Book Launch Today — Collaborators by Deborah J. Ross
Poised on the brink of war, the people of the planet Bandar are stunned by the arrival of a disabled Terran space ship. But the Terrans are even less prepared to understand the politics, gender fluidity, or mob reflexes of the natives. The Terran captain uses increasing force as the only way to ensure desperately needed repairs. Hoping to bring enlightened human values to the natives, a young scientist’s intervention leads to disaster.
After a vicious assault, a pregnant native becomes radicalized. A failed poet sees the Terran occupation as a way to gain the recognition he craves. A widow whose farm is bombed using Terran weaponry journeys to the capital in search of help and ends up facing a firing squad. And a reporter becomes the voice of the resistance, determined to take back his world from the invaders…
As violence escalates, the fate of both peoples rests with those who have suffered the most. Can they find a way to forgiveness . . . and peace?
Lambda Literary Award Finalist
James Tiptree, Jr. Award 2014 Long List
The “Story Behind the Story” of Collaborators
Collaborators is an occupation-and-resistance story, which at its heart is about
the uses and abuses of power. In order to talk about power, I had to address the issue of
gender. Gender and race inform every human interaction; from our earliest years, we
are trained to respond to others as “like me” or “not like me,” and all too often treat
them either kindly or harshly as a result. Rather than delve into 20th Century human
gender politics (I wrote the book mostly in 1992-95) I decided to create a gender-fluid
alien race in order to highlight the assumptions humans make. I wanted to create a
resonance and contrast between the tensions arising from First Contact and those
arising from gender expectations. What if the native race — inherently “not the same
color/race/ethnicity” as humans — did not divide themselves into male and female?
How would that work – biologically? romantically? socially? politically? How would it
affect the division of labor? child-rearing? How many ways would Terrans misinterpret
a race for whom every other age-appropriate person is a potential lover? Or, in a life-
paired couple, each partner equally likely to engender or gestate a child? Maybe by the
time we achieve interstellar space flight, we’ll have evolved beyond sexism and racism,
not to mention homophobia and religious intolerance. One can only hope.
For my alien race in Collaborators, I also wanted sexuality to be important. I
decided that young adults would be androgynous in appearance and highly sexual. Sex
would be something they’d enjoy often and enthusiastically with their age-mates.
However, the intense intimacy created by sex exclusively with the same person would
lead to a cascade of emotional and physiological effects resulting in a permanent,
lifelong pairing. The pairing, a biological bond obvious to everyone around the couple, would lead to polarization with accompanying mood swings, aggression, inability to
focus. Each partner would appear more “female” or “male,” which would inevitably set
up occasions for misunderstanding with Terrans, who think and react in terms of those
divisions. The natives, on the other hand, would wonder how people who are
permanently polarized can get any work done, and react to Terran women as if they
were all pregnant, and therefore to be protected at all costs because their own birth rate
is low. Just as we’ve instituted the canonical talk about the birds and the bees, or sex ed
in schools, so the natives would have traditions of preparing their young people, trying
to ensure that pairing does not have disastrous political or inter-clan consequences. We
know how badly that works in humans, so it’s likely to be equally ineffective with native
teenagers, too. Continue reading “[celebrations] Book Launch Day!”…