Here’s a scene from one of the longer stories in my science fiction collection, OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS.
An expedition from Earth has found a lost colony made up of women genetically altered to reproduce without men, the idea being that the colony would grow faster that way. But the beginning, which was supposed to mutate to Earth-normal, has become tradition, a tradition young Cam disputes. The conflict comes to a head when the Babas — the elder women — are forced by courtesy to treat the male from Earth with respect.
Why Cam Was In The Turtle
excerpt from “Leaving the Turtle”
by Marian Allen
It was a fine feast: Besides the visitors’ food bars, we had roast lamb, spiced goat, yams, onions, flatbread, and a native fruit that was sweet and tender and juicy. And miluk, of course. Miluk was what we called goat’s milk fermented and sweetened with honey. It tasted so good and mild, and it was so very potent. We diluted the visitors’ as we did the children’s, but nobody diluted the Babas’.
They were irritated, to begin with, to have to seat a male at their table and, because they still affected not to understand the visitors, to have me there as well. the Traveler offered to sit at a small table nearby, where he could still listen but not offend our taboos. That irritated them even more.
“Natives have ‘taboos’,” SharShar na Bal said. “Of course, our visitors must be seated with honor.”
“Just not named,” Traveler said.
“Can you explain that to us?” Barbara asked, in that placidly curious way she had.
“You tell her,” Den said to me. “You don’t mind speaking of such things.”
My evening could only get worse from here.
“We were made to reproduce without males,” I said, putting it as bluntly as I knew how. “Males aren’t necessary to us. We’ve seen the native males, and we understand why we were made the way we were. The native males are aggressive. They attack the weak. They abuse their women. They take all the power for themselves. They’re all bad. All of them. Completely and without exception. Any male of any kind is nothing but bad, even our own.”
“We have none!” BrenCar na Den growled.
“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “We have no males. Males don’t deserve to be treated with respect. They don’t deserve to live. They don’t deserve to die with honor.”
The whole table had fallen silent.
“You’ve insulted our guest,” Den said, stiffly.
I had done more than that, but she couldn’t reprimand me for it without drawing attention to it.
“I apologize,” I said to the Traveler. He nodded, looking thoughtful. I must have had a little too much miluk, because I turned to Barbara and said, “What did you mean, we still reproduce without males? Were we supposed to start bearing males? Mating with them?”
BrenCar na Den had apparently had too much, too, because she sniffed and said, “Perhaps Cam is eager to try this new method of reproduction?”
SharShar na Bal rapped on the table with a knuckle. “That’s quite enough. This is not the time or place to speak of such things.”
My heart both leapt and broke at her words. This was something I hadn’t thought of–that the Earth people, with their respected male Captain, would weaken the Babas’ barricade of silence.
“When?” I said. “When will we speak of them?”
The other Babas muttered to one another, discomfort souring into anger.
SharShar na Bal said, “Cam, you may be excused from the table.”
“You need me to translate–”
BrenCar na Den, whose eyes were nearly crossed with drink and whose cheeks were bright with rage, said, “Unnatural woman! Treasure men? Bear men? Mate with men? What next–goats? Why don’t you try it first, BranDal na Cam, and tell us how you like it? Tell us how it’s done, you, who know so much better than your elders.”
“We will make do without you, BranDal na Cam,” Bal said. “You will sleep in The Turtle tonight.”
OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS is available from Amazon in print and for Kindle and free Kindle apps, or can be ordered from your friendly neighborhood independent book store, for example through IndieBound.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Your main character is punished for speaking out of turn.