|I made this drawing as a solstice card for a friend. Don't be too hard on it; |
it was one of my earliest attempts and I've never been any good
at figure drawing. However, I think it captures the spirit of the Te Quornaz.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Creating Alien Races out of Lifeforms Other than Insects: Lemurs
In my last post I discussed ways in which insects can be converted into intelligent lifeforms. I have also created ILFs from other species, namely, lemurs, three kinds of birds (eagles, storks, and grouse), and an undefined type of monotreme (egg-laying mammals). The methodology is similar: take a planet where, through panspermia, creatures similar to Earthforms have developed, then take the dominant species and allow it to evolve intelligence. Research the Earthly creature and extrapolate its behaviors -- what would these instinctive behaviors turn into if the creature developed intelligence? Which features would evolution select for and which against?
Today we'll discuss the lemuriforms!
If you've read The Termite Queen, you know that a couple of the crewmembers are Te Quornaz, from the planet Quornam. They resemble giant lemurs. In fact, the Earth island Madasgascar once possessed giant lemurs, some weighing as much as 440 lbs. (Wikipedia), so lemuriforms over 6 feet tall are not out of the question. On Quornam, prosimians spread over the entire planet, while simians (apes and monkeys) never evolved.
I kept a lot of lemur physical characteristics, which vary greatly among species, providing a lot to choose from. The Te Quornaz are long-limbed with long tails; I made them resemble the ring-tailed lemur, with tails banded with a contrasting color, although I gave them a variety of color combinations as a regional difference. I kept the long-snouted head, tufted ears, and the comb teeth, which are used for grooming. I gave them a long middle finger with a grooming claw, combining traits of the aye-aye and the ruffed lemur, which has a short grooming claw on its feet. I gave them fully opposable thumbs on their forelimbs (arms), which seems to be to be almost a necessary trait for technology-capable species.
Lemurs as a whole are omnivorous, although this varies widely among species, so I made the Te Quornaz conveniently omnivorous as well. I made them nocturnal, with big nocturnal eyes that require them to wear googles in bright sunlight, even though many terrestrial species are diurnal, especially the larger ones. Making the Te Quornaz nocturnal helps to differentiate them from humans and creates some amusing cultural conflicts in the plot.
Many lemurs have female dominance as a characteristic of their social system, but I didn't retain this. Males and females are fairly equal on Quornam. I kept some of the courting patterns, such as mutual grooming with those comb teeth, but I eliminated the "stink fights," where males rub their scent glands on their tales and wave them at each other! The Te Quornaz have become much more "civilized" than that! They also do wear garments but mainly for adornment (they love bright colors and pleasant textures); they have no sense of false modesty and are perfectly willing to go naked in public.
One of the most compelling characteristics that I adapted was their ability to leap across the ground (particularly the sifakas, who can move across the ground only by leaping sideways on their hind legs, being adapted to vertical leaping and clinging in the trees). I turned this into an acrobatic ability to dance and leap, which is part of the courtship and mating ritual of the Te Quornaz (see latter half of Chapter 9 of The Termite Queen, v.1,) At the same time they are very musical, not only singing words but using a descant that I derived from the haunting songs of the indri.
I have worked out only certain details of their culture (if I should ever write a book laid on Quornam, I would have to do more world-building), but it has some of the characteristics of ancient Rome or Renaissance Italy -- landholdings (called Aquotae) with villas scattered about a beneficent countryside, with little roadside shrines to some of the gods and a lot of agriculture, including the growing of fruit that is turned into a potent alcoholic drink called zhoka. The ancient families of landed gentry who possess these holdings make up a governing council for the nations. There are also urban centers that fall outside this ancient system of landholding. (This is all discussed in that same Chapter 9 cited above.)
I have done rudimentary work on Glin Quornaz, the language of Quornam, with a vocabulary of maybe 50 words and some jumbled syntax. I intended the language to resemble Latin (in keeping with the ancient Roman lifestyle), with lots of cases and declensions. This is a difficult kind of conlang to write and I never got beyond what I needed for The Termite Queen.
A standard phrase of well-wishing, comparable to Good fortune to you! is Mae! zokam laziqua rival shima. It means "May Fate sing sweet music to you!" A literal, word-for-word translation is "To you fate sing music sweet."
I've always enjoyed my long-tailed, furry, large-eyed aliens, and I hope you do, too!