Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Undersea Races (Part Deux)

The World So Far: The world is flat. On one side of disc is the exhaustively explored and urbanized home of humans, where cities, countries and nations vie for too little land to support their expanding populations. On the other side of the disc is an uncharted and largely oceanic world, dotted by islands and coastlines, full of strange wonder, abundant resources and tropical beauty.

An incoming force of humans, from a number of distinctly 15th century-feeling cultures, have sailed over the edge of their world and come to colonize the world below. Some have come to seek asylum, refuge or more converts to their maligned faith. Some have been exiled over, punished for crimes committed in the world above. Still, others come over to set down stakes in a new world, to exploit the natural resources and expand their conquest.

The new world's inhabitants, however, are four powerful undersea kingdoms, full of dynastic struggle, ancient tradition and military might. With cultures far older and far more intricate than those of the human colonists, the undersea kingdoms are as unprepared for this sudden clash of cultures as the unawares humans are.

Super late blog post wheeeeeeee.

Last week, we discussed a few traits of the People, the dwellers of our New World's undersea kingdoms. We settled on them being disproportionate to humans (comparable to Barsoom's Tharks) and we settled on their having the fantastic biological ability to spread bioluminescent bacteria wherever they touch, allowing them to create handy illumination for their dark, undersea homes.

These week, we'll illuminate a few more bizarre and inhuman traits for these undersea dwellers.


The first major hurdle I thought deserved attention was, of course, the matter of swimming. As an undersea race, our People will need some method of navigating their aquatic kingdoms. The traditional methods include mermaid tails, fins and flippers and these are all viable, if somewhat uninspired, options. Slightly less obvious options would be the octopus Ursula model or even Mieville's cray, both of which are interesting, but essentially just weirder deviations from the core model. Hm.

Since the ecosystem of my underside ocean is hopefully going to deviate as far as possible from the actual ecosystem of our actual oceans – with its own food chain, organisms and biodiversity – it strikes me that simply slapping the nethers of an established species of fish onto my undersea People would maybe be disingenuous? I mean, sure, I'd be hard pressed to create a believable marine ecosystems without drawing to the fin/flipper/tentacle well over and over again, but I think, with something as fundamental as the only sentient species below the waves, I'd wanna find a more creative solution.

In thinking about it, it honestly doesn't make sense to me that a People who dwell on the bottom of the ocean would actually be able to swim to its surface via their own anatomy and physiology. I mean, using life on land as an analog, that would effectively presume that humans, the baseline race of most settings, can fly into space. No, the more I think about this, the more I start to appreciate that maybe the People simply live their entire lives on the bottom of the ocean and don't have anything necessarily built into their bodies to allow swimming.

That said, I will need the Colonists and the Kingdoms to interact. Maybe that's one of the mysterious technologies of the People? Whether some manner of craft or personal transport, it's a technological development, rather than a biological one, that allows them to reach the surface.

I like that. That's in.

This leads me to think about what life must be like for a civilization at the bottom of the ocean, about how durable and practically fucking immortal they'd need to be to withstand the intense pressure. Immortal makes me think of life cycles, which makes me think of reproduction. Are they mammals? Fish? Birds?

My first instinct is none of the above; what if their life cycle is one of the most bizarre things about them? Imagine a technical immortality. Imagine if, rather than aging, becoming more decrepit and eventually dying, if they – phoenix-like – were simply born again? I like the idea of them repeating these cycle, ad infinitum, over and over again for millenia. Effectively re-incarnation, the successive newer versions could vary completely in physicality, gender, personality. they probably wouldn't even remember their previous lives.

I think they maybe hatch from eggs, right, some simply genetic base block. The People are born like normal fish, birds or reptiles – they hatch from eggs that're presumably cared for by their society. Over time, they grow, mature, learn and eventually reach full adulthood at some point in their life, standing nearly 10 feet tall and all that. Then, they enter the third and final stage of their lives, where they shrink and shrink – they don't wither or wrinkle like humans – but they become smaller, more compact, less physically able than they once were. I like the idea they keep their mental faculties, though, so they get wiser and more astute as they shrink. Eventually, at the end of their life, they, caterpillar-style, cast an new egg around themselves that serves as the old Person's coffin and the new Person's womb. In a certain amount of time, a new Person is born.

Maybe they have like, a tadpole-esque larval form? I think that might help separate out the three stages. 

What's interesting about this idea is that they theoretically don't need to reproduce. If none of them die of old age, there's no reason for mating. There was maybe some event in their history, with some grandiose name like The Spawning, in which all the tens of millions of eggs were laid and began to hatch. Since then, they've all been hatching a various times and, in theory, diminishing. I imagine they can still be killed, right, they aren't actually immortal – just functionally so.

I think that works. It's very weird, but I think it works. I'm curious to see what that kind of lifestyle might so, theoretically, to one's psychology and outlook.

Next week, a complete change of subject!

Next Wednesday on Worldblogger: Pirates! Yarr!

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