The Unimpeachables

A new wrinkle on the alien first-contact story could feature a planet with a subtly dimorphic race. The earthlings naturally attempt to read this arrangement in terms of two sexes, but in fact the aliens are hermaphrodites, like Ursula Le Guin’s Gethenians but more so. So there are no anatomical differences. But then, amid much Stanislaw Lem-like academic speculation, guesswork, bombast and university politics, it slowly emerges that one half of the alien race is held to be unimpeachable while the other may lawfully be blamed for their own faults – and for everyone else’s too. Given that the earthlings cannot tell the difference by looking at the alien individuals, plot can be driven by social solecisms, such as expecting a Type 1 and a Type 2 to suffer the same consequences of an identical action, or calling upon a Type 1 to admit fallibility to a Type 2.

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