Foreigner Series: Spoiler Alerts: Page 2

I’m giving the page a second section because page 1 was starting to behave oddly.

As always, wait at least 30 days from issue of the book before starting to discuss. And give our overseas friends some extra leeway: the distribution system doesn’t reach everywhere as fast!


  1. Rigeldeneb

    Spoilers here: back to Visitor

    Re Scenario-dave’s May 7 review of ship-folk and station-folk psychology and motivations in light of their shared history: makes sense, and explains some of the seemingly irrational behavior of Braddock, Tillington and Bjorn’s father. It does not, however, explain the xenophobia of Earth folk. How wholly illogical to go out into the universe in fear of The Other. Are we as a species that slow to learn? Are we that fearful?

    Was anybody surprised by the Big Reveal—the identity of the kyo’s Scary Enemy?

    What went wrong during the kyo’s first encounter with those people? Failure of reciprocity? Panicked shooting? Humans do seem kind of clueless in their explorations. They drop out of warp space and start setting up stations and poking around like nobody else is out there, a sort of “Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo-here I am-Doh!” behavior. I always thought the “terra-forming” of Mospheira by the “petal-ship” colonists to be the height of presumption. No attempt to blend into the established landscape!

    What a contradictory species we are! Humans have traditions of hospitality to the stranger and aggression toward the stranger; the latter tradition seems to be operant in the Foreigner universe, though with stellar exceptions, Bren being one and Ian Bretano, who made first contact with the atevi, another.

    An interesting thread runs through CJ’s books: it is always the humans who must adapt to the Other. That, too, is an interesting contradiction. The species that seems so quick to reject and attack the Other is also the species apparently most capable of adapting to the Other—at least when we are outnumbered. Hhmmm. The Singular Hero.

    This thread may also be a function of story-telling: having a human as the point-of-view character gives readers a more familiar place to stand in a landscape of strangeness.

    Personally, I really enjoy the novels—and novel sections—CJ writes where a human is not the POV character. It’s why I so like the Chanur novels and the Mri series and Cuckoo’s Egg.

    Bren, himself, is no longer quite human, so I count the Foreigner series in this group.

    I enjoyed Visitor’s additional information on kyo language and physiology.

    Given the poisonous effects secrecy has had in the past, right now I am not completely on-board with Bren’s decision to keep the identity of the kyo’s prisoner secret from Mospheira. Any comments on this development?

    • drashizu

      I agree – secrecy has not been good in this series, historically, and this secret is an especially explosive one. Bren’s logic as he made the decision to keep Cullen’s existence secret was compelling, so much so that I found myself agreeing with him while reading through his thought process, but now that the book is over and I’ve thought about it from other characters’ points of view, I think he’s wrong, although I do think he should try to find the least harmful way to get the news out w/r/t the safety of both Mospheiran and atevi society, which might mean starting with telling the various heads of state and working forward from there.

      I think Bren is going to try to keep the secret from everyone except his usual atevi superiors and Jase, though, partly because I think Bren is in the habit of dealing with important business as delicately (secretively) as possible, and also because he doesn’t have a very high opinion of the discretion or reasonableness of his fellow humans at the moment.

      (Side note: I’m beginning to think he’s letting his attitude toward human culture cloud his judgment of human competency. He seems to go into every problem with a human official expecting them to be irrational and intractable, and using atevi-style negotiating tactics such as strongarming and displays of force when it seems pretty clear that human negotiating tactics, such as dealmaking or compromise, would go over much better. Marching into Tillington’s office and informing him that he is as of this moment effectively powerless with no recourse to any higher authority was an example of a negotiation I think Bren went into all wrong, and it did not bring out the best in Tillington or produce the best results for the station and the innocent people living on it. And now, in hindsight, we can see that the situation with Braddock played out similarly – at the time we took Bren’s opinion of Braddock at face value, but even Bren is recognizing that he made assumptions about Braddock’s xenophobia and aggressiveness that poisoned the well prior to their first interaction, now that Braddock has revealed that the kyo struck first and then sent in a threatening-looking manned mission rather than attempt to communicate from afar.)

      Anyway, my point is that I think the Mospheirans have as much (or more) right to know that others of their species exist in the near universe as the atevi do, which means that if the secret has to be kept, and the aiji and aiji-dowager get to know, at the very least the Presidenta should also know. And I don’t think Bren is going to tell the Mospheiran president; I think he’s going to keep the information entirely in Tabini and Ilisidi’s hands. (And Jase, but I don’t think that’s comparable – at the end of Visitor, Bren seems to want to tell Jase for emotional, rather than political, reasons.)

      I don’t think that’s going to work well in the long run. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the secret come out at some unexpected moment and watching Bren have to deal with it.

      • scenario_dave

        I think that keeping it a secret makes sense in the short run. They need to figure out how to release the knowledge safely.

        I think that they should say that they have gotten information from the Kyo that has let them figure out where the humans are. Then announce that they are considering contacting the other humans but since they are on the other side of Kyo territory they need to be considerate. Wait to tell the people that the Kyo are actually at war with other humans.

        • scenario_dave

          What would be the consequences if the island did find out about the other humans?

          There are two constraints practical and political.

          They only have one space ship. Neither the Aji nor the ships captains are going to want to send the ship into a war zone. So any contact must be with a new human ship. So step one is to get all of the extra humans off of the station so that they aren’t taking up resources needed to build the ship, 5 to 7 years. Then they need to build the ship, about 10 years. But the first ship built belongs to the Atevi. So it could be more than 25 years before the new human ship is ready to go.

          So lets send the first ship to set up an embassy. The other station can act as Meetpoint station. Send the human and Atevi representatives. Of course, you should get the University involved to translate and they should wait until they are sure that the translation is correct.

          By the time the new human ship is built, there is going to be a new human bureaucracy that will stall and continue to stall any plans to meet the other humans. It might be thirty or forty years before anything happens.

          Politically the problem is the heritage party. They are going to want to contact the new humans to acquire new weapons to conquer the Atevi. While they were successful in gaining power a few years back, they scared the daylights out of everyone on the island when they tried to start a war. Most humans on the island don’t want a war with the Atevi. The president may get voted out but even if the Heritage Party gets in, they can’t afford to annoy the Aji too much or there are going to be shortages on the island, which will get them voted out pretty quickly.

    • Raesean

      One of the aspects of CJ’S handling of Bren’s character which I enjoy very much is his responding to humans emotionally rather than rationally/intellectually. She reemphasizes that Bren is human and reacts subconsciously as a human to other humans. He can relatively clear-headedly dissect Atevi interactions and politics but has passionate prejudices and biases when it comes to human behavior. His disgust at Mospheiran politics is great and often knee-jerk.

    • Jaxartes

      Regarding xenophobia: Consider the backgrounds of the human cultures we encounter in this series. Cullen’s humans have been at war with the Kyo for about a century. Their attitudes would be heavily influenced by that war. And from the time the Phoenix had its accident, its people have been in small beleaguered islands. The world inside, culturally more and more homogeneous. The world outside, threatening (deadly radiation and the like). It would promote a siege mentality.

      And when their power got entrenched, the leaders of these various human splinter groups may well have encouraged that attitude. Whatever’s outside, if it’s not the enemy, provides an alternative in people’s minds.

      So the only humans we’ve encountered with an “unspoiled” point of view in the series were at the very beginning of Foreigner.

      (And those entrenched powers? A rebellion against them is what the descent on the petal sails was. The potential dangers — and inequities — of moving onto someone else’s planet are harder to take seriously, when they’re the given reason you should be quietly obedient.)

      Regarding being surprised, or not, by the revelation of the Kyo’s enemies being human: No, but I had the advantage of the speculation in this thread (which had run that way already) and one more thing: While stretching out the binding of the book (I have no idea if that’s necessary but I do it) I spotted a name, “Cullen”, more than once near the end. A new, significant character with a human name; as I read, and he hadn’t yet been introduced, there were fewer and fewer places he could reasonably be introduced. So it was a sort of meta-reading.

    • paul

      @RigelDeneb, You must not live in the USofA.

      • Rigeldeneb

        Oh, I do, I do! Born and bred in the US of A.Probably why the humans make me gnash my teeth. Their actions and reactions are all too familiar. . .Jaxartes, what you’ve written about how the various human siege mentalities formed makes sense to me–I think you’re dead on right–and ain’t it all familiar?

        • paul

          I’m sorry, but why do you puzzle at xenophobia? North Carolina is putting new signs on bathrooms that don’t say “White Folks Only”, but are just as discriminatory. “Do da phrase ‘build a wall’ strike a familiar note?” Need I mention marriage laws here? We’re as xenophobic as they come!

          From her beacon-hand

          Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

          The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

          “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

          With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

          Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

          The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

          Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

          I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

          • Rigeldeneb

            Yes, we are xenophobic! And don’t you find this xenophobia illogical, given what we know of our histories?

            Which is why I love science fiction and fantasy. It is one of the places where we can ask these questions and ponder these behaviors. So, I ask–why, so far in the future, has the branch of humanity depicted in this story not evolved intellectually? Why does not the appearance of a great big grey alien not knock Braddock on his ass and shake up his view of the way things go? For me, these kinds of questions are part of the joy of immersion in the story: while in the book, all this is real and the questions come.

            Paul, try imagining me lecturing Braddock or members of the Heritage Party (yeah, I know what kind of flag y’all are flying!): “Honey, this kind of thinking and behavior was stupid and anti-survival w-a-ay back before my 21st century day; you need to get a grip on yourself! This is no way for a sapient to behave!”

            All part of working out what goes on with the characters (what our peerless author is doing). Perhaps you should read my comments as part of a reaction to the notion that, centuries in the future, humanity is still afflicted with Braddocks and Deanas–and, jeez, look at the crap they’re still causing.

          • paul

            More puzzlement. Why question xenophobia on logical grounds? 1) It’s strictly emotional. 2) It exists because it evolved. It benefited survival.

          • paul

            Thank you, but birthday wishes and celebrations have never resonated with me, maybe because I’m an Aspie. As with xenophobia, I tend to identify that with “strange” emotional responses–things “neurotypical” people do that are “beyond reason”.

            It has always seemed more appropriate to be more of a celebration due to mothers. Or pehaps appropriate elsewhere in centuries past when infant mortality was very high, but even there and then, if you made it to adolescence then you had a decent chance of three score and ten.

          • J.J. Hunter

            I’m not surprised at the persistent streak of xenophobia in the U.S. As with imperialism, where we celebrate our successful rebellion against the British empire on one hand and act as an imperial power ourselves on the other, there’s an underlying dichotomy, a fundamental tension if you will that some people resolve by swallowing ‘exceptionalism’ whole hog. Our founding ‘settlers’, themselves immigrants, pulled one land grab after another at the expense of people already living here, which is an uneasy precedent to set while simultaneously claiming permanent ownership of such appropriated land. What if the next round of immigrants follow their example? I think it’s telling that “Life, Liberty, and Property” didn’t stick around here, whereas “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” did.

            I think collective affirmation of exceptionalism makes fertile ground for xenophobia. One country being ‘[more] great’ implies the existence of others who are not as great; the more claiming greatness feels under threat, the more psychologically tempting it is to switch to casting potential competitors down to make one’s own country / group feel great again in contrast.

  2. Rigeldeneb

    The only humans that come off as capable of thinking outside of his or her siege-mentality box are the humans who have more or less thrown in their lot with non-humans: Bren, Shawn, Jase, Gin, the Kids, even Kaplan and Polano, who back Jase who backs Bren who backs the atevi.

    According to Bren, most Mospheirans are devoted to ensuring that their vacations remain uninterrupted (bias or insight–or both?) while the ship-folk and the station-folk keep re-enacting permutations of their original falling-out, despite the presence of sophisticated non-human species whose space the humans have intruded into. Look at Braddock: aliens slag his station,another totally different species appears and literally snatches his hiney clean out of his station, and what does he do? Keeps politicking the same politics of “Whose in charge? I’m in charge!” We humans are not looking particularly intelligent here!

    Cullen doesn’t have a story about how the war with the kyo started? Arggh!

    Bren and the atevi are determined that, unlike the Pilot’s Guild/colonist conflict, the human-kyo war will not land in the atevi backyard, too. I think this stance is ethical, since these events take place around the atevi planet, and atevi survival–not kyo or human survival, since these folk clearly have bases and their home worlds elsewhere–atevi survival is at stake. Would a person like Braddock be able to understand this? The average Mospheiran?

  3. scenario_dave

    I think the average Mospheiran would understand it. The Braddocks of the world are the minority but they are also tend to be a rich powerful and influential minority,

  4. LauraJane

    Paul, I think, in that case, you should cultivate the celebration of an ‘unbirthday’. Maybe the anniversary of a banner day in your past. Life is worth celebrating.

    • paul

      🙂 Just not the celebratory type. They don’t call it “Autism Spectrum Disorder” for nothing, but note the emphasis is on Spectrum.

      • Tommie

        Maybe the day you twigged to being aspie? Has that made coping with the other salads any more cope-able?

        • paul

          Helped explain 65 years of history, and my parents’ marriage. 😮

          I don’t think it helps me so much–I’m still an aspie and knowing that doesn’t make me “neurotypical”. Some, in that it helps explain me to me, but not much in general. But it does help me explain to people who “buy into” the old notion “that all men are created equal”, that no matter how similar I may appear, I’m not like them. Finally helped with my Sister! It’s that old “assume” pecadillo again. 😉

          • paul

            There’s a simple, as in not entirely trustworthy, “Asperger’s Quotient Test” online, here and here. 50 multiple choice questions, IIRC. Neurotypicals are supposed to score around 16, Aspies around 32. I scored 36, my sister scored 6! 😉 We used to have a deal of trouble getting along. 😉

          • Tommie

            I was hoping it helped explain the general weirdness of the rest of humanity. After all, everyone is their own ‘normal’. Any variation from that norm seems strange. It is just that some of us enjoy the strange more than others.

          • paul

            I wouldn’t agree to “the general wierdness of the rest of humanity”. The “rest of humanity” defines what humanity encompasses. (“Normal” is in this sense a “loaded” word.) The problem is xenophobes are, well, phobic! They’re coming from a relatively isolated environment where they have been “allowed” to believe the restricted group they belong to is actually all inclusive.[1,2]

            When I was in college a few lower-division classes in sociology and psychology were a state requirement for graduation. I was “at home” as a Science (Chemistry) major. And of course I was unaware I was an Aspie, and the educational community at large was widely unaware of ASD or that it was common enough, ~2%. Those classes did not “go well”.

            [1] One of the characteristics relatively common in ASD is weak associative bonds are formed with generalized groups. (Individual bonds are relatively much stronger.) For example, I don’t associate myself with a church or political party. Strong associative bonds foster xenophobia.

            [2] The parallels to our immune systems are quite striking. Kids that grow up in a “wild” environment, say on a farm, have more competent immune systems than kids from a “clean” environment, and rarely have autoimmune diseases. Xenophobia as a social autoimmune disease?

          • Tommie

            Huh! Interesting! It certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “social disease”.

  5. paul

    I put more about an Asperger’s Quotient Test in a post, but the scanner ate it!

  6. paul

    Are the atevi Aspies? There have been times I could “identify” with what they said or did–more so than in most stories, literary or theatrical.

    • Neco-ji

      Even more interesting thought: do the atevi have among themselves individuals who have Asperger’s-like conditions?

      • Neco-ji

        Although, I do recall that they have “a number of mental hospitals for those who needed them”, and Shejidan itself has four labor prisons for the “incorrigibly antisocial” types- so how tolerant they really are of the more severe forms of mental illness, I can only guess.

  7. Rigeldeneb

    Paul, re your June 3 comment “Why question xenophobia on logical grounds” 1) It’s strictly emotional. 2) It exists because it evolved. It benefited survival.”

    I think I am questioning xenophobia on logical grounds because a logical/intellectual approach is what I know to do–right now. The intellect *can* be applied to issues of emotion. I am also unhappy with just an intellectual lens, though. I am looking to name that felicitous third lens, maybe think about xenophobia from a third lens. Philosophy? Religion?

    Shall we turn any and all lenses to the difficulty? We don’t have to choose just one. . .

    A species, logically, will not survive if it cannot modify or cease to practice evolved survival strategies that have become inimical to its survival because the conditions of its environment have changed. (Listen up, polar bears!)

    What in our tool box will help us to alter or abandon evolved survival strategies that no longer work?

    Isn’t that what “intelligence” is about? Isn’t “intelligence” the evolved condition we credit with humanity’s current status as most evolved and adaptable of the creatures on the planet Earth? (Well, all right. Let’s have a discussion on the various definitions of “intelligence.”)

    (Our species has, supposedly, multiple intelligences–intellectual, emotional, body. . . Let’s say that survival is most likely for those individuals and groups able to enable a good balance of the various intelligences.)

    Xenophobia, in its various forms, has been an *emotional* survival strategy that historically has worked against the long term prosperity and survival of human groups and human individuals. (Yes, I recognize short term gains for one group applying xenophobic reactions to another group–the former gets to steal the latter’s lands and goods and enslave their population. Good for the former, not so good for the latter. Unless, though, you think of this behavior as one of nature’s ways of managing the population? I can’t see how that’s working–we’ve got a glut of the human species on this planet!) Applied to our early human history’s natural predators–bears, wolves, saber-toothed tigers?, fear of the alien may have indeed aided survival. Perhaps we also evolved to fear “weird” looking humans who may be carriers of “bad” genes? Now, though, the only predators of humans are other humans and viruses and bacteria; “the conditions of our environment” have changed. Besides, mixing one’s clan’s genes with some of those “weird” looking other humans has been Standard Operating Procedure as soon as clans encounter–politics, and evolutionary xenophobia, not withstanding. As for viruses and bacteria, xenophobia is not the concept I would apply to describe our reaction to these predators.

    (Hhhmmm. . . I am trying to think of an analogous “intellectual” survival strategy that has similarly become non-viable. Any suggestions, folks? “Body” intelligence I am currently defining as highly refined proprioception and learned motion and action–you know, everything from your body learning how to play the harp or smith a horseshoe to sensing changes in the waves you are riding in your boat that tell which way is land or if a storm is coming on. Can anybody think of a body intelligence that has become anti-survival?)

    I concede that the answer may be–we are never really evolved beyond our biology, inherited and environmentally-impacted. We are stuck with our Braddocks and Deanas.

    We have also, though, got our Brens–and always have. Bren seems able to apply all the various human intelligences to the problem of survival, and he is not a xenophobe. Interesting guy.

    Also. Paul, I was also wonderfully struck by your #1 and #2 observations in your June 7 posting! “Strong associative bonds foster xenophobia”!! That sums up certain current U.S. political behavior so succinctly. Xenophobia as a social autoimmune disease? Yes–the immune system disordering the body it is supposed to protect and support. You just may have served us a metaphor that will be useful to those people attempting to understand and discuss and “cure” this emotion-based evolutionarily derived behavior that is doing the species so much harm. Synchronicity–autoimmune disorders are much in the news lately.

    • paul

      @RigelDeneb – Indeed, “we are never really evolved beyond our biology”, and that obviates virtually your entire suppositions above. I would submit your, “Xenophobia, in its various forms, has been an *emotional* survival strategy that historically has worked against the long term prosperity and survival of human groups and human individuals”, is (unfortunately) self-contradictory nonsense. You even question the proposition!

      As you suggest, “xenophobia” is one way to prevent hybridization. For example: Even though Neandertals and modern humans interbred several times in the past 100,000 years, the DNA on the Y chromosome from a male Neandertal who lived at El Sidrón, Spain, 49,000 years ago has not been passed onto modern humans, researchers report today in The American Journal of Human Genetics. The finding fits with earlier studies that have found that although living Asians and Europeans have inherited 1% to 3% of their DNA from their ancestors’ interbreeding with Neandertals, they are missing chunks of Neandertal DNA on their Y chromosomes. This has suggested that female modern humans and male Neandertals were not fully compatible.”

      But it’s even older than that. Our brains are not all neocortex. We share what has historically (is that “al” really necessary?) been called the “limbic system” with mammals generally. These “older” parts of the brain are where a lot of our “drives” and “instincts” come from; they aren’t “thought out” as a rule.

      I see a thread running through your suppositions that I see among people, Americans specifically, more generally: the glorification and romanticization of human intelligence, i.e. human exceptionalism. We still live within “Nature”, and Nature doesn’t “care”! Only multi-generational survival matters. One might well make the case “intelligence” doesn’t promote multi-generational survival, based on current evidence.

      • Xheralt

        “Prevention” of hybridization is not a biological imperative. Biology often encourages it. The ancient practice of subjugation, killing the men of the rival tribe and keeping the breeding-age women is directed/controlled hybridization. Any measures that attempt to direct/regulate fertility are. Xenophobia is the perception that anything “not your tribe” is dangerous, which may or may not have factual bearing on actual, empirical threat. It has nothing to do with simple territoriality, as animals practice, though it can be intellectually cloaked as such.

        Wars are ultimately about resources, obtaining such for yourself, preventing rivals from obtaining it. Food, water, oil, fertile women, anything that can be regarded (rightly or wrongly) as a desired resource. Regarding existence itself as a resource to be denied to others has an especially ugly (intellectual) word for it: genocide.

        Intelligence as a survival strategy is knowing what actions led you to your current situation (memory), figuring out how to get out of it alive (problem-solving/logic), so that you can pass your genes along (reproduction). Memory comes into play again so that you can either avoid the situation that endangered you, or escape it again should you re-encounter it.

      • weeble

        At its most basic level, xenophobia is (in my opinion) derived from a very old base level territoriality. We want to chase the others out of our homespace to protect our resources. It is one of those things we all have to a degree. Its a fight/flight reaction level thing, hard-wiring if you will.

        Perhaps now, in the modern trans-global word, its no longer a beneficial survival reaction, but its not a negative trait that’s likely to affect our survival. We have no real choice in evolution, so the logic involved is strictly ‘what is a positive survival trait and what is a negative survival trait’. Positive survival traits mean we have more success reproducing. Negative survival traits mean we’re more likely to die before reproducing. Neutral traits don’t change or go away, they just get spread around. There is no evolutionary pressure that’s going to actively eliminate the the reflexive instinct to protect our resources. We do have an ‘upper’ logical brain that can learn and squash that lower brain into more socially acceptable behavior and thoughts. Because of this logical brain, a balance can exist where we know our initial fear reaction is a waste of energy and can quickly work it out, but we still have that reaction.

        The learned veneer of civilization is a very effective control of that primitive reaction for the most part, but for whatever reason in some subcultures (say, the KKK or other hate groups) they have chosen a different veneer, or the hard-wired reaction is stronger, or the upper brain not as effective. The members of these groups are trained to a different reaction, with results the rest of us find uncivilized. If you get right down to it, fiction like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Mad Max’ are not that far out. Even now there are areas of the world where children are taken and turned into killing machines. Its surprisingly easy to strip off that veneer of civilization.

        Because of its origins in that ‘primitive brain’ instinct to protect our resources, and the fact that there is NO outside evolutionary force killing off those who have the reaction, xenophobia is not something that will go away. In a culture with no experience dealing with outsiders, there is no learned civilized reaction, so chances are the basic instincts will not be as controlled and xenophobia will be strong.

        The Mospheirans HAVE had some experience dealing with the Atevi in a positive way, they’ve developed a ‘civilized veneer’ that allows for dealing with the ‘other’ in a good way, in the form of the Paidhe. Atevi, not being human, but still being evolved animals, still have that ‘protect our resources’ instinct. They’ve also developed a civilized veneer that lets them deal with ‘others’, it keeps the clan structure strong. Its not the same as the Mospheirans, but it meshes with it successfully. The Kyo have the intellect to see something different is going on with these ‘others’ but they haven’t yet learned to handle their reaction in a way that means peace, but they’re willing to learn.

        Anyway, it all boils down to xenophobia isn’t just going to go away because we’re civilized. We have to learn how to incorporate it into our daily life in a way that is ‘civilized’ and renders it no more important than the “EWWW!!” reaction to a spider dropping on our head. Preferably we’ll have a reaction that is less fatal for the spider….

  8. Rigeldeneb

    Ahhh. . . Turf Wars. That just about covers it!

    The neocortex–your “veneer”, Weeble–is the later evolutionary development; the limbic system is older and, apparently, remains more influential on human behavior. No, I do not think I “glorify or romanticize” human sapience or, let us call it, the operation of the neocortex. I think the neocortex is interesting and important and, perhaps, holds solutions to some of the difficulties of our existence. Evolutionary forces may only “care” for the next cycle of reproduction; but our human consciousness, conscience, and imagination, which seem to arise in both the limbic systems and the neocortex, concern themselves with more than reproduction. If it is the neocortex that is the source of “civilized” behavior, let’s employ this evolutionary development with more skill.

    [How difficult this issue of intelligence is to think about–the eye attempting to see itself? Humans are just beginning to recognize other intelligences. . .apes, elephants, sea mammals, octopi, some birds. . .we are not yet past a belief in our exceptionalism, which I see as another type of turf war, but the door is at least open.]

    When the Phoenix first returned to Alpha in “Invader”, the reaction on both sides of the strait was fear, panic and anger. Bombs, bullets, politicking, and nasty phone calls: apparently humans and atevi share this limbic tendency when “turf” is perceived under threat. (In this same book, Bren observes “surprise-reaction as humor being one of those few congruent points of atevi-human psychology”)

    The “fear,panic, anger” response was not universal, though. Shawn sends Bren back with codes, indicating his continued trust in and support of the paidhi and the paidhi’s policies, and Tabini demands Bren’s continued function in the job. I see these as reasoned responses, however, not limbic-base—though perhaps limbic-supported.

    What is the paidhi’s turf? The “bridge” between, the “turf” that mitigates and sometimes ends the more destructive turf wars, the one who negotiates in good faith for all sides. Quite civilized. . .

  9. Tommie

    I suggest that many reactions, including xenophobia, have to do with protecting offspring. As travel has become easier and more common one can no longer rely on the extended family. This tends to make xenophobia less useful as a tool for protecting the young, and may be the reason that forming social groups of fairly like minded persons has become more common in recent centuries.

    • Sapphire

      Isn’t it to do with tribalism, though? Humans (in a way like all other ‘higher’ mammalian species) have always been tribal and formed into tribes. When it comes down to it, they will protect their own if they feel threatened – whether the threat is due to economic circumstances, invasion by another tribe or some other such reason. It’s really only those who are quite affluent by comparison to the majority of humanity who can afford to indulge themselves in thinking they are not tribal and therefore ‘civilised’, and that different tribes can co-exist in harmony. And the veneer of civilisation is very thin and can quickly be destroyed. I think history has proved that…

  10. Sapphire

    Now going off on a bit of a tangent, I’ve just re-read my much-read copy of Downbelow Station. It is such a fantastic, gripping book, with so much tension, great descriptions of environments and worlds, great characterisation, amazing visualisations of other species (the wonderful Downers), and insightful observations on the behaviour of humans under great stress, when ‘civilisation’ can break down very easily. In general it creates stunning visuals (in my mind) of giant ships rolling about in deep space and screaming past each other, and of the enormous spaces on a space station like Pell, etc. What struck me is the wonderful breadth of CJ’s work, because the character of Bren and the Atevis’ story is so different from that of the Alliance-Union world, the Chanur books and the Faded Sun trilogy. These are all books that I read again and again – and there are not many authors who can do that for me (I’m now in the process of re-reading all the Downbelow Station-linked books). (Only two books by CJ have not worked for me for some reason, and those were about the ‘desert world’.)

    In passing, I have to say that whenever I’ve come across Mallory, for some reason I instantly see CJ, as depicted on the jacket flaps of her books.

  11. Ragi-at-heart

    I’m just re-reading/listening to Foreigner. Something occurs to me: Are Ian Bretano and Julio Estevez a couple? or just roommates/colleagues?

  12. scenario_dave

    Whose the guy next to Bren? He’s on a boat so my first thought is Toby. But it looks like he’s wearing a uniform so it could be Jase.

    Could that be Bren’s boat? Oh I can’t wait for Convergence to come out.

    • Hanneke

      The uniform looks like a sailor’s jersey to me, and there’s enough similarities to their faces that my guess is Toby.
      Oooh, looks like a sea voyage will be important in the book… maybe demonstrating the safe passage from the Marid to the East? But wouldn’t Bren’s and Toby’s boats be much too small to navigate that ocean safely, even with the weather sattelites? What else could necessitate such grim-faced sailing in mixed company?
      Something to do with the smaller island the humans buy some of their preserved meats/fish from, or where they had a manufactory? Trouble on Mospheira itself, maybe with Bradley and/or the Heritage party? Those might kidnap Tobe’s kids, and that’d get Bren and his aishid sailing to the rescue if it isn’t solved quickly by the humans. And where’s Cajeiri?
      Lots of different directions of speculation possible, just from thinking about them on a sailing ship looking grim…

    • CJ

      It is Toby, and Tano is behind Bren. It’s Toby’s boat, Brighter Days. Considering where he’s been, Bren is having a moment of relaxation…

      Todd and I decided to spare everyone the floral upholstery at their destination.

      • Neco-ji

        Oh no! Floral upholstery! XD

      • nekokami

        I had guessed Jase, though I thought both Jase and Toby had darker hair. (Bren describes Jase’s hair as dark in Precursor, as part of the description of the awful haircut, and Cajeiri describes Toby’s hair as dark, but I suppose that’s only in comparison to Bren’s.)

        Deceiver remains one of my favorite covers (and one of my favorite books, for that matter, as the paidhi has to take on the ancient traditional role among atevi– and shows the value of such a role!)

        I love the idea of xenophobia as a social autoimmune disease. Perhaps Aspies represent a beneficial evolutionary trend in that regard! I suppose different people have different “in group” sizes by default. (Mine seems to encompass all mammals and most vertebrates– heck, I don’t even like harming invertebrates or non-animals.)

        As Weeble points out, different species have different ways of dealing with the “others” outside their in-group, too. Atevi tend to restrict contacts between in-groups to aijiin. Humans seem to be able to perceive themselves as members of multiple overlapping in-groups at once, which is what makes Atevi so uncomfortable with human behavior. I always thought it ironic that Bren makes such a point about the overlapping geographical borders of Atevi districts and provinces, when every human walks around in overlapping associations.

        I have also wondered if Bren is a bit Aspie himself, and really doesn’t want to recognize it. He wants badly to be able to deal with humans emotionally, rather than by thinking his way through relationships. He doesn’t mind having to think through things with Atevi, because that’s to be expected. But he actually does a pretty poor job relating to humans, as far as we’ve seen. (I can’t blame him for the poor relationship with Braddock, though– Sabin set the tone for that from the start.)

        The equivalent of Asperger’s or even Autism among atevi might be the “failed aiji” state that Bren and his aishid diagnose for Baiji, and that everyone seemed to be worried Cajeiri would fall prey to. (Sorry, I can’t remember the word now.) If one is unable to feel manch’i, unable to sense ones place within the group, one is severely disabled indeed. Bren is given some allowance because he isn’t atevi, but when he doesn’t act “neurotypical” for atevi, they do find it very upsetting, as we’ve seen since the first book. He’s put in a lot of effort to learn to “pass” as neurotypical atevi most of the time.

        • Rigeldeneb

          The movie “Arrival” reminds us that language can (re)shape perception, experience and behavior. Learning the atevi language must have significantly re-wired Bren’s brain. Also CJ hints that Bren’s predecessor Wilson also lost human behavior patterns from dealing with atevi language and atevi culture. Maybe, though, you have to be a bit Aspie in the first place to handle the math required?

    • chondrite

      Oh holy cats, I was having a ‘Master and Commander’ flashback moment there 😀

  13. paul

    I do wish they’d stick with one artist!

    • Neco-ji

      It is the same artist- Todd Lockwood.

      It is quite different from his other pieces- more reminiscent of the close detail of Tracker, rather the softer overall feel of the other covers.

      I don’t like how old Bren is looking, but I suppose for a politician in a legit stressful job, it’s to be expected. I guess I still have him pictured as a young, fresh faced paidhi.

      My favorite characters are getting old! 🙁

      • paul

        Foreigner used Michael Whelan. The one I hated was Pretender by “Donato”.

        • Neco-ji

          Yes, Pretender was truly terrible. But these last several books have all been done by Todd Lockwood, who has done a pretty good job.

          • joekc6nlx

            I never liked the cover of “Destroyer”…….Bren just didn’t look like Bren……

      • Raesean

        Ah yes, on looking up Pretender and Destroyer again, those covers did not feel at all like Bren (or any of the other characters, in Destroyer’s case). The Bren image that has always and extra bothered me, however, is that of Inheritor, the 3rd book and first cover not by Michael Whelan, whose Foreigner work I love. In Inheritor, Bren looks to me like a dumb jock hunk. Ok, maybe I am going overboard there, but that is always my visceral reaction to the non-Whelan cover. Luckily, I don’t know who the artist actually is so I can’t vilify him directly.

        I”m certain that if I had not imprinted on the initial, and very well composed, Whelan visual characterizations, I would be less reactive here. Much of our problem, as fans, is that we develop an interesting mental feedback loop between cover image, author’s verbal characterization and our own, internal mental images… And then a new artist comes along and visually breaks that feedback loop.

        • Rigeldeneb

          I had the same reaction to the Inheritor cover. I had so really liked the Whelan covers that this cover was, as you said, something of a shock to the system. “Dumb jock”–that Bren could have done “Bay Watch.”

          “Explorer” is a Whelan cover, but quite different, except for the richness of color (typical of Whelan), from the first two Whelan covers. I’ve always felt ambivalent about “Explorer’s” cover. Bren’s face looks two-dimensional. . .

          Poor “Pretender”–nobody seems to like that cover. “Betrayer” was a bit of a mess, too.

          • Raeann

            I actually haven’t been blown away by any of the “faces” of Bren, but I lovee the portrayal of Cajeri and of Illisidi (I have most of the books on Audio so my spelling may be off). I know someone earlier mentioned the cover of Deceiver, but all I can think of when I see that picture is “where is Bren’s que?” His hair doesn’t appear to be braided at all…I know he often has to fix his que, but this just looks like it’s hanging lose. Such a small detail to drive me so crazy! (Short trip at any rate.)

  14. scenario_dave

    There’s a description on the back cover of the book.

    “Convergence is the eighteenth book in C.J. Cherryh’s beloved Foreigner space opera series.

    Convergence marks a new phase in the Foreigner Universe: knowledge about the dangerous situation in adjacent space rests only with Bren Cameron, the human diplomat to the alien court of the atevi, four starship captains, and the two chiefs of state – both the human and the atevi, who share the planet.

    Bren is obliged to carry the just-signed treaty to the human government on an island some forty miles off the shores of the atevi-ruled megacontinent, and – without explaining the dire situation that would send the people into chaos – to arrange for the human refugees who are crowding the space station to be landed on the island, since the atevi will not grant more land to the human residents of their planet. Bren, a native of this island, is now an atevi official – trying to prepare the human inhabitants for the arrival of many more desperate human refugees from space.”

  15. scenario_dave

    It looks like they’ll be sailing to Mospheira. It makes some sense. Bren wants only the President to know what’s going on. He’s got to hand it off in person. But if he took a normal route in like a plane, they’ll be press everywhere and it will be suspicious.

  16. Rigeldeneb

    Oh, good! We’re in countdown mode. I like the cover of Convergence. It conveys purpose, strength and energy. I also liked the covers of Invader (Michael Whelen), Destroyer (great colors!) and Intruder. Bren looks cool and self-possessed on Intruder.

  17. Neco-ji

    I’m going to swing in from random land and ask about atevi dentition.

    In one of the earlier books, Bren describes a curious expression that Banichi makes. He drew his lip back from his teeth. I can’t remember where I read that, but Bren called it “a fierce amusement”. I assume that it was his upper lip, and always imagined it somewhat closer to a baring of the teeth, a semi-snarl versus a smile, as I imagine a smile would be recognized as such by Bren’s very human eyes.

    So I’m wondering what atevi teeth are like. 😛

  18. Rigeldeneb

    If Toby is on the boat on the cover of “Convergence” and they are headed to Mospheira, does that mean we will get to engage with our “alien” humans, both islander and stationer, in this volume?

  19. Tommie

    I have been thinking, and have come to the conclusion that the person most analogous to a geisha in atevi society would probably be a kabiu-teru.

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