Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Do the Shshi Name Themselves?

       This post also appears on my conlang blog, but I thought it was of a general enough interest to repost here.  It's always interesting to learn how different cultures handle the names that are given to individuals.
       All nymphs look nearly identical when they hatch; their ultimate Caste cannot be determined. Therefore, the Namer Alates give them one-syllable names, like Kri (leg), Shra (flowers), or Tei (eye).
       At third molt, when their adult Caste is revealed, a suitable imago (adult) name is conferred, incorporating their nymph name.
       A Worker gets a two-syllable name, like Ti'shra (Sweet Flowers) or No'kri (Big Leg).  
       A Warrior gets a three-syllable name, like Hi'ta'fu (Defends Her [i.e. the Queen’s] Honor; in this case the nymph name was Fum [Honor], which becomes shortened in the adult name). A'gwa'ji (Belly Slash) is the name of a Warrior whose nymph-name was Gwaf (Belly); the "A" serves as a place-holding syllable.
       The Alates (winged Caste) get four-syllable names, like Kwi’ga’ga’tei (One of Many Speakers Who Sees; her nymph name was Tei (Eye or Seeing); her imago name is a traditional Seer's name). Other examples are Mo'gri'ta'tu (Shining Sun Her Wing; "her" is used even though the Chamberlain is male, because this is also a traditional name. His nymph name was Gri [Sun]). And one more example: Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer (Happy He Comes [to the] Place)
       The only people with five-syllable names are the breeding pair, the Mother and the King. When a new Mother is installed, the fortress's Seer has the privilege of naming her. Thus, the Mother of the fortress of Lo'ro'ra bore the Alate name of Mei’a’kha’bu (Rain on Blue River) and the Alate who was Seer at the time the fortress was founded named her Ahk'a'ma'na'ta (Blue Mother). The King of Lo'ro'ra is Sei'o'na'sha'ma, which means basically Tree King.
       All female progenitors' names end in ma'na'ta| which is the word for Mother or, in our usage, Queen. It means literally "he-holy-she," with a derivation that is lost in time but probably refers to the fact that the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name ate her King and thus he became part of herself.   na'sha'ma| means "King." Again, the origin is somewhat obscure; the literal meaning of the three syllables is "holy-you are-male" although the possibility exists that the waveform designated "sha" could have been corrupted from something else.
        Fortress names are generally pretty straightforward. Thus, Ki'shto'ba's home fortress is named To'wak, which means Destructive Mandible. Kwai'kwai'za means Many Hills (kwai|: mountain; za|: little -- plus reduplication to indicate Many). And our fortress of Lo'ro'ra (lo'ro'ra'mi|) has a rather more obscure meaning; the four syllables mean literally Strong-Holding-Flower-Place, which usually is construed as Strong Land of Flowers, or Strong Flower Fortress.

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 ... 

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Introduction to My Non-Termite Extraterrestrials, Part 3: The Pozú

       The ILF known as the Pozú is from a planet called Pozúa, which circles a G2V star 88.2 ly from Earth which we call CD-315719 or HD 68978.  The Pozú call their star "Ánseku" ("Skyswimmer").  It lies only 14 ly from Krisí’i’aid.  Therefore, it makes sense that this was the ILF that the Bird people first contacted, in Earth year 2256, approximately 150 years after they first developed interstellar flight.  The Pozú, however, had already been flying among the stars for 550 years, making them the longest-running interstellar species yet discovered. 
       The planet Pozúa has 80 percent of the circumference of Krisí’i’aid but its mass is greater, with more iron in the core and a strong magnetic field.  Most of the lands, which include a lot of islands, are in the equatorial zone, so the climate is warm and the vegetation lush.    The axis tilts only two degrees, so again seasons are barely discernible.  The planet has five little moons – sometimes three are in the sky in the same time.
       Pozúa has the same types of life found on Krisí’i’aid, with the addition of mammals.  However, evolution never passed beyond the stage of monotremes -- egg-laying mammals like the platypus or the echidna.  The Pozú developed from a variety of sea mammal that had to return to the shore to lay its eggs, a lifeform both different from and similar to species found on Earth.  Here is a description of the Pozú taken from "The Termite Queen":  

       Gwidian said, “Asc. Kaitrin Oliva, may I present Dr. Trea Dol Amarezka – did I say that right, doctor? – and her, uh … ” 
       “‘Mate’ is preferred word in Inj,” replied Trea, with a little bobbing bow.
       “Thank you.  And her mate, Sev Dol Parozka.”
       “We greet you, Asc. Kaitrin Oliva,” both Pozú responded almost in unison.
       A fascinated Kaitrin gazed at the pair, who were between 100 and 120 centimeters tall, with compact, short-legged bodies covered by a dense, dark-brown pelt.  Their rounded heads bore small high-set ears, bulging dark eyes, and nostrils that opened and closed like those of seals.  Their faces, feet, lower arms, and four-digited hands were hairless.  In Earth terms they resembled a cross between a sea otter and a capstan monkey, with hints of squirrel thrown in.  Their wizened faces looked unassuageably sad.
       They seemed so primitive, so shy and unassertive, that Kaitrin could understand why Gwidian, unconversant as he was with off-worlders, might feel reluctant to trust one of these creatures with the important role of Medical Officer for the expedition.

       Don't forget Trea and Sev.  They do become the medical officers for the expedition and play a very significant role in the story.
       There is a reason for the sadness of the Pozú:  They are a dying people.  They utilized temporal quantum technology for interstellar flight for many centuries without realizing that without certain types of EM shielding on the ships, the exposure to TQ stresses could damage DNA.  The Birds, on the other hand, grasped this concept within a hundred years and remedied the situation before they had suffered irreparable damage.  After they contacted the Pozú, they educated them on the danger, but it was too late.  The Pozú's reproductive DNA had been altered in such a way that the defective genes could not be excised from the population, even in later more advanced times of genetic science.  Hence, the population began to decline.  In Earth's 20th century there had been a billion Pozú; in the 30th there are only 30 million individuals alive. 
       Hence, they have a great interest in the biosciences and in medicine; their physicians are famous for their skill.  They are a genuinely spiritual people and many of them are empaths, able to sense the inner feelings of others.  This makes them skillful psychologists.  They also have what they call zo-yevá, literally, "touch-soul therapy"; they are able to calm people with their touch and voice, another great asset for a physician.
       They rarely fly their own ships far by the 30th century, mostly serving on the vessels of the other three interstellar-capable ILFs.  However, in the early days, they flew flotillas of small, disk-shaped craft that roamed widely around the galaxy.  They knew about the Birds of Krisí’i’aid long before the first contact happened, and they also visited Earth, sometimes taking specimens of the local ILF, which they treated well and released back into their native environment with their memories scrambled.  They observed the dropping of the first radiant bombs in the 20th century and a few years later one of their ships crashed in a desert region near where the research on those bombs had been carried out.  They were able to rescue most of their crew but were forced to leave some bodies of their dead behind.  Imagine a meter-tall creature somewhat resembling a capuchin monkey or a sea otter with all its hair burned off, leaving a grayish, leathery skin. 
       The Pozú continued to overfly the planet called Earth until well into the 21st century, sometimes feeding their ships with power from the planet's magnetic field or even diving beneath the surface of the ocean to do research.  During that time they observed the degradation of the planet's environment and the increasing bellicosity of its nations.   Finally, realizing that Earthers were on a path to self-destruction and were not ready for a first contact, they flew away and never returned until after the Bird people  had accidentally encountered a much changed humanity.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Publishing Update on "The Termite Queen"

I want to thank two people who have recently reviewed
 "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder."
  Your interest is much appreciated!
  David Lever ( and Jack A. Urquhart (
 both have interesting blogs and good books of their own for sale.

       Before I tackle another post on my extraterrestrial species, I want to talk about how my preparations for publishing "The Termite Queen" are coming along. I did decide to publish it in two volumes.  They will be entitled, respectively, "The Speaking of the Dead"  and "The Wound That Has No Healing." The first is working out to be a little over 300 pages. The second will be longer.
        First, a word on the status of the permissions thing. I have received permission to publish quotes from Dylan Thomas, Robert Graves, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Seamus Heaney's translation of "Beowulf." I still haven't heard from Evangeline Walton's publisher -- it was the last one I sent -- but I'm expecting it day-to-day. After I get the Walton, there will be nothing standing in the way of publishing the first volume. I have one more outstanding request that belongs with v.2, and I still have to pick some substitute poems for that volume. I found satisfactory substitutes for the Stephen Spender, the Auden, and the Ezra Pound.   Then I will have to create a cover drawing for v.2 from scratch, which will take some time.  That will give people time to digest the first volume and grow impatient for the second.
        As for preparing the book, I'm engaged right now in formatting v.1 for paperback in CreateSpace. I think I've done about half and have conquered the formatting problems with the headings and page numbers. Honestly, that's the most difficult thing you can do in Word.
        I've also made up my mind about the cover art -- I used the more edge-on elliptical galaxy -- gives more depth, I think. And I've finished the back cover as well. GIMP worked! I tried a sample of my drawing and it was extremely easy to upgrade the DPI using that program, so when I actually get ready to upload everything, it should go really fast!
        I hope to be ready to do that by the middle of February at the latest!
        Now the ebook problem. It turned out that not every publisher who holds print rights also holds the e-rights to an author. That's the case with Robert Graves. I will have to shell out another 300 bucks or so if I want to obtain his e-rights. I'll have to see what the case is with the other permissions that are still outstanding. I may try to publish on ebook even though it costs me extra, because I know some people just love their ebooks. If I do, the price is going to be the same as the paperback, however, because I want to encourage people to buy "real" books (I'm planning another curmudgeonly post on that subject later).
        I will also need to upload a sample if I put the book on Kindle, to make sure it will properly display the strange characters of my conlang. 
       So e-publication depends on those two things -- whether I want to spend the money to get additional permissions to publish, and whether Kindle will accept my copy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Introduction to my Non-Termite Extraterrestrials, Part 2: The Birds

       First a word on how it happens that the planets in our small sector of the galaxy harbor so much life. I pretty much went with the panspermia idea. As a Professor of Entomology explains it in "The Termite Queen" to an audience that includes indigenes of four different worlds: "The genome [of the giant termites] certainly differs greatly from that of terrestrial termites, but the baselines are fully in line with TIPE. For those of you who might not be familiar with that acronym, that means ‘Theory of Interstellar Parallel Evolution,’ which posits that in its formative stages our sector of the galaxy was seeded by some protein or viral particle that was capable of developing into primitive DNA like that found on Earth, and hence into carbon-based lifeforms with the potential of following convergent evolutionary paths. Without TIPE, avians, primates, and monotremes would not have developed on more than one planet and we wouldn’t be seeing all of you good people together here in this room!"
        So within a range of 200 ly or so, we have many planets with lifeforms that originated at approximately the same time. Depending the characteristics of the planet, we could find anything from primitive microbes up to humanoids, with intelligent life developing from many different base species. Intelligent lifeforms range from primitive stages comparable to early hominids to species that have developed advanced technologies. Some have reached the point of space flight but only locally within their own star system (the point where we are in the 21st century).
        In the 30th century there are only three known ILFs that have developed the technology of interstellar flight: the Krisí’i’aidá from the planet Krisí’i’aid, the Pozú from Pozúa, and the Te Quornaz from Quornam.
        I found an actual star in the constellation Puppis to serve the planet Krisí’i’aid.  Known only by its star-catalogue designations, one of which is HD70642, it's a type G5V star 94 ly from Earth and it is quite similar to our sun. It's known as of our present date to have a large gas-giant planet. But it also has a fictional planet similar to Earth except for its almost upright axis, which causes it to lack seasons (something that befuddles the Birds when they come to Earth). The Krisí’i’aidá call their star "Chuzaw<" (which means "Mother-Fire" -- the < represents a whistle in !Ka<tá).
        Mammals never evolved on this planet, but there are plenty of lower lifeforms -- arthropods, fish, amphibians, reptilians, and avians. With avians warbling in the top of the evolutionary tree, it's natural that they would become the foundation species for intelligence. And Krisí’i’aid is unique in that three different species of ILF evolved separately on the same planet, all from avians.
        First, the !Ka<tí, who speak !Ka<tá. They are falconiforms, evolved from big eagle-like birds who became flightless. They are about the size of a rather short human (5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 4 inches) Their wings evolved into arms with three-clawed hands (a bird's wing contains only three digits, so this seemed to make sense). One of the digits is opposable, like a human thumb. (This type of arm and hand evolved convergently in all three Bird ILFs.) Otherwise, their anatomy is identical to terrestrial birds. Their beaks are not quite as sharp as the beak of a golden eagle, but they still look formidably eagle-like. The !Ka<tí are almost entirely carnivorous, eating mostly fish. They also have one very un-eagle-like characteristic -- they sing like songbirds! They are the most numerous species of ILF on their planet.
        Secondly, the Wéwana, who speak Towewa. They are ciconiiforms that evolved in marshlands from flightless water birds. They can be over six feet tall and look very much like terrestrial storks or herons, except that they have heavier, more ostrich-like legs (but with the feet of wading birds). They are beautifully plumed and come in many colors. They are also carnivorous, favoring fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. They differ from terrestrial storks in their ability to vocalize (Earth storks are mostly mute), but they don't sing. The !Ka<tí tend to regard them as clownish inferiors, although the two species have an amiable relationship. The Captain of the ship that takes the expedition to the termite planet in "The Termite Queen" is a Wéwani named Skrei Af'fork. I have done some work on their language but not a great deal.
        Thirdly, the Gro’á’ata, who speak Gro'at. They are galliforms, evolved from grouse-like birds; in fact, they look almost exactly like the Gunnison sage grouse, with the inflatable chest bags and the tall crest feathers and the impressive tail fan. (You can see pictures of sage grouse at They tend to boom a lot and also crow.  They have leg spurs, like domestic chickens and pheasants (terrestrial grouse lack the spur).  They are about the same height as the !Ka<tí but chunkier, they come from a region of flat plains and they eat grain, fruit, and insects. They are the only one of the Bird ILFs that cooks any of their food. They are also the warriors of the planet, who make good use of that spur, and they have a very warlike history. They often serve in the Confederation Defense Force; the Chief of Security aboard Capt. Skrei's ship is a giant grouse named Maj. Kwo∙at Bidba (again, I have done only limited work on the Gro'at language).
        As Prf. A'a'ma said once, "On my planet the eagles sing, the chickens fight, and the storks -- well, on both our planets they just behave like clowns!"

       The history and culture of Krisí’i’aid: I've written a lot about this in the book that I got bogged down in and couldn't finish. There was a time when the three species warred against each other, but that was over a thousand years ago. After the planet unified, it invented the technology of interstellar flight and first flew to the stars about Earth year 2100, some 600 years before Earthers did it. Their technology utilizes the same temporal quantum theory, but they use crystal resonance to produce the pod. They have carried the technology of glass to a high level; they literally live in glass houses and their ships (which are ovoid in shape, as befits a bird) are lined with moldable glass, in which they incorporate their lighting sources. It's a technology that produces a highly aesthetic result.
        Each species has its own courtship and breeding customs. The eagles sing to each other and pair-bond for life, the storks dance together and pair-bond for only as long as it takes to fledge the offspring, and the grouse are totally promiscuous and practice lekking (fighting for the right to mate), a custom which is considered barbaric by the other two species.
        Each species also has its own religious traditions and mythology, but unlike on Earth religious wars never happened on Krisí’i’aid. Perhaps that is because the three species lived in quite widely separated areas of the planet for many millennia, or perhaps it is because they are separate species, unlike Earthers. It would serve no purpose for one species to take up the customs of another species or to hold the same beliefs about creation. Of course, all three are now advanced scientifically, but no conflict between physical laws and the mythic structures of their spiritual beliefs ever developed.

Next time: the Pozú