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.


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.

Mongo Fiction | the Last Dance (conclusion)

Meenakshi fell to the floor, fatally injured, as she took the shot. She met Than’yhidre’s gaze one last time, her lips trying to form words. “ … all yours now … ” she seemed to say, the rest indecipherable as the light of consciousness left her eyes and all went silent for the briefest of moments.

From nanobots housed in her bloodstream, Than’yhidre extruded two yutagaatku, a pair of Kai’Siri knives with handgrips like archaic brass knuckles but braced against her forearms. She was never, ever, entirely unarmed. “You utter refuse!” She growled beneath her breath as her ruby eyes showed purest and utterly focused rage, “You killed her. My cousin! You. Killed. My. Cousin!” That last resonated in the chamber as she leapt with perfect timing.

She had done this many times before on camera, but there would be no audience to which to directly simulcast this event.

She moved gracefully as she spun about and then took out a synthedroid, splitting it from crotch to crown with a perfectly choreographed slice upward to its torso.

“You garbage! You took me. You sold me like chattel. You stole my past!” Her implanted fangs were clearly visible as she smiled, her gaze cold and lethal as the void. “So I’ll take something from you!”

She spun, easily blocking an arm of a multi-limbed synthedroid before driving a knife upward, first into its jaw and from there into its metal skull and nanooptical brain core instantly “killing” it.

She stood her ground as Shad3 drew a weapon from behind its desk and fired, missing her as she moved again and severed the broogh’s weapon hand with one swing, then parting head from neck with another. It was over in seconds, as bodies littered the room, unmoving and silent.

She flicked her weapons clean of blood and machine lubricant before restoring them, nanobot by nanobot, to her bloodstream.

She also took with her footage of the struggle and files of the company’s data taken after it.

In the week that followed, Than’yhidre arranged for and attended Meenakshi’s funeral before taking her shuttle back to Sirug.

Her producer looked up from her desk as a package of data was slapped down in front of her. Than’yhidre was there, looking down on her. “Than’y, what is the meaning of? …” she tried to say.

Than’yhidre had another idea. Those can be dangerous.

“Here’s enough footage to last one more episode of the show as per my contract, my final episode, with enough of smoking gun evidence to convict the entire ring that took me from Terra many years ago. I quit. I’m through with televised combat, through with this whole fucking industry.” She hissed. “And my name isn’t Than’yhidre — it’s Lavyani Arulpragasam. I’m Tamil, Tellusine, not Kai’Siri. And do pray that you don’t try to make me come back. If I step foot in this office ever again, it’s with enforcers of a tribunal to drag you out of here in cuffs for contract violations. Yes, I do read the fine print, and I’ve made enough money in this vile, rotten business to afford good lawyers, too. Goodbye!”

Than’yhidre – Lavyani – turned and left the room the way she entered; graceful, proud, and angry, leaving behind the only life she’d known before going back to Terra. And now the show was over. She was free now. And free she would remain until she drew her final breath.



Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 8

Meenakshi and Than’yhidre woke in silence, save for the sound of dripping water in a puddle from overhead pipes in what appeared to be a dank cell, complete with paracrete walls, and vaguely smelling of moss. 

“Where?” Meenakshi began, then recalled the stuggle with the synthedroids. “Oh. They must have taken us here. We are likely In the stronghold of the enemy. It was that one ‘droid we missed, waiting just out of sight, that stunned and brought us here.” Than’yhidre offered, “Let’s see what our options are, any chance of our getting out of this alive and in one piece. Hmmm. They’ve been careful, but not careful enough. We can overpower the guards here, but I’d like to meet whoever ordered us captured. They want something from us, but what?”

“On your feet, girls!” said a gravelly sounding masculine voice. A pair of synthedroids opened the cell door and motioned for the two women to get up. Neither of them expected this so soon. Whoever brought them here was in a hurry to meet them. 

Through twisting halls, what appeared  a catacomb complex carved out of recognizably lunar rock was the only thing they saw, until entering what seemed a brightly lit pristine room, well furnished, and stocked with instruments. 

There was a man of nondescript appearance, but well-dressed, sitting at a utilitarian desk, fingers folded as he eyed the  women. There was something vaguely wrong about him, sinister, as though he were not quite human, or that whatever was behind his eyes wasn’t. 

“Meenakshi Sukhavati. Than’yhidre Dunori. Or perhaps I should say, Lavyani Arulpragasam. I am Mr. Shade, and I’d like to welcome you to my little home away from home. Welcome to my lunar base and corporate headquarters. It shall be the last place either of you ever set foot in. You see,” said Shade, obviously enjoying this, “you’ll be the first and last humans to see me as I truly am. Let me show you, for you to behold the true power behind Shade Industries.” 

Shade suddenly collapsed to the floor, inert, like a puppet with its strings cut. A sliding panel opened in the wall just behind him, and in strode a broogh drone, tattooed with archaic officer’s insignia. 

“Ah, yes, the repulsively human little Lavyani, you and your cousin separated for decades, you, the prize catch in my humble company’s human trafficking division! It was my swarmfleet hundreds of years ago responsible for the orbital bombardment of your pathetic planet, and sorry excuse for a subcontinent. It was I alone who survived that war while all others of my swarmfleet perished, even my fleet’s God-Thegn, I alone who had to bear the shame of cowardice, of survival, and I alone who dreamed of vengeance, of oceans of human blood to quench the fires of revulsion for you little apes! Do you have any idea how rich you mammals have made me since then? But then you had to ruin everything by asking questions, by coming home, and by finding out about me!” 

Shade, or rather, Shad3, was shouting now, ranting, seemingly manic, even for a broogh. He was clearly unsettled. “I was considering keeping the two of you alive, lobotomized in my private zoo. But you had to become a threat! I won’t make that mistake twice. Synthedroids! Kill them!” 

Shad3’s bodyguards extruded particle weapons from their arms, compact and lethal. 

Than’yhidre was directly in the line of fire. A shot arced, flickered with indigo, the smell of ozone, of scorched flesh, and crackled out, as Meenakshi leapt forward, and fell clutching her burned ribcage. 

She looked up at the evidently revenge-crazed broogh and smiled as she coughed up blood – and spat in its eye. Now it was Than’yhidre’s turn ….  

To be concluded…

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.


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 | The Last Dance, Part 7

Than’yhidre and Meenakshi were back in Chennai’s Old Quarter at the hotel. The two women had taken a different route this time to throw off several suspicious pursuers trying to shadow them. Than’yhidre’s role as a Null-Dancer involved some training in detective work and espionage, or at least skills in those areas that lent themselves well to avoiding pursuit and attempts to throw her off the trail of a perp. Than’y had pulled from her bags an odd looking box with several studs attached to it, placed the device on the coffee table, and pressed one of the studs. A low hum issued, barely audible to the human ear, almost a register too low. “This is a wide-field DataNet scrambler. It’ll prevent even the best media snoops, and most spy agencies that may be working for our target from hearing anything we say. That’s why I screened this suite for nano-dust and any other bugging devices.” Than’yhidre had just finished a data-dump into a small hand comp from her wetware drive. Wetware as trendy but incredibly useful brain-apps were all the rage among the Kai’Siri upper class, especially those who travelled often. It’s all the better for adapting quickly to new cultures once interstellar travel was reestablished post-Shutter. Than’yhidre continued briefly, “It’s how I manage to avoid the paparazzi and fanboys (The fangirls are less annoying!) on every world I visit, and why I contacted you as my guide.” 

“What is it you’ve found? It must be enormously important or you wouldn’t have come all this way to find it. Sirug is kiloparsecs away from here!” Meenakshi leaned in closer, as her seemingly alien friend spoke in low tones.

“I’ve found the file for the girl I started life as. Better, I’ve found out who, or what, was responsible for taking me from this world. I’ve found the source of my dreams, of the nightmares I’ve had since girlhood!” Than’yhidre paused a bit, breathed, then continued,“I’m Indian Tamil by birth. The cosmetic surgery was done when I was only three years of age to make me appealing to Kai’Siri adoption agencies none too concerned about paperwork on where the children come from. It’s permanent, but I’m Tellusine, not Kai’Siri. It’s why I can only eat the foodstuffs of Earth. I found my name and the names and identities of the traffickers who took me.” Than’y hesitated for a moment, as the hint of a tear began to make its way down her cheek, “My birth-name is Lavyani, and I found out that you and I are family. We’re second cousins!” 

Meenakshi looked as though a bomb went off in her head, “Lavyani…You’ve come home!” The two women embraced for just a few seconds, before a loud thump! came from the locked hotel door. The thump! came again, louder, followed by the sound of something trying to rip the door off its hinges, but the two women were already out of sight. Two unnaturally tall and absurdly muscled men wearing featureless masks strode into the room, one dropping the wreckage of the suite entrance door, as the other dropped a canister on the floor, this followed by a billowing gas cloud filling the suite. There was silence, followed by quick search of the suite. One of the men removed his, or rather, its mask, revealing a metal skull-face and glowing eyes beneath. No, not a man, but a synthedroid. Whoever was after the two women was cautious enough not to entrust their capture to mere humans. Inhuman eyes caught a blur of motion to their left, and dodged a Miduuk-Yokku blade just in time to catch a depleted island-metal sabot round to the braincase from Meenakshi’s gauss rifle. Both women were wearing protective masks for the gas.

The other synthedroid, still functional, had caught Meekakshi’s weapon arm, threatening to wrench it off, as Than’yhidre’s blade split its biomechanical body in half from crown to crotch. Two down…

…And that’s when the third stepped in. 

It had waited outside the doorway, just out of sight, and strode into the room with nearly blinding speed on spider-like legs, catching both women unawares as it ejected a thin mesh net, trapping them before a jolt of high-voltage current put them out of commission. Unconcerned for any reward or praise, it destroyed the DataNet scrambler with the crunch of a metal tendril and opened a channel to its master.“Mister Shade, the targets have been procured, and are ready for transport. Units D8T5 and G7B9 have been damaged beyond repair. This unit survives undamaged. This unit will return to base with the quarry after eliminating all traces of damaged units. Communications out.”

To be continued next month…