Aliens Make Nice Bedfellows… well, some of them.

Alien Diversity

Note about Alien Diversity from Dr. Tom’s Desk*

Reviewers and informal correspondents often remark about the array of alien races, planets, cultures and religions encountered in the main Star Lawyers series and its prequel spinoff, Star Lawyers Origins. Readers often comment positively on the multi-cultural spacefaring society I envision for the 32nd century. The complexity is usually well received, but one wag lodged an exasperated complaint that there was too much diversity!

Hello? A future where vast numbers of Earth’s people originate from non-European ancestry is not only likely, it’s already here. Currently, 75% of the human race lives on two continents: Asia (60%) and Africa (15%).

But let’s tie Donald Trump’s knickers in a knot and think about the untold trillions of undocumented aliens who live somewhere, out there.

I have had fun creating an even more complex picture of humanoid and non-humanoid star nations, species, races. (Using the word species and race interchangeably, rather than the limited and basically useless designation of “race” among our one-species human culture.) Here are some of the major players in 32nd century galactic civilization.

NON-HUMANOIDS (Excerpt from Jump Gate Omega):

“The majority of alien lifeforms differ wildly from the children of Earth. Insectoid Yegosians and reptilian Saurians. Sentient creatures with hard shells and multiple limbs but no head. Others looked like big luffa sponges with a few dozen garden hoses drooping off the moist membranes. There were brainy birds, intelligent vapor clouds who solidified to grasp tools or prey, and assorted races of sentient beings whose form and function defied human language to describe them without sounding nightmarish or just plain silly…

“(However) some humanoid aliens—Meklavites, Parvians, Quirt-Thymeans and others—were similar enough to Terrans to allow sexual—albeit not reproductive—compatibility… In some humanoids, the DNA double helix twisted left, instead of its “normal” right-handed form. But structural similarities abounded among bipedal humanoids. It was a maddening question.

“Then Wolfgang Ziegler offered an elegant, simple solution. In his twenty-fourth century work, Humanoid Efficiency, Ziegler theorized that, since there are a finite number of ways a creature can solve its evolutionary problems, similarities are bound to occur.”

HUMANOIDS

So, let’s run with Ziegler’s similarities. Here’s a sampler of four humanoid races whose political and social goals either align with humans or present no current threat in the 32nd century of Tyler Matthews.

Suryadivans – warm-blooded humanoid marsupial-amphibians with large, expressive head-fins. Not sexually compatible with H-sapiens. (Sorry, Captain Kirk. Neither are the green, plant-evolved, bipedal Kolovite women.) The Suryadivan Sacred Protectorate is the location for most of the action in Jump Gate Omega and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Books 1 & 2).

Quirt-Thymeans – Mr. Blue (A.K.A., Indigo, Prince Zenna) is a member of the humanoid race who founded the ancient Quirt-Thymean Empire. Although they are a single species, Thymeans are purple, Quirts blue. QTs are physically and sexually compatible with humans, albeit with short, doggy ears. Some scientists believe Quirts and humans might even be able to interbreed, with a little bio-tinkering. Mr. Blue frequently drives Tyler batty with his misreading of Terran metaphors and his indirect, high context way of communicating.

Meklavites –humanoid species, biologically compatible with Terrans. The Meklavite Union is a female-dominated oligarchical state in which women rule and men are subordinate. Mek women of means may form a Stable, essentially a harem, with as many husbands as they can financially support. This widespread practice of polygamy creates shortages of men, which means large numbers of middle-class women will never marry or have children. The major religion of the multi-planet, Meklavite Union is best described as witchcraft, with presiding witches and covens at ascending levels of the society.

Parvians – the Parvian Republic is home to the most compatible humanoid species yet encountered. (Until Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy, launching in May-June) Parvians have a well-earned reputation for ferocity among spacefaring civilizations. However, they are not expansionist and use their naval strength to keep the peace. As Noah Matthews says in Book 5, my work-in-progress, “Parves don’t start fights. They finish them.” They are loyal friends and merciless foes. Physically they are slightly smaller than the average Terran and well-proportioned, with multi-hued complexions, deep brown to pale beige, Afro-black to Norse blonde hair. Their species is known for its affability, zest for life, and for visiting devastation on anyone foolhardy enough to attack them. The common, cross-cultural watchword for dealing with citizens of the Republic: “Don’t fuck with the Parves.”

More alien species/races/cultures will appear in future books. If you want a hint, take a look at the gathering aboard Hakkian Granth’s flagship in Star Lawyers Origins Book 1 – Stardate.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

*(No, I can’t write you a prescription for Medical 420. I’m a retired graduate school professor of religious studies.)

Message from a Stucco Buddha

Wat Traimit Golden Buddha

Message from a Stucco Buddha

What mysterious gifts are people hiding within them?

Passing people in the street, I sometimes wonder—as a writer and student of humanity—what mysterious gifts are people hiding within them?

True, people carry burdens and sorrows, sometimes almost beyond bearing, and there are real villains loose in the world, who choose to harm others for reasons beyond our current understandings. But if there are secret evil doers, surely the other kind of person—the secret good-doer, the person of kindness and appreciation for life. I suspect these folks are way more typical.

A true story from Southeast Asia takes this thought to a deeper level

Nobody knew how long the stucco Buddha had sat in the courtyard outside one of the Temples. In Thailand there are many, many Buddhas . All over Asia, for that matter. This particular Buddha had sat outside the grounds of a Wat, or Temple for so many years that people didn’t know where it came from. He was covered in clay stucco, about 15 feet (4.5 m) tall, the fairly typical image of Buddha sitting in the lotus position, eyes open, with a little half-smile on his face.

The stucco Buddha withstood Thailand’s political and social changes and weathered monsoon rains for generation after generation. In modern times, foreign visitors frequently posed beside the sacred image. Sometimes they overstepped the bounds—put hats on his head, or threw an arm around the good old Buddha like he was their good ‘ol buddy, culturally insensitive acts that can get a tourist arrested in some countries. Kids left candy wrappers in his lap. Other people brought flower and fruit offerings to the Buddha, or just paused to meditate before the image of Gautama Siddhartha, the Enlightened One.

And the Buddha kept smiling, as though guarding some deep secret, right in the midst of life.

Then the city of Bangkok decided to build a highway

Then the city of Bangkok decided to build a highway right through the courtyard where the Buddha sat. The Enlightened One got an eviction notice. The government was actually quite accommodating and offered heavy-lift equipment to move the stucco Buddha indoors.

The monks realized this would be good for the statue, too. Inside the Wat the Buddha could be venerated by the faithful and photographed by tourists in a more controlled way. After all, even though it was poorly constructed, the Buddha was centuries old and deserved to retire with dignity.

When the government crane began hoisting the stucco Buddha, the massive statue began to crack. To make matters worse, rain started to fall on the split stone. The head monk temporarily halted the project and ordered the workers to lower the Buddha to the ground and throw a canvas tarp over the big idol.

The workers went home and once more the Buddha sat alone in the rain outside the Temple, conspicuously hidden under a weatherproof shroud.

Something shining in the light beam

Sometime in the night the head monk decided to check on whether the cracked statue had deteriorated in the rain. He focused a flashlight under the tarp to see how dry it was. When the beam touched the crack a tiny glimmer radiated back at him. Removing the tarp, the monk examined the crack and found there definitely was something shining in the light beam.

So, he fetched a hammer and chisel and tapped at the stucco, which crumbled away, revealing more gleaming surface. After hours of work in the darkness, the dawn rose over a sight which had not been seen for nearly three centuries: a solid gold, 15-foot Buddha weighing 5.5 tons.

The Buddha was cast from the gold

Scholars later suggested that Thai monks in the fifteenth century smelted gold to cast the Buddha. Three hundred years later another generation of monks desperately wanted to protect their beloved golden idol from an invading Burmese army. They secretly coated their divine treasure with clay in order to disguise it.

Apparently, they did their work too well. After the monks all died in that eighteenth century invasion, nobody knew what had happened to the golden Buddha… or had a clue about the true identity of this rather ordinary mud-stucco model in the now-deserted monastery. Later, when Bangkok was built, the statue was moved into the city and left outside a deserted temple. And the solid gold Buddha had been hiding in plain sight ever since.

How many people hide great, deep, incredible gifts under a rather ordinary coating of flesh and bone?

Today it sits in Wat Traimit (Temple of The Solid Gold Buddha).  Some art historians consider the Gold Buddha to be the most valuable sacred object in the world.

Now the question I sometimes myself ask is this: How many people do you pass on the street every day who are, in reality, solid Gold Buddha’s in disguise? How many people hide great, deep, incredible gifts under a rather ordinary coating of flesh and bone?

I encourage all my sci-fi writer friends (and their readers) to think about alien cultures and human beings through this lens.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ