Tuesday, January 24, 2012
An Introduction to My Non-Termite Extraterrestrials, Part 4: the Te Quornaz
First, a quick update on "The Termite Queen"
There isn't much new to report. I'm still waiting on the permission to use quotations from Evangeline Walton's "Island of the Mighty." It was six weeks yesterday since I submitted the request and the publisher indicated it could take four to eight weeks. So I keep hoping day-to-day, although with Christmas coming in there, who knows? Meanwhile, I've almost finished the formatting for the print book and I've got the preliminary matter mostly finished, including the acknowledgements of permission to quote. I've also written the end matter describing the second volume and other books I propose to publish soon.
I decided to move the first three chapters of the second volume to the end of the first volume. It makes for a more compelling cliffhanger -- after that, I'm sure no reader will be able to resist buying v. 2 when it come out!
Now, on to the Te Quornaz (see drawing on "Pictures of ETs" page)
The Te Quornaz (sing. Tae Quornaz) inhabit a planet called Quornam and speak Glin Quornaz ("language of Quornam," a complex language structured much like Latin). The planet is supposed to be about 35 light years from Earth, but I've never settled on an existing star, so it will have to remain imaginary. This planet did produce a full evolutionary cycle, from microorganisms through placental mammals, but it never produced hominids. Instead, it was the protosimians -- the lemurs -- in which intelligence evolved. So the Te Quornaz are lemuriforms. I've put another of my drawings on the "Pictures of ETs" page. It was done as a solstice greeting for a friend. Be sure to click on the picture -- the larger view provides more interesting detail.
The Te Quornaz are the newest member of the Confederation of Four Planets, having been in interstellar space for only 132 years. Earthers first encountered them 94 years earlier when both species were exploring a star-system near Quornam. The species is nocturnal like so many of Earth's lemurs and as you can see from the picture, they do wear garments at times. They are very musical and love to dance.
The culture is hierarchical, ruled by a noble class of land-holders. The people are very prolific, so only the first three offspring receive any inheritance. The younger members of the families either marry into other families or are given a small stipend to go off and make their own fortunes. Since joining the Confederation, many of these Choitove (Disinherited Ones) have emigrated to Earth, and Kaitrin's ComTech, Luku !eya Kash, is one of these. Those who live on the NWQC campus have a gathering place called the "Ich Oquaz" Club ("Place of Home"). It's lighted by "glow torches" that employ artificial bioluminescence and it's lined with soft carpets and cushions, all beautifully decorated. When Kaitrin visits there one evening, we get the following description (and you can see the musical instruments in my drawing):
"The food arrived. The Te Quornaz favored extreme seasonings; they loved the Mehiken and Asien spices of Earth and substituted them in their recipes if they ran out of imports. Kaitrin knew enough to request the mildest possible items on the menu even though she had grown up on her mother’s Mehiken cooking. Still, the pungency of the !akaf stew made her eyes water and her nose run. She took refuge in the wonderful raised-dough pafoje with their cool fruit fillings. Her companions laughed at her again.
"Presently the music started. The instruments were acoustic; the Te Quornaz rarely applied technology to art. Besides the six-stringed lute called the toviz, the ensemble included vertical reed pipes; large, stringed, bass and baritone instruments called klu-e that were held upon the lap and plucked; and several sizes of drums. The bass and the drums alternated and competed with the toviz and the pipes; the Te Quornaz believed the sound mirrored life, where the heavy, the coarse, and the tragic fought with the delicate, the gentle, and the beautiful for dominance. The Great Dichotomy for the Te Quornaz was not evil versus good but rather tragedy versus beauty.
"There was also singing, where the purpose was not competition but the reconciliation that can come through the addition of words. In the strong bardic tradition of Quornam, songs were always narratives. Luku was the first to perform, accompanying herself on her toviz as she chanted a tale that was familiar to Kaitrin. It told about a forest of sacred trees whose demise would signal the end of the world. This forest required constant tending and could only be nurtured in starlight; hence the creatures that lived in its branches had to become night-dwellers in order to keep their world from dying. And by that legend the Te Quornaz accounted for their nocturnal lifestyle.
"The voices of females and males sounded similar when they spoke, but when they sang, it was another matter. Females’ voices were more suited to enunciating the words of songs, being pitched low, with a throaty, purring rasp. The males’ voices were high, with an eerie timbre and amazing volume – a ghostly reflection of an extinct Earth creature called the indri, whose cries were known from ancient recordings preserved in an Underground Archivist’s cache.
"The melody was composed of extended, repetitive lines rendered in archaically accented syllables. Between groups of lines, Luku would pause while the males of the group inserted wordless, subtly varied crescendos. These were called “cascades” (the word in Glin Quornaz literally meant “waterfall”) – open-mouthed calls that started low and rose to a high, pure stream of sound that pierced the ears of humans as if from another dimension. At the climactic end of the tale, males and female began to “sing” simultaneously, the seemingly incompatible tones reconciling themselves in a harmony truly alien to Earth.
"Then the dancing began. In the humdrum routine of Earth – a planet whose culture had been revived by committing to utilitarianism – the tall, long-limbed lemuriforms seemed sometimes uncoordinated and out-of-place, but when they moved to their own music in their own milieu, their grace was transfixing. The music’s rhythm and tempo intensified as they danced; their mighty sidewise leaps and whiplashing movements grew wilder and their tails gestured with meanings intelligible only to the initiate. They shed their garments and danced naked at such a time; clothing served mostly for adornment and dance-nudity was of no more consequence than the unclothed state of the model is to the artist. The teats of the females were negligible when they were not nursing offspring, but male sex organs were prominent at all times and occasionally one of the wilder dances would conclude with an actual coupling. It was believed that the art form called dance had originated in rituals of mating.
"On this night, however, the performance ended more discreetly. ... "
I find the Te Quornaz to be a charming, delightful, and magical people, but unfortunately I've never had a decent idea for a story that could be laid among them on their planet. Maybe someday ...