posted in February 2002
for the sake of clarity.
Alert! Do not read this if you have not finished Defender.
Right, there's this person who's
really annoying me, right, and getting in the way of my plans for world
domination....okay, seriously, I have a question (don't think this needs
spoilering, I'm not giving away any plot bits). I don't quite get how the
whole Guild/Filing Intent thing is supposed to work. You have all these
Guild members, right (must stop saying right) who all have a vote, and
they all presumably have man'chi to various people/houses. Now, suppose
Tabini wants to assassinate someone, and tries to File Intent, can he just
do it and will agents within his man'chi do that? Or do the Guild have
to vote on whether it's acceptable to do this?
If it's a voting system every time
then it won't work because obviously everyone there has conflicting man'chi,
and whoever has a big majority (Western Association = New Labour -ghastly
thought!) could just run roughshod over everyone else. Do you have to have
a really good reason (and what counts as a good reason?) for assassinating
someone other than they're in your way? Even so, they're people will surely
vote against you. I know sometimes agents act according to their man'chi
without Filing, but that's not usually the case, as far as I can tell.
Okay, suppose it's not a voting system
and all you need are some Guild agents in your man'chi willing to do the
deed. If they have to actually File, then everybody knows about the contract
being out - does this mean that they know then *who* has someone killed?
The implication with Valasi, Tabini's father, is that they don't know whether
Tabini or Illisidi (or, indeed, someone else) had him assassinated, and
this seems to be the case when some people try to attack Bren too. Yet
when Tabini Files in response to this, he declares his intention so everyone
knows it's him who's Filing. Do you have the option of remaining anonymous?
If so, presumably the Filing is recorded somewhere in the Guild - how do
they retain confidentiality?
Okay, before I drivel out more incoherent
ideas, basically what I want to know boils down to this: how does the Guild
itself work? They all have man'chi to different people, yet clearly it
is an association that operates somehow. Any ideas people? Am I missing
something really obvious here?
CF, that's a good question. Let
me give you my thoughts on the matter.
As it happens, there's an inconsitency
in the books--in the first book, it's stated that feuds are actually registered
with and by Tabini. And he files Intent on Bren's behalf in the triennial
audience Bren attends, as I don't doubt you remember. But later we're told
that it's the Guild's decision.
Since the guild vote is presented
most consistently, I'm assuming that's they way things are done. Now, we're
told that a higher lord doesn't have to declare intent to assassinate someone
lower, just demonstrate a good reason. We're also told that common, everyday
people sometimes file, and often the Guild lets things go until the two
parties settle "out of court" as it were. So it's implicit that the Guild
is pretty conservative, in the sense that they prefer things stay more
or less as they are, assuming things are stable. It also implies that the
Guild doesn't like to kill people when they don't have to.
In any event, as you pointed out,
the results of this are that the Guild has a hand in determining the outcome
of crucial political questions. But I do doubt that they "run roughshod"
over the will of the people. Consider--it's likely every house sends some
number of candidates for Guild membership. I don't doubt that even some
number of common folks apply (and succeed) as well, for various reasons.
The result of this would be that the guild would, I imagine, represent
a cross-section of atevi society--probably more representative of the top
levels, but not neccesarily so. They'll vote as their man'chi dicatates,
so their vote would likely be a microcosm of the votes of the whole society,
if that makes sense. Now, if some house or set of interests stacked Guild
membership somehow, that would change, of course, but we know nothing about
how Guild members are chosen or how the votes are counted.
It's entirely possible that getting
a license involves training not just in "technical" matters, but legal
and ethical ones. Perhaps Guild members swear themselves to a set of rules,
sort of like an order of monks. Only the rules have to do with when it's
acceptable to take a contract and when not. It would be a smart way to
set things up, to have one common set of regulations that all members are
obligated to uphold, that everyone could refer to when things got sticky
(the breaking of which could lead to sanctions from other members). Otherwise
all sorts of chaos could break loose. (For some idea of what Cherryh may
be thinking of, check out "Cuckoo's Egg." I see the aliens and their "warrior
class" (sorry, don't remember what they're called) as probably cousins
to the Atevi and the Assassin's Guild--that's just my opinon, not a solid
fact. They just seem like a first or second draft of atevi to me. Sorry,
I only read it once and can't be very geeky about it. It's not my favorite
of hers, but a lot of other people like it.)
And I'm pretty sure that the Guild
as presented in the books isn't completely dominated by one party or another.
Recall that the decision over whether to allow the Kadigidi to file on
Bren is hotly debated over a number of days, and the Guild seems entirely
aware of the importance of the issue. And since everyone has access to
trained assassins, one can always try to change the results of the vote
by other means, as happens in Inheritor.
I think that the Guild has to notify
someone that intent has been filed, but not who filed it. I forget the
specific passage, I think it's in Invader, where that's mentioned, and
maybe I'm mis-remembering it. Certainly there was no public announcement
of Tabini's Intent to assassinate Lord Saigimi, but I do recall that Saigimi
was notified of Intent (I could be wrong about this. I haven't started
the quotes from Inheritor yet, and I'm only on the first book with the
nitpick page, so it's not fresh in my mind right now.) And in any event,
Tabini's public declaration in Foreigner was more of a political maneuver
than an actual intent to kill anyone. If I have time tonight after the
kids go to bed and no one else beats me to it, I'll look for the quotes
I'm thinking of.
In any event, any system is going
to have drawbacks--let everyone vote, and there's the danger of "mob mentality"
making bad decisions for bad reasons. Confine it to representatives, and
there's the danger those representatives will vote their own interests
instead of the ones they're supposed to represent. No system is going to
be perfect. In this case, I think the legislative bodies and the aijiin
are meant to be balanced by the Assassins Guild--if the folks in charge
(by vote or inheritance or whatever) get out of line, they could be in
real danger. I'm not saying it's an ideal system, mind you, just that I
can see how it could work.
As far as how all those conflicting
man'chiin can be Associated, well, I guess the Guilds themselves are Associations.
Voluntary ones, of course, but Associations nonetheless.
And just imagine future Cherryh novels
when the Guild is entirely corrupt.....who knows what the future holds?
(Do you know how hard it is to write
something this long while constantly having to turn around and say, "Stop
that!" or "Yes, you can have an apple," or getting up to play tickle? It's
really hard to pick up where you left off and organize your thoughts after
a game of tickle.)
Fascinating topic, CF. Let's see....
I seem to recall that the Guild doesn't vote on all filings. Just the major
ones that would have repercussions throughout the Associations. As for
the attacks on Bren, I'm pretty sure they were never filed at all. Mostly,
I agree with haut. (Heh! Tickle games!)
This brings to mind another question.
Are guild members' man'chi to their lords something that they had before
they joined? Or is it something that they're 'assigned' once they get out?
Take Banichi for instance. He's from Talidi province, a province, as I
recall, that is fairly close to some of Tabini's enemies. And Banichi and
one of Bren's attackers shared the same teacher in the Guild. I don't see
how Banichi could have been loyal to Tabini before he joined the guild.
It seems almost as if guild students are unattached to any houses at first.
I can't help but wonder if Tabini, impressed by Banichi's skills, won him
over somehow, into his service. Man'chi, after all, is not completely biological.
It can be realigned, as stated in Invader. Maybe guild assassins' man'chi
is to their parents or parents' lords when they first apply to the Guild.
And when they graduate, they then have to figure out whether or not they
will continue their old loyalties or discover a new one.
That's a very interesting question,
It never entered my mind because,
I confess, I am assuming without any authority whatsoever that Cenedi is
Banichi's father. So it seemed perfectly logical to me that Cenedi's son
would be loyal to Ilisidi's grandson. I've assumed that either Cenedi was
from Talidi (which did have connections to the dowager) or else Banichi's
Editing to add: It makes perfect
sense that Banichi would have been associated with Bren's attacker. This
is all happening within the same family. The dowager has an association
with Tabini of one sort or another. Likely there's an insanely complicated
web of associations all through the Bu-javid, just through intermarriage
if nothing else. Consider Bindanda, associated with Tatiseigi, therefore
with Damiri, therefore Tabini in some fashion, given outright as a servant
to Bren, and displaying some amount of man'chi to Bren himself, whether
through this complicated series of associations or Bren's virtues as head
of his household. All these people, no matter what side of the issues they're
on, are related to each other, basically.
In any event, we don't know which
side of Banichi's family was from Talidi--or if there was some change of
loyalties involving Banichi's whole house, for example.
But I still don't forget the dowager's
connections with the folks in that area. I will cling to my illusion until
Nand' Cherryh forces me to believe otherwise.
Good point, haut. I know it's never
explicitly stated, but I think a lot of people tend to think of Cenedi
as Banichi's father.
I kind of imagined Cenedi to be
Banichi's father too.
But then....I had it in mind that
the guild was rather like an executive police service and that the man'chi
of members was firstly to the guild and only secondarily to those they
had to protect. Rather like the Special Protection Group for Royalty in
This would allow the guild to be
politically aware and able to debate filings of political import and to
accept filings without concern as to crossing man'chi. Lesser filings could
then be anonymous or left for Out-of-court settlement.
They would also be astute enough
to decide whether filings should become public hence Tabini filing for
Bren as the political message carried much greater import than the potential
I'm just off to reread Invader ready
for next month. :)
I think every one agrees, and that
we can take it as a known fact that Cenedi is Banichi's father, unless
in Explorer we find out other wise.
I am looking forward to the day when
Bren finally has to request Jago hand in marriage, or what ever Atvie do,
and for Banichi' to turn around to Bren and state that only the head of
the family can grant that request.
And the head of the family could
be Cenedi or if it is a matriarchal society Cenedi wife?
But was it not in Precursor where,
we may have met Banichi's wife or mother, CJC was not pacific.
Love your epistemology, Clevej,
even though it has a slightly Humpty Dumptyish quality - "known facts"
are what we agree they are at this forum. Hey, it works for me. :)
But what I really want to know, with
respect to the forthcoming nuptials of Bren and Jago (which seem to be
fast becoming a "known fact" on a similar evidentiary basis to that of
our knowledge of the kinship relationships discussed in this thread) is
whether humans and atevi are cross-fertile. And if so, are their offspring
fertile? (No offense intended, Mule.)
Susan, I'm not on the list of those
anticipating any ceremonies in Bren and Jago's future. My guess is, their
relationship is likely analogous to Ilisidi's and Cenedi's, and if Bren
or Jago ever have children it will be with other partners, even though
their relationship will continue.
I imagine if atevi and human were
cross-fertile, we'd have seen it already. There was a period of time before
the war when it could have happened, and knowing humans (and inferring
atevi tastes from Bren's experience--marriage proposals, "atevi women had
a certain curiosity about him..." etc.) I'm sure Bren and Jago aren't the
first couple to engage in such activities.
My question is, how will Bren's lordship
be inherited? Will he be expected to name some young person from the Mospheiran
FO, or will atevi expect him to produce offspring?
I was scraping blueberry poptart
out of the living room rug (don't ask!) when the vision of pregnant Barb
rose up before me.
Please, please, tell me that this
could never happen. Would Jago tolerate it for the sake of Bren's heir,
or just kill her outright? Would Bren be that crazy? Just imagining it
makes me want to go knock a few heads. Gah. I have to go scrub my mind
Wow, thanks for such a comprehensive
reply hautdesert! (Especially with distracting children wanting to play
tickle!) :) Your explanation sounds sensible to me - it was
the apparent contradictions that were really doing my head in, but as I
only read the books for the first time recently, details like that aren't
that clear. I'd also totally forgotten that you'd need a certain amount
of ability, training (duh!) and presumably inclination to become an Assassin,
so I'd imagine that would help balance out any irregular representation
of candidates from the different lords a bit.
CKTC - about man'chi, another interesting
question. I think it boils down to how much it is a biological instinct,
how much a choice an atevi has in the man'chi they feel, and how mutable
(my long word for the day!) it is. It's given out that love is the overriding
human emotion, and we all know our feelings for someone can change both
slowly and drastically. Is man'chi the same in that respect? I'd also be
interested to know how much it changes as atevi mature. Presumably, as
children, their man'chi is to their parents, and maybe other close associates
who raise them. As they grow up though can this change drastically as they
form other associations? Human children love those who raise them, but
as they grow up grow to love other people who may or may not become more
important in their feelings than who they grew up with. I wonder if the
situation is at all analogous.
Cenedi as Banichi's father? Hmm,
I rather hope not, actually. I have this horrible vision of everyone turning
out related. You know, Bren: "Cenedi is your *father*, nadi?!", and Banichi,
"Yes, and in fact I'm married to Algini's sister, and Tano is in fact Algini's
son, and I'm third cousin to Tabini and oh, did you know Lord Geigi is
my wife's uncle?" :P (Although of course he wouldn't say this!)
Couldn't stop thinking about this
thread. I figure, even if Cenedi is Banichi's father, there's still a potential
for realignment of man'chi there, considering Ilisidi is Tabini's most
staunch ally and worst enemy at times. Heh.
I really hope Bren and Jago cannot
have children together. It would ruin verisimilitude, imho. One of my peeves
in sci-fi movies is that it seems pathetically easy for cross species fertilization.
I mean, it's hard enough to believe that of two separate species from one
planet let alone from two completely alien ones.
CF, LOL, I wouldn't want everyone
to be related either. Cenedi and Banichi, that would be okay. But let's
stop it at there.
This thread gave me a good laugh
at various parts. :D
I think we got this idea that Banichi
is Cenedis son in Foreigner where Bren mistakes Cenedi as Banichi at first,
so he said it was only because of the uniform.
Near the end of Invader, in the bunker,
a woman calls Banichi ´nichi-ji which Bren found curious.
It's a family affair....
as Banichi's father? Hmm, I rather hope not, actually. I have this horrible
vision of everyone turning out related. You know, Bren: "Cenedi is your
*father*, nadi?!", and Banichi, "Yes, and in fact I'm married to Algini's
sister, and Tano is in fact Algini's son, and I'm third cousin to Tabini
and oh, did you know Lord Geigi is my wife's uncle?"
Actually, I think I'd like something
like this. :) But that's just personal taste.
(Your construction is even more convoluted
than it seems--if Lord Geigi is Banichi's wife's uncle, he's also Algini's
uncle, and Tano's great uncle. Tano would be Banichi's nephew. Jago and
Tano would be cousins, and Jago would be Algini's niece.)
I guess I just like the idea because
it seems kind of funny that Bren is making all these assumptions about
the people around him, when one simple question might clear things up.
But he'll never ask, because it's not polite, especially among Guild members.
Also, I think it would be realistic in a way. Look at politics even in
countries where there is technically no inheritance of offices--the same
family names keep coming up, and where they don't, there's often a family
relationship anyway. We already know that the head of Bren's office is
a relative of Tano's....and it's stated then that that's the way atevi
tend to do business, so you have no worries about man'chi. And Bren's household
staff, excluding his four security, are all related (excepting Bindanda,
as far as we know)--it's stated so in Precursor. Given that, I think it's
more likely than not that Bren's chief staff members (and possibly all
the rest) are related somehow.
Yeh, I did realise that, but I decided
not to point it out in too much detail!
construction is even more convoluted than it seems--if Lord Geigi is Banichi's
wife's uncle, he's also Algini's uncle, and Tano's great uncle. Tano would
be Banichi's nephew. Jago and Tano would be cousins, and Jago would be
If they had some sort of family gathering
celebration thing like Christmas or Thanksgiving can you imagine what a
hotbed of intrigue it would be! And what a headache getting everybody presents...good
CK: about the cross-species
thing, I totally agree. Plus I always do my biologist thing when they have
cross-species stuff and scream "You *can't* do that!" at the book/television
because it really is so implausible unless assisted by awesome technology.
If they are different species, I
don't think they're cross-fertile either (by definition).
But What if humans and atevi had
a common human origin and they are not really different species at all?
They aren't all that different physically, mostly in size and coloration.
Think of dachshunds and Great Danes - they're mutually fertile (no cross
about it). Bren believes that manchi is hard-wired biologically, but maybe
that's only what the atevi and hence Bren and other Mospheirans believe.
What if it's all cultural?
Which leads me to a new topic I've
been thinking about, and which I'll start now - "Are Atevi for real?"
Actually, this is the question that
has most intrigued me. I presume that the crew and passengers of Phoenix
were not all biologists, sociologists, or anthropologists. They were ship
crewmen and officers, miner pilots, mechanics, construction workers, and
such. And even by the time of the Landing, they had been living in isolation
for quite some time. They knew only one basic culture, that could be split
between crew and passengers, but that was the extent of their differences
by the time of the Landing. They would have had to build biology, sociology,
etc. from scratch, out of the archives. But they would have no personal
experience of, say, a world where biology was the same but cultures could
believes that manchi is hard-wired biologically, but maybe that's only
what the atevi and hence Bren and other Mospheirans believe. What if it's
So they come to the earth of the
atevi, where for geographical reasons, cultural differences aren't that
big (sort of like everyone in the world being one variety of European or
another, say). (Or else humans only have real experience of one, dominant
group of atevi, and assume, based on their own experience, that all atevi
are like that--that's another possiblity). They have trouble getting along.
The first paidhi comes up with some guidelines that let the two sides co-exist,
and they're taken as dogma by all successive paidhiin, because damn if
anybody wants to be the one to change things and be wrong.
I've said it before, and I'll say
it again--Bren is in a very, very bad position to judge what's a cultural
difference and what's hardwired. Every human in the world comes from the
same culture--Mospheiran. Even the humans on the ship don't vary tremendously--they
came from the same place the Mospheirans did. Bren makes a lot of assumptions
about what's "human" that aren't hardwired at all--commercial meat processing,
for example. He even flirts with the idea that keeping kabiu is somehow
neccesary to atevi psychological and social stability (in Precursor). Never
mind that many of the Mospherian cultural things he thinks (and the dowager
and her party think) might be bad for atevi are things many humans have
thought would be bad for humans, and resisted, back on the Earth of humans!
He doesn't know that. In fact, he has little or no idea of human history
before Phoenix. He frequently calls Mosphei' "human language" as though
it's the only one, the only model for human thought. If he knew other human
languages (and other human cultures), he might realize that while "love"
is partly a biological phenomenon, it's also very much affected by cultural
expectations. If he understood that, he might be able to draw an analogy
He's taking it on faith that all
the differences are biological and that the University theorists are correct.
And it's clear they're wrong on at least one or two things-- man'chi isn't
just a question of birth and inheritance, for instance--it can change,
be chosen (as is hinted in several places), and even be given to a human.
Sorry, I've been kind of thinking
about these books a lot lately. And nobody I know IRL cares very much about
them, so you guys get my rantings and ravings.
Um, so, Susan, what do you mean by
"are atevi for real?" anyway?
I think Bren is very much aware
of the limitations in his experience that haut has mentioned. And I think
CJC has touched on such awarenesses in Bren but never had time to fully
explore them. Remember in Foreigner (I think it was Foreigner, and not
Invader) where Bren is interested in the book on the Midedeni? He is fascinated
by the thought of an entire group of atevi who find favor in everyone.
And in Precursor and Defender, Bren does give thought to his own limitations
and does seem aware he may not know the difference between culture and
biology. I just can't remember the specific moments he does this.
As for atevi and human differences,
I think that they are far more vast than just skin color and a few minor
physical traits. The whole fascination of these books, for me at least,
lies in the many differences between the 2 alien races, especially when
they aren't readily apparent.
I love this thread. :)
I'm pretty sure that in either Inheritor
or Precursor. it is stated that although physical human/atevi sex is possible
there is no possibilty of offspring.
I'll see if I can find the quote.
We'll have to be careful with this
family thing or someone will end up being their own grandfather
I have to disagree with hautdesert
on a few points...
Cherryh has stated several times
that Atevi attained world government and a unified culture relatively early
because of the way Atevi man'chi affected their political processes, not
because of geography. Yes, there is pretty much just the one continent,
but East and West are divided by almost impassible mountains.
Mospheira did have extensive library
files, though some were lost in the War. I believe that it is in Precursor
that it is mentioned that they had some, but not all, of Shakespeare's
works, that some families did retain knowledge of other languages. Ginny
Kroger knew exactly where in Phoenix's archive certain robotics files would
be found. e.i., they had extensive knowledge of human history, cultures,
sociology, and psychology. Heck, even the heavy-lift rockets mentioned
in Foreigner came out of the archive. So I think Bren and the University
were in a much better position to judge the issue of culture vs. hardwiring
than you are stating.
The nature vs. nuture debate is also
one of the central themes of Cherryh's 40,000 in Gehenna.
In the first triology (I think Invader)
Ms Cherryh says that there was only one atleast somewhat different culture
where the explorers from West and East met and found out there are the
The offspring matter, I think it
is unlikely that Ms Cherryh will write a cross-species child in (we had
this discussion in an earlier thread, hadn we?), but in the book it is
never stated that it is impossible, Bren just assumes that he and Jago
can't have an offspring (Precursor).
And as long as it isn't stated clearly,
there is hope (And that is the cause I never asked Ms Cherryh - culture
works pretty well -> it's just so great to have atleast one child and it
is even better when your partner is from another species, look at the countless
fanfictions out there.)
Nand' Wereotter, I must respectfully
A population in isolation for a long
time is going to develop differences from it's original population. Its
language will change, its customs will change, and its way of thinking
about the world will change. Any population remaining isolated over thousands
of years will change quite dramatically, especially if the environment
is very different from the ultimate origin. Man'chi will not change this.
Man'chi will affect how this culture relates to another one when they finally
meet up, but not the cultural changes themselves. So the question is, how
different is the East from the West (weather, plant and animal life, etc.)
and how long were they separated? And how long have they been re-joined?
Those questions will affect cultural differences far more than politics
will, or man'chi. Obviously the effect of man'chi on politics will be important,
but so will geography. I submit that if a group of atevi had been isolated
on another continent, with a different geography, and weather, and flora
and fauna for thousands and thousands of years, all the man'chi in the
world wouldn't erase the very obvious differences that would have arisen
in that time. But that didn't happen.
has stated several times that Atevi attained world government and a unified
culture relatively early because of the way Atevi man'chi affected their
political processes, not because of geography. Yes, there is pretty much
just the one continent, but East and West are divided by almost impassible
Besides, anything stated in the books
is something Bren thinks, not something Cherryh thinks. And just because
Bren thinks something doesn't mean it's true.
Languages of which Bren himself has
no knowledge--this is stated in the same passage. It's only something some
few families may have preserved. Evidently the University didn't think
those other languages were worth teaching to paidhiin.
did have extensive library files, though some were lost in the War. I believe
that it is in Precursor that it is mentioned that they had some, but not
all, of Shakespeare's works, that some families did retain knowledge of
And she'd spent her career getting,
it, too--it's not like the information was just sitting there and she strolled
by and picked it up. And knowing robotics and metallurgy isn't the same
as knowing history.
Kroger knew exactly where in Phoenix's archive certain robotics files would
Not neccesarily. The archives would
probably, of neccesity, have been skewed towards technical things, since
that was what they would have needed at the intended station. And the cultural
materials would have been skewed towards English speakers--sure, there
were people on the original flight who spoke other languages, but those
seem to have died out among the ships crew and passengers (Jase is the
only one among the ships crew to have studied any language but English,
for instance (and note that when Jase studied German, it was engineering
texts he read, not novels), and on Mospheira knowledge of other human languages
is confined to a few families). So anything not written in English would
have been difficult to read, if not impossible. And it wouldn't have been
a priority--the technical stuff seems to all be available in English, and
building and surviving was the priority.
they had extensive knowledge of human history, cultures, sociology, and
I'm thinking, then, that much of
the literature and history available to Mospherians is in English, which
skews it cuturally right there. We don't know how extensive the archives
were, even before the War. The fact that they have Shakespeare doesn't
mean much--Shakespeare is pretty much a given when you're making a list
of significant cultural works. (And don't make me post that link to Shakespeare
in the Bush again! ;) )
Technical stuff again. It doesn't give
you any idea of culture or history.
even the heavy-lift rockets mentioned in Foreigner came out of the archive.
Bren has two specific thoughts about
pre-Phoenix human history that I remember. One is the thought about atevi
explorers not having a "New World" to discover and meeting up with each
other. But it's the other one that really struck me. It's in Invader. (p.325)
I think Bren and the University were in a much better position to judge
the issue of culture vs. hardwiring than you are stating.
No one who reads this board would have
to ask this question. But Bren doesn't know the answer. His training has
been focused on atevi culture, and on all the theories and ideas Mospheirans
have about how humans can and can't relate to atevi. And the technical
matters he needs to know to translate the technology. There may be (probabaly
are) Mospheirans who spend their lives digging in the archives and finding
out whatever they can about human history and culture--but Bren isn't one
of them. Which implies that his instructors weren't, either. Bren almost
never thinks about pre- Phoenix human history--and Bren thinks about everything.
I daresay there isn't a thought that goes through Bren's mind that we don't
read about. And when he does think about the history of the Earth of humans,
he's unsure of what actually happened.
beings had surely had certain investments in their planetary boundaries,
once upon a time. Humans had had to realize the sun was a star among other
stars. The paidhi didn't happen to know with any great accuracy how humans
had reacted to that knowledge, but he'd a troubled suspicion it could have
set certain human beliefs on end.
Though that they couldn't work the
numbers out exactly wouldn't have broken up associations, re-sorted personal
loyalties, cast into doubt a way of looking at the universe--had it?
I agree with damiri-ji. I love this
Yipes! What a mess that would be.
I would much rather everyone not be related to everyone else, that would
border on soap opera-ish. Ye gads, the horror!
I think that Jago and company would
be ok with Bren fathering a child with a human woman as long as they were
able to consider her in thier man'chi. Good luck Bren!
As for Jago, I fully expect her at
one point to reveal she is pregnant with Tano's child. Speaking of which,
does the guild have maternal leave?
I've now got this terrible (albeit
mercifully implausible) scene stuck in my head. Banichi, black-clad, says
to a desperately confused Bren, in his deep voice:
"Bren-ji, I am your father".
Bren looks naturally astonished.
Then, with a dawning and awful realisation, says, "But, that means that
Jago is....YEEEE-ARGH!" :)
I've actually though occasionally
about the Freudian subtext of Bren & Jago's relationship...not that
I think CJ put it in there, just that some things can be lined up that
It first crossed my mind in Precursor,
when Bren is leaning up against Jago and thinking that he doesn't even
have to support his own weight with her. That image immediately made my
think of my kids. Then I had the Disturbing Thought--what if that's part
of Bren's attraction to Jago? So then all that agonizing about whether
or not Banichi was jealous...were Banichi and Jago lovers or not??? etc.
Suddenly the conflict is resolved--he's not jealous, he's Jago's father,
not her husband or lover, Bren's in the clear, he can have mommy and daddy
It's positively Oedipal!
But like I said, I doubt very much
Nand' Cherryh put that in there. Human pattern-making tendencies, and all
that. Speaking of which, has anybody seen the amazon reviewer who's convinced
Foreigner is an allegory for the Salvation of Mankind, with Bren as a Christ
figure? I don't know whether to laugh at him, or knock him upside the head
with a skillet.
hautdesert, I can't resist making
a rebuttle to your earlier post.
1. Cherryh never said that East and
West were culturally uniform. Her point was that Atevi were politically
unified into a world government regardless of any cultural differences,
and that humans would not have been under similar circumstances, and that
the underlying reason for this difference is man'chi.
2. I disagree with your interpretation
of the Invader p. 325 quote. Bren correctly deduces historical human reaction
to cosmology even when he does not have the facts at hand. He does this
inspite of the fact he comes from a technological space-faring culture.
And he also realizes that the human example does not necessarily predict
the Atevi reaction to concept FTL. Does this sound like someone who is
ignorant of sociological, cultural and historical perspectives? NO.
3. We've got a Foreign Office and
a university ON AN ALIEN PLANET who have the job of supporting the paidhi
and the treaty, managing the atevi interface and trying to steer Atevi
cultural and technology progress, but they don't bother studying the history,
sociology and psychology files in the archive? Sorry, that does not compute.
It's the bigots and the average Mospheiran who are avoiding these subjects,
not the diplomatic professionals in the F.O.
4. If they didn't have those files,
Cherryh would have made a point of saying so. And they orignally did have
a comprehensive archive, because they were setting up a distant colony.
btw, Would I be correct in guessing
that you don't believe in either human or atevi hardwiring?
Hautdesert, re your Oedipal analysis
Oedipus, schmedipus, as long as
he loves his mother.
WereOtter - One of the things I really
like about the Foreigner series is the occasional suggestion that there
are cultural and linguistic differences among various regions. I'm plotting
a new discussion related to this one of these days, by the way, but it's
not ripe yet. Readiness is all.*
*Where is that line from, anyway?
Macbeth maybe? If somebody can't tell me I'm going to have to go find it
on the Web and I really don't want to be bothered so please, please tell
me where it's from.
btw, Would I be correct in guessing
that you don't believe in either human or atevi hardwiring?
Boy, even just applied to humans,
that's a tough and particularly fascinating question, isn't it? (I think
that wherever I come down on human hardwiring I'd come down on atevi hardwiring
- I just don't think they are that fundamentally different.)
Looking at the human hardwiring question
first in terms of personality differences, I would have thought at one
time everything was nurture and culture, not nature and genes. But after
my nephews were born and grew I saw that their core personalities were
in place practically from birth.
Let's see, how about language? I
guess I'd vote that humans come hardwired with the ability to learn and
use language. Last weekend, "Susan's Mother the xenoanthropologist" (actually,
the xeno part is an honorary title I have bestowed) and I were trying to
figure out if there are any grammatical universals in human languages.
She was feeling around for some kind of generalization about all human
grammars (or at least the ones she knew about) having categories for topic
(or subject) vs. action, but it wasn't quite gelling.
Isn't there a hormone (I forget the
name) that's been recently theorized to be implicated in maternal love
and perhaps other love as well?
But with all the hardwiring I'm willing
to hypothesize, it's the splendid and almost infinite diversity of human
cultures and ways of thinking over history that I find exciting and marvellous.
I guess that's one reason why I'm not a biologist.
Actually, Cherryh never says this at
all. Foreigner says (p119):
Cherryh never said that East and West were culturally uniform. Her point
was that Atevi were politically unified into a world government regardless
of any cultural differences, and that humans would not have been under
similar circumstances, and that the underlying reason for this difference
That's what happened. Why it happened
that way is something even the experts don't agree on--and there's no guarantee
the experts are right. There's no guarantee Bren is right about any of
his interpretations. Cherryh makes no editorial comments in these books--it's
all Bren's internal monologue when it isn't external events.
had been, with the exception of the tribals in the remotest hinterlands
and the islands in the Edi Archipelago, a global civilization, at a stage
when humans hadn't been. Atevi explorers had gone out in wooden ships,
done all those things that humans had, by the records, done on lost Earth--except
that atevi hadn't found a New World, they'd found the Edi, and damned little
else but a volcanic, troubled chain of islands, not advanced, not culutrally
up to the double assault of the explorers from the East and the explorers
from the West, who'd immediately laid claim to everything in sight and
still--still, for reasons the ethnographers were still arguing--the same
explorers met each other in those foreign isles and found enough in common
and enough difficult about the intervening geography--the continental divide
in the principal continent topped 30,000 feet--to trade not overland, but
by sea routes that largely, after the advent of full-rigged ships, excluded
the Isles where the two principal branches of atevi had met.
Also, the term "global civilization"
doesn't seem to me the same as "global government." "Civilization" is a
broader word than government, or empire, or territory, or what have you.
To me, "civilization" implies a cultural unity, not neccesarily a political
one. And I seem to recall it's stated in, I think, Inheritor, that Tabini
is the first aiji to extend his authority clear across the continent.
I'm also not trying to suggest that
atevi are as culturally homogenous as Mospheira probably is. But I think
the various ethnic groups and such are close enough to each other that
they get along fairly well and don't find each other incomprehensible.
The same can not be said for every group of humans on Earth.
He does not have the facts at hand!
Very basic facts, that our society is still dealing with, to some extent.
Is he a very bright person, who is able to make a deduction about how humans
might behave? Sure. Of course he doesn't think the human model will predict
the atevi--he spends every waking moment reminding himself of this, it's
an article of faith with the University and with him. Someone who knows
the history of Earth? Most emphatically not. Someone with any experience
of cultural differences as independent of biological ones? Absolutely not.
His sociological, cultural, and historical perspectives are all Mospheiran.
Sophisticated they might be, but wide in the experience of the variety
of human culture, no. If they were, Bren would be as cautious of calling
Mosphei' "human language" as he is of calling an atevi his "friend." He
wouldn't assume that Mospheiran economics represented the "human" pattern
of development. He constantly and consistently refers to Mospheiran social
realities as "human." He makes the same mistake with atevi--the Nisebi
have no qualms about processed meat, and yet he thinks of eating only seasonal
game as an "atevi" value. Especially in the first book, he calls Ragi "the
atevi language" even though he knows there are others, that he doesn't
speak. He is completely ignorant of the Midedeni until Jago mentions them,
and when he hears of them, fails to recognize that there is, in fact, an
analogous human philosophy. The most basic of historical information would
have told him this.
I disagree with your interpretation of the Invader p. 325 quote. Bren correctly
deduces historical human reaction to cosmology even when he does not have
the facts at hand. He does this inspite of the fact he comes from a technological
space-faring culture. And he also realizes that the human example does
not necessarily predict the Atevi reaction to concept FTL. Does this sound
like someone who is ignorant of sociological, cultural and historical perspectives?
He is not a stupid or an uneducated
man, but because of where he is, there are a lot of things that he takes
for granted, or that don't occurr to him.
I'm sure they study what they have.
But what do they have, and from what perspective? The history I learned
in grade school and high school generally spent a chapter on Sumer, one
on Ancient Greece, one on Rome, spent the rest of the time in Europe, branching
out to include North America after 1492. South America, Africa, Asia, the
Middle East, were all presented only as they interacted directly with Europe
or the United States. And sketchy as it was, we damn sure learned about
Gallileo. Why didn't Bren?
We've got a Foreign Office and a university ON AN ALIEN PLANET who have
the job of supporting the paidhi and the treaty, managing the atevi interface
and trying to steer Atevi cultural and technology progress, but they don't
bother studying the history, sociology and psychology files in the archive?
Sorry, that does not compute. It's the bigots and the average Mospheiran
who are avoiding these subjects, not the diplomatic professionals in the
I doubt that he got much pre- phoenix
history after primer school. I submit that the history they study in the
Foreign Studies department is the history of human interaction with atevi.
Because that's what they're most interested in. They could care less about
Earth history--why should they? Iain Bretano said humans are like this
and atevi are like this, that caused the war and this is the way to deal
with it. It stopped the War. Who's going to gamble with those stakes?
Editing to add a thought that occurred
to me last night--Deanna Hanks is one of those diplomatic professionals
in the FO, with the same education Bren had, BTW.
I never said they didn't have the files.
I'm sure they had all sorts of files--but how extensive were those history
files, those sociology files? The literature and arts? We don't know. Who
selected them? And if they did represent a cultural variety, were the non-western
things available in translation? And even if they are, after years of focusing
on surviving, fueling the ship, and building the station, is there anyone
on board ship or station who can understand what they're reading? They
surely didn't start out with historians or sociologists on board. Once
they have the chance, they'll have to build those things up from scratch,
self-taught on what they can get from the texts. And if just reading books
made you an expert, I'd have bunches of degrees by now, and dozens of speaking
engagements . It will have taken hard work for the University to
get where it is. But it could easily still have gaps in its knowledge,
and in its worldview. I think that it does. That, or Nand' Cherryh is not
as careful in her writing as perhaps she might be. Take your choice.
If they didn't have those files, Cherryh would have made a point of saying
so. And they orignally did have a comprehensive archive, because they were
setting up a distant colony.
Not by a longshot. I don't doubt that
such hardwiring exists. But I think that human hardwiring, in particular,
is a very basic sort of thing. If it were too specific, it wouldn't be
adaptable. If something frightens you, get ready to run or fight. If you're
with someone a lot, bond with them. Eat when you're hungry. That sort of
thing. Very, very basic drives that accept all sorts of cultural overlays,
depending on who you're with, or what you have to do to get your supper,
or what kind of weather you expect in the winter and what you have to do
to survive it. How you run or fight (or when it's appropriate to do one
or the other) or who you bond with (and humans will bond with just about
anything that's demonstrably alive), what you should or shouldn't eat,
are not specified in the drives. Those are cultural things, and they vary
Would I be correct in guessing that you don't believe in either human or
I'm also not unwilling to believe
that atevi are just as Bren believes. I'm just not willing to accept his
assessment as he's given it, because he seems to me to have crucial gaps
in his knowledge. And I find it interesting that he seems to succeed most
spectacularly with atevi when he's being very human. That's all.
I do believe that would be oxytocin.
Also implicated in human milk production. (which would have that maternal
there a hormone (I forget the name) that's been recently theorized to be
implicated in maternal love and perhaps other love as well?
schmedipus, as long as he loves his mother.
is that line from, anyway? Macbeth maybe?
They were also raised by the same family.
So it's hard to draw a distinction. And even identical twins raised in
the same families are not identical people.
at the human hardwiring question first in terms of personality differences,
I would have thought at one time everything was nurture and culture, not
nature and genes. But after my nephews were born and grew I saw that their
core personalities were in place practically from birth.
Consider a spider plant. You know,
those babies are genetically identical to their mother. Put one in a nice
pot with good soil, water it and talk to it and give it sun. Put another
one in some sand and put it in the closet. Will they come out the same?
Humans are much more complicated
than spider plants, but I do think that environment plays a big role. Not
a bigger one than genetics, though--I think the two play off each other
in a sort of feedback loop, to the extent it's hard to separate them. That's
my own, personal theory. I am not a biologist, and I don't play one on
Yeah, oxytocin. I kept wanting to
say oxycontin but I knew that wasn't right.
The point about my nephews is that
they are extremely different, even though they are both male children of
the same parents. And their "essential natures" showed up very very early.
It's been fascinating to behold.
I wasn't trying to say anything definitive
about hardwiring pro or con, just sort of free-associating around some
of the issues. I wouldn't try separating environment from genetics or coming
up with any grand unified field theory of humanity either, but it's sure
interesting to observe how first one and then the other seeming to manifest
You know much more about this biology
stuff than I do, anyway, even if you haven't gotten that TV job yet. As
I recall, Creature Feature said she's studying for a biology Ph.D. (molecular
biology, though). I'm sure she'll shed some light on these questions. (*Susan
asks self "Do I really know what molecular biology is?" Answers "No, of
course not. Help!"*)
Ah, Hamlet. That makes sense. (Except,
of course, that he kept not being ready. Or you're supposed to think so.
Perhaps analogous to what Cherryh may be doing in the Foreigner series
- manipulating the reader/audience's assumptions. Always had the feeling
that Hamlet was saner and more in control than he let on. Very clever fellow.
Made lots of good puns, including some splendidly dirty ones.)
hautdesert, thanks for the thoughtful
responses to my rants. The posts from others are pretty good too!
Maybe I just lazy or less imaginative,
but I tend to take the things that Bren says at face value, and assume
that Bren's speculations are actually the author's. (Except, of course,
when she's setting us up for a plot twist.)
But I readily concede that the Mospeiran
colonists' intrepretation of human history is probably pretty skewed, and
also very incomplete when it comes to non-Western cultures. Nevermind that
history is written, rewritten, translated, reinterpreted and censored by
the victors. After a few centuries of that, who knows what you have left.
Your views on hardwiring sounds pretty
close to mine. Without it, it would be like trying to run software on your
PC after removing the BIOS firmware. :(
The oedipus thingie, I sometimes
got the feeling there is something like that, just remember the reunion
(I hate these long posts, they are
difficult to read and I got this self imposed one hour limit for staying
I wish I had checked here earlier
so I could make some comments without breaking the flow of the dialogue.
At any rate, I really love this thread.
CF - ROFL on "Bren-ji, I am your
Susan and haut - regarding oxytocin:
it's roles include (among other things) stimulation of uterine contractions
during labor, stimulation of mammary gland contraction during breast feeding,
and promotion of maternal behavior -- although I don't know about love.
Maternal love is a lot more complicated than maternal behavior, and I question
the ability of one lone chemical to be able to produce such an emotion.
It's an interesting thought though. Maybe CF would know more on this. It's
been a while since I read about this stuff, and I'm afraid I've forgotten
most of it. (As for oxycontin....Hmm! Wouldn't that be fun to see. Maternal
bonding due to an opioid. Oughtta be interesting. Heh!)
Haut - "But I think that human hardwiring,
in particular, is a very basic sort of thing. If it were too specific,
it wouldn't be adaptable. " I agree with that. In humans, our basic 'primitive
emotion' center is in a completely different part of the brain than our
higher functions. So yeah, what you said made absolute sense.
Wereotter, thank you for the conversation!
I think these two threads have been the liveliest the Cherryh Grove has
been for awhile!
And I never need my arm twisted to
talk about Foreigner. :)
CK, I know exactly what you mean
- this really interesting conversation went on while I was not around and
now I face the choice between ignoring all but the most recent stuff, or
writing a rather bitty reply. Oh well.
Thought I'd just comment on the hardwiring
- Susan, I'm flattered but sadly don't know much about behaviour and that
sort of thing; you're right I'm a molecular biologist (student) which means
I spend most of my time messing around with DNA, none of that nasty imprecise
whole animal stuff for me thank you! :) The whole hardwiring
versus learning, nature v nurture is still a massive raging debate and
we don't much anyway though. (I also think it's a misnomer to imply a contest
between the two - it's pretty clear that genes lay down at least the very
basics and the environment works on these. It's just how much each contributes
to each that's a point of contention). One interesting example is a gene
that they found in mice that appears to be responsible for initiating "maternal"
behaviour, such as nest-building for pups, responding to their distress
cries and generally looking after them - mutants just can't care for their
babies properly. It would be foolish to suggest that knocking out a gene
in a human would make a mother ignore her child though.
Another thing that I think is often
overlooked in considering how behaviour evolves and why people think and
feel the way they do is perception. Of the five senses, touch and sight
are the best developed in primates, and humans, which are very visual creatures,
tend to think in terms of what we can see, what we can put our hands on.
It must influence our thinking in ways that we aren't even aware of. Rats
for example, look like they can see where they're going, but they have
really poor eyesight. For long distance, they smell, for short distance
they have sensory whiskers on their snout that literally builds up a "picture"
(as humans would put it) of the objects around them by touch sensation.
Atevi are probably similar to humans in that regard. What if they (or we)
evolved from an animal that relied more on its hearing, or its sense of
smell? How would we "view" (see there's that sight-based language again)
the world then? What if we read people's feelings in their scent, not their
Oh, and I think Oedipus(s) is a great
name for a cat, and Schemipus(s) is even better! :)