A Rumination on the idea of normal

blaincorrous

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I wanted to share a passage from a book I read a few months ago. It’s an interesting meditation on what “normal” is. Forgive the formatting, I had to scan it out of a print book to present it here.

This is from “The Galaxy, and the Ground Within”, the fourth book of the Wayfarer quartet by Becky Chambers. The series is excellent in my opinion, and if you’re interested in good sci-fi, start with “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet”.

Here, multiple species are stranded on a planet while they wait for the skies to clear so they can take off. In the meantime, they try to pass the time sociably, but since they don’t know each other and they’re all different species, they decide to bond over a species that’s not present for almost the entire book: humans.
Roveg couldn't suss out the sliver of tension that had entered the gathering, but he didn't like it. Moreover, the way this round robin was going, the next question was going to focus on where he was headed, and that, he didn't want. He swooped in, reaching for lighter fare.

"You know, on the subject of Humans, there's something I've long wanted to ask someone about." He paused in thought. "Cheese. Is that a real thing?"

Pei erupted in laughter. "Ugh," she said. "Stars. Yeah, cheese is real, unfortunately."

This was finally enough to coax Tupo out from under the table. "What's cheese?"

Speaker cocked her head. "I second the question."

"Oh, please don't make me explain this," Pei groaned.

The Akarak leaned back in her cockpit. "Well, now you have to," she said.

"Mom, what's cheese?" Tupo whispered loudly.

"I don't know," Ouloo said back. "If you listen, you'll find out."

Pei set down her plate and exhaled apologetically. "Cheese," she said in a clinical manner, "is a foodstuff made out of milk."

Ouloo blinked. "You mean like . .." She gestured at her own underbelly, where her mammary glands presumably lay beneath thick fur.

"Yep," Pei said. "Exactly that."

"So, a children's food," Speaker said, her tone suggesting that this struck her as no stranger than the concept of milk itself.

Roveg laughed. "Go on," he said to Pei goadingly. He continued to snack, enjoying the show.

Pei winced. "No," she said to Speaker. "It's not for kids. I mean, kids eat it, too, but . .. so do adults."

Everyone present - with the exception of Pei - let out a reflexive sound. There were low growls from Ouloo and Tupo, a short trill from Speaker. Roveg, for his part, let out a triple-clicked hiss. A brief cacophony of varied species all communicating the exact same thing: complete and utter disgust.

"No," Ouloo said.

Tupo cooed in fascinated horror.

"Wait, so, how ..?" Speaker made a hesitant face. "I'm goin to regret this question. How is it . . . prepared?

Pei grimaced. "They take the milk, they add some ingredient - don't ask me, I have no idea what - and then pour the mess into a . . . a thing. I don't know. A container. And then…" She shut her eyes. "They leave it out until bacteria colonise to the point of solidifying."

The cacophony returned.

"I knew I'd regret it", Speaker sald.

Roveg laughed and laughed. "I'm so glad I asked about this" he said.

"Mom, can we order some?" Tupo said.

"Absolutely not," Ouloo said.

"They don't all eat this, do they? Speaker asked.

I don't know," Pei said. "I know they don't make it in the Fleet, and a lot of people there can't eat it without getting sick!"

"Understandably."

"No, it's not that. Humans need a . .. oh, what is it.. it's something with their stomachs. An enzyme, I think. For digesting milk. Only some Humans produce it naturally. But here's the thing: they're all so fucking bonkers for cheese that they'll ingest a dose of the enzymes beforehand so that they can eat it."

"That seems a bit extreme," Roveg said.

"Have you eaten it?" Tupo asked.

"Not if my life depended on it," Pei said.

"How is it that their milk makes them sick?" Speaker said. "That's got to pose a problem if they can't feed their young".

"Oh, no, I - stars, I forgot the worst part." Pei rubbed her neck with her palm. "They don't make cheese with their own milk. They take it from other animals."

At that, chaos broke out.

"I didn't know that part", Roveg said, his forelegs shivering. "That's . .. Oh, that"s vile." And it truly was, but this fact did nothing to derail his glee.
 
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Oh my word, I'm gonna have to read these.
 
Ordered it, any other sci-fi recommendations?
 
MangaFan said:
Ordered it, any other sci-fi recommendations?
Since you’re asking, I really loved the Bobiverse series. Start with “We are Legion (We are Bob)”, though if you’re a fan of sci-fi, you might already be aware of that one from 2017.
 
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blaincorrous said:
Since you’re asking, I really loved the Bobiverse series. Start with “We are Legion (We are Bob)”, though if you’re a fan of sci-fi, you might already be aware of that one from 2017.
Will look into that too. Haven't read too much sci-fi, mainly Dune and Ender's Game.
 
MangaFan said:
Will look into that too. Haven't read too much sci-fi, mainly Dune and Ender's Game.
I get why Dune is interesting, but I never had much appreciation for Feudal Space Opera. It strikes me as a series I might enjoy if I ran out of other sci-fi. And the Enderverse starts off well enough, but later books lost me.

Also, another oddity that crossed my path: a series of books that tie into the boardgame Twilight Imperium. That game is a lifetime of obsession in itself, but the books were well written and independently good.
 
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