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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 519 Response

Dexter and Jane

with Martin Kerharo

[Ed. note: The author responds directly in English.]

a. Dexter learns that the Dohani have the unexpected capacity to force spaceships out of hyperspace. What else might Dexter learn about the Dohani from the way their space navy greets his and Jane’s arrival?

Hmm, tough one, I’m not sure...

In this scene, there’s one important point: Jane is arriving from hostile territory, after behind held prisoner, and the Dohani just let her pass through, they allow her to fly directly to the planet and land without any notion of debriefing whatsoever.

Of course this is justified by the fact, once again, that they communicate almost telepathically, so the officers on board of the Dohani navy ships know right away what’s going on, and that she’s not lying or being forced to do anything, and that she hasn’t been brainwashed either (Stockholm syndrome ;-)

This is, of course, unthinkable for a human. Which is the point.

[Don W.] Quite so, Martin. Dexter need not be surprised at the turn of events. He has known for a long time that Jane’s implant enables her to communicate with the Dohani at a distance. As a human soldier, though, he must be impressed by how alien and unlike humans the Dohani are. They don’t shoot first and ask questions later.

b. Could Jane have done anything other than kidnap Dexter?

She cannot just escape and leave Dexter behind, this would be so painful it could kill her. There’s more of this Dohani “flaw” in the story’s follw-up, although it is not exactly a sequel, Dohani : les amours de Lucy. So she must make sure Dexter stays with her no matter what.

As she explains in the episode, sooner or later the human military would have separated them, so she had to act to prevent this.

Well, now that I think about it, the military would have seen the effect on the separation on her, and hopefully they would have done something about it... But it’s not a certainty. So, from Jane’s point of view, there’s not any choice.

[Don W.] Yes, Jane has had enough bad experiences with Colonels Thomson and Reddger to distrust higher-ups’ being able to understand that she needs Dexter. And as we know, like the admirals in Star Trek, “colonels are always wrong” in The Dohani War. They’d probably just give up on Jane, and she’d have to go into hibernation — or worse — like the other Dohani prisoners.

c. After Jane lands the spaceship, is Dexter justified in refusing to meet Jane’s family and walking away from her? What would happen if he did anything else?

From Dexter’s point of view, this was justified and important, because he wanted to make a point and prove that he still has a say on what’s happening to him.

From Jane’s point of view, this was unnecessary. Dexter’s vision of the Dohani matriarchy/hive is inaccurate: Jane once said she “owned” Dexter, which was a huge mistake: this "ownership" is more like a tradition for the Dohani.

It’s somehow normal for Jane to order Dexter around, as we see on the space station, when she holds his hand and force him to follow her. At that time she’s in shock ("acute stress reaction") and does not think clearly. Imagine being a soldier, taken prisoner by an enemy whose language you don’t know; add to that the presence of Dexter which make her hormones go crazy.

So, if Dexter hadn’t faked his desire to depart and leave Jane behind, it wouldn’t have changed her attitude — she loves him and she can’t do anything about this. And she is quite lucky he’s a nice guy... although, if he hadn’t been nice, she would probably have forced him to be, anyway.

The only difference is that the whole event traumatized her deeply; she had no idea he was lying. The Dohani don’t lie; they just can’t. She won’t ever say it, to avoid upsetting Dexter, but something broke in her on that day.

[Don W.] Everything hinges on a word. “Ownership” means one thing to Jane and something quite different to Dexter. I’m reminded of the story of the international conference — in the early 20th century — that was stalled for days until the British delegation finally realized that contrôler means not “to control” but “to verify.”

Even so, readers can’t imagine Dexter allowing Jane to boss him around. Anyway, let’s hope Jane isn’t “broken” but that she’s learned something about Dexter — and about humans.

d. In what ways does Dexter’s captivity on Jane’s world resemble hers on the space station and on Aubria-3? In what ways is it different?

Well, the “captivity” isn’t really one anymore, once he was given the authorization to go back home, right? Now, we can consider he’s in a situation close to the one Jane had to experience during the previous weeks. He’s in a foreign environment where no one understands what he says — except for Jane, which is very different from what she experienced before.

He’s not in a cell or in a bunker-house, but he wouldn’t be able to pilot a Dohani vessel. Even if he was able to pilot a human ship, he would need an implant to be able to use Dohani machines. So it’s a bit like the space station, where Jane was more or less free to walk around. But his freedom is much greater. Not that he’s going to use any of it: he’s staying with Jane, it’s enough for him. After seeing so much fighting and bloodshed, he can never have enough peace and quiet.

e. Is Dexter justified in lifting off in the spaceship even though he knows he can’t fly it? What does his action prove?

He wanted to be sure they are actually letting him go. Well, he won’t ever know if the Dohani cruiser in orbit around the planet wasn’t going to intercept him, but that’s as far as he can technically go :-)

Now, it would have been interesting to see what the Dohani would do afterward. Maybe Jane would jump into her personal spaceship and follow him. And Dexter would soon discover how hard it is to get away from a lovesick Dohani hybrid.

To avoid putting Dexter in danger, Dohani stealthed ships would tail him anywhere he went; any system targeted by the warship would be preventively evacuated — only to be retaken later. Dexter’s presence on any planet or station would guarantee its safety, and the human military would go nuts over this.

[Don W.] That’s quite a scenario, Martin! It’s a truly bewildering story and yet at the same time completely plausible in its context.

And what is our motto about that? “There is no story so truly bewildering as reality.” And that’s a corollary of the principle that the universe is completely logical and yet stranger than we can imagine. Thus, if a story is not “truly bewildering,” we have to question just how realistic or even authentic it really is.

f. Jane’s explanation of the Dohani written language makes it seem impressive, but the Dohani script has a big weakness. What is it?

Huh, you got me there Don.

A weakness? In my god-like, benevolent, Dohanis? No way! Well, if an EMP wiped all Dohani implants, they would be in deeeeeep trouble... Fortunately, implants are in some way shielded from that. Of course. That. would. not. happen. Ever. (Could make for a fun story though.)

[Don W.] My thought was really quite simple. Language needs redundancy to protect oral or written or even telepathic messages from being corrupted in transmission. Suppose a Dohani sneezed — let’s assume the Dohani sneeze occasionally. Do they have noses? — while writing a technical manual. His stylus jiggles and suddenly instructions for building a hyperspace generator turn into a recipe for potato pancakes.

Well, okay, that’s really far-fetched, I admit. Dohani writing probably resembles a human musical score. A Dohani might be as baffled by a sheet of human music as humans are by the Dohani script.

Even if the Dohani had the key to the code of human music, they still might have a very hard time understanding it, because they don’t use sound to communicate. Likewise, even if Jane continued her explanation of Dohani writing and humans understood its principles, they’d still not be much better off, because humans do not use telepathy to communicate.

[Martin K.] Et voilà ! C’était amusant d’écrire tout cela.

[Don W.] Et de la part de Bewildering Stories, je t’en remercie ! Somme toute, j’ai dû faire moins de corrections dans notre texte que dans la plupart des soumissions envoyées par de prétendus anglophones...

Copyright © 2013 by Martin Kerharo
and Don Webb

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