Cruel Parodies | The Dalazinnu


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.  

The Vargr are concisely described here. 

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…. 

….Just in case! 

Cruel Parodies | Inaugural Post – Dinathog-Trulg


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.

Yech!

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!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

MetaCognitions | Fictional Plot Devices


I’ve noticed something worth avoiding in writing anything approaching good speculative fiction: never explain too much, be economic with any explanation you do, and only explain, by showing, not telling, what actually needs explaining.

I notice a failure to do that in some of my earlier fiction of even a few months ago, much less from years back, not consistently, but often enough to cause concern. Mostly it happens with a piece that I spend only a couple of hours on, in total writing, editing, and proofreading time; almost always a hastily written piece or two when a deadline looms. That’s bad form when it occurs.

But what sort of things ought not to be explained?

For example, there are the Heisenberg compensators of Star Trek used by transporter technology, that offer a nod to the quantum mechanical problems of teleportation without being explained as to how they work, which is good use of rubber science technobabble that adds to, not subtracts from, the feel of the story.

It’s good to acknowledge real science even when not strictly conforming to it. It’s one of the hallmarks of any good SF franchise.

Another would be the Holzmann effect of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, using variations of that phenomenon’s name in different books of the series. It’s cleverly never explained in any detail, but serves the background and feel of realism of the setting very well. Again, a nod to science without spoiling the fun with an explanation which would likely backfire as seeming contrived and even less consistent with real-world science. As a plot device permitting rapid space travel and personal force-screens, enabling the plot by fostering willing suspension of disbelief, it works well for that reason.

From my own writing, like my Gods of Terra setting, both old timeline and the current reboot, there’s the Kurtz-Dunar effect, named for scientists Raoul Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, permitting cheap, safe, and efficient surface-to-orbit and interstellar travel, and personal teleportation via short-range warps in space-time, among other things.

It’s annoying when I see something over-explained elsewhere and annoying when I do it myself as well, especially the latter.

After all, if I really knew how the Kurtz-Dunar effect, or ancient relic technology like hypershards, actually worked, I wouldn’t be using them as plot devices in my fiction, but instead building and testing working prototypes under contract from DARPA! and I am quite obviously not doing that . . .

So, the more shone, not told, and the more economic that is, only what furthers the story, the better.

That’ll do for me, one story at a time, no matter what region of space-time, and which space-time continuum, is involved.

MetaCognitions | Farewell, Harlan Ellison


Just this last Thursday, we lost SF writer and critic Harlan Ellison, who died of natural causes at the age of 84. I have a confession to make: 

I have heroes.

But all of my heroes are human, not graven images on a pedestal, and all of them have the proverbial feet of clay. I prefer my heroes that way, human, flawed, with warts and all. That goes for skeptics and writers I’ve read and learned from over the years, from even the late Carl Sagan, to Michael Shermer and his current controversy, and yes, the irascible Harlan Ellison.

So…I’ll waste no time saying that Ellison was a ‘great’ writer, much less a ‘great guy.’

From his own words, I can rightly guess that he would laugh in my face at the very suggestion of him being ‘great.’ And he would be right to do so. So there will be no sycophantic bullshit or lionizing from yours truly. A word of advice: never try to flatter or piss off short people, especially when their name is Harlan Ellison. They will learn you, or burn you, with words, and that made Ellison not only a successful writer, but a fierce critic of publicly promulgated bullshit in a number of areas, from social criticism, to films, and even takedowns of pseudoscience in the public square. He was not known as a very nice guy, but in my view, he was fundamentally a good man, however unkind he may have been when annoyed.

Why?

It was in late 2006, I think at a place I used to do volunteer work as an administrative assistant, and I was reading one of Ellison’s collections outdoors in a quiet spot near the building. I think the collection was Edgeworks: An Edge In My Voice, volume 1, and I came across something I’d not read from other authors (I was just beginning to expand my reading horizons to something less sheltered), or at least not the way Ellison put it in a moment of self-critique: the notion of being scrupulously, ruthlessly honest with himself. His was self-honesty even to the point of accepting short-term self-loathing over longterm self-loathing by not telling himself pretty lies, or deceiving himself over personal motives.

This is, I know now, and I’m sure he knew then, a tall order indeed, and impossible to fully achieve. But that’s the whole point of an ideal: you don’t adopt one to actually reach it with finality, but to get as close as possible to it, asymptotically, not as any kind of ‘destination.’ An ideal is perfectably strived for, never perfectly arrived at. That’s why it’s an ideal, an abstraction, not reality. But it doesn’t have to be reality to be worth striving for.

But that idea burned itself in my brain as I stood there, reading on, and since that day, it has been something that I truly believe is worthwhile. For how can you be truly honest with others if you can’t be honest with yourself? Integrity matters. Even when it’s not coupled with a pleasant demeanor or a kind disposition. It was also that year when I was introduced to the world of podcasts with my aging Classic model iMac, and my first iPod. It was that year I began listening to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and had two particular books gifted to me that Christmas: Lynne Kelly’s _The Skeptics’ Guide to the Paranormal_, and Michael Shermer’s _Why Darwin Matters_.

A lot’s changed since then, but I’d like to end this post with a sendoff: Peace out, Harlan. Whatever happens to your memory from here on, you wrote a thing that has real meaning to me, and I think that counts for something. For what it’s worth, I’m a skeptic. And I’ll remain one for the foreseeable future. I know that doesn’t make me better or smarter than anyone else.

But with that in mind, I don’t need to be.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Mongo Fiction | Languages, Schmlanguages!


How could it be? 

The chances of three hundred thousand words in three unrelated languages sounding alike and meaning exactly the same thing, despite no contact made between the civilizations that spoke them, civilizations separated by billions of years . . . how could it be?

Then again, how could it not. I’ve noticed that that humans alone can generate quite a few phonemes, but only a limited number, and there are thousands of languages in the history of humanity. 

I must consult my tables, but I’m convinced that the likelihood is surprisingly high, more than it might seem. It would be very surprising if there were no such coincidences, something which so many are far too dismissive.

This has spurred a search for me, the search for a language sharing no features, even coincidental ones, with any other language. What’s the probability of that? Let me find out!

Good luck. I’ve a feeling I’ll need it to crack this case. I’ve got an extra-temporal murder to solve. If only I can access the files in the Magnum Librarium, I’ll have the data I need. 

This depends on a lot, but with the data, this case is as good as cracked, and the suspect identified.

Then comes the easy part: nabbing the perp before anyone else gets killed!

Lyapunov’s Children | Traveller’s Luck


So, this is it, he thought. His vessel came nearer the event horizon of the supermassive black hole, larger than the orbit of Earth, so large the tidal forces were minimal. But this close the time dilation was enormous, the universe past the accretion disk seeming to speed up as subjective time slowed down. 

It was almost there. 

Transition. 

He saw the universe flash almost blindingly bright, then fade out, darkened, just before crossing the threshold. Now, it was too late. 

The universe behind him had died, and he was nearing the singularity, or was he? It looked strange, like a spinning white tunnel. This was wrong. This was against all expectation. This was against all sanity. He was still alive, not crushed into a dimensionless speck with his ship, and still the tunnel kept going. 

The radiation count was just below the limit of his ship’s shielding, and climbing quickly. Terrific, he thought. He would survive one thing only to be killed by another. Not so fast. He found himself spat out from the tunnel with a sudden lurch, the blinding horizon of a white hole behind him. 

Things looked even stranger in his new surroundings; oddly colored luminaries in the distance, complex, shaped like fractal structures, curving, spiralling, and twisting in ways impossible for a galaxy in his own region of space. But he was a taikonaut, and the unexpected was his domain in the dangerous job of space travel. 

Coolly, he smiled, and directed the flightpath of his ship to the nearest orbital bodies. He would make use of his predicament in this new realm, this, what seemed to be a new universe in itself, not just a new region of his own. 

Maybe he would find a way back, maybe not. Survival was the key here. He would find whatever might pass for a habitable world here, and at least attempt to survive, successful or not.

Mongo Fiction: Evicted


The clawed octopoid towered over the comparatively tiny human standing defiantly at its feet. With its waking, a wave of madness had swept the planet, and this world looked as though it would meet its end. But still the lone human stood there, waiting.

“I know you can understand me, just like last time. We both know I can speak with anything that has language, so I’ll warn you just once: leave. This planet is protected, and you are not welcome here. Maybe come back in a billion years after the sun brightens and the oceans have boiled away on their own. And I know how you’re causing the madness outbreak, you fraud. ‘Cosmic Mysterium Tremendum,’ my ***! You’re using a planet-wide psychotronic disruptor network, which I’ll just shut down like so.” The human clicked his finger, as a wave of blue light rippled across the planet, shorting out the network of alien devices as sanity returned to the suddenly lucid but bewildered humans, those who did no serious harm to themselves or others under the influence.

“Get off this planet, you charlatan. I’ve got worlds to create, not pretend gods to unmask!”

The octopoid stood silently for a few seconds as others of its race gathered nearby. Then, it began to unfurl massive membranous wings, of the sort that could ride the solar wind, and soared skyward as its fellows followed suit. In minutes, they were gone. This world would survive, at least for a little while longer.

Humans nearby gathered around the man from a distance, terrified by the fact he had the power to stand down Old Ones, but grateful that he had saved their lives and minds.

The man glanced at them, saying, “You’re all safe for at least another few million years, until the next alien catastrophe ambles along, or you get smacked by an asteroid. But don’t get used to it. I only sent him on his way this time because he once tried to cheat me in a game of cards. I hate cheats.”