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.

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Anthology Announcement: Exchange Students

I’m excited to announce that on February 1, Hadrosaur Productions will begin reading for a new anthology with the working title, Exchange Students, which will be edited by Sheila Hartney.  I thought this would be a great time for Sheila to tell us a little about herself and how she got the idea for the anthology. I will share the link to the anthology guidelines at the end of the post.


I started reading science fiction as soon as I learned to read. When I was a little girl in Utica, NY, the room that held science fiction books was off-limits to little kids, so I had to sneak in when a librarian was turned the other way and then hope some kind librarian would actually let me check the books out. Otherwise I had to persuade my older brother to check the books out on his card. That same brother belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club back in the 1950s and early 60s, and tried to keep me from reading his books by putting them on a high shelf he thought I couldn’t reach. He was wrong. I figured out how to reach it.

I attended Jim Gunn’s short story workshop in Lawrence, Kansas, and from it came my Writer’s of the Future story, “Kidswap”. Over the years I’ve attended other workshops, notably the Taos Toolbox, and the one that came along with being a Writer of the Future. Chris McKitteridge, who has taken over from Gunn was in my workshop. In the service of name-dropping, Fred Pohl was a guest instructor back when I took it.

The job that has had the most impact on who I am is that for ten years I was a ticket agent at National Airport in Washington, DC. It was an enormously difficult and stressful job much of the time, but it taught me to think on my feet (literally, as I stood for eight hours in high heels on a concrete floor), to solve seemingly unsolvable problems, and best of all it came with free travel. I got to see the world.

I am not sure how much my own love of science fiction was an influence, but my son is in a PhD program in astronomy.

Currently I live in Santa Fe, NM. The amazing clear night skies are perhaps the best thing about living here. A close second is that so many science fiction writers live here or very near here, and I count any number of them as friends. I even got to see last year’s eclipse with one well known writer.

Like a lot of writers I’ve worked at a variety of jobs: paralegal, retail, temp office work, nurse’s aid. I worked at an art gallery here in Santa Fe for two and a half days and then was fired for “unbridled exuberance”. Yeah, really. I also ran for office once. The Kansas State House. You can probably guess that I lost, but it was a fascinating and educational thing to have done.

So far as hobbies go, I crochet and embroider, and of course read a lot. Half or a bit more of what I read is non fiction, and I’m especially entranced by epidemiology, earth science in all forms (earthquakes, volcanoes, continental drift), genetics and human evolution, dinosaurs, the list goes on.

My favorite authors at present are James Van Pelt, a fabulous short story writer and nice guy, and Connie Willis, a fantastic writer of novels and perhaps the sharpest and funniest person I’ve ever known.

As for the Exchange Students idea, one of my relatives wrote a story that referenced an exchange student from ancient Rome, which immediately struck me as a great idea and I asked if I could steal it. They said yes, of course, and I wrote a short story which goes by the title “Exchange Student”. In generating ideas for a possible anthology, the exchange student idea was always there.


I hope you’re as excited about the prospect of the Exchange Students anthology as I am! Now, be sure to check out the guidelines and start thinking about the tale you want to tell about an exchange student of the past, present, future, or across dimensions. http://hadrosaur.com/ExchangeStudents-gl.html