This week’s spotlight falls on science fiction novelist Cindy Koepp’s new book, Like Herding the Wind: An Urushalon Novel. At the heart of that book is the relationship between humanity and the extraterrestrial species, the Eshuvani, who have come to live among us and share our world. Having spent a good deal of time with a young woman named Annah, from the distant world of Evohe, I know a bit about folks from other worlds myself. I find that, whatever place we call home, we are all the same. And it’s in that spirit that I’d like you all to meet Amaya.
A: Grace be unto you.
Q: From what you know, was it hard for the humans and the Eshuvani to co-exist in the beginning? How has that improved?
A: The days following first contact were difficult indeed. The generation ship landed in the recently harvested field of a nobleman in Germany. Can you imagine the reaction of a rural Renaissance Europe village to a space-going ship spewing sparks and smoke? The farmers came armed, and who could blame them? Fortunately, for all parties concerned, a local clergyman interceded and prevented a violent response from either side. That, more than anything, preserved the peace overall. We are indebted to that clergyman both for helping my ancestors adapt to Earth and for staving off conflict long enough for the Eshuvani to get situated.
After the enclaves were formed, our relationships with humans were still strained. Humans regarded us with suspicion and fear. For our part, Eshuvani saw humans as backwards and paranoid. Over time, the situation improved. Now, most humans and Eshuvani have neutral opinions of the other race. There are, of course, those who have unfavorable feelings, but to balance that, there are those who regard the other race quite favorably. Time, I think, is the only thing lacking for true understanding between our peoples.
Q: What are the greatest similarities between human culture and that of the Eshuvani? Greatest differences?
A: Well, there are many cultures among humans and Eshuvani rather than only one for each, but we can consider generalities. Humanity, for the most part, places a high regard on family connections and on friendships that extend beyond the family. Eshuvani do as well. Even family members who dislike each other will still come to each other’s aid in a crisis.
The greatest difference, however, is in the expression of emotion, particularly those emotions that are considered to be negative such as fear, grief, and anger. Humans view those as weaknesses, particularly grief or fear among men or anger among women. Eshuvani are less reticent. Emotions among my people are not perceived as a sign of weakness. In fact, we encourage each other to bring concerns and feelings “into the open.”
Paradoxically, there is one exception to that general rule. Humans more readily discuss the death of their loved ones well after the funeral rites and memorials have concluded. Eshuvani do not. Once the Rite of Final Memorial is completed, the subject is never discussed again. I think, perhaps, that might be because the grief can be so overwhelming.
Q: Do you view Earth as your home? Would you want to go back to your people’s ancestral homeworld if you could?
I do consider Earth as my home. I was born on this planet, and I only know my ancestral home by the study of history. Someday, if Earth-based technology can make interstellar distances in my lifetime, I might like to go see the place my people came from, but Earth will always be “home.”
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: That is a curiously difficult question. You see, I grew up just above the poverty line. I was grateful for whatever food we had. Don’t misunderstand. God blessed us with enough, but not always with variety. Monotony was better than starvation, all the same.
So, it’s not an issue of having no favorite food, but rather an issue of having so many favorite foods.
Still, I suppose there is one I like more than others. In Eshuvani cuisine, I am fond of a mushroom-based soup. In human cuisine, I might have liked ice cream. It has a pleasant texture and an agreeable taste. Unfortunately, it is so cold that swallowing is painful. I have found that I prefer the lasagna my urushalon’s wife makes. She graciously makes it when I am invited for supper at their house.
Q: What do you think is the most important thing about living and working alongside people who are different from you? (Realizing, of course, that we are ALL both different from and similar to one another.)
A: We each have our strengths and weaknesses. By working with those who are very different from us, we can take advantage of the other person’s strengths and use our own strengths to support their weaknesses. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Both our races have tendencies to exaggerate our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. I am no less guilty of this than anyone else.
Q: Explain a little bit about the concept of an ‘urushalon’, for those who may not know so much about this term or the concept it refers to.
An urushalon is a specialized adoption that occurs when a human adopts an Eshuvani, or vice versa. The relationship is typically perceived as a parent and child, although when the adoption occurs in people of roughly the same age, a more fraternal relationship is established.
The adoption serves many purposes. It formalizes the friendship, which grants the human certain rights in Eshuvani society. My urushalon, for example, can represent me in legal matters, and if I become hospitalized, he can visit me when only family is permitted. He can travel freely in Eshuvani enclaves even if I’m not with him.
Urushalon relationships have scientific and cultural benefits, as well. The very first urushalon bond was between the clergyman who made first contact and one of the crewmembers of the generation ship. The clergyman taught us the path God wants us to follow, showed us safe food and water sources, and served as a translator once he learned our language. Likewise, many of humanity’s great leaders and artists had an urushalon. I don’t mean to imply that the greatest human achievements have been because of Eshuvani influence. Certainly not! We simply see things differently than you do. Those involved in an adoption have the benefit of seeing the world through the eyes of another who is very different.
Still, I think the greatest benefit of being an urushalon is the friendship itself.
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!
A: Thank you for the opportunity to exchange insights with you.
You can find out more about Amaya in Cindy Koepp’s novel, which can be preordered at one of the following links: