight woman, didn't get overly troubled by the idea that Hilfy and Tully did it, which was implied clearly enough in the wording around it, though not quite directly stated. (My parents were not entirely repressed. They loved each other. They hugged and kissed, in a parental way, with me around, nothing more than that, but they could express love for each other, and both my mom and dad could tell me they loved me, and hugged me lifelong. There were a few other examples where they did manage to get past the lack of much discussion about it. Even a couple of specific conversations when I was growing up to get across things they felt were important. Those, I still take as good things, compassion towards others, that they wanted me to have.)

Well, so -- OK, there's the basic thing of sexual attraction, or emotional fulfillment too. -- Two different species, one human, one alien. Biology and chemistry are different. Psychology's bound to be different. Yet somehow, enough of this is in common that two beings can form a relationship. (Sarek and Amanda on Star Trek TOS. Delenn and, was it Sheridan, on B5. Er, Delenn and one of the B5 commanders.) Bren and Jago have enough mutual stuff that gets them attracted and keeps them together, and it works. It would seem like in most cases, it wouldn't. -- But there's a recurring theme in SF&F, going back into the "human and elf, human and satyr, Beauty and the Beast, the Princess and the Frog, and so on, where a human and some sort of quasi-human being love each other. And there are stories of changelings, halflings, demigods, etc., resulting from that. (Including a medieval ballad, song, about a Selkie/Sylkie man who leaves his son with a human nurse and tells her, in the song, about their tragic fate.)

So this has been going on, "Love of the Other, a human but a stranger, an alien, a quasi-human being" for a long, long time.

Uh, we'll just sort of overlook the thing with Zeus as a swan, seducing, oh, whichever lover it was, and some demigod always seemed to get born from this. Zeus got around more than Capt. Kirk! Let's call the swan thing a bit of overenthusiastic fantasy, even for Greek folklore, huh? I mean, sure, those feathers are soft and pretty, but really? With a SWAN? -- OK, so swans are not my thing. Somewhat more understanding when it's Billy Ellliott and Michael and tutus and Swan Lake, however. :: shrugs :: (Very good movie. I wouldn't be Michael, by the way, but I get it, and I get Billy Elliott's frustrations too, even though he is not me either.)

Humans and...apes? Gee, you'd think they're at least close cousins, as species go, right? And there are indications that our kind of humans and Neanderthals and some other hominids, ah, weren't overly picky about whom they did what with. So there are strains of their DNA in modern humans across the planet.

I'm not sure. How cute is Lucy, really? Or some Neanderthal babe? (Or in my case, some hunky australopithecine or Neanderthaler male? Or, y'know, hunky but cute, please?) ... Hmm, I dunno, if he's nice, even if he's plain as a mud fence. And I guess, if you're talking about other hominids, you'd have to be into more than just ideal looks. ... On the other hand, maybe they are kinda nice, in that monkey-monkey-man, monkey-monkey-lady way?

I can say I am not sure about that. I mean, I could see it being kinda-sorta OK or not. Maybe a little cave-fire dinner, a hunk of mastodon burger and some freshly gathered nuts and vegetables, some tea, catch the right mood on the drum they're banging in the next cave over...it could maybe work? :D (Humor aside, I think I could see it working, and I could also see them never being attracted for physical or personality differences. But that puts it on a human-enough level, doesn't it?)

There's this thing in one of the old 60's/70's Planet of the Apes movies where, I think it's Charleton Heston kisses Dr. Zira. I think there's also a later movie where a young chimpanzee (older teen boy) kisses a human. One gets played for sentiment and thanks, but also for two different reactions from them. The other (with the young high school / college ape boy) as humor and fun, not entirely serious, and yet also a comment on racial issues and prejudice and love in general.

I don't recall either the classic or the recent Planet of the Apes movies ever trying to address the issue of human and ape doing it, either non-consensually or consensually. From a more thoughtful and serious point of view, is that still too taboo or freaky or squicky for people to consider now? If we'll tackle other issues, yet a majority of the mainstream audience are too squeamish to consider that? Or does that reflect more the attitudes of American movie producers and censors, afraid that audiences would not tolerate it? I don't know, but it seems like it fits the discussion.

Passing references: Harry and the Hendersons had a very good, if comedic, portrayal of Harry as a "Bigfoot/Sasquatch." He's the "buddy" in the buddy movie / family movie. Except he sort of courts the teenage daughter (flowers, there's a scent involved) and he hangs out with the young son in an older brother, buddy kind of way. Basically, that's echoed with the mom and dad and his interactions, IIRC. They did a good costume for him, and had the suggestion of, well, there was something there, a bulge in the fur, which was enough of a suggestion that Harry was a male Bigfoot. It was also considered realistic and daring and controversial, and yet not. -- It was more vaguely realistic than Chewbacca. -- They really don't play on anything more than a cute and awkward courtship thing and then they drop that. And that's more than fitting for the movie. But from that, we get the hint that yes, Harry is male and equipped, and has feelings. And OK, that's fine. Good. (I didn't need it to be more than that, but I thought it was interesting that they dared get even that close to anything so sensitive.) But it was not, and did not need to be, the point of the film.

Chewbacca. Big guy, walking carpet, makes quite an impression. A hair-covered Bigfoot-like alien hadn't been done lately. (Never mind the two Boggy Creek movies, by the way, but those could get a mention.) -- Chewie, well, has so much hair that they let that settle any issue of, well, what is under all that hair? Apparently, when you're over six feet tall and covered in hair, you are way too warm as it is, and so Wookiees are, well, nudists, naturists. They don't "need" clothes. OK, I can believe that, mostly. Er, but wouldn't it get sort of awkward if ol' Chewie sees a Wookiee with her curves in the right places for a roguish Wookiee hotshot co-pilot and mechanic? Er, hey, I did kinda wonder, idle curiosity, since I was about 12 when I saw the first movie, and such things can cross the mind of a hormone-soaked boy for no apparent reason at all.

Chewie and Han? Well, I never really thought they were more than good friends, somehow. There seemed to be ample evidence that Han liked Leia and Chewie...was Chewie? Stood around and made Wookiee noises a lot? (I did, however, see the infamous Christmas Special. Uh,I don't know, I guess when you're a young teen, you tend to excuse that?)

That said, hmm, if some other human and Wookiee pair.... Uh, hey, to each his own, right?

Ewoks? -- OK, I'd have to say I think Warrick Davis is great, and he's known for being a teenage fan lucky enough to get hired to play in the Star Wars movies and later roles.

Uh, Ewoks.... Well, I'm not sure I could do it with a teddy bear. Sorry, guys. Call me old-fashioned? Sensitive? I'd feel guilty? ... :wide-eyed: I have just realized there's probably some very naughty fanfic out there involving lusty little Ewoks and whoever. Chewie? Luke? I don't know. I'm not sure about it.

Er, hey, love with a little person (a dwarf or midget)? Hey, if he's a nice guy and kinda cute, handsome, er, cuddly...? -- Oops, sorry, that's not remotely alien, perfectly human, just altitudinally custom-sized. You know, more personal. Um, yeah. Hey, fine, here.

Well, so Ewoks might be a bit much but little people, well and good. Why not?

Extra tall, giants? -- Come to think of it, there was, briefly, one boy who went to my junior high who was exceeding tall, exceedingly early. And nice. But he moved fairly quickly. Another very tall boy, I think was around longer, but maybe also moved.

(I had not realized until just now, that my junior high and high schools, as good as they were, may have had an above-average problem with kids moving out due to bullying or not fitting in. This could explain some of my own misgivings? That said, my city has high turnover; it's a port city and a big international city. So it was more often, just a work transfer. But thinking of that, yeah, those two boys may have also moved due to getting hassled. If so, that means...wow, over five boys I knew who would have moved due to harassment for one kind of not fitting in or another. Dang....)

So, what have we got? Multiple examples of human guys and girls hooking up with alien or ape or mythological or some other non-human guy or girl.

There's a fantasy and a wish-fulfillment thing going on there. There's an aesthetics thing: Oh, if he/she has pointed ears or this color hair or eyes or maybe.... There is a love of the unattainable other. There's a forbidden love aspect to it. There's a love of the exotic (foreigner) stranger there. There is a love of the one who might seem not so pretty or handsome on the outside, and yet has a good heart, a good personality, within. So it seems like that's what these are playing with.

Wow, I didn't cover the mermaid and Splash myths. Or Pygmalion and Mannequin. Boy loves girl who is either unattainable, thus unrequited, or she must give up her other-ness (and chastity?) to be with him. Hey. wait a second, how come he never gives up his human-ness to join her in the sea? Or was that Mr. Limpet, sort of? -- Why couldn't he choose to join her? Nothin' wrong with that. Dang patrilineal, patrilocal prejudice.

I didn't cover the "boy and his dolphin" (Flipper) buddy story. (One of the boys is even called Bud.) It isn't really a "love" story. It's more of a twist on the, "boy and his dog" story. Sandy or Bud gets a girlfriend or two along the way. But the kid brother spends most of his time swimming around in cutoffs in the Florida Keys, hanging out with his male dolphin buddy Flipper, who is a platonic male friend, a fellow mammal, an alien species right here on Earth. -- And as a kid growing up watching reruns, from a part of the country where it is just as common for boys and young men to run around like that and swim in the summer, although my city is further inland, so it's not constant like in the show -- It did not occur to me until later that I might be getting any other sort of underlying message or enjoyment from Sandy and Flipper and Bud swimming around in cutoffs, being regular boys and a dolphin on some pretty tame but nice adventures to entertain my age group. I don't know for sure if this did anything for my awareness of my feelings, early on. I think it flew completely under the radar. And yet, I think I may have had a very immature kid's awareness of something more. Or maybe it was only because, as a young boy, I would've loved to have a dolphin to swim with, the chance to swim all day, any time I wanted, maybe at night too, to be as physically fit and good looking as they were, and to have all that fun, and friends like them. Because yeah, I was sitting at home, in a neighborhood without enough kids my age, not really allowed to play much with what kids were there, my age, and with no pool handy. So I would've loved to have friends like Sandy and Bud and Flipper, as a boy around that age too. Hmm, and very possibly, some portion of my feelings and body may have had some of those first faint glimmerings that, hey, they sure do look nice, for reasons that were not yet clear to me at all, at that point, and only would be years later. (And now, when I have seen reruns of the films or episodes, I see, wow, is that some reflection of me and the kids I grew up around, as seen on TV more than 10 years before I was that age? It seems so quaint and so much simpler than what life was like by the time I was a teen and a young adult, and past that into modern life. So it's like seeing some other world, too far separated by nostalgia and time, a world that no longer exists.)

So Flipper doesn't quite fit the topic and yet, it does in this very offhand way, at least for me. I have read that other gay boys and many girls had some of their first awareness of, hey, I like boys, or screen crushes, that way. Heh. So OK, maybe it does fit. -- Only the Flipper stories were always a buddy story and coming-of-age story about a boy and his dolphin and his brother, and their single dad. So it does not quite fit the mold well enough. It's a friendship-love or a platonic-love, and that is a good thing in itself.

Hmm. You know something? No one has ever tried Flipper's side of the story, have they? I mean, that could really work as a science fiction young adult story: If we accept it as a given that dolphins are an intelligent species, either as a fantasy conceit, or as a likelihood in scientific fact that is difficult to prove entirely (and difficult to disprove entirely too) -- Then.... Here you have an intelligent young male being (Flipper) maybe adolescent, who, due to circumstances (hurricane, injury, etc.) is at first stuck with and then later choosing to hang around with, one or two human boys. Dolphins are known to be curious about humans or help them at times. Er, dolphins are known to have complex social and sexual behaviors, both opposite-sex and same-sex, some of which echo the less nice aspects of human behavior, and some of which are as good as human behavior. There are other things about dolphins that point to them being capable of complex thought and emotions, and their senses are different than, and in some cases superior to ours; or a completely other sense, biological sonar. -- So...if you're Flipper, are you friendly and curious about the humans, as curious as they are about you? Are you studying them, while they're studying you, while you're recuperating, and then once you're well, and you still hang out there? It seems like there's a story there from Flipper's side of things. The humans must be as alien to him as he is to them, and yet we both can sense a common bond of mammalian intelligence and some goodwill there? (At least for the good guys.) -- I am not sure how that would shape up, but I think I'd like that story. Flipper could like the human boys as much as they like him, for basically the same reasons, an intelligent friend, a buddy, a fellow mammal who loves to swim, an adolescent male, approximately, curiosity about the other species and the natural world. All sorts of things.

...All this, and I don't seem to have any clear presentation of an underlying thesis, a persuasive argument to present, an essay form. Nuts. I could probably bang it into that. There are connecting points there. But...well, it seems like it's readable enough like this, without reworking it....

I'm scared to see how long this is. I've been sitting here, I don't know how long, running with a good topic. Help, I'm a frustrated writer....

Supper would be a fine idea by now. For me and for the two cats who are circling around to remind me that it is suppertime and they want to be fed. Heh. They're being fairly patient. OK, I think I've scared the topic enough and anyone who reads this may very likely have their eyes glaze over and fall clunk asleep. :-/

Oh. One more, but I'm gonna skip it for now: Tarzan and Jane and Boy and Cheetah. Borderline, right? But it kind of fits.

Mowgli and the rest of the Jungle Book crew? More of a buddy / coming of age quest.

I'd thought there's one other related, but I've lost track. It is not due to advancing hunger, haha.
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Bluecatship - In your comment today at 7:17 pm you said

I have always considered that the Chanur books were a very full expression of her themes, but that she chose to put many of the same things into how she built the Foreigner universe. She sort of upended her own tropes from Chanur, recombined them, and got Foreigner. (That's oversimplifying and shortchanging both series, I grant you, readers.) She seems to have had a great deal else to put into Foreigner, independent of the Chanur books' ideas.

That had never occurred to me in such a focused way. But I think you are right. The Foreigner series deals with the same kind of issues, in a more elegant, polished and sophisticated way. Of course the Hani are recognizable cats, particularly lions, to anybody who knows cats.
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Bluecatship brought up some really good points.

There is very little physical contact between Atevi. I wonder how much of this is biological and how much cultural. Babies require physical contact among the Atevi. I also wonder about Bren and Jago's relationship.

I believe that Atevi's have a need for physical affection just like humans do but it is not as strong and not socially unacceptable in public. It's like humans seeing two people making out in public. It makes other people uncomfortable and in more traditional settings it is highly frowned upon.

Bren's contacts are all at the highest level where everything has to be traditional and conservative. The Aji doesn't really believe in the old number superstition but he still has a whole team of number counters available. The Aji cannot be seen to physically touch anyone in all but the most extreme instances because he has to be very, very traditional in public.

Okay evidence that Atevi have a need for physical contact but do not show it in public.

1) The heir's pet. The heir's pet has a strong need to touch and to be touched. It clearly enjoys being petted. If you look at the really basic behavior of a monkey and a human, they are very similar and I believe the same thing here.

2) The heir's baby sister is constantly being touched and held. That demonstrates a basic need to be held.

3) The heir's mother is always touching him. Fixing his hair. Holding his hand, etc. That shows a basic need to touch.

4) The scene that shows the Atevi at their most emotional is when Bren tackled the Aji in order to protect him from an active shooter. The Aji grabs Brens arm and say's something like, this will be remembered. The Aji knows that Bren does not have manchi but it does not matter. The emotion is too strong and he has to actually touch Bren to demonstrate it. He is clearly deeply emotionally moved. When Bren was leaving all of the lords present had to touch Bren because of the strong emotions they were feeling.

So I believe that Atevi do have a need for physical contact but they only do it in private. I would bet that behind closed doors in a less traditional household minor touching such as touching hands or a hand on a shoulder would be common.

Now the physical relationship between Bren and Jago. I believe that Jago is physically attracted to Bren and this attraction is not that unusual.

1) At one point, Bren jokes and says something like he would act inappropriate with the maids and Bianici says that the maids dream of him acting inappropriately.

2) At one point, Bren has gotten proposals of marriage in the mail. Tano joked that one of them sent a picture and she is really quite attractive.

The first time that Jago tries to initiate sex with Bren and he turned her down, her reaction was one of frustration. It didn't come across as angry to me, more like sexually frustrated. We know that Atevi have emotional drives to be sexually attracted to people who may not be the best choice. Jago is a young healthy woman and is not immune to these drives but also a highly trained guild agent who will not allow herself to let these drives affect her thinking.

So now they have a sexual relationship, why?

First, they both clearly enjoy it. It meets a need. They both work to please each other and its working.

Second, Jago's has manchi towards Bren and has a drive to help him. She knows that humans need to touch and to be touched. She enjoys touching and being touched by Bren when they are in private and can see that he responds to it. It is obvious that it meets a deep need in Bren, which she can understand.

Third, she knows that Bren doesn't feel manchi but he does feel that human emotion, love. Since they are both in the same manchi and Bren understands the difference, a relationship where he loves her and she feel manchi to him can fulfill both of their emotional needs. Marriage is out of the question, but if it wasn't they would probably follow the Aji's example of a permanent marriage because it would be safer.

Fourth, the practical matter of her sleeping with him allows her to better protect him. He wants her physically close to him and that puts her in a better position to do her job.

Five, she probably enjoys the physical contact. Atevi have term marriages and I doubt that every one is just to produce babies. A marriage give an Atevi a socially acceptable means to cuddle.
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Esteemed Associates,

I thank you for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking responses! I need to digest them all before further comment. Fascinating!

Bansu :atevi
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This is not exactly on the Bren/Jago sexual activity, but on the subject of atevi need for touching. There is an aspect of this that Bren doesn't seem to understand. And it isn't until we hear Cajeiri's point of view in book 7 DESTROYER, that Bren's misinterpretation comes to light. In book 7, in the encounter between Ilisidi, Bren and the Taibeni, Cajeiri meets Antaro and Jegari. When they are about to leave with their parents Cajeiri takes their hands and something changes. They are emotionally captured by Cajeiri and decide to leave their parents and go with Cajeiri.

When I first saw that scene I thought of the medieval homage and fealty ceremony, where a man puts his hands between the hands of his lord and swears allegiance. There would have been an emotional dimension to that, even in medieval Europe, but the oath was the essential part of the ceremony, so the lord knew who he could count on to support his rule and follow his orders. With the atevi it seems even more emotional. (By the way, I spent 6 years in graduate school studying medieval European history. This is my field.)

There are other instances of this throughout the series, and Bren persistently misinterprets, or just has no opportunity to view the event and understand it.

In the first book the 3rd section, the longest, is about Bren. Chapter 3 contains the scene where Tabini sends Bren to Malguri. He says he holds Bren as a valuable part of his administration and takes Bren's hand. Bren interprets it as Tabini's attempt to mimic human custom. But I think it is in line with that scene in the Taiben forest. Bren also states that Tabini had taken his hand on several other occasions.

There is another scene with Bren and Tabini in book 15 PEACEMAKER. It is the day after the assault on the Guild headquarters, and Bren is returning Tabini's ring. When Tabini takes it from Bren he takes Bren's hand in his and holds it a few minutes. Bren is startled. But he seems not to understand that it has any deeper meaning.

I think it does, because earlier in that book, at Tabini's dinner (while the assault is going on with Bren and Banichi and Cenedi) Damiri becomes visibly upset and Tabini takes her hand. This calms her down. It looks like something that can be explained as just normal husband-wife stuff. But in the light of the other events where something like that took place, I think it has a deeper meaning. A meaning which makes reference to the homage/fealty ceremony. I think Tabini is reassuring her that their association still stands firm. He does not reject her.

That ceremony does occur in other of CJC's books: the FORTRESS books, between Tristen and Cefwyn, and later, between Tristen and his subordinate lords in his province.

It also occurs, in modified form, in the first book of the MORGAINE series, when she claims Vanye.

I mention occurences in these other books because CJC clearly understands the medieval practice. The events in the FORTRESS series is very close to that real historic practice.

scenario dave - I would make one small quibble about Bren and the scene involving discussion of inappropriate behavior with the servants. It is Damiri who jokingly tells him that the servants dream nightly of his doing something improper. She also jokes that her staff is besotted with him and she "may never get her staff back".

I also keep thinking of your idea that Bren is a "mini aiji". I want to say more about that in the future and draw together some scenes which may corroborate your idea. But later.

Edited by lynxlacelady, Apr 30 2018, 08:46 PM.
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Good Lord, my earlier post was an epistle. And rambling all over the place. I am fairly sure I have some other points I omitted, but after reading all that, I can't recall, again. At some later point, I may add what I missed.

Medieval studies: Oh, cool! :D -- I was an English major, heavily into French also, with some time in Computer Science besides. So my interests go strongly into languages, and I love history and culture.

CJC's background was in antiquities and classics, some archaeology, Latin and French, and she taught in high school for a number of years, French and maybe Latin and ESL, from what she's said. This is _why_ she has such a solid grasp of making humans and aliens with such realistic cultures and languages. She knows how it works in real life. -- Also, IIRC, Lynn Abbey has some background in Medieval and English studies. -- I'd be surprised if CJC hadn't run across medieval history too in her interests and academics. She loves cats and horses, so she's aware of animal behavior. So there's plenty to support why she might build in touch and ritual and instinctive behaviors mixing with cultural norms.

Hmm -- I should point out that what's in our Western cultural background, for various kinds of relationships, love, marriage, friendship, fealty or hierarchy, and so on, in some cases is fairly different from earlier in European history and in other world cultures. Western modern culture in particular has some biases on how we do things. But then, so do other modern cultures; they just have different biases. And there has been overlap from cultural contact influencing each other, somewhat, but not hugely. That, and, our Western culture and others will continue to morph or be subsumed or replaced as time goes on.


A point about Bren I should have brought up earlier, but it's so basic, it's staring us all in the face. Lynxlacelady got near that, and so did Scenario_dave, about touch and atevi.

Basic Point: Bren is very into atevi language and culture. It's his professional field of study, his career, and his personal enjoyment too. (Besides things like skiing, haha.) Bren considers himself somewhat odd as a human. He thinks he's wired differently and has some trouble with several of his human relationships. (Never mind that at least one of those, with Barb, involves her being wired rather differently too.) Bren doesn't see that. He seems to see it as a problem in himself.

Bren identifies strongly with, and has come to understand and live and breathe dealing with atevi. He's completely fascinated with them, enamored. (Linguistic note: "fascinate" has a very weird etymological history I wasn't aware of until recently. But both it and "enamored," ultimately derive from aspects of one's love life. Er, potential aspects. But not germane to the topic, so never mind.)

Bren is surrounded by atevi with no viable human outlets for friendships or love relationships or family or co-workers. His relationships with humans back home on Mospheira are infrequent and limited, and fraught with various problems, all of which frustrate him, because he wants better relationships with the people he cares about, likes, loves. (He does maintain his friendships and family ties, for the most part, so he's maybe not cutting himself enough slack.) But suffice it to say, he has some difficulties with his human relationships, and feels frustrated and isolated because of that.

Meanwhile, he's surrounded by atevi. So he forms what humans would call friendships, and atevi would call associations, with love and loyalty and atevi man'chi in their not-so-equivalent cross-species ways. -- Bren, along the course of the books, forms relationships with his bodyguards, with the aiji and ruling family (Tabini, Ilisidi, Cajeiri, etc.), with various others. These substitute for his human relationships. He's a mentor or father-figure for Cajeiri, for instance, besides protector and advisor. He forms a love relationship with Jago after his relationship with Barb keeps not working.

So Bren is both enamored by the "foreignness" and exotic, and yet making do with it as best he can, because in some sense, the human and atevi ways of feeling and thinking are not quite matched up, they're inequivalent. They are, however, close in some ways and far apart in others, but arrive at similar places sometimes (and sometimes not).

It's an imperfect analogy, but in thinking of how CJC deals with humans and aliens learning to get along together, I tend to think of how cats and humans get along, or dogs and humans. (Hmm, though not often, how dogs and cats get along, maybe because it's been since childhood that I had a cat and dog living together. Those two had a sort of armed truce, while some others would get along better. They both agreed that they loved the humans in the household, so they could get along with each other too.)

With cats, I'm constantly reminded that they look at the world in a fundamentally different way than humans do. Dogs have a very doggy way of looking at the world that is unlike the feline way. Dogs and cats each can have strong feelings for or against members of their own species, between the two species, and towards the humans they are around or live with. Cats (and dogs) do not quite have the same feelings we humans do. They can be very similar, they can reach similar conclusions, but it's a mistake for us to assume that their feelings and drives are exactly the same as ours, because often, they aren't. They do, however, have love and friendship and loyalty, and other complex feelings and thoughts, toward each other and towards the humans around them. -- My cats love me and I love my cats, but their viewpoint and my viewpoint, exactly what we feel toward each other, don't entirely match. They can, however, be very close.

So there are times I can tell almost exactly what one of my cats is thinking, and other times when I can't begin to guess; and plenty of times they have the same luck in figuring out what I'm thinking. -- Likewise with feelings. They love me, I love them, and although that's a strong feeling for both sides, it's a bit different on either side from the other side.

That's the analogy I tend to use toward what dealing with real aliens would be like, and it's how I approach CJC's take on human and alien contact. She seems to keep in mind that there is a similar-yet-different aspect to how aliens would differ from humans. She's aware of that from cat and horse behavior, at least, too.

So Bren is dealing with trying to fit in with people who are fundamentally alien, and yet also similar to humans. The details are different.

And in that, he's formed relationships over time to create a network of associations and man'chi, or friendships and loyalties and loves, that give him a pretty good equivalent to human relationships.

Regarding touch and ritual and feelings engendered by those -- That fits. It does make sense too, that he could misinterpret some things, based on prior human studies, or based on his own ideas, and then have to rethink those when he gets some better insight and has to reorganize his thinking on it.

We know (and he would know) that atevi have very strong feelings, but they don't show them much in public. Touch might be both not as frequent, yet very significant when it does happen. And it may be because it can generate strong emotions, that they limit it. They would also need it and have ways in which it's allowed (safe) to do so.

Westerners (our culture-group) also limit some kinds of touch or physical contact, and we ritualize some forms. Other forms are considered less polite or more risky, or inappropriate, rude, impolite, and so on. Or if shown, are considered sexual or aggressive or weak or other things. -- For example, we can pet our pets, but "petting" each other isn't allowed, unless you're at the hairdresser or doctor or in a close relationship, generally a romantic/sexual one. Guys are not supposed to show some forms of physical affection which ladies are allowed to show, because we've decided that's how males and females are different. Never mind whether it matters, or whether it might be just as OK, or even emotionally healthier, if it were allowed. That divide along male-female gender roles shows up very early on between how boys and girls are raised. Kisses get ritualized, or handshakes, or bowing. Holding hands is only allowed for kids, but is seen as a couples relationship or a family relationship past a certain point, and for Westerners, at least in English-speaking countries, males past a certain age aren't supposed to hold hands because it's considered a sign that they're being a loving couple, inappropriate. Never mind that it shouldn't matter, or that when they were kids it was fine, or between a child and an adult relative or caregiver it's fine.

So there are all sorts of ways that basic behavior gets reshaped by cultural values and beliefs, even if it may not make sense from a basic biological or behavioral standpoint.

(Twice in the past week, I've seen a weird thing on YouTube about whether it was OK for an adult family member to kiss an underage family member, especially if they were the same sex. And yet that's common when it's very young kids. The video commentaries and the YouTube comments about them, were all getting very worked up about it, when to me, it seemed like it was creating an issue out of what was not seen as more than being close, or pulling a prank, or similar unimportant things. That is, in neither case, to me, did it seem like it was any significant problem, and not wrongdoing. People were getting very worked up about it. To me, it didn't really indicate what those people were trying to make out of it. I didn't think it was indicative of any creepy predilection for something inappropriate or harmful. :shrug: So, it was just an example of how people get upset over what they see as outside the social norms they are used to, or what they think is appropriate or wrong...or perhaps how a group can get themselves all worked up over something that should not be nearly the issue it's being made to be. So, submitted as an example of behavior versus cultural norms.)

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scenario dave -
4) The scene that shows the Atevi at their most emotional is when Bren tackled the Aji in order to protect him from an active shooter. The Aji grabs Brens arm and say's something like, this will be remembered. The Aji knows that Bren does not have manchi but it does not matter. The emotion is too strong and he has to actually touch Bren to demonstrate it. He is clearly deeply emotionally moved. When Bren was leaving all of the lords present had to touch Bren because of the strong emotions they were feeling.

I had forgotten this scene. But you are right -- the emotion in the scene is intense, both from Tabini and from the other lords.
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bluecatship - I agree with your basic idea. Bren is trying to fit into atevi society, trying to get what emotional satisfaction is possible from the people he deals with every day. And it doesn't quite match what he would get from humans, but is close enough to satisfy. CJC is constantly, throughout the series, drawing parallels between what Bren feels and wants, emotionally, and what atevi give him. The inclusion of Cajeiri's point of view is frequently a foil to display this. As the books march on we see more and more of Cajeiri's intense attachment to his aishid, his great grandmother, Bren, his human associates. I am constantly thinking "this must be what Tabini also feels towards Bren". But Bren doesn't see it, or sees it only intermittently. The grasping his shoulder thing that Banichi does seems to be highly significant to Bren. Tabini does it, too.

This is what I love about HER writing. There are layers and layers in the stories. So many threads going on at the same time, chaining throughout the stories. They all relate to each other (the stories), back and forth. I love following these chains.
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This conversation made me think of Damiri. Except for Damiri, all of the Lords in the series are manchi magnets. The Aji, the Dowager, Bren, the heir, Uncle T all have a lot of people who are drawn to them.

In Convergence and Emergence, Nomari talks about what it was like to grow up in the Ajury clan. He grew up with his family. Damiri was raised in the same clan but she was raised in a totally different environment. From a small child, Nomari always knew where his manchi should lie, to his parents, and through them to the clanlord. His parents were normal parents who treated him well and they deserved his manchi. But Damiri was raised in an environment where everyone lied to everyone and everyone was always afraid. She could never tell what was truth and what was a lie. Her manchi was to her father but he was inconsistent, lied all the time and was always afraid. She was never really sure whether or not he deserved her manchi. She also had manchi to the clanlord through her father. But the clanlord changed every few years so it became difficult to really attach to them by the time she as in her teens.

Nomari seldom met the clanlord and his manchi was though his family but Damiri was in contact with the clan lord regularly so her manchi was more personal and it hurt her more when yet another clan lord died.

I think that Damiri has the Atevi version of an attachment disorder. She finds it difficult to give her manchi because when she was growing up there was never anyone appropriate to give manchi to.

When she met the Aji, she was attracted to him and he to her. To the Aji, she was physically attractive, politically useful and someone willing to intelligently argue politics with him. Since everyone else around him except Bren are either a lord with their own agenda or in manchi to him, it was difficult to find anyone who would be willing to argue with.

Damiri now has the first stable relationship in her life. She is very closely associated (in the emotional sense) with the Aji. But she is still looking for manchi. I would guess that a normal situation would be that she would have manchi to her clan lord and though them to the Aji while at the same time having a second direct relationship with the Aji though association.

When she had Cajeiri, she had her first real experience with manchi. Her son instinctively gave her his manchi and it just felt right and good and appropriate to her. She finally was experiencing what it was like to be in a relationship with real manchi. Then she lost it. When Cajeiri came home he fairly quickly reestablished his manchi with his father but not with her. She wanted/needed his manchi but really had no idea of how to get it from him. She was so unsure of herself that she kept sending off the wrong signals and pushed Cajeiri away instead of attracting him.

Now I finally get to the point.

Earlier Lynxlacelady was talking about fealty to their lord. When a human parent touches their children it is to tell them that they love them. When an Atevi touches their child it is to confirm manchi like a lord confirming fealty from their follower. Damiri is constantly touching Cajeiri, fixing his hair, brushing stuff off his coat, etc. I think the touching is an instinctive urge for her to try to confirm manchi but because she is not sending him the other signals he is expecting, it is more confusing to him than consoling.

Damiri very much wants her son's manchi but because of her upbringing it is very difficult for her to have the trust to give manchi. I think that Atevi who are cannot give manci, have a difficult time drawing manchi.

The aji doesn't give manchi now but when he was a child he had firm manchi to his grandmother so he knows at a gut level how to give and receive manchi. Damiri does not. When the dowager came back from space, she wanted Cajeiri to develop the normal emotional patterns of an atevi. Part of this may be because she knew that his mother didn't have a normal upbringing and wasn't able to give him the signals he needed.

It wasn't just contact with humans that made Cajeiri unusual. I would bet that he understands his emotions better than most Atevi do because he had to both feel and think is way though them.

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Very interesting point about Damiri. I think you are right.
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