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Literature / The Hazing

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First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, (October 1942 issue) by Isaac Asimov. This story is a sequel to "Homo Sol", written after "The Imaginary" but published a month beforehand.

Two sophomores from Arcturus University, the most prestigious college on the planet Eron, are fighting off the boredom of summer vacation courses. Myron Tubal, of Arcturus System, and Bill Sefan, from the Vega System, are greeted by their friend Wri Forase, from the Deneb System. Forase is bubbling over with excitement; ten freshmen from the Sol System have just arrived! It doesn't take long until Tubal proposes a bit of fun to welcome the new species to Arcturus University.

Albert Williams is the last one of the Earthmen kidnapped in the middle of the night by aliens unknown. Now that they're all together, they conclude that the only reasonable explanation for their being forced into the cargo bay of a spaceship is a hazing.

The aliens drop off the humans during the middle of the local night in a dense forest, warning of the pre-Faster-Than-Light Travel natives in the area. They leave the Earthmen with wood and weapons, but don’t say how long they'll be left there. The aliens depart, and congratulate themselves on the hazing. Unfortunately, a badly timed meteorite breaks through the shields and damages the spaceship. It takes several days to fully effect repairs and they make haste to return to the humans, but eight days have passed since they were left.

The Humanoid Aliens land the ship and search in embarrassment for clues about what happened to the Earthmen left behind.

"The Hazing" was republished three times; The Early Asimov (1972), Urania (issue #629, October 1973), and The Complete Stories, Volume 2 (1992).

No connection to the 2004 horror film.

"The Hazing" provides examples of:

  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The galactic government maintains rules where communication and travel into systems where Humanoid Aliens don't have Faster-Than-Light Travel is forbidden. Myron Tubal convinces the other two aliens to help him kidnap the ten humans from Earth and drop them off in Spica System, a nearby region where a pre-Faster-Than-Light Travel species is located, as a way to welcome the new humanoids to Arcturus.
  • Continuity Nod: Wri Forase excitedly tries to tell his college buddies about the strange psychology exhibited by humans of Earth. Because this story was printed in a different magazine compared to "Homo Sol", it was important to reference the difficulty in convincing Earth to join the galactic council.
  • Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: While the Humanoid Aliens are given some basic descriptors, none of the humans are given physical distinguishing traits.
  • Feghoot: The whole story builds up to a punchline to showcase Humanity Is Insane, because despite advancing to a "civilized" level of technology, they admit that most of their species is still psychologically primitive.
    Forase: "You screwball Earthmen! At least, this little episode has taught us all one thing."
    Williams: "What's that?"
    Forase: "Never [...] get tough with a bunch of nuts. They may be nuttier than you think!"
  • God Guise: While abandoned on Spica's fourth planet, the Earthmen convince a native tribe that they're gods, and that the Humanoid Aliens who abandoned them on the planet are devils who need to be ritually slain. Actually, Williams was just kidding about the last part; the tribe should let them take the imprisoned "devils" back into the spaceship. Unfortunately, the Earthmen have been around the natives for too long, and they need to prove their divine power or all of the college students are going to die.
  • God Test: While the natives of Spica IV are initially willing to believe the Earthmen's claim that they are gods, their failure to cure the chief's wife of her illness works against them. Fortunately, the Humanoid Aliens who had stranded them on the planet are captured with a welding gun. Williams uses the welding gun to set fire to several of the wooden huts, intimidating the natives into worship again.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: The aliens use a few exclamations that reinforce their status as non-Earthmen, such as "Sizzling Arcturus" and "comet gas".
  • Humanity Is Insane: The Humanoid Aliens don't know how to handle pre-First Contact civilizations, but the Earthmen claim to be very used to primitive psychology because so many people on Earth are primitive.
    Williams grinned, "we have a certain amount of rule-of-thumb knowledge about the workings of the uncivilized mind. You see - we come from a world where most people, in a manner of speaking, are still uncivilized. So we have to know!"
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Williams calls the other human races "Galaxy men", in parallel to the term "Earthmen" for the humans of Earth.
  • The Namesake: Because this is the first group of humans from Earth to join the college, some of the college sophomores take it upon themselves to create a new hazing ritual to welcome them.
  • No Focus on Humans: Like the original story, "Homo Sol", this story starts from the alien perspective, but stops following the aliens when they kidnap all ten college transfers, fresh from Earth. The idea is to give the newly inducted species a bit of a hazing...
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Initially, the sophomores plan to leave the freshmen from Earth on the primitive planet for one night, but a stray meteor damaged their ship. After repairs and everything, the sophomores get back to the planet eight days later.
    • The freshmen decide to turn the tables on the sophomores hazing them, and convince a local tribe that they're gods and the sophomores are devils. Unfortunately, the chief's wife dies around the same time as the sophomores are captured, and unless they can prove their divine power all of the college students are going to die.
  • One World Order: Implied Trope based on one of the aliens commenting that the humans from the Solarian System have a "world capital" called Earth.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The story remains in First-Person Limited perspective throughout, but changes between Myron Tubal and Albert Williams at irregular points.
  • Translation Convention: The dialogue and narration appears in English, but at least three different languages are recognized as being used based on mutual unintelligibility. The Earth words "god" and "devil" don't translate to Galactic, and the sophomores use a different language aboard ship to hide their conversation from the freshmen from Earth (who do understand Galactic).
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Three sophomores at Arcturus University decide that the best way to welcome the first group of humans from Earth is to put them through a hazing ritual. To their surprise, the humans turn the tables around and haze them, but because everyone was using primitive sapients for danger, they didn't react as expected, and all of the college students have to run back to the ship to escape.
  • Xeno Fiction: Most of the story occurs from the perspective of the alien sophomores, it changes between the sophomore Myron Tubal and freshman Albert Williams while the three alien sophomores try to pull the greatest hazing ever on the ten human freshmen.