Katherine

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Humans in Funny Suits

I have a dim memory of a short story (By Ursula K. LeGuin?) in which humans come in contact with another life form, but they can't make any sense of the life form. They can't communicate with it (them?) and, indeed, aren't even sure the life form is aware of them. So, in frustration, the humans wipe it out. Does anyone else know this story?

It's the unrecognized bias I find frustrating in Science Fiction Television and Movies. For example, in space, there's no up or down, yet every single space ship is in the same orientation with every other space ship it encounters. I mean, why couldn't The Enterprise "up" be "down" on a ship that it's communicating with? It wouldn't even be a difficult special effect and could be quite funny. When Kirk would be talking to the Klingons "on screen," the Klingon Captain would be "upside down." "Why should I negotiate with you? You don't even know up from down!" I have never seen an aknowledgement of this orientation problem in any sci-fi movie (or book, for that matter).

It adds an interesting complication to the whole transporter beam technology: not only would the beam have to transport all your atoms and metabolic functions, but it would have to put you back together in the proper orientation. Otherwise, you'd end up "standing" on the ceiling and crashing "Up" into the floor.

And I haven't even gotten to the truly alien: what if "Up" and "Down," "Ceiling" and "Floor" made no sense to them at all?

--Katherine