Their seasons all last 6 Earth years; the creatures live three of their planet's years, conveniently giving them a roughly human lifespan (72 Earth years). The story spends much time discussing how these creatures (the Ansarac) spend their seasons....
Late winter/early spring trekking north;
Late spring/early summer coupling, having families and otherwise living in their rural Northern homes;
Summer/autumn trekking back south;
Autumn/winter in their nine cities, where the family breaks up and goes their own ways, living an urban life until spring starts again.
The anthologist claims this is much like the behavior of the osprey, as if this justifies the whole thing. Well, more power to the birds, but that doesn't mean it can support a narrative. I mean, imagine if you did a story focused entirely on the common dog behavior of whizzing on things to mark territory....
'The kerfuffloids, a proud and strong race, invented the zipper early in their advancement, so they could part their boldly-colored ceremonial robes and urinate all over their fair cities, the proud towers of their advanced technology all smelling of urine drying in the hot noonday sun.'
See? Just doesn't work.
That being said, this essay does try to turn into a story, with the tale of the summer following one female as she goes from rediscovering the home of her childhood to having children of her own.
But that quickly ends. The author doesn't even stick with a character (save the narrator) as long as the Discovery Channel sticks with a monkey troupe in their 'Wild Discovery' show.
Then comes the, er, fun part. A more advanced race, the Bayderac, appears (from another multiversal plane, no less) and does stuff like proclaim that spending half your life migrating north or south is foolish and the result of worshipping some ancient genetic imperative. Which is obviously stupid: They stay in the north for a cooler summer and go back south for a warmer winter. They haven't seemed to have invented clothes or air conditioning or water pipelines yet, despite having built universities, so wintering in the frozen north and summering in the parched, scorching south aren't good ideas. Of course, settling somewhere in the middle might be an idea, but no one thinks of that. Also, no one (as in the author) wonders how a society can just up and abandon their stuff half the year. Apparently there's no theft (ah, the ideal society, despite the explicit admission that there's rapists), but the elements would damage any complex structure if not continuously maintained. If this is a society that has museums and other such things, who takes care of stuff that needs to be maintained on a daily basis? Or do they have nothing of that sort?
But no one seems to notice any of these logical inconsistences, least of all the Ansarac; they're too amazed at the Bayderac's medicine and flying machines and desire to keep women from working.
When I read that last one, I winced. Don't tell me that those last 16 pages of tromping up and down the continent were just to make these guys out to be stereotypical alien Indians, a simple but spiritually deep people being encroached upon by a more advanced, yet less enlightened, Caucasian-type race?
The Ansarac waste some indeterminate amount of time building a road up to the Bayderac's specs, so Bayderac land vehicles can be used to speed up their migrations, then they decide it's all crap, stop working, and kick the Bayderac out. Despite superior technology and an arrogant mindset, the Bayderac decide to leave. They threaten a bit - and we see how the Bayderac are all for war when the Ansarac are all peaceful types who never go to war - but they don't do anything. Which makes me wonder, since they were so stereotypically exploiting that they seemed to just be giving the Ansarac all this fancy tech to make them dependent on it. I don't get it. The explanation that maybe some war called them away is just handwaving to get the author out of a corner. Of course, it's as good as the explanation offered by what happens next....
Seemingly mere days after the Bayderac have packed up and left, Captain Picard beams down and helps the Ansarac join the Federation, promising that he'll uphold the Prime Directive and not let the Ferengi interfere in their local migrations.
Oh! Sorry, no, I got confused. It's not the United Federation of Planets, it's the Interplanary Agency. But the idea is the same. Interdimensional (Why interdimensional?) tourists are only allowed to land on an isolated archipelago with no Ansarac on it. (Except for the token the Agency hired, who's living out his last days there and is the source for all this anthropological information. Of course, the human narrator agrees with his assessment that keeping other races out was a Good Idea, because she(?) knows how savage we civilized races are, and how all the primitive races are kind and gentle and never hurt anyone, least of all themselves.)
Bah. Another essay with feeble attempts at plot and character archetypes straight out of a Lone Ranger movie. We need another good story, and soon.
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