Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Xenopsychology

For quite some time, I've had a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to write the Elu.  The problem, really, is that I've never yet been able to figure out what it's like inside their minds; I can express their nature well enough (for a good description thereof for those who need a refresher--and I imagine most of y'all do, given the absurd gap in time between now and the previous update to this blog--see here), and the psychological and behavioral consequences of that nature, but in order to write them I need to figure out how they see the world--how an Elu looking at the world around them would mentally frame their perceptions--and so far I've never yet been able to come up with something that doesn't come across as, basically, a human trying to act the part of an alien.*  I think, though, that I may have finally come up with something workable--something that I can write, that's understandable to a human reader (with a bit of work, of course), but that is really, really nonhuman in tone, and satisfyingly encapsulates how the Elu approach the world, as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Life of Oblu

About a month and a half ago, I wrote up a cursory summary of the solar system in which Gavanna finds itself, dwelling particularly on the age of its universe and on Gavanna itself (might be a good idea to refresh yourself on the general cosmological layout of things, if'n you've grown rusty; clickicate here for the post I'm talking about).  In that post, I mentioned that Gavanna is one of a binary pair of planets, orbiting around another life-bearing world, Oblu.  I didn't have much to say about Oblu at the time; I simply posted a picture of the cloud-covered, pseudo-Venusian world, and tossed up the following two paragraphs:

"Unfortunately for sky-scryers, Oblu is not very photogenic from orbit.  This world could best be described as a temperate Venus, a planet that, like Earth's evil twin, is cloaked in a thick, crushing sea of carbon dioxide and suffocated beneath a runaway greenhouse effect.  Unlike Venus, however, Oblu is not heated nearly so intensely by its dimmer stars, and although the pressure at the surface would still crush a human like a walnut under a triphammer (thank you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!), the temperature is well below Venus' Hadean temperatures, with an average of about 40˚C.  Still too hot for humans or most other multicellular Earth life, of course, but below boiling--and that's what counts.

To really do justice to it, I'd need to do a separate post entirely devoted to Oblu, so I'll leave off with that extremely brief summary, pausing only to leave an exercise for the reader.  For insight into one of Oblu's chief oddities, I recommend looking up the phase diagram of carbon dioxide, the chief component of Oblu's atmosphere, and then...thinking about it, and what I said above, for a bit."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Elu, Paum, and Walls of Text


Some years ago, when I was taking Evolutionary Biology at Warren Wilson College, Gavanna as I had imagined it at the time underwent some very fundamental changes, which have profoundly affected everything I've imagined about it since.  Even its name was different then; I was still calling it "Melune," a name I came up with in high school and that I was always vaguely unhappy with because it felt so derivative (the "-lune" or "-lûn" suffix is just far too common in fantasy for me to be at ease with it*).  Before then, many of the most important characters in my stories already existed, but their way of life was...uncertain to me.  I knew that the civilization on Gavanna was comprised of many different intelligent species, all of roughly the same intelligence and all able to communicate freely with one another, and I knew that their civilization managed to exist without resource wars, environmental degradation, etc.  I'm both a misanthrope and an optimist, so these are traits that one would expect to find in a world created by me.

But how could such a civilization be prevented from embarking on the genocidal, interspecies wars that a human intelligence would certainly wage in their place?  Granting that, how could such a civilization manage to be as fundamentally sane and, well, inhuman as I had imagined it?  Finally, how could this civilization of many different species avoid doing what humans are doing now (and what all life, no matter its level of intelligence, tries to do), and increase its population until the planet was incapable of supporting any more of them--in the process wiping out many other species and ecosystems who were unfortunate enough to be in the way?  I needed a civilization of selfless creatures that didn't reproduce--a tricky proposition, evolutionarily speaking.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Star Scrapers

I was going to have a nice, background-building post set up, explaining a bit more of the important details that needed to be known before my world could be fully understood--perhaps an explanation of the Elu, the most important intelligent lifeforms on Gavanna, or a description of the life of Gavanna and how it's linked to Earth life (the astute reader of Cute 'n Fluffy will have noted that Screfflings look rather suspiciously Terran for a supposedly alien critter on an alien world, and there's an excellent reason for that, M.O.T.L.), or a more focused description of Oblu and its bizarre beasties.   These would all be sensible and helpful subjects to cover.

But then I wrote a paragraph or two covering the arrival of humans on Gavanna (yes, they show up.  No, they're not native.  No, I'm not saying more on the subject right now) and their first impression of the world, and then I felt a burning need to illustrate part of the scene, and then three hours vanished rather alarmingly.  So today you'll get a short excerpt that may never find its way into any one of my stories, and a short lecture on the oddities of xenogeology.  Onward!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Xenoastronomy

Hey now, would you look at that!  I'm not dead, and neither is the blog!  My apologies for the long hiatus, but...well, the ends of classes and mountains of grading demanded my attention, and they were extraordinarily persuasive.

Anyway.  In what will, I suspect, be a recurring pattern, I think I'll need to renege on my earlier decision to simply barrel on ahead with infodumps regardless of backstory; the background of my world is so tightly wound into all the foreground details that it's often impossible for me to separate them.  It seems best, then, to take the King of Hearts' sage advice and begin at the beginning, go on until I get to the end, and then stop.  From the very beginning, then...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cute 'n Fluffy


Well, she is cute and fluffy.  The critter above is a Screffling, a representative of one of the major branches on my fictive tree of life.  Sometime in future (perhaps after a series of independent, one-beastie-at-a-time posts, perhaps in one massive infodump) I'll include the whole overarching phylogeny of my various imaginary beasties, but for now I'm not going to attempt something quite so grandiose.  Better, I think, to start simply.

So!  Screfflings.  Screfflings occupy roughly the same position, ecologically speaking, on Gavanna that mammals in general did on Earth during the Mesozoic, or that rodents do today; they aren't rare, exactly, and they do pretty well for themselves, but they aren't about to win any prizes for the largest/fastest/most colorful/most dangerous/highest flying/etc. critter around.  Like many Gayenni* beasties, screfflings are capable of adjusting their metabolism between endothermy and ectothermy as conditions demand, and the layer of insulating fur-feathers covering their bodies helps them maintain their body temperature when they're in an endothermic state.  Said fur-feathers (the in-world name for them being "screff," hence the name "screffling") are made up of many tiny fibrils, all intertwined and matted together into a hollow, insulating shell.  The quick diagram below shows a pretty typical example of a screff.

The darkened patch towards the lower left is where the screff would be rooted into the skin, while the cutaway at the upper right shows the (not terribly interesting) cavity inside.  Some species of screfflings have taken this basic form and run wild with it, producing rigid armored plating, loosely connected tufts of fibrils, delicately arcing pennants, and in a few cases even barbed, irritatant tufts that can be dislodged to deter attackers--but the simplest form of screff is by far the most common, and has persisted more or less unchanged for as long as screfflings themselves have existed.

Well.  Not much to elevate, instruct, or amuse in the above, I'm afraid--for it to be interesting, I realize one needs to already have some sort of investment in my world, and as it is I suspect this is only particularly enthralling for me.  I'll try to have something a bit less abstruse and more interesting next time 'round.


*Of or relating to Gavanna, with Gavanna being the name of my world.  I did mention that in the first post, I believe, but Hey, no harm in offering a little clarification.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Planetfall

Worldbuilding, or the art of creating a cohesive, internally consistent fictional world, is something that every science fiction or fantasy writer (and for that matter, many writers of literary fiction) must do in order to create the scaffolding upon which they build their stories.  Most such writers only build their worlds just as far as is necessary to tell their tales, and no further--as is right and proper, of course, if the main goal is to tell a story.  For some folks, though, the story is not enough, and they become engrossed in the world itself, weaving it out into strange complexities that sprawl far beyond what would ever be useful for a story.  Eventually, the fictive world itself becomes the primary "work" of the worldbuilder, and any stories, paintings, languages, sculptures, songs, etc. that may be associated with it become not individual works of art, but threads in the overarching tapestry that is the world.

For most of my life, I've been imagining, refining, and adjusting a fictional world (universe, really) of my own, with most of my energy devoted to threshing out the details of a single planet which I currently call Gavanna.  I've written a vast number of short stories set on this world, covered reams of paper with doodles of the various critters, plants, characters, and landmarks that exist on it, and have even worked out a few details of a script, counting system, and language (the last being very crude; I'm no linguist) for the creatures that inhabit my world.  I figure it might be productive for me to throw such imaginings up here, and while I can't promise any regularity in my posts (heck, I can't promise that this won't be both my first and last post), I shall try to keep this alive, and will be sure to post plenty of purty pictures so that my reader(s) aren't subjected to nothing but walls of text.  Sound good?  Excellent.  Onward!


...Wait, dagnabbit.  Not quite onward just yet.  I forgot one detail, and a rather important one.  The title of this blog is a reference to one of my characters, an extremely metafictional character named Dejerara who functions, in my world, as a sort of legendary--well, not a deity, that's not an appropriate descriptor (and she would never stand for being worshipped), but a--patron, I suppose, is a good term.  A mythical patron of stories.  Her story, in my world's chronology, is the oldest and most important story that's told, and the first story ever told to any young beastie going out into the world.  All other stories are told because her story exists, and her story dictates the nature of all other stories.  We'll get to her later, I think; I imagine that most folks reading this will already be well familiar with my world already, so as I plow ahead my modus operandi will probably be to simply post updates as they come along, with little attention paid to getting any newcomers caught up--simply because I don't really anticipate any newcomers.  If that changes in future (and heigh-ho to the comments to pronounce your newcomer status, if'n you aren't already familiar with Gavanna!), then I'll likely add a set of primer pages on the astronomy, biology, history, paleohistory, and civilizations of my world.

Alright, that's better.  Got things cleared up, mild incoherence notwithstanding.  Now, onward!