The Other Men

This planet, being essentially of the terrestrial type, had produced a race that was essentially human, though, so to speak, human in a different key from the terrestrial. These continents were as variegated as ours, and inhabited by a race as diversified as Homo sapiens. All the modes and facets of the spirit manifested in our history had their equivalents in the history of the Other Men. As with us, there had been dark ages and ages of brilliance, phases of advancement and of retreat, cultures predominantly material, and others in the main intellectual, aesthetic, or spiritual. There were "Eastern" races and "Western" races. There were empires, republics, dictatorships. Yet all was different from the terrestrial. Many of the differences, of course, were superficial; but there was also an underlying, deep-lying difference which I took long to understand and will not yet describe. I must begin by speaking of the biological equipment of the Other Men. Their animal nature was at bottom much like ours. They responded with anger, fear, hate, tenderness, curiosity, and so on, much as we respond. In sensory equipment they were not unlike ourselves, save that in vision they were less sensitive to color and more to form than is common with us. The violent colors of the Other Earth appeared to me through the eyes of its natives very subdued. In hearing also they were rather ill-equipped. Though their auditory organs were as sensitive as ours to faint sounds, they were poor discriminators. Music, such as we know, never developed in this world.

In compensation, scent and taste developed amazingly. These beings tasted not only with their mouths, but with then-moist black hands and with their feet. They were thus afforded an extraordinarily rich and intimate experience of their planet. Tastes of metals and woods, of sour and sweet earths, of the many rocks, and of the innumerable shy or bold flavors of plants crushed beneath the bare running feet, made up a whole world unknown to terrestrial man.

The genitals also were equipped with taste organs. There were several distinctive male and female patterns of chemical characteristics, each powerfully attractive to the opposite sex. These were savored faintly by contact of hands or feet with any part of the body, and with exquisite intensity in copulation.

This surprising richness of gustatory experience made it very difficult for me to enter fully into the thoughts of the Other Men. Taste played as important a part in their imagery and conception as sight in our own. Many ideas which terrestrial man has reached by way of sight, and which even in their most abstract form still bear traces of their visual origin, the Other Men conceived in terms of taste. For example, our "brilliant," as applied to persons or ideas, they would translate by a word whose literal meaning was "tasty." For "lucid" they would use a term which in primitive times was employed by hunters to signify an easily runnable taste-trail. To have "religious illumination" was to "taste the meadows of heaven." Many of our non-visual concepts also were rendered by means of taste. "Complexity" was "many flavored," a word applied originally to the confusion of tastes round a drinking pool frequented by many kinds of beasts. "Incompatibility" was derived from a word meaning the disgust which certain human types felt for one another on account of their flavors.

Differences of race, which in our world are chiefly conceived in terms of bodily appearance, were for the Other Men almost entirely differences of taste and smell. And as the races of the Other Men were much less sharply localized than our own races, the strife between groups whose flavors were repugnant to one another played a great part in history. Each race tended to believe that its own flavor was characteristic of all the finer mental qualities, was indeed an absolutely reliable label of spiritual worth. In former ages the gustatory and olfactory differences had, no doubt, been true signs of racial differences; but in modern times, and in the more developed lands, there had been great changes. Not only had the races ceased to be clearly localized, but also industrial civilization had produced a crop of genetic changes which rendered the old racial distinctions meaningless. The ancient flavors, however, though they had by now no racial significance at all, and indeed members of one family might have mutually repugnant flavors, continued to have the traditional emotional effects. In each country some particular flavor was considered the true hall-mark of the race of that country, and all other flavors were despised, if not actually condemned.

In the country which I came to know best the orthodox racial flavor was a kind of saltness inconceivable to terrestrial man. My hosts regarded themselves as the very salt of the earth. But as a matter of fact the peasant whom I first "inhabited" was the only genuine pure salt man of orthodox variety whom I ever encountered. The great majority of that country's citizens attained their correct taste and smell by artificial means. Those who were at least approximately salt, with some variety of saltness, though not the ideal variety, were forever exposing the deceit of their sour, sweet, or bitter neighbors. Unfortunately, though the taste of the limbs could be fairly well disguised, no effective means had been found for changing the flavor of copulation. Consequently newly married couples were apt to make the most shattering discoveries about one another on the wedding night. Since in the great majority of unions neither party had the orthodox flavor, both were willing to pretend to the world that all was well. But often there would turn out to be a nauseating incompatibility between the two gustatory types. The whole population was rotten with neuroses bred of these secret tragedies of marriage. Occasionally, when one party was more or less of the orthodox flavor, this genuinely salt partner would indignantly denounce the impostor. The courts, the news bulletins, and the public would then join in self-righteous protests.

Some "racial" flavors were too obtrusive to be disguised. One in particular, a kind of bitter-sweet, exposed its possessor to extravagant persecution in all but the most tolerant countries. In past times the bitter-sweet race had earned a reputation of cunning and self-seeking, and had been periodically massacred by its less intelligent neighbors. But in the general biological ferment of modern times the bitter-sweet flavor might crop up in any family. Woe, then, to the accursed infant, and to all its relatives! Persecution was inevitable; unless indeed the family was wealthy enough to purchase from the state "an honorary salting" (or in the neighboring land, "an honorary sweetening"), which removed the stigma.

In the more enlightened countries the whole racial superstition was becoming suspect. There was a movement among the intelligentsia for conditioning infants to tolerate every kind of human flavor, and for discarding the deodorants and degustatants, and even the boots and gloves, which civilized convention imposed.


Folksonomies: otherness alien other

/art and entertainment/music/musical instruments/pianos (0.320422)
/science/social science/history (0.302013)
/food and drink (0.229799)

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Other Men:Organization (0.781396 (positive:0.022450)), Homo sapiens:FieldTerminology (0.302960 (neutral:0.000000)), partner:JobTitle (0.232353 (negative:-0.533430))

Taste (0.960106): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Olfaction (0.881480): dbpedia | freebase
Flavor (0.803724): dbpedia | freebase
Race (0.679218): dbpedia | yago | opencyc
Human (0.568394): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Palatability (0.556609): dbpedia | freebase
Salt (0.504701): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Food (0.455914): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Edible salt (0.397656): dbpedia
Earth (0.367006): dbpedia | freebase
Sensory system (0.361810): dbpedia | freebase
Flavor Flav (0.353409): dbpedia | freebase | yago | musicBrainz
Flavorist (0.339969): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Sugar (0.337477): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Tongue (0.336656): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Aroma compound (0.336593): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Star Maker
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Stapledon, Olaf (1937), Star Maker, Retrieved on 2017-03-10
Folksonomies: speculation science fiction