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

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