With: Christie Meierz
What would you give to really know how someone else—your friend, your lover, your child—felt? And what if they knew exactly how you felt? Would you find the possibility exciting, or threatening? And how would you cope if you discovered you couldn’t turn it off?
Six thousand years before the beginning of my Tolari Space novels, aliens they call only the Benefactors took a small number of humans and relocated them to the fourth planet circling Beta Hydri, a K-class star about 24 light years from Earth. The Benefactors didn’t really understand human beings—they particularly couldn’t fathom the idea of sexual reproduction—but they did recognize the need for the tiny colony to work together, as well as the developmental need of human children for emotional support. So, genetic engineers that they were, they took the native human ability to sense others’ emotions and… magnified it.
The result was a society in which everyone knows the feelings of everyone around them. But the Benefactors took it even further, giving the Tolari the ability to form empathic bonds, whether they be short-term, long-term, or permanent. Thus a child bonds empathically to their mother while still in utero, and a little later in early childhood, re-bonds to whichever parent will raise them, in a bond that fades and disappears upon maturity. Adults can choose to become bonded to their lovers, and experience each other’s devotion as if it were their own, in an almost consuming intimacy for the rest of their lives. Members of the ruling caste that governs the planet can form a loose but very real bond with the people they rule. These empathic bonds can give life.
They can also kill. The opportunities and threats here are just as real as claws, teeth, and weapons, but they’re in the minds and hearts of the Tolari, and to some extent the other races they come in contact with (their human cousins, in particular). Here are some of the pros and cons to empathic communication that I developed as I wrote my Tolari Space novels:
PRO: Feelings are obvious. You know if someone loves you. You know if someone doesn’t. If someone hurts your feelings, you know if they didn’t mean it. A sort of communal emotional atmosphere develops that buoys up everyone, so it’s hard to be really depressed.
CON: Feelings are obvious. You can’t lie, and if you’re up to no good, everyone around you knows it (which leads to the “pro” that crime is almost non-existent on Tolar). Some people are, of course, better at concealing nefarious intent than others, and the ruling caste gets something of a pass, because everyone knows that they have to keep secrets for the good of the province, but in general, empathy forces everyone to be honest. And if everyone is upset, as happened in one of my novels when a much-loved character went missing and was presumed dead, then everyone is dragged down by it.
PRO: Your friends know where you are. You don’t have to announce your presence. Everyone knows you’re coming, and what mood you’re in.
CON: Your enemies know where you are. It’s not just hard to sneak around; it’s impossible, unless you are one of the very, very few able to conceal your presence from others. Two of my romantic heroes can do this: the Sural, and his half-brother, the Paran.
PRO: Empathic dependence is the height of communion. Ever dream of being inside someone else’s love for you? With pair-bonding, the Tolari have that. And the sexual bonding between pair-bonded adults is transcendent.
CON: This dependence means that losing it is devastating. Losing a bond-partner is like losing half of your own soul. And since Tolari also have an innate ability to stop their hearts and neural activity (they call it “walking into the dark”), most bereft bond-partners choose to join their lost loved one.
Insert a sense-blind human into such a world, and interesting things happen, or at least things happen that Tolari don’t expect. But things can still go wrong even between two pair-bonded Tolari, a theme I’ve spent some time exploring. In my forthcoming book, Farryn’s War, we get to see the aftermath of such a relationship gone horribly wrong. It’s not your usual love story!
I’ll close with a thought-challenge: Would you be willing to let others really know your feelings, if you could know theirs in return?
Fair journeys, dear ones, and thanks for having me!
A novel of love, vengeance, and a world re-opened to the stars.
The empathic Tolari of the Beta Hydri system shunned space travel for thousands of years. Farryn of Monralar tried to shake his people from their isolation—tried and failed, losing his honor in the process. Now an exile, he puts his past behind him by building his own criminal empire among the colonies of Earth.
Only his estranged lover Sharana—scholar, political analyst, and one of the most powerful empathic sensitives on Tolar—dares to follow him into human space, desperate to find out what has become of him, hopeful of convincing him that she never betrayed him.
Unfortunately, Earth Central Security is watching, and Sharana has no idea what she is getting herself into.
About the author:
Award-winning author Christie Meierz writes space opera and science fiction romance set in a civilization of empaths on the edge of a dystopic Earth empire. Her published works include her bestselling debut novel, The Marann, its sequels, and two prequel short stories published in Into Tolari Space ~ The First Contact Stories. Her forthcoming novel, Farryn’s War, will come out on September 22, 2015.
Christie has spent a night and/or eaten a meal in all 50 U.S. states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her mathematician husband and an assortment of stuffies. When she’s not writing, she writes about writing on her blog, Meierz Musings (christiemeierz.com/blog), and Facebook (facebook/christie.meierz and facebook/tolarispace), where she welcomes comments and friend requests.
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