Vanakkam. I’ve provided the following timeline for Gods of Terra, ending at the onset of the Shutter and the collapse of Local Galaxy civilizations. Part 2 of this history will resume on the resumption of interstellar travel in the setting, post-Shutter. Enjoy.
9 billion BPE (Before Present Era): abiogenesis and evolution of first life in the universe.
4 billion BPE: earliest known intelligent life. Primitive artifacts date from this period, eventually leading to traces of the first technical civilizations.
3.5 billion BPE: the King of Shards ascends as a hyperdimensional being. In the next 30 million years BPE, several other alien entities will arise as godlike beings, and join the King of Shards as the Nine Who are One.
3.47 billion BPE: the Nine Who are One formally join forces, ruling the Grand Civilization of the Local Group until three billion BPE.
3 billion BPE: fall of the Grand Civilization in a bloody civil war as relations among the Nine break down into chaos. The King of Shards splits into Its avatars across all spacetime to survive, others of the Nine go into hiding or face destruction at the hands of their fellows.
Creation of the Prime hypershards.
1 billion BPE: Evolution of early multicellular life on Terra. First known Stranger artifacts date from this period on many worlds, and in increments over time lasting several million years. The longevity, nature, and sophistication of Stranger civilization remains a mystery.
300000 BPE: earliest anatomically modern humans, visit of Terra by the Strangers. Human samples, not live individual humans, are taken from Terra, genetically altered, gestated, and seeded to hundreds of worlds in and beyond the Local Galaxy.
30000 BPE: Kai’Siri civilizations begin. Early organized religions, primitive political systems. Science as an institution would rise, fall, and rise again in successive dark ages.
15000 BPE: Kai’Siri develop early M-drive, and begin settlements across their region of the galaxy. First contact with Mokthraga of Tokmolos, upon which war breaks out.
6000 BPE: Founding of the First Exarchate of Sirug by the Kai’Siri.
5260 BPE: Collapse of first Exarchate, Last Great Sirugian Dark Age begins.
2000 BPE: End of Last Great Sirugian Dark Age. Founding of Second Exarchate.
900 BPE: First contact with the Tellusine of Terra. First interstellar conflict between the two branches of humanity. Founding of the Tellusine Federated Worlds.
850 BPE: The Galactic Ripple washes across Terra, empowering a new species of humanity, the wavetouched. Four of these would a century later host the original Prime hypershards and become the four Gods of Terra.
750 BPE: Discovery by the Kai’Siri of three Prime hypershards, first use of hypershard warfare using weaponized humans. Origin of the Fractus, the Mirus, and the Magna. The Tempest receives her hypershard from Sarusammog of the Gates, AKA, It Who Scratches at the Gate. The Broogh Flow enters this region of the galaxy, threatening local civilizations.
400 BPE: Death of the Mirus by natural causes. His funeral pod is intercepted and his hypershard is stolen. The regenerating hypershard, now without a host, triggers a cosmological accident as it self-repairs, rendering all use of the interstellar M-drive impossible. Collapse of Local Galaxy civilizations as interstellar travel is halted by this event, later to be known as the Shutter.
Vanakkam. As the founders of the early SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have pointed out, there are certain basic prerequisites for interstellar communication, the first and most obvious being high powered radio technology.
So too, in Gods of Terra, are there certain basic technologies needed to permit interstellar travel on ordinary human timescales, and those would be:
Helium-3 fusion power:
For power generation of the minimum level and most economically viable reactor size needed to power a useful stardrive, thermonuclear power generation by fusing heavy helium nuclei has both a reasonable level of safety. On many gas giant planets, there’s a plentiful supply of fuel for visiting starships with good aerodynamics, fuel scoops, and purifiers. It’s safer, more efficient, and generates more power and fewer fast neutrons than deuterium-tritium fusion, but requires higher starting energies to achieve.
That’s the bare minimum, and for large spacecraft it’s a prerequisite for the next item, which would be…
The Kurtz-Dunar Effect:
Most famously co-discovered by Ouilette Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, this is a means of generating and manipulating dark energy to expand, twist, fold, contract, and warp the fabric of space-time in useful ways. It allows at the basic level such things as riding a planet’s gravity-well like a bird riding updrafts, or achieving orbit for spacecraft without using large amounts of reaction mass as fuel. This applies for the gravity-well of a stellar system as well, allowing rapid, low reaction-mass interplanetary travel. Carried to the next level in advancement, it also leads to…
Starfold-M and Starfold-S drives:
With these two methods of interstellar flight, the first pre-Shutter, the second post-Shutter, the way to the stars is open to beings with ordinary lifespans who can now settle worlds across the galaxy on reasonable and economically feasible timescales. Both drives use the same principle, the Kurtz-Dunar Effect, but in slightly differing applications during their respective eras of use. It was the cosmological event known as the Shutter that caused the need for Starfold-M to evolve into the more efficient and powerful Starfold-S once the former was rendered ineffective.
Interstellar travel without these technologies is possible, but restricted to sublight-velocity craft, and not the sort allowing human timescale economic or military activity. Some species, like the Broogh, to be dealt with later in this series, are limited to sublight craft, but most of these are sleeper, or in the case of Broogh, generation ships or entire fleets of them.
Rapidly traversing the Local Galaxy requires a very specific set of technologies, those listed above. So for those with short lifespans, or little patience, there’s really no other option.
Vanakkam. Gods of Terra is science fiction, more akin to space opera than hard SF, and includes a few elements borrowed from the super-heroics of comic books as well as the nameless horrors of weird tale fiction. There are some elements that seem supernatural, like beings such as the Nine Who are One, and I’ll distinguish that from rubber science paranormal elements like psionic powers and abilities.
Major assumption: Conventional and cutting edge real-world physics and biology generally apply to but do not dictate the possibilities of the setting. There is no supernatural world as anything existing outside, apart from, or above the natural world, beyond simply more nature to be found “out there” beyond the boundaries of the observable universe.
There are a couple of plot devices that make use of this: namely the Kurtz-Dunar effect, and the bizarre science of Axiomatic physics, which studies the meta-laws underlying all of the physical laws of the universe, both known and currently unknown, the “whys” as well as the “hows” of the rules of reality.
Psionics is a biological, brain-based means of exploiting Axiomatic tweaks in local physical laws, altering, bending them, yet without violating or suspending them outright. It is possible to exploit such abilities by chemical means, like psi-drugs, as well as mental practices and techniques.
Psionics is generally limited to certain effects, primarily in that the mind is what the brain does. As a family of non-dualistic capacities, there are no astral travel abilities, nor anything involving spiritual or extra-physical travel. There are beings that might appear to be made of stabilized energy, or seemingly incorporeal, but they are still purely physical as physicists understand the term, even if not tangible.
Another major exception is the existence of hyperdimensional beings, those physical entities whose existence extends into higher dimensions of space-time, as suggested in certain versions of superstring theory or concepts of possible multiverses involving many dimensions orthogonal to each other. Such beings can seem to those existing only in conventional four-dimensional space-time to be akin to gods. Gods of Terra postulates that our four-dimensional universe is embedded in a vast multiverse of eleven space-time dimensions and infinite universes.
Major assumption: Supernormal powers exist, and can be quite formidable, but have their limits. It is possible to weaponize humans and other beings to possess the powers of demigods, and some have inborn powers.
But even superhumans have the limits of mortal beings in their biological needs and the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can be killed, even hyperdimensional beings and so-called space-gods.
I limit supernormal abilities to the following:
Biological psionics (Bio-Psi): this includes such powers as teleportation, telepathy, biokinesis, quantakinesis, psychokinesis, and clairsapience
Hypershards (Techno-Psi) (self-replicating alien relics that can make stronger or more varied use of Axiomatic physics than Bio-Psi)
Conventional technology: This includes robotics, cybernetic implants, nanotech, femto-tech, genetic engineering, and biotech organ grafts, and may involve some overlap between any of these. It is possible to use nanotech or femto-tech to alter a being biologically, or to build bionic implants or organ grafts into the body that will not be rejected by the body or require immunosuppressant drugs.
Major assumption: Humanity in all its forms is special.
Humanity is the main thread binding everything together, and the driving force behind most of what goes on in the Local Galaxy of it and its neighbors. Though not individually powerful, or even the most advanced species, humans are many, and spread across the stars, virtually extinction-proof by any one event save something like the death of the universe itself. Humans are nearly ubiquitous.
Humans, with the drive to explore and the curiosity to question, drive the politics and economies of the Local Galaxy. Humans in this setting are, at least in this part of the universe, perhaps the greatest force for both good and evil, for both justice and injustice, for both astonishing kindness and terrible cruelty.
These humans of the future are not us, not exactly, but have more of our strengths and fewer of the weaknesses of present-day humans. Humanity by this time, even without utopian aspirations, has grown up. Humanity exists in many species and hails from equally many adopted homeworlds. Humans are the driving force for change in the universe, anticipated even billions of years before multicellular life evolved on Terra, the home of the Tellusine, our own far future descendants.
Minor assumption: aliens and alien worlds must make logical, physical, cultural, and biological sense, or at least must be given a nod to these.
Alien species exist, and simply put, biological evolution on physically possible worlds in a universe dominated by natural laws applies. Alien species are what they are, and evolve as they do, on worlds that they are uniquely adapted to survive and propagate on.
While not holding to any naive hyper-adaptationist view of evolution, any biological, psychological, cultural, and chemical makeup of an alien must at least be plausible on first face if not strictly realistic, and aliens, unless given good reasons otherwise, must be the products of their worlds in both their world’s chemical composition and environments.
Gods of Terra got its start as a role-playing universe, so some sensibility in the creatures within it was necessary for use in any reasonably well-designed set of tabletop RPG rules, at least to make the numbers and game-mechanics mesh with some play-balance.
Minor assumption: Time-travel is possible, but generally limited by predestination paradoxes. Not recommended for most RPG use.
This is a minor assumption because it’s so rare and limited in its role in the setting. It requires superscience technology, usually Relic-level artifacts like one of the original four Prime hypershards, which I’ll post on later in this series. It’s also a minor assumption because it’s mostly useful in the context of written fiction where compatibilist notions of free will square well with a deterministic universe and doesn’t conflict with the writer’s narrative.
Time travel here uses the block-universe model of General Relativity, in which all of space-time, past, present, and future, and all spatial points of the universe from the Big Bang to the ultimate end of the universe exist simultaneously, with the flow of time from past to future being mainly an illusion perceived by three-dimensional entities embedded within space-time.
All of it is predestined, with the past and future being fixed, with journeys to the past and future, and any events resulting being already embedded within the fabric of history. Its implied set history makes inconsistency paradoxes impossible, thus preserving the past and future.
The only possible exception to this is something I’ll write more on at some point in this series, the Paradox engine, an alien relic that can alter the logical structure of reality, scramble the rules of cause and effect, and rewrite the fabric of history.
So it’s not so useful in the context of a role-playing game where events unforeseen by the participants and game master are not only possible but typical. For role-playing purposes, I recommend disallowing time travel as an element of the setting altogether.
These are the setting’s fundamental assumptions. In future installments, I’ll write on the technologies of Gods of Terra, the species, particular worlds, empires, and many other aspects of the setting. Next up, I’ll write on the prerequisites of any starfaring civilization, the minimal technology needed by any species to get out into the Local Galaxy and make its mark.
Vanakkam. After recently rebooting the setting, I’m beginning a new series of primers on my Gods of Terra SF universe, mostly but not entirely focused on a small region of space known as the Local Galaxy.
The universe is vast, both wondrous and dangerous, and filled with alien beings and forces ranging from benign to dangerously indifferent to the human condition. Here, great interstellar empires vie for power and the wavetouched, Children of the Shard, struggle for survival and acceptance, while forces beyond human sanity gnaw at reality in the dark between the stars. Here there are worlds with cities made of scents, people with the powers of demigods, and ancient, monstrous beings with hearts of gold. Yet here, even those with mundane limits, skills, and talents can make their mark and change the universe forever. Here, even gods can die.
In this series as a whole, I’ll offer a detailed picture of what GoT is all about, and in future, posts detailing the basic precepts on which everything runs, aliens and space-gods, creatures, superhuman abilities, exotic locations, and others.
A list of topics includes:
Setting precepts; what assumptions, laws, and logics operate, and what do they entail?
Supernormal abilities and powers, and the limits therein.
Aliens and other species, such as wavetouched, the Kai’Siri, the Rj’lt’ar, and their effect on everyone else.
Empires, worlds, and the cultures that dwell within and on them.
History and momentous events, including the Galactic Ripple, the Great Fear, and the Shutter, and these as influences on the setting.
Iconic characters and monstrous beings, including the Nine Who are One, the four Gods of Terra, their foes, and those who followed after them in the wake of the Shutter.
This post is a reminder for me to blog more often, and I’m asking you all for a favor: to hold my Troythuluness to his frickin’ word, to labor in the word mines more than I have! That, I think, will be a good thing.
Vanakkam. With this installment I give you another sapient species, the Dalazinnu of Gods of Terra, the rulers of the Sodality, beings uplifted from alien animal stock by an extinct psionically aware branch of humanity known as the Kamuza. The Dalazinnu ur-species were pack predators native to the Kamuza homeworld possessing a bent for restricted cannibalism (restricted, otherwise they would quickly become extinct), and a strong sense of obedience and loyalty toward leadership in small groups. I’ve drawn as inspiration the official Traveller universe’s Major Race the Vargr, creating something out of a nightmare compared to the amicable and relatively benign if freebooting “Wolves of Space.”
Both species have difficulty in organizing in large groups, though the Dalazinnu come from uplifted big cat analogs, and have a nasty temperament. True social darwinists, and far exceeding even political Libertarians in this, Dalazinnu believe the strongest and most ruthless should rule. Pack leaders gain and keep their authority through force of arms, all four of them, and great big nasty teeth too!
Wait, WHAT?! Four arms?!
They’re based on a bilateral hexapod body structure, with two legs and two pairs of upper limbs, one with powerful muscles and thick, heavy claws, and above it a smaller, more delicate pair of arms meant for fine manipulation and weapon use. The lower, stronger pair of upper limbs is heavily padded and may be used as forelimbs in quadrupedal sprints while chasing prey.
Dalazinnu look roughly like a nightmarish cross between a bobcat and Tyrannosaurus rex, standing about 2.5 meters fully erect, with large tufted ears, patches of downy fur mixed with red scales, and three eyes, the central one a modification of a unitary gland in the forebrain. The tail is heavy, not very flexible, and used for balancing the body while standing or during sprints on either two or four limbs.
Dalazinnu are notoriously ill-tempered, and are psychologically unable to see aliens as anything other than enemies or slaves, having originated as slaves themselves before turning on their masters who bred them as soldiers. Dalazinnu are endothermic and have ravenous appetites, and will resort to eating captured enemies and slaves who disobey them. Dalazinnu have vision ranging into the near-infrared and acute hearing with a register threshold ranging into the ultrasonic. Their vocal output also ranges into the ultrasonic, and they have developed hearing aids for their slaves to better hear questions or commands when issued.
Dalazinnu have a range of genders along a spectrum, and can hormonally shift along that spectrum that as needs dictate when numbers are low. A group of roughly 2000 or more can easily serve as a sustainable breeding population on a newly conquered world.
The Dalazinnu have enslaved a species known as the Chadameer, who serve as their chief scientists, technicians, and go-betweens with aliens, due to the extreme levels of hostility Dalazinnu exhibit toward other species. A subpopulation of Chadameer with a tendency for recessive genetic traits also serves as telepaths, and are used as the chief interrogators and diplomats for other species.
You do not want to meet one of these things, much less a squad of them during combat operations, and the Sodality is known as a rogue state in the Local Galaxy. It is also effectively leaderless, due to the dominant species’ reluctance to organize on large scales. This is universally regarded as a Good Thing™, but the other powers of the Local Galaxy keep a close eye on the Sodality….
Vanakkam. Welcome to the first in a new series of entries where I talk about… things… created from other things, without copyright infringement woes!
The title of this series is credited to SF writer S.A. Barton, who in a recent tweet showed such a parody of Larry Niven’s puppeteers – humans!
In like vein, I’ll be using templates from across speculative fiction, credited to their original sources, and from these create beings and creatures of my own only tenuously connected to the originals. I do this primarily by focusing on a particular distinctive trait, or set of traits, and use these to create the new creature or species from otherwise whole cloth.
So, for this inaugural post, let me present one I’ve already done, the vermoid Dinathog-Trulg:
The template for this species was Doctor Who’s genocidal alien mutants, the Daleks, originally created by Terry Nation. I decided to keep only the genocidal part and completely reverse their motivation: not hate, but instead love drives them to commit mass extinctions!
Dinathog-Trulg are anti-Daleks. See below:
Rather than essentially being tentacled brains in metal shells, these are free-standing two-meter long wormlike beings, with twenty-seven limbs in three sets of nine that look like worms themselves.
But back to motivation!
Dinathog-Trulg are religious zealots, and in their theology see the universe as a place of pain and suffering. In their view, a kind of hell.
So their great mission is to save all life in the universe by sending it to the realm of their alien gods, one orbital cannon blast or planet-buster bomb, at a time, such is their sick, twisted love for all life.
Kind of like the Medieval Inquisition of Terra, and its drive to, among other things, save the souls of alleged heretics by torturing and burning them at the stake.
The species’ entire society is based around a system of nine clerical and monastic orders which serve different functions, lead by a shadowy supreme figure known as the Holiest.
But what keeps them from merely killing themselves off?
Humility, of a sort.
They are convinced that until they’ve sent everything else in the universe to paradise, they themselves are not worthy to ascend, and must remain behind to suffer for the universe’s life until the very end.
They make great villains, even though they love everybody, but it’s the kind of love most of us humans would rightly be creeped out by from those in our own species.
This series continues, with the next installment being a critter inspired by one of the Traveller RPG’s aliens in a hideously cruel parody indeed!
As a science fiction fan who’s written fiction of my own, and this blog and elsewhere, I like to design my own aliens. Recently I got a comment on an older post of mine, and since I don’t normally respond to comments on posts more than two weeks old, I thought I’d instead respond here.
Here’s the comment:
I searched this topic to try to find a site that would tell me not what to do as I write my first alien contact book.
I have never been on this site before, and don’t know if replying is possible, but if so, can you reply and tell me what not to do? Or someone, anyone. I’m trying to create an interesting diverse alien culture for my already created human hybrid race to interact with positively, but with some difficulties. My main character is a language communication expert.
So, what not to do when designing aliens (plausible, however fictional)? Here are some quick tips:
Don’t succumb to humans-in-funny-suits syndrome: Aliens in looks should be aliens in mentality. At the very least, especially with obvious nonhumans, give them some sort of outstanding but plausible psychological or cultural distinctions from other species that will not only set them apart, but make them memorable to the readers of whatever fiction you’re writing. Remember: aliens will have evolved in a different set of selective pressures than humans, and this will be true of variant humans as well. This fact will shape their minds and societies as it shapes their bodies. Build them accordingly, but try to avoid stereotyping them (My, I wonder whose first mate and engineer that Wookie is?). This hold even if the aliens have a hive-mind, as there will probably be a functional division of labor in the species.
Unless for historical or other good reasons, like prior contact with humans in the setting, avoid having the aliens automatically know human languages. I highly recommend inventing the alien’s own language, at least a few useful phrases at start. It’s not only a good exercise, but fun as well. I’m currently designing the language of my own alien humans, the Kai’Siri, and it’s a blast!
Don’t give them too much in the way of weird powers. Not only is this bad from a role-playing perspective, as it unbalances the species in play and relegates them to mostly non-player character status, and without limits it’s boring to readers. the alien tech should not be too rubber-scienceyand not over-explained — Remember: A good explanation is better than no explanation, but none at all is better than a contrived and implausible explanation. The Holtzman effect in Dune is a good example of a rubber-science plot device that was not over-explained nor implausibly so.
Aside from weird powers, avoid an otherwise implausible biology for your species, unless you are writing Weird Tale fiction where impossible Things That Must Not Be Named™ have good reason to exist in the story (It’s horror, after all.). Even in Lovecraft’s own fiction, like At The Mountains of Madness, the Old Ones were given reasonably plausible (using the known science of the time) traits and were relatively well thought out. They did, after all, make it into Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials! [an update] Also bear in mind that most alien species will not be able to breed with humans unless human variants themselves, and even that will be iffy with extreme deviations from the norm.
Conclusion: These are a few key things to bear in mind in creating aliens, and their use ought to take some of the headache out of the process. I hope this answers your questions, and if not, I can always write follow-up posts on this, one of my favorite topics.