Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's all a matter of perspective (Guest post by K S Augustin)

It's all a matter of perspective.

This is an utterly true story, so please bear with me.

My husband, J, is Polish and he's currently working in Singapore. He occasionally runs into another Pole in the same building where he works. Let's call him Janek. Janek is a physicist. Of course, when you meet compatriots in a foreign country, you tend to get chummier than you perhaps would under normal circumstances. This one day, for reasons that elude J's recollection, the two men began talking about high school and their career choices.

“I had a tough time,” Janek boomed. “It was a challenge becoming a physicist. I was enrolled in the technical high school in Wroclaw (*) and, of course, the time came for me to decide what career I was going to pursue at University.”

(*) In Poland a few decades ago, the high schools were streamed. The one Janek attended was for students with aptitude in hard sciences. Those who leant more to the Arts side of the fence went to a  high school specialising in the social sciences or literature, and so on. Also, “Wroclaw” is pronounced “Vrots-wahv”.

“When I told my Physics professor that I wanted to be a physicist, she hit the roof! She told me to stay back after class so we could discuss it. When we were alone, she looked at me and said: 'Janek, why do you want to be a physicist? Physics is for girls!'”

I'll wait here and give you time to pull yourself back into your chairs.

“Why don't you study something more masculine? Like (Polish) literature!”

“It's true,” my husband insisted when I burst out laughing at his anecdote. “Like Janek, all my Physics professors were women as well. It was the same in Mathematics. In my entire school, we only had one male Maths teacher, and he was quite useless. The one time he tried to prove a theorem to us, he got into such difficulties that one of the other professors made up a phone call to get him out of the classroom so he wouldn't end up embarrassing himself. We all knew that if we had a sticky problem to solve, we'd go to a female professor.”

Let me finish Janek's story. It got so bad for the poor guy that even his language teacher called his parents to ask them if they knew he was considering physics for a career instead of literature! But, eventually, Janek got his way and now he sits in Singapore and discusses Minkowski (*) with J over a local coffee.

(*) Minkowski came up with a mathematical foundation for describing non-Euclidean space.

There are a couple of points I'd like to make here. Number one is that, if you met Janek in Singapore, and found out he was a physicist, you would probably nod your head and think “of course, a Polish physicist. That sounds natural.” But what you wouldn't know is that, in fact, it was the most unnatural of choices. So we should all be aware of what conclusions we jump to.

Second, just because it works one way in your environment, never assume it works the same way in others.

And third, if that's how topsy-turvy things can get on Earth, can you imagine what it's like in the rest of the galaxy?

And that is why I love writing science-fiction!

KS Augustin has a hard sf romance (“In Enemy Hands”) due for release on 7 June from Carina Press. Her website is at, her blog is at and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter under “ksaugustin”. Why not stop and say hi?

COMPETITION: I'm giving away two copies of IN ENEMY HANDS at my blog, Fusion Despatches []. To be in the draw, stop by and comment at the Competition post, telling me at which blog you read about my book. You have till 30 June!


  1. Minkowski came up with a mathematical foundation for describing non-Euclidean space.

    I was just going to say that. :P

    Great post. It's so important not to have a "one size fits all" mentality when writing--or reading--SF.

  2. Congratulations on your upcoming new release!!!


  3. Hey Heather, fancy seeing you here! ;) And thanks so much for your kind wishes (and hugs), Anna. Writing is a solitary endeavour and we writers need all the hugs we can get!

  4. SF authors give us a chance to see life on the other side of that coin.

    PS Thanks for leading me to a new blog! Something new to add to my reader.