17 Feb 2017

gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
One of my favorite parts of writing is the world building phase. I love creating strange places and the people and things (and the things that are people) that inhabit those spaces. I steal gleefully from history for setting details and odd occurrences to throw in.

But I think my favorite thing is designing aliens. I'm using the word here to define anything other than a baseline human. Elves and dwarfs are aliens, as are those hyper-intelligent shades of green from Procyon. Because building these sort of things allows for great creativity.

One of the things I hate about most alien depictions is that they end up being humans in funny hats, to steal a line from TV Tropes. Oh, they might have weird heads or be CGI critters, but we can recognize their motivations and usually speak with them. Klingon honor is indistinguishable from human codes of honor. These are aliens! They should be, well, alien!

Take my favorite alien race from Traveller, as I was just talking about that yesterday. The K'kree. A hexapodal plains-dwelling race of militant vegans. The K'kree are gregarious to the point that just the thought of privacy makes them ill, claustrophobic as hell, and totally dedicated to the extermination or conversion of all meat-eaters in the galaxy.

You see, at the dawn of the K'kree's industrial age, a slower than light asteroid ship came to their world. Aboard were the G'naack (the K'kree name, means "carnivore" more or less) a species who saw Kiriur as an all you can eat BBQ. The war lasted centuries, and when it was over the K'kree were the survivors and they had a mission that had become beyond religious.

So tell me, would the K'kree trade with human kind? Exchange diplomatic pleasantries? Do anything other than send extermination fleet after extermination fleet towards the Third Imperium? Gateway Sector, where the Third Imperium and the 2,000 Words meet, should be a scene of near constant war, with smaller meeting engagements punctuated by horrific clashes of giant fleets. The worlds should be scoured of life as the K'kree fight to erase any human presence. A thriving trade in looting these shattered fleets and doomed world would attract adventurers willing to risk being stomped to death by K'kree military types in the hopes of striking it rich.

But instead we got a watered down version of this, where if you abstained from eating meat for several days, it was totally cool because the K'kree would ignore the existence of a few trillion meat-eating humans. That always bugged me no end.

Now when I do my own aliens, I look hard at what they are to begin to understand how they act. As an example, my race of sentient blimps (called Blimps by humans, their own language is a series of colors and shapes formed on their skin) evolved as grazers in swallow swamps and river deltas. They use long tentacles to grab both mooring points and food as they stride along. I decided that rather than having sex, Blimp females drop egg sacks in still waters, and males are attracted and fertilize them. Also, Blimps have distributed brain networks. Along with a large brain near the forward eye clusters, there are neural nodes all through the body. Blimps never sleep, completely. There's always some part of the brain that's awake. Which means that Blimps are awake and dreaming at the same time.

So here we have a race with no traditional family structure, as eggs and the spawn are community assets, a worldview that sees dreams and the waking world as one, and communicates by changing the patterns and colors of their skin. They are not going to have the same thoughts and goals as humans! Indeed, even once we figure out how to talk to them, it may be that we find them infuriatingly vague and other-worldly; while they find us to to be boring and rude. Artists would love the Blimps, and who knows, the Blimps might find some value in human visual arts.

Of course, Blimps use colors for mood enhancements. Since blue is the primary color of the swamps they live in, blue is the color a Blimp uses to hide, so it is associate with fear. Meaning they'd be quite confused by Picasso's Blue Period. Also, don't wear your red power tie to the meeting, Blimps use hydrogen to float, and they are a little touchy about fire-like colors. I love these guys, I just wish I could figure out how to write a book around them.

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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
gridlore

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