Strange Horizons, April 18, 2016

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Strange Horizons, April 18, 2016

“We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” by Rebecca Ann Jordan

Reviewed by Jody Dorsett

An interesting set of characters attend university on a space station. They are from different races, all of them mostly bi-pedal, save one. That one is Filo/Gee, a being that can best be described as an amoeboid. The sole survivor of her race it can easily converse with her roommates and, mostly, understand their cultures. However, despite Filo/Gee’s amazing grasp of the culture of beings completely different from it, there are misunderstandings.

The school places a great deal of emphasis on cultural sensitivity through courses such as “Cultural Sensitivity across Species 350.” We see, however, there is still colonialism, speciesism and intolerance. Humans, aliens and AI’s act like Mean Girls. No matter how hard they have checked their privilege, traces of these sins remain.

Of course, Filo/Gee reacts as any being would to being constantly bullied and mistreated. It is in the aftermath that Filo/Gee’s roommate, Nina, finds redemption and they find commonality.

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with the prose, but prose needs plot. This is Alien Mean Girls of Diversity High. In the end the AI, whom we’re told has no emotion chip, makes a nasty, snarky comment. Filo/Gee engulfs the AI like The Blob and is sent away to solitary. Meanwhile, Nina learns that her grandmother is one of the few who can’t respond to the Alzheimer‘s cure. Nina’s alone…just like Filo/Gee! Then we find out Filo/Gee, like any amoeba, divides when it gets enough energy. It won’t be the last of its race!!

Good grief. Rudolf was bullied and picked on but at least he went on to do something amazing that showed the other reindeer their prejudice. It almost makes me think this is a parody.