Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Business Rusch: All Good Things

Written By: Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Apr• 23•14

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April marks the fifth anniversary of this blog. Not of the Business Rusch, exactly, but of me writing every Thursday about business or writing or something to do with publishing.

Five years at 52 weeks per year at about 3,000 to 4,000 words per blog. That’s damn near a million words about various topics, more than some business writers have written in their entire careers.

This morning, I had no idea what to write about. Oh, there’s this study or that survey; there’s this cool fact or that neat change. I have a list of things to cover that interest me…somewhat. And I’ve said I would redo dealbreakers. I should finish blogging about estates.

I’ve been looking at traditional publishing contracts. They’re so disheartening that I really don’t want to write about them again.

In fact, the word “again” is what keeps cropping up. The publishing industry is stabilizing. We’ve found our future. We’re still not sure how it will go, but it’s pretty clear that e-books are here to stay, traditional publishing will continue (although maybe not at the heights it reached decades ago), and writers finally have a career path outside of traditional publishing.

The writers who work hard will be the ones who will succeed. Those who don’t work hard or don’t learn will be the ones who will fail.

The road ahead looks good to me, finally. I feel like we’ve come through a pretty dark wilderness and we’re heading into a new world together.

By the afternoon, I still didn’t have a topic. Dean’s teaching a workshop and I went up there to ask the students what they wanted to see me cover in the blog. They gave me a great list.

The problem with it?

I’ve touched on all of those topics over the past five years. Not a single topic they’ve mentioned is one I haven’t already thought of and written about. Not one.

I don’t expect people to read everything on the blog, so of course they didn’t know. But I did.

And that’s what I’m facing now.

I’m looking at updating everything. From the contracts and dealbreakers posts to the bits of the Freelancer’s Guide, to a tweak on the way we look at self-publishing versus traditional publishing, all of it needs a slight revision.

But it’s a revision, not an exploration.

And exploration is what interests me.


I think it’s time I end the Thursday Business Blog. Not because you guys have failed to support it. You’ve done a fantastic job, sending me e-mails, links, commenting, and donating. I appreciate every single bit of it.

No, the reason I need to end the blog is that I’m looking on it as a burden, not as something I look forward to. I’m not enjoying writing it any longer. I have so much other writing to do that the blog is actively interfering with.

For the first 4.5 years, I always looked forward to tackling a blog topic. Since the fall, I really haven’t. And when something goes from fun to work, I usually don’t last very long. I finished the discoverability series, but I don’t really want to tackle another.

What’s exciting to me about the new world of publising these days is the fact that I can write anything for any reason at any time. Novels and short fiction are my true love. Nonfiction is something I do on the side.

For the past five years, my writing life has revolved around Thursdays, and the nonfiction. The never-ending drumbeat of a hard deadline.

It’s time I end that, for my writing. I need to focus on the fiction itself.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me. I’ve truly enjoyed it. I greatly appreciate those of you who supported the blog regularly (and those who put in a few dollars now and again). Those of you who have regular donations set up, it’s time to cancel them.

I hope that the discussions we’ve had here will help all of you in your careers. I know they’ve helped me with mine.

Thanks for the regular visits. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated them.


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Free Fiction Monday: Earth Day

Written By: Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Apr• 21•14

Albert Suttles’ mother championed Earth Day and its environmental causes. The cause became her first priority, almost an obsession. And Albert’s obsession? His mother. In her honor, he will Save The Earth. In this powerful little tale, Kristine Kathryn Rusch takes a common story trope and adds a clever, fresh twist.

“Earth Day” by USA Today bestselling writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this website for one week only. The story’s also available in all ebookstores, including Amazon, Koboand Barnes & Nobleor in the anthology Fiction River: How To Save The World in trade paper, ebook, and audio.


 Earth Day

Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17


…personal documents identify him as Albert Suttles, but in his statement, he repeatedly referred to himself as Raymond Bilojek…


My mom had an obsession with Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nobody remembers him any more, except in dusty old history books, not that there are dusty old history books any more. Everything’s online now. Even our confessionals.

Here’s mine.

Let me start again.

Mom had an obsession with Senator Gaylord Nelson. Not a stalkerish obsession, but one of those I-think-this-man-is-the-greatest obsessions. She used him as an example all the time, particularly in the dysfunctional early decades of this century.

There are no more men like Senator Gaylord Nelson, she said to me on her deathbed—not that I was with her at her deathbed. I was a full professor by then, supervising more research than I truly had time for, living in Berkeley, and enjoying it. Especially the weather. California weather, for a good Wisconsin boy, is like an early glimpse of heaven.

Not to mention that I spent my formal education in cold places. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Yale, MIT. If it weren’t for my second post-doc at Cal-Tech, I would’ve thought that you had to nurture scientists in the cold in order for them to flower.

But I promised myself no jokes in this manifesto. Not that people get my jokes anyway. I’m too quiet. I think of the joke, turn it over in my mind, then inject it too late into the conversation. People have looked at me funny my entire life.

I long ago gave up trying to impress the unwashed with my conversational skills, even though I admire folks who have them. Earliest influences for me include comedians, especially the really brainy ones—George Carlin, Dennis Miller, Lewis Black—the ones who can quip their way out of anything. Or I thought they could, until I saw Carlin in his dotage, just out of rehab, working off a paper script, telling the audience honestly that he was testing material for an HBO special.

You remember HBO, right? That’s where I first saw the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” speech. I must’ve been ten, maybe, one of those years when we could afford premium cable. 1977? Something like that. We were pretty itinerant, and I didn’t see much television at all, especially premium television as it was called then. So I remembered seeing Carlin on HBO.

But his other routines? I didn’t see those until later. And his influential “bad case of fleas” routine? I didn’t see that one until maybe mid-2007, on the Internet. Ironic, right?

Anyway, Mom. Senator Gaylord Nelson. She met him, you know. One of those Earth Day rallies back in the day. Said I met him too, back when Earth Day was a movement, and she was part of it. Not that she ever left the movement.

The movement defined our lives. She’d say, we moved for the environment.

Not for the weather, like normal people. But for the environment. Someone needed a volunteer to coordinate rallies? Mom was there. Someone needed a volunteer to post flyers? Mom was there. We lived off the kindness of strangers, she’d say, and it took me years to understand that she was quoting a Tennessee Williams play.

The kindness of strangers got me into a science-only high school. We need scientists, too, the man who fronted everything said. He was one of those truly rich bastards, the kind who gave his money to all sorts of causes. But his favorite was Mom’s favorite: the environment.

Everything from the Sierra Club to some wacky fringe organization (Save The Cockroaches!), this guy gave it money. And he funded Mom for years, which is something I don’t want to think about even now. Because I don’t know why Mom in particular, even though I have a hunch.

It does go back to Mom, you know. I’m smart enough to know that. The therapist I hired at my first tenured position told me I was “unhealthily obsessed” with her, and we had to break the obsession. That therapist couldn’t divorce me from Mom entirely. I recognize that too. Because without Mom, I wouldn’t be a tenured professor with a large research staff and grants for fifteen different projects, including the private one you’re seeing today.

Or will see today.

But I digress.

My digressions are why I’m not doing this as a video. Or a holographic video. Some kind of statement broadcast on every single remaining broadcast channel.

The Internet.

No one’ll see this until after.

But then, no one will see it after either.

Heh. Just realized.

This is all for me.


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17


…his research assistants, graduate students, and post-doctoral candidates weren’t hard to find. All wore Earth Day T-shirts, modeled on the first Earth Day poster from 1970. Separate interviews attached. Each mentions Suttles/Bilojek’s insistence on the Earth Day experiment, which most participated in for a grade or because they were terrified of losing their research posting…


My influences:

1. Comedians (see above).

2. Space photos, particularly that one from the late 1960s—you know, the beautiful blue-and-green globe? That was Mom’s favorite too. But for different reasons. Me, I like the vivid colors, the rocks against the blackness, the vibrant life that we don’t recognize as life—you know, the sun big and deep like an ocean, with storms and spots and—I could go on forever. But we don’t have forever. J

3. Great scientists from the past. The unassuming guys, at least in the beginning. Archimedes in the bathtub. Galileo dropping balls from the Tower of Pisa. Einstein contemplating the universe from the silence of the patent office.

They didn’t have grants and grad students, publish-or-perish mandates, the necessity of finding the smallest niche in the large world of science just to get someone to fund a project. They didn’t have to write grandiose papers before their discoveries. Sometimes they didn’t even write grandiose papers after their discoveries.

So of course, in this modern era, I decided not to write a grandiose paper either. I got dozens and dozens of smaller grants, on smaller topics, and isn’t it ironic that if you Google (Google. Heh. Created outside the system.) my professional name, you’ll see article after article, interview after interview, with me, whom they call the Scientist of Small Things.

Apparently I did find notice. Someone—maybe a scientifically minded clerk, handling grant applications for the U.S. government—noticed my name originating most of them.

No one put together all the topics, though.

No one except me.


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17


…appended to this file a report from several different departments in Homeland Security, as well as reports from similar bureaus in Germany, Russia, China, South Africa…


Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day and, some say, the founder of the modern environmental movement, was a saint. George Carlin, comedian, the enemy.

At least according to Mom. On her deathbed. Or what I call her deathbed—that dreadful nursing home bed she didn’t leave for the last few years of her life. I saw her a year before she died—2007—and after that I discovered why Carlin was the enemy.

In that wonderful, eye-opening routine, he said he hated Earth Day. He said, and I quote: “Environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat.”

Ah, it rang true. It rang so true.

That’s when I realized all my degrees, all those little environmental things I was doing weren’t for the planet. They were for the environmentalists. Like Mom.

And then, in that same routine, Carlin said, he said, the planet will be here after we’re long gone. And he added the inspiration: “The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

That was my Eureka moment.

I know how to get rid of fleas.


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17


…when the FBI received a notice from the Patent Office, delineating several patents that returned to the same man, known as the Scientist of Small Things. The small things, when combined in the proper order, could be seen as a potential terrorist threat. The patent office employee [name redacted] did not contact the FBI immediately. After some thought, however, she determined she could not remain silent….


It took very little tweaking to move from “Save The Earth For Environmentalists” to “Save The Earth.”

Because to save the earth for environmentalists, you have to know what will kill the little buggers. Instead of getting rid of those factors, you add to them. You tweak them.

You make them stronger.

I figured out the balance. Tweak this and touch that and you make the planet shake off the fleas a little faster. It is a multidisciplinary approach. To understand how water reaches entire populations, one must know the engineering of water treatment plants as well as urban planning. One must also learn the details of water processing in each community.

Tiny things, small things, all reported back to the one man who can understand it all.

Amassing small bits of data into one large experiment. Only large minds can understand this.

And there are very few large minds around any more.

Almost none.


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17


… the case built slowly. The initial investigator retired, and Agent William Franks took over. Franks had received a Masters in Biology from Harvard before joining the Bureau. He did not like the coincidences either, and talked off the record to two of Suttles/Bilojek’s graduate students. That raised enough suspicions to bring in additional field agents….


My pet graduate students run all of my projects. I have developed a multidisciplinary department, highly regarded, since most of my students go on to so-called great things in the so-called real world.

My current graduate students and post-docs are doing a one-day experiment for me, or so they think. They are not large minds. They are useful small minds. In the years I have planned this, it has always helped to have useful small minds.

It has also helped that in 2007 my mission changed from Save The World For Environmentalists to Save The World. Because of Mom, because of my initial environmentalist approach, I know how to talk to small minds, to make them believe I am on their side.

And I am. Truly I am. I do want to save the world.

In fact, my pet scientists and I are doing exactly that today.

My pet scientists have tweaked the ground water, and the air filtration systems. They’ve added toxins to all the poisons we already touch, from oil to Styrofoam. They’re adding viruses to enclosed spaces, like airplanes and ships. They’re even coating restaurant surfaces.

I don’t care how we get the fleas off the planet. I just care that we do.

And now we will.

As the first Earth Day T-shirt says, “We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us.”


Case Number: HSFBDC42225I17

Homeland Security, FBI Division

Arresting Officer William Franks

Excerpt from Franks’ verbal message, attached to the huge packets of reports submitted to the U.S. Justice Department:

…gotta say, Dave, it’s a good thing guys like this are rocket scientists. If they understood people, they wouldn’t confess before the crime. Whenever I feel down about humanity, I gotta remember that good citizens saw this manifesto and reported it. Dunno if we got everyone, but I hope we did. If nothing else, the outbreaks will be isolated now. This guy had a good plan. He almost killed millions.

Creepy bastard. When I locked him up, he smiled at me like we were old friends. Then his grin widened to crazy. You know. You’ve seen it on the face of so many of these bastards.

Usually you can dismiss them. But I’m having trouble shaking this one. Because of what he said to me I started to walk away.

He said, “So, flea, how does it feel to save the world?”


 Earth Day

Copyright © 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

First published in Fiction River: How to Save the World, edited by John Helfers, WMG Publishing, June, 2013

Published by WMG Publishing

Cover and Layout copyright © 2014 by WMG Publishing

Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing

Cover art copyright © Matthew Trommer/Dreamstime


This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


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Recommended Reading List: March, 2014

Written By: Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Apr• 20•14

While I was reading the Ruth Wind/Barbara Samuel book listed below, I was also reading a recent issue of RT Book Reviews. I noticed something that surprised me. Almost all of the novels in their historical romance section were set in the Regency era. A goodly 80%, and most of the rest were set in England or Scotland either in medieval times or the Victorian era. I thumbed forward, looking at the contemporary romances, and saw a similarity there too. And the romantic suspense novels had military/paramilitary/serial killers in common.

Traditional publishing has gotten so risk-averse that novels like the Wind would simply not be published now out of the big houses. And haven’t been published for years from them. I had forgotten how diverse genres were as recently as fifteen years ago. No wonder so many writers have vanished. They’re not writing the prescribed thing.

In fact, one of my favorite romantic suspense writers has moved to Regency, with mixed results. She’s a realist, so her history is as accurate as she can make it in the fantasy genre of Regency, and her characters are sometimes…creepy…by modern standards. I wish she’d return to her old roots, but doubt she will because she’d entrenched in the old publishing ways.

The Wind/Samuel experience (outlined below) made me go back to my bookshelf and pull off a few books I’d meant to read, and look up some authors whose work I had forgotten that I loved. Many of those writers are publishing their own work now. I’m going to find them—even with the crapazoid covers some of them have slapped on their books—and read.

At least, that’s my plan.

This month (and next) I’ll be doing some hardcore Fiction River line editing as well. I’m the line editor for the series because editing short stories isn’t something the average editor (or copy editor) can do. It takes a special eye. So I’m reading and rereading some stories, which took time from my leisure reading.

9780615935164_p0_v1_s260x420If you want to see some of my editing work from last spring, pick up Fiction River Special: Crime, which just came out. I’m really pleased with that volume. The invited authors turned in fantastic stories, and the authors who competed for the leftover slots wrote fantastic stories. It’s one of the stronger anthologies that I’ve edited, in my opinion.

The rest of the reading month has consisted of research for two upcoming short stories of mine. If I sound a bit buried, well, yes, I am. But in a very good way.

Here’s the best of the best—and not the Fiction River stuff, which you’ll see in the volume.


March, 2014


Ballantine, Poe, “Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel,” The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. I finished this essay and was disappointed to be done, just the way I am when I finish a great novel. I had never heard of Poe Ballantine, although, apparently, he’s been writing almost as long as I have. This is how discoverability works, my Business Blog readers. Because I finished the essay, went online and found  more of his work—and ordered a book of essays that looked like it might be related to this one. We’ll see if I’m right.

Anyway, this particular essay—with a title that actually put me off—is written like a first-person short story, set in a dive hotel-apartment, about a man’s struggles to get by as he begins to find his way around his art. Yeah, sounds like every crappy self-involved creative writing class essay you’ve ever read, but it isn’t. The writing is crisp and precise, the characters—yes, characters—are fascinating, and the situation is oddly tense. Pick up the book for this essay alone.

Churchwell, Sarah, Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, And The Invention of The Great Gatsby, The Penguin Press, 2013. Wow, I loved this book. Not for the reasons I thought I would love it, either. I thought I would love it because of the true crime story—there was a very weird double homicide crime of the century around the time that Fitzgerald moved to the East Coast which may or may not (I vote for not) have informed The Great Gatsby beyond a sliver of a memory.

9781594204746_p0_v1_s260x420What makes this book wonderful are the details. Churchwell does her very best to recreate the autumn of 1922, a time that clearly did influence Fitzgerald’s most famous work. Every detail is here, from the kind of cabs that existed (including one whose logo was a swastika—before that symbol got used for other things) to the traffic lights to the ash heaps to the entertainment. She also recreates as best she can the interactions between a tight (in both senses of the word) group of writers who hung out near New York City that year.

Her writing is excellent and the story she tells fascinating. I doubt her scholarly conclusions, but that’s such a small part of the book. If you like author biographies, read this one. It’s very well done.

Kamp, David, “Heeeeere’s Jimmy,” Vanity Fair, February 2014. If you had asked me which article I would have recommended from the February Vanity Fair before I read it, just based on the table of contents, I would have said the piece on e.e. cummings. Nope. It’s this one, on Jimmy Fallon.

One of a dozen or more puff pieces that NBC’s publicist managed to plant for The Tonight Show switchover, this one is actually a profile with a little meat. It shows why Fallon is well-liked and how he managed his approach to humor. The other pieces that I read truly were puff pieces, and this one, while being upbeat, actually feels like the writer did the work—the interview, watching Fallon’s Late Show—and appreciated what he saw.

I personally find Fallon the only enjoyable late night host in the past twenty-two years. I liked Carson and I like Fallon. I’d watch Leno if I was in a hotel room, and I tolerated Letterman. I loathed Conan (still do), appreciate Craig Ferguson (particularly when he interviews authors) but never went out of my way to watch his show. Arsenio has never recaptured his old glory.

I really hate that frat boy white guy snark that passed for comedy since Letterman joined the late night crowd in the 1980s, and I’m happy to see someone break out of the mold. As, apparently, is David Kamp. So, here’s a fascinating article about a guy named Jimmy…

Mead, Rebecca,Written Off: Jennifer Weiner’s quest for literary respect,” The New Yorker, January 13, 2014. I’m not sure what it is about New Yorker profiles that require the writer to have a tone of superiority about their subject, particularly when it comes to genre writers, but Mead gets that tone spot-on here. I suspect, if Mead were writing a profile of some major activist, the tone would have a lot of respect, even if the quotes were the same. But here, that tiny hint of snark kept me out of the essay in depth.

That said, there’s a lot of good writing advice here, a lot of fascinating writer’s life stuff and a bit of a cautionary tale. I often warn my students who are just starting out to have a discussion with their spouse about their career and the ups and downs of it. Sounds like Weiner and her ex discussed the downs, but never the ups. And the ups, here, destroyed the marriage. Or, as it’s recorded here:

“We expected that things would proceed one way—he’d be the primary breadwinner, a successful attorney, and I’d make less money, stay home with the kids, with fiction essentially a lucrative hobby,” she says. “When it didn’t work out that way, I think we both had a hard time rewriting the contract of the marriage.”

Success causes a lot of problems for writers, with friends, with the writing itself, and inside marriages (and other relationships). And, apparently, with nonfiction writers. :-) Despite the tone, this one’s worth reading.

9780544103887_p0_v1_s260x420Schmitt, Richard, “Sometimes a Romantic Notion,” The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. As the folks who attended the anthology workshop in February know, I’m really not fond of carnival or circus stories. I think very few are done well. This, being a circus essay, was slightly higher on the scale, but only because Schmitt 1) eased me into it and 2) actually worked in a circus for a long time.

He eased me in by asking why we say people “ran away to join the circus” when we don’t say that about other things (“she ran away to join a college” would be my personal history). He mused on that a bit, then described how he got his circus job, and went on, mixing language and circuses into something quite intriguing and powerful.

Plus he touched on something that has bothered me for a long time. We Americans seem to believe there’s one circus, one carnival, and it’s all the same. Clearly, it isn’t, and it’s nothing like the thing that shows up in most fiction (and most TV—damn you, Grimm. [shakes fist for emphasis]). This essay’s fascinating; well worth your time.

Smith, Dean Wesley, Kill Game, Smith’s Monthly, March 2014. I blew through this novel in an evening. It’s really good. It’s a full-length Cold Poker Gang story, with a very personal case that has an impact on all of them. For a while, I was convinced I was ahead of the plot here. Heh. I was wrong. I found it impossible to put down.

The book also made me realize something: I sure don’t see a lot of traditionally published novels set in west of the Mississippi, unless that setting is Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Las Vegas sometimes. But Boise? Portland? Very rare. This book is set in Vegas, Salt Lake, and Boise, and just the settings alone made the mystery seem fresh.

The book itself is strong and fun, and another to remember during awards season.

9781561467006_p0_v1_s260x420Smith, Dean Wesley, “Remember Me To Your Children,” Smith’s Monthly, March 2014. Set in the Dust and Kisses universe, this story is stunning. In fact, I tried to get Dean to submit it to one of the other publications because I think it’s an award contender. (But he said no.) I can’t tell you much about this story, except that it carries a heck of a punch. Read it!

Smith, Dean Wesley, “You Forget The Night’s Scream,” Smith’s Monthly, March 2014. Poker Boy. Banshees.  Yeah, it surprised me too. And yet somehow, Dean came up with something chilling (no pun intended) and very touching. Enjoy!

Surowiecki, James, “Do The Hustle,” The New Yorker, January 13, 2014. Usually by the time I get to James Surowieki’s Financial Page in The New Yorker, the information is out of date. This time, it’s a fascinating (if short) look at hustlers and con men and America’s love affair with them. Take a peek. You might not learn anything new, but you will find some things to think about.

9780061030123_p0_v1_s260x420Wind, Ruth, In the Midnight Rain, Harper Torch, 2000. I have a weird history with this paperback. The actual book. I bought it because I saw Barbara Samuel’s name on the copyright page. I love her work. I’m not fond of the title, and the cover of the paperback is…uninspiring…to say the least. I bought the book new, and finally read it this month. Fourteen years. Wow.

The book itself was worth the wait. A music historian goes to a small town in East Texas to find information on a blues singer who vanished in the 1950s. The singer wasn’t really famous, but influential, as many blues singers were at the time. Ellie, our heroine, discovers a photo of the singer and that inspires her to make the singer’s story her next book.

Ellie has an ulterior motive as well. Her mother, who died when she was two, lived in that town one fateful summer, and returned home pregnant. Ellie hopes maybe she’ll discover who her father really is on this trip.9781452496993_p0_v2_s114x166

A lot happens, Ellie learns all sorts of things, and she meets the love of her life, a damaged widower who grows orchids. And all of this sounds dull as dishwater, which is probably why I had trouble picking up the novel way back when.

It’s not dull. It’s fascinating. Beautifully written and quite fast moving.

Anyway, there’s a new edition out, under Barbara Samuel’s name, with a much better cover. Buy that one. And enjoy.

Zoepf, Katherine, “Shopgirls,” The New Yorker, December 23 & 30, 2013. Articles like this make me realize just how barren most science fiction and fantasy is. The article, under the heading “Letter From Riyadh,” discusses how women have finally gotten the right to sell lingerie to other women in Saudi Arabia. The piece is all about the cultural upheaval this has caused, and how the religious police don’t like it. Plus the problems it creates within the family unit. Cultures are very different from each other here on Earth: most sf writers (and readers) fail to realize that, and hence their “alien” civilizations are pretty dang normal to someone raised in the Western culture. Read articles like this one to understand how being born in one culture leads to an entirely different upbringing than that of someone else of the same age born in another.



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