What do you eat for breakfast? Cereal? Bacon and eggs? Pancakes? Toast? Those are the normal breakfast foods, right?
A few years ago, my husband and I vacationed in Thailand and visited my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who lived and worked in Bangkok. My sister-in-law explained that the Thai people didn’t have special foods for breakfast, they just ate whatever was left over from dinner—stir fry, lemongrass chicken, curry, whatever.
Well, I thought that was a little weird. Imagine if we did that in the US. We’d be having pot roast, lasagna, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, or chili….for breakfast!
Then it hit me: why is having stir fry or chili for breakfast weirder than oatmeal or an omelet?
Isn’t it weirder to arbitrarily decide certain foods can only be eaten at certain times of the day?
Why is bacon a breakfast food and a pork chop dinner fare? Why is ham with hash browns eaten in the morning and ham with scalloped potatoes in the evening? Sometimes people do have “breakfast for dinner,” but that’s exactly what they call it—“breakfast for dinner,” acknowledging that what they are eating is normally reserved for the morning meal.
Our rules are arbitrary, yet the “rightness” goes unquestioned.
Author Viv Jackson who writes awesome science fiction romance recently blogged about world building and it got me thinking about this topic. When you write futuristic fiction, you can’t take anything for granted. Everything from large to minute has to be (re)created: government, clothing, transportation, climate and weather, flora and fauna, eating utensils, food, religion, swear words, technology, communication systems, lingo, housing, etc.
The process of building a world causes me to analyze present day Earth culture because I need to decide if the imaginary will be different or similar. You might assume “different,” but that’s not always the case. For instance, take clothing. You can design clothing any way you want, but it’s still clothing. The fact that most alien main characters in most science fiction books wear clothing is a human habit. No other animal on our planet wears clothing.
There are only two reasons for clothing: modesty and protection.
The desire for modesty is a learned cultural, religious construct. It’s not a need; it’s a belief, a value. It is only our value judgement that nakedness should be covered up.
Nor does every being need protection. If an alien harkens from a temperate planet and/or is on environmentally controlled spacecraft or space station why would he/she/it need clothing anyway? Maybe his anatomy and physiology allows him to handle temperature extremes. Modesty? His ancestors didn’t learn nakedness was wrong because a female fed a piece of fruit to a male.
Our culture causes us to clothe our alien characters without even thinking about why we’re doing it. But, often, I do think about it.
Science fiction makes me realize how “weird,” arbitrary, and often ridiculous Earth culture is. What we do isn’t normal or the “right” way—it’s just the way we choose to do things. What we were taught has become so engrained we don’t question; we don’t even realize there could be questions.
My fourth series, Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides, is set on Earth in the near future. The world-building consists of showing the oddities of our culture as seen through the eyes of visiting aliens. Their befuddlement as they are introduced to Earth customs provides some light, even humorous moments.
Bacon for breakfast? That’s weird.
Sixx: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides
Single alien dad needs a mate with some moxie…
Software developer Moxie Maguire has a BIG dream—save enough money to start her own video game company. That’s why she logs fourteen hours days working for an obnoxious boss. But when life seems to be passing her by, she sets another goal—meet Mr. Right, a man who can support her dream. She joins the Intergalactic Dating Agency and is matched with a hot and horned alien named…Sixx. Sexy as heck, a good listener, family-oriented—he’s the perfect man to share a life with.
If only that life was on Earth.
Sixx has a dream, too. Find a mate, settle down, and raise kits. With females in short supply on his planet, this single dad heads for Earth to get a female and get back to Dakon and his young son. The instant he meets Moxie, he recognizes she’s his Fated Mate. They’re meant to be together.
But he won’t abandon his child. And, unfortunately, his planet has even fewer computers than females. One for the entire planet, to be exact.
Will two Fated mates have to part? Or can they find a way to work it out?