Short Fiction: Letter

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Nahara and The Ambassador occur during the same period of time on opposite ends of known space, but that doesn’t mean their streams never cross. Here’s one such intersection.


To: Dar Nantais, ISS Jemison
From: Koa Nantais, ISS Station 6

Re: your inquiry


This response is later than I would have liked it to be, and while I would also have liked to blame that on certain diplomatic tensions I mediated recently, it is actually because I am at a loss to answer your question. I don’t know, and judging by my review of the medical literature (that which I can access here on S6, anyway), no one else does, either.

Here is what I do know, in the hope that you will perceive its possibilities.

A typically-developing Niralan child has no internally-generated emotions, thoughts, or memories* for the first several years of life. All of what humans call an “inner life” is provided externally, either directly (ekinre, doriron, sojron) or indirectly (anria). (Mikasron is a function of the prefrontal cortex, not the limbic system.)

As you’ve reminded me in the past, our assumption that such inculcation is essential to brain and limbic function development is precisely that—an assumption. It’s a hypothesis that has, to my knowledge, never been tested, because who would withhold the heritage of sentience from their own child? If our assumption is correct, we’d be sentencing one of us to…well. As much as I enjoy making “mindblindness” humor at humans’ expense, the truth is that there are even things we cannot imagine, and life without sentience is one of them.

I have difficulty imagining our assumptions aren’t at least partly correct. You recall what Pi Norak’s daughter was like.

All I can do here is speculate. You asked what would happen if amiie were raised away from the hamaya, perhaps even away from their own mothers. I don’t know. My reaction to the mere idea is maladaptive. At a minimum, brain and limbic system function would be altered. Behavior may be uncontrollable or it may be severely curtailed by a lack of internal impetus to generate it (the Earth Standard word is “will”). Memory, thought, emotion—none of them may exist.

I’d say we’d be “no more than animals,” but many animals possess memory, emotion, and behaviors that indicate thought. We’d be driven by instinct, and no instinct is stronger than the instinct to return to the hamaya. Or does that instinct exist independently of ekinre, and if not, what does?

You asked whether amaron might correct such a state. I doubt it’s that simple. Amaron deals with the emergence of an existing mind, not the shaping of unformed matter. Recognition is not creation. (But you know Lili Amarones too.)

There is a several-hundred-year-old human text that might shed some light on the question: The Uses of Enchantment, by Bruno Bettleheim. Beneath the usual human assumptions about the “self” and independence (so quaint), the text argues that lack of access to the tools of cultural meaning-making in early life renders (human) children severely impaired in their meaning-making in later life. This results in all sorts of maladaptive behaviors, because humans, but Bettleheim’s question looks similar to yours.

(Humans, of course, will make meaning out of anything, while simultaneously denying they are generating it. I’ve seen them ascribe social motives to rocks, then turn around and claim they themselves, as sentient beings, didn’t “mean” anything by their sentient-being behavior. My point is not about control; it’s about content. We know what it’s like to have it removed, but what happens if it’s never supplied?)

If you do try to read Bettleheim, you’ll need a chaser. Did you get that book I sent before you left S32? I know paper is archaic, but this one needs to be touched.

You know where to find me.

Inae Nirala.


*present company excepted—but your development was hardly “typical”

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