Date: 05 Sep 2011 12:10 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
Wow...I'm not sure whether this was your intention or not, but you've really left me quite ambivalent here as to what was really going on.
There's no doubt the Shentarians are a nasty, nasty threat to the Federation. And the cold disposal of 8 million of their own people for lack of genetic purity is a horrifying thought too; it's a society run on Hitlerian ethics. The ferocity and the clear enjoyment of torture are also shocking.
You've got me picturing the Shentarians as Kafkaesque horrors, something like what we see in Metamorphosis. (I never caught whether they have a semi-humanoid body plan or not, though...)
I find, however, that Beth might be passing her own prejudiced judgments--not in the sense that it's inappropriate to recognize the horrors of what the Shentarians do (because she's absolutely right about that), but in that she fails to recognize the dark side of her human nature. Her behavior really parallels the Shentarian captain's at times--the same screaming, the same assessment of how to kill, the same disdain. And of course the use of racial epithets right to the Shentarian's face.
I also found myself wondering how accurate she really was about the Shentarians' emotions. Is she only sensing what she as a humanoid is capable of sensing, or is that truly all there is to it? The reason I say that is because I would think that the Shentarians have to have had some other capabilities in order to not destroy their own species before or after accomplishing spaceflight. And of course achieving technology in itself points to some sort of capacity for rational thought and cooperation, even if only intraspecies.
I think her problem here is that just as the Shentarian only sees dinner, she only sees an animal to be euthanized.
So yes, she passed the test...but I suspect only by the skin of her teeth. It took that final act--the attempt to warn the Shentarian captain that it was dangerous to fight their captors--to get her her passing marks, I think.
I think we saw Beth at her most primitive here. You could almost imagine her showing the traits of a more primitive/lesser mammalian, too--the hissing, scratching, and spitting, and the fear. The image of her crawling under something in a fetal position really reminded me of what a small mammal like a cat--or even a mouse--might do if frightened.
I hope you won't take any of that criticism of Beth as a mark against this story. The truth is I think it was really good, because it was thought-provoking and makes one really wonder just how far or how close humanity might be from the Shentarians. The Re made their judgment, but was it a clear difference, or were they hair-splitting?
As a side note...I find myself wondering what some of the other insectoid races in your world think of the Shentarians. I bet some of them, if not most of them, would be horrified. I wonder if they've faced prejudice because of the Shentarian enemy. It would be interesting to see a humanoid in your universe confronted by a Xindi-Insectoid, especially if your Insectoids regret the attempt by the Xindi to destroy Earth. (Or if that's not appropriate for your continuity, some other insectoid species like the Kaferians or, if you've borrowed them for your universe from Diane Duane, the Hamalki.) I would love to see you consider something like that as a follow-up. :-)
Author's Response: NG! How lovely for you to opine! Yes, I meant Beth to be at her most "base" in this tale - where she barely holds onto the threads of what differentiates her from her foe. The Shents are the nemesis in the first book of the Heritage series. They may think they have emotion, but not anything similar to what most in the UFP would recognize. They are more driven by a genetic rage/hunger/elitism. By this point in the tale she has faced 7 years of relentless, unforgiving and EXTREMELY bloody war. Her and her generation's experiences with war make her parents' generations seem trite. She was raised to be an explorer, but retrained to fight - and no one was as surprised as her that she was a good at war than her. As for what other insectoid races might think (especially Xindi, which I write as being members of the Federation by this point) would be a treat to play with - however, since they also became victims of the Shent's unyielding ferocity. Beth and Cassidy are examinations of how war tweaks the principle. Beth is NOT perfect, although she tries very hard to overcome her own prejudice - when confronted withe a member of a species that has slaughtered her friends and crew, she finds that a VERY difficult thing to do; which is why she reacts to him the way she does. She is, first and foremost, a military reactionary and has to remind herself that she can do better. She is oftentimes confronted by her own elitism - and that is a moral of her book. (She rejected her own Betazoid heritage to the detriment of all else.) Again - I can't thank you enough for the review. I wrote this so long ago - I almost forgot about it! T
Date: 05 Sep 2011 00:55 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
A true insectoid mind--no remorse, no conscience, no thought. Just acting and following an instict, like a machine, like Borg. They don't even have a word for "exploration."
And it paid the highest price for lack of thinking.
A good story :)
Author's Response: Gul Rejal - thank you SO much for taking the time to read and review this piece. As I told Nerys, I almost forgot that I had written it. It was an exercise that I felt the need to work out after finishing the novel "Heritage" where I initially introduce the Shentarians as a nemesis. I wanted an enemy that would be "bloody." While still rather "Borg-like" they are far from the sanitary means of Borg assimilation - I wanted them to be Borg on steroids - bloody, frightening creatures. Where the The Dominion War was akin to WWII and the Bord akin to the Korean War and maybe even Vietnam (the fear of communism) - Shents are my way of trying to relate the pure horror of the "new war" - Superior firepower, technology and tactics which lead to slaughter and how the "NextNext Generation" may deal with that. Again - thank you!
Date: 14 Aug 2009 09:22 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
I have a feeling that there's a lot of stuff I should have read prior to this - but nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot! It was an interesting take on the tactic of imprisoning two mortal enemies together, but not allowing them to physically interact. Also, the see only/hear only wall was a nifty thing! Bravo!
Author's Response: Thanks CP! Beth Riker is my main character in the first book of my Heritage series. Here's a chapter that might shed some light. It's a flashback interlude: http://adastra.shadowknightonline.com/viewstory.php?sid=160&chapter=36
Date: 12 Aug 2009 08:44 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
That was a wonderful tale that harkens back to some of my favorites from TOS and TNG. The old stick the enemies in close proximity and observe gambit... which has the benefit of being pretty damn effective. Beth handled herself well here, though she was unable to get the Shentarian to see reason. Ultimately, she was able to convince their captors that the Federation was benevolent, while the Shentarian succumbed to his species policy of eat first, ask questions never. ;)
A great short story!
Author's Response: *giggle* Thanks Sam. The shents are hopeless. :)
Date: 11 Aug 2009 14:28 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
This was a really intriguing psychological study of two enemies who are more similar than they would care to admit and yet possessing of a few key fundamental differences that virtually ensure they will never see eye to eye. The claustrophobic sense of being a lab rat kept the tension ratcheted high throughout. I really enjoyed this.
Author's Response: Thanks PSG! I appreciate you reading it! Looking forward to reading some of your work as well! So glad you joined us here!
Date: 11 Aug 2009 07:34 Title: Lack of Curiosity Killed the Crab
Grrr, I still ahven't gotten to your novels yet Trei please excuse me. I am however, eternally grateful for the challenges and the fact they give me a glimpse into the characters of your universe in particular Beth. Very much moulded and shpaed by her experiences and by the mentors in her life. The diplomat and explorer in her allowed her to pass the test. It was great to see her tackle the imprisonment and work her mind throughout it all to figure out the nagles. Yet at all times she was ready to defend and fight the Shent.
The face off between Beth and the Shent was illuminating. Not just about her personality and triats and illustrating the approach of the Federation. No it showed too the differences very stark and real between the Shent and the Federation. And of course how both parties learned a little more of the other and their ways of thinking. Sadly, the demise of the captive Shent means to say no progress is to be made here. The Shent was completely floored at the thought of exploring and revealed where some of the misunderstandings about the Federation/Starfleet's intentions. Which means the war will wage on ntil somehow they can be made to realise this.
Great stuff as usual Teri. In a small amount of words you created a clash between two enemies, forged a little understanding [on Beth's part anyway] and told a first contact tale very much in the ilk of TOS into the bargain. Good stuff.
Author's Response: Thanks MF. I can't imagine that Beth and her counterparts wouldn't have been educated as to the experiences of their forebears.. Especially since she thought of Picard as her grandfather and they talked almost daily from the time she was old enough to speak. She was raised by the best and would have heard the stories to the point of tedium - but...like my grandparents - those stories helped keep me from making some horrific mistakes. Since I don't tackle the Borg in my stories - assuming they're "gone" - I needed an enemy that would place former enemies into the same boat - meaning enough of a threat against all of Cardassia, The Romulan Star Empire, the UFP and the Klingon Empire. Shentaria provides it in spades. They have the cold detachment of the Borg but they're violent and bloody in their tactics. They don't want to assimilate - they believe they're avoiding assimilation by the UFP. I once told someone that if TNG and DS9 dealt with the Dominion War as a WWII allegory - then the war with Shentaria is Trek's equivalent to Vietnam/and the Iraq War...horrific and bloody.