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Writers don't want glitches in their stories, so we're likely to ask friends to read and comment on a prefinal draft, to uncover possible problems. Two friends suggested that a list of characters be provided with this story; you'll find it at the end. One also pointed out that some readers might have trouble because of a common cultural mindset. (I suspect that rather few would who are frequent science fiction readers, but some readers may who are new to SF or read it infrequently.) So I'm going to talk about it up front.

In the United States, our sense of the rates and synchronicity of changes tends to reflect how things developed in North America and western Europe. These things are not hardwired into either the physical universe or the human species. Some cultures have changed very slowly. Many remained in the stone age till the last century, and some till this century, emerging from it only through contact with technically advanced cultures. Although their people demonstrated innate intelligence comparable to that of the Europeans and Americans who broke their isolation.

Writings from antiquity reflect minds and thinking not basically unlike our own, and certainly not inferior. They just worked with different data bases and viewpoints.

Some past cultures developed considerable technologies in certain fields and missed others entirely. In some oriental cultures, although millenia passed without the development of comprehensive physical sciences, they came up with considerable empirical technologies and highly cultivated arts and philosophies. It's interesting to contemplate what those cultures would eventually have come to be if they hadn't been impacted by aggressive western nations with their growing experimental sciences.

It's also interesting to consider what sort of civilizations might develop in the absence of fossil fuels, for example, or in the absence of iron ore. They'd be different from ours, beyond a doubt.

The exploration of ideas and unfamiliar permutations are things that science fiction does very well. It's a specialty of the field.

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Finally, some readers might wonder about two languages (Hrummean and Djezian, in the story) being similar enough that, knowing one, you could rather quickly become competent in the other, yet different enough that at first one could be utterly unable to understand it. As a merchant seaman, I once sailed with a guy newly from Aberdeen, Scotland, and at first encounter I truly had no idea it was English he was speaking! Also, with a modest competence in Swedish, I found I could read Danish without too much difficulty, but not understand a word when it was spoken to me.

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And with that, let's roll the story. I hope you have as good a time with it as I did.

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