When Cultures Meet

This week at Kitt Peak National Observatory finds me working with an astronomer logged in and observing from Kyoto, Japan. Meanwhile, on our walkie talkies, we hear French as optical scientists from France work on the new spectrographs at the Mayall Telescope. A favorite memory of working at Kitt Peak involves an astronomer who left the control room at appointed hours to face Mecca and pray. One of the things I enjoy about my “day” job is the way people of different cultures come together to work toward the common goal of understanding the universe around us.

Morning meeting in the Mayall Control Room

At Kitt Peak, our cultural differences allow people to bring different life experiences to the table when solving problems. Language differences can teach us patience as we learn to communicate our goals with members of the same team and who share the same objective. Cultural diversity is also fun as we share our tastes in such things as music, movies, and food.

As someone whose family has lived in the United States since the early days of European colonization, my own culture is defined by a blending of melding of cultural influences from places like Germany, Scotland, and Mexico. Of course, history is replete with examples of people with different cultures having conflicting goals. The results include invasion, forced relocation, and cultural appropriation. There’s more than a little of that in my ancestral background as well on all sides of the issue.

I find the meeting of different cultures inherently fascinating. It forms a big part of my Clockwork Legion books such as The Brazen Shark and Owl Riders. I find it interesting to think what might have been if different cultures met on different terms and perhaps had different perspectives. In science fiction novels such as The Solar Sea, I echo much of what I see at work, people of different cultures coming together for a common goal.

All of this contributed to my excitement when Sheila Hartney proposed assembling an anthology of stories about exchange students to be published by Hadrosaur Productions. There’s a lot of potential for drama as people learn about each other and try to understand each other. Of course, since we publish science fiction and fantasy, Sheila wants to give this anthology a science fictional twist. We want to imagine exchange students coming together from other planets, across time, and across dimensions. Do you have a story of a vampire exchange student staying with a werewolf family? We want to see it? Do you have a story of someone from Earth going to Kepler-22b to study. We want to see it. Do you have a story of an elf studying in dwarven forges? I think you get the idea. The guidelines are at: http://www.hadrosaur.com/ExchangeStudents-gl.html. I hope we’ll see a submission from you.

2 comments on “When Cultures Meet

  1. I’m something of a cultural mix myself. I grew up American WASP, but as a preteen studied Native American culture and learned (and publicly performed) Native American dances. When I first went to college, my four closest friends were two Jews, a non-Jewish Caucasian, and an African-American. I worked for a few years at a school that was 80% Hispanic, and at another school I tutored students from Russia and different parts of Asia. I was often the only non-Hispanic white male in my Ethnic and Women’s Studies classes, and often got asked, nicely, “Why are you here?” My answer was I was there for precisely the reason they asked–because American WASPs so often understand little of other cultures.

    • Glad to hear about your experiences, Alden. I suspect that the population of science fiction/fantasy writers is more open to cultural exchange than other perhaps other segments of the population and hope they bring that experience to their stories. What’s more, I hope we see a nice well rounded blend of cultural perspectives in this anthology. If it’s fun and entertaining enough, who knows? It might just induce someone who’s not open to learning about other cultural perspectives to do so.

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