Today’s story is “Standing with Centaurs” by Jennifer L. Hilty, as featured in Deep Magic eZine. You can find it here. This is a fairly straightfoward story, but definitely has some charm to it, so let’s see what’s in store.
In the far distant future, the people of Earth have integrated various alien species into normal, every day lives. Elliot, one of the many college students, meets Vasa, a canine-like centaur who is seen as an outcast because of her unusual behavior and her impossible physique. Yet despite the embarrassment he would endure, Elliot decides to do what he can to protect this centaur from the college bullies.
I liked this story a lot. Centaurs have a pretty unique design as far as mythical creatures go, but I always enjoy it when different species of animals become centaurs. This of course stems from a niche part of the furry fandom where this is prevalent. They are often referred to as “taurs” but come in different varieties such as foxtaur, wolftaur, and other unique species that aren’t necessarily canine or equine species.
The story itself deals a lot with xenophobia. The world encounters an individual students consider inhuman, and is thus the target of ridicule or harassment. Vasa is seen as quiet and reserved, not bothering what humans say about her. Meanwhile Elliot, whose world has experienced a heavy amount of xenophobic behavior, feels the need to defend her, even with the fear of being associated with an outsider and he himself being ridiculed by students on campus.
No doubt Xenophobia has become a massive problem in our world today. Skin color, religion, culture, people will find a way to, for lack of a better word, alienate others and it goes deeper than simple bullying. This no doubt would be the case when actual alien species, sapient ones anyhow, come to visit and integrate in our lives in the year 2290 or whatever. We see that today with how hispanic Americans are treated and being seen as “illegals” or “aliens” or whatever hateful term we use for hispanic immigrants. Black Americans have a long history of oppression. Even during the early 1900s, Italian, German, and Irish immigrants were treated with a similar xenophobic mentality. Perhaps not to a horrifying extent, but such stereotyping and fear-mongering happens to anything we see as “different” or “unusual” to the eyes of the people living there.
Our centaur heroine is treated the same way. She’s shown to use her front legs to eat instead of her main hands. The college students and even the professors call her “it,” which is seen as derogatory and often associated with animals. Granted, Vasa was an animal-like species, being mostly a canine taur, but seeing how she’s treated as nothing more than a pet as opposed to another student shows how even such casually thrown terms can be seen as hateful.
The story takes a step back and examines how such characters would respond to a situation where they had to defend a non-human race. I’m sure if elves, dwarves, goblins, and orcs existed in real life, they would be shunned in the same manner (they still are to an extent. While most media is trying to shy away from the harmful stereotypes, they’re still seen with a xenophobic lens to an extent). It’s something that the story not only touches upon, but examines ourselves.
How would you react upon seeing an alien species like Vasa. Would the sight of a canine-like centaur make you nervous, suspicious, see them as weird? Even with the mentality of equality and social justice, we’re familiar with humans and their numerous cultures. I’d guarantee any of us would look at an alien race with a xenophobic lens because we simply don’t know much about them. It’s a hard fact to swallow but that’s how it’s always been. Doesn’t mean they should be enslaved for hundreds of years and die from a genocidal campaign, but unless you’re too familiar with how the extraterrestrial race functions and works, I doubt you’d give them the same benefit of doubt as your fellow neighbor.
Even with animals. Sharks are seen as predators, but aren’t man eaters. Dolphins might do cool tricks and act cute, but they’re violent and won’t hesitate to harm you out of fear. Tigers, bears, eagles, snakes, spiders, cockroaches. We always assume the worst even when we try our best. It’s that cautious response to everything embedded in our DNA. Sure, wiping them off the face of the earth is horrible, but if an alien were to visit our world today, don’t look surprised when we start judging them on appearances, culture, and whatever.
I enjoyed this story and the message it provided. While simple in scope, it provides some thought of who we are and how we look at those outside of our on culture. I do look forward to the day alien races from beyond the stars come to visit or are discovered. Seeing brand new possibilities, new world, it’s always an exciting thing. Let’s just hope we don’t repeat the sins of our past.
That’s all for today. If you like what you see, be sure to support me on both Patreon and Ko-Fi. My novelette, City of Kaiju, is available now from Amazon and other ebook distributors. Be on the lookout for my first proper release, Tales from the Silver Claw Inn, a short story collection filled with humorous, weird, and fantastical tales.
Take care, stay safe, and remember, the inn is always open.