When I was contacted about including some of my fieldnotes in this new edition of The Ryosh, I found the idea pretty amusing. Do you remember that paper you wrote in undergrad that felt like the culmination of everything you’d ever done, your magnum opus, but now just reads like an immature exercise in self-importance? Well, I have news for any readers out there who may have felt over the years that I held my work on the former pedestal. While I certainly don’t discount the work put in by my colleagues, Larisha Eren in particular, sometimes my fieldnotes feel like that undergrad paper I mentioned. What I mean by this is that I didn’t always know what I was doing, as you’ll see in the following pages, and said stupid things more often than I would like to admit. I’m now more than twice the age I was when The Ryosh was published, with over thirty years of experience running Jovian University’s linguistic xenology field school on Ryosh c. As embarrassing as it can be to revisit old work and old ideas, I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given here to reflect on a rather unanticipated career.
It’s a bittersweet opportunity to say the least. Over the last fifty years, I’ve been able to return to Ryosh c sixteen times, usually for only a few months but for two years on one occasion. In that time, I witnessed plenty of changes both here and there. Within human space, I had the chance to be at the forefront of humankind’s first contact with a sentient extraterrestrial species. This isn’t something that many people can say, and it’s not something I say to brag. I feel genuinely lucky to have worked with everyone who participated in the project, both human and Ryosh. My work on Ryosh c allowed me to do more than simply expand on my previous research; it allowed me to keep in touch with friends, who I came to find out later were just as nervous at the time about screwing up first contact as I was. I was able to see many of my collaborators grow up and have children of their own, while many who worked with me in the beginning have since passed on. It has been a lifelong endeavor to keep up with my friends as much as I can, to follow their lives and watch as the effects of our work fifty years ago continue to shape the collaborative future of both our species.
Looking back has never been one of my strong suits. However, I’m now at an age where looking back is just about all I have left. But before you think that this makes me sad, it’s actually been a comfort more than anything. Revisiting my notes has given me a greater perspective on our team’s work on Ryosh c, both our successes and our failures. I point out gladly that there are plenty of failures documented here, especially in my fieldnotes. Without these excerpts, how else would you know that I felt bitter and entitled when I saw how much more equipment the physical sciences team had compared to us in social sciences (I’ll repeat my already-given apology to Dr. Errin Lomate here)? Or where else could you read about how incompetent this project made me feel almost the whole way through? A thrilling yarn, I’m sure.
However the following journal entries and notes make you view me, our team, academia, our collaborators, or anything else, I would urge you to remember that even though we were not all human, we were certainly all fallible. Extend forgiveness where you can, take what lessons you will, and make such corrections as are necessary. Above all, never stop seeking.