ArtBy Khannea Suntzu
In the 1980s (misspent youth) I was organizing this roleplaying game. It was pretty much a pathological business. Over the years more than 50+ people took part in it, and it ‘peaked’ in the late 80s with some 20+ participants at the same time. It was a cult – and yes it was unhealthy. The original map has long since been lost (discarded) and I see almost no person from those days, with only a handful of charitable exceptions. I was a very different human being back then and not always for the better. Drugs, secretive sex, nasty politics, drama, alcohol, sadistic games. I caused a few people a fair bit of misery, but it was back and forth quite a bit.
On the positive side I learned an unwholesome amount about world creation. Even though this is essentially a useless set of skills in today’s world, I still dabbled over the last 23 years in the land map, and retconned the whole backstory of those days in to the Lovecraft Dreamlands, since a lot of the backstory from that play heavily borrowed from Lovcecraftian themes anyway. Fast forward 23 years. I scanned the original paper map, edited it substantially, put it in photoshop, lost it, did it again, and started editing. Adding layers, adding size. Adding more size. The original scan was several thousand by several thousand pixels and covered a stretch of land somewhat bigger than unified Germany. The current PSB file is 50000 pixels by 40000 pixels, 50+ layers, Lab colors and completely inaccesscible. I can’t even load it properly, it is ridiculous. Yet since I don’t have much else to do it keeps calling to me, as my great unfinished accursed project. So I cut it in sections (which took me two weeks to do meticulously, i.e. with precisely lining up, no pixel loss) and I rendered 20 JPG pics of it. I think it’s beautiful. In all probability I may never finish it in this lifetime, but who knows? I would like it if it would go on as a MMO in formation, setting the stage to an absurd virtual reality fantasy world maybe a few decades from now, mixing D&D elements, Lovecraft, Warhammer themes and the highly inspirational feel of “Powers & Perils”. I know, I painted myself in a really bad corner here. But yanno, “tortured artists” and that sort of thing. Maybe I could make some money with it eventually.
Dark Young of Shub Niggurath
So what is this? It is a “small” manifestation of the horrendous pan-galactic life force, “Shub Niggurath“. These are extremely dangerous things, basically hundreds times as deadly as a walking ebola plague weighing two african elephants. It’s a rather cliche manifestation of the morbid imagination of H.P.Lovecraft. These things shamble about in lonely places and in case you’d ever spot one from a distance – run away from them and do not look back.
Misshapen little freak goblin
Severed Wings – 23 August 2012
Flying Polyp Basalt Cities (Infestation)
I was always fascinated about those looming black basalt cities of the Flying Polyps. I came across the wikipedia page of these Lovecraftian Monsters, with some mediocre art. I am sure I can do better.
The basic premise is that these spectral monstrosities infest planets. They are truly alien, far more alien than most Lovecraftian monsters and communication or negotiation with them is more or less impossible. The Polyps erect miles high basalt towers vaguely comparable in internal structure to termite mounds. Once these creatures take root on a planet it becomes next to impossible to root them out. Like many other trains of Lovecraftian monstrosities once these thoroughly take root on a planetary body they will completely change, sterilize and lay waste to the planetary surface, and will introduce new forms of life native to their own original dimension.
Hydria Prime is from the human, terrestrial perspective a planet of contradictions. The planet itself orbits in a very ciurcular orbit a gas giant larger than Jupiter, at a mean distance of 1.5 million kilometers. The gas giant is on the verge of Brown Dwarf state, and has entered compression to produce cyclical surges of thermonuclear reactors in its core. The mean surface temperature of the gas giant in its upper cloud layer ranges from a few hundred degrees in hot spots to 150 degrees near its poles.
Heat/cold cycles in the atmosphere of this Brown Dwarf cycle over 50 years between dormant and active, influencing surface heat and radiation flow on Hydria prime. The brown dwarf itself orbits a K5 star which is smaller than Sol. Several million years ago Hydria Prime did not receive sufficient solar heat to permanently melt its surface ice. Despite that Hydria as a planet was formed 7 billion years ago, from a more metal-rich cloud. Hydria prime is consequently more metal rich and “dense”, despite being older than the solar system/earth. Only the last several hundred million of years the main brown dwarf started emitting sufficient energy to thaw Hydria prime. Nevertheless there was been higher order organic life inside the sub-surface oceans of Hydria prime. It is assumed the Gas Giant will heat up in the next few ten million years as to make Hydria uninhabitable. Despite the harsh conditions complex life evolved 4 billion years ago, and has evolved ever since in the dark subsurface oceans of the planet, below a mile thick ice crust. Originally the subsurface oceans were quite acidic, and tainted with complex hydrocarbons salts and complex organic molecules. Primitive Hydrian life lived in planet wide deep sub-oceanic vent regions along the equator – Hydria used to have an equatorial oceanic ridge.
How Hydria Prime evolved in to its current state
Life got started on Hydria Prime a billion years ‘early’ on terrestrial life. Hence, Hydrian life is surprisingly (and often terrifyingly) resilient, robust, versatile and organically complex when referenced with terrestrial life. But the story doesn’t end there – Hydria Prime used to be a moon not unlike Titan – with a thick cryogenically frozen outer surface, a thick soupy organo-chemical atmosphere, and cryo-volcanism. Below the deep frozen primordial surface of Hydria prime lay a 40 mile deep ocean, not of just water, but mostly of viscous black sludge the consistency of honey. In this ocean life complex organic evolved and remained in a state of stasis for a billion years. There were little evolutionary pressures and the habitat was only disrupted by infrequent asteroid strike extinction events. The ecology comprised very complex strata of crawling sea current, variations in temperature and halocline salinity, and truly massive mile long deposits of sedimentary debris floating smack in the middle of these halocline layers.
But then the temperature of the system changes. The Brown Dwarf started heating up due to contraction and emitted enough light to gradually thaw Hydria. Hydria started losing its atmospheric constituents (primarily Hydrogen) very gradually over the course of hundreds of millions of years. In some time in the geological past Hydria was orbiting more inward to the Brown Dwarf (it migrated outwards due to tidal pull from the main star). Over the span of billions of years the subsurface life grew in complexity and started having a feedback impact on the composition of the ocean, making it less acidic and reducing salt levels and general viscosity. As a side effect of this transition gaseous hydrogen was produced as a free gas, which accumulated in pockets under the ice crust and which emerged from the surface in geysers. Over billions of years the tidal heating of the planet was replaced by heating from the outside and heating from the brown dwarf.
Hydrian gradually life found its way to the still frozen surface and evolved a natural resistance against the radiological “allen belt” onslaught of the Brown Dwarf (hydrian radiation spikes at over 1000 rem at certain times of the month). This trigger the formation of an oxygen atmosphere on the surface of this ice moon, as truly titanic plants used the energy gradiant between the subsurface ocean (and hydrogen) and the surface light and radiation (and oxygen) to grow through sometimes miles of geyser crackers.
Then 500 million years ago the ice surface of Hydria Prime cracked and split open, and very quickly the oceans started boiling off through hydrogen loss. At the same time the atmosphere of Hydra grew thicker to the current 10 standard atmosphere pressure. Hydria Prime is tidally locked to its Brown Dwarf and Hydera evolved on the northern delta regions of the main continental mass that is turned halfway towards the main star and halfway to the Brown Dwarf. The two geographic regions look apocalyptically different, since the Brown Dwarf visibly glows in the dark sky.
The main sun looks like a smaller version of Sol, at a distance to the Brown Dwarf of equivalent to Mars.
Hydrian Plant Life Evolved
Hydrian “plants” function quite differently to terrestrial plants. Since the planet is inundated by frequent and severe radiation storms, Hydrian life doesn’t use codified genetic material in cells to convey its heredetary qualities. Plant life has a single ‘genome pocket’ that tends to be buried. Hydrian Plans are “organic” and not at all wood-like. There are complex organs inside Hydrian plans, generally surrounded by an exoskeleton. Nevertheless Hydrian plants tend to be inanimate, and are as a rule extremely defensive (quils, poison, sharp bark, symbotic relationship with animal species, etc.) against “predation” or “grazing”. Hydrian jungles are objectively speaking considerably more dangerous than Terrestrial jungles.
Hydrian plants generally procreate through lifecycles. Some plants have an ambulatory or “animal” stage, and some animals may have an “inanimate” stage in their life cycles. Some plants actually exhibit a fair degree of smarts, if you can call it that. “Commerce” and “Betrayal” is a routine feature of plant interactions. It is best to say that the plant ecology of Hydria prime is itself ruthlessly ‘capitalist’.
Hydrian Animal Life Evolved
Hydrian animal life exists in several sub strains, each as radically different from each other as terrestrial plants. In fact whereas on Earth there are Bacteria, Archaea and Eucariotes (and the latter comprise all “visible” complex life, including plants and animals). On Hydria there are five distinctly different different Clades, of which three have evolved complex organic life. On Hydria Prime plants and animals are more alien to another than terrestrial plants and animals. The third clade only generates very small invertebrate tendriled molds and has been gradually going extinct.
Animal life had to content with frequent surges of ionizing radiation from the Brown Dwarf and evolved a range of different coping strategies, ranging from a mixture of resilience, a rapid breeding cycle,
Sexuality and Reproduction
Hydera are by default a-sexual. This wasn’t always the case; before Hydera became intelligent (were “uplifted”) the species often overflowed available habitable space, and experienced severe cyclical extinctions. Through evolution the Hydera was forced to generate a solution, namely that only very fit and well-fed specimen would enter a procreative stage. Hydera do not have anything resembling genders – they produce eggs, which hatch in to tadpoles, which in turn go through a several decade life stage where they are non-intelligent and extremely aggressive. Only after some 32-odd terrestrial years this “feral” stage passes. In the feral childhood of Hydera it is a biological given that adult Hydera kill about 7% to 90% of their younglings, in cyclical cullings. Finally when the adult Hydera grows a neurological stem along it’s ventral spine does it achieve potential for the peculiar Hyderan sentience, and only then, when it is fed does it become able to lay eggs.
Hydera build elaborate nests. The smallest of these nests are round hollow mounds with a central warren filled with meticulously selected mud and decaying Hyderan plant matter. These mounds have a distinctive smell which is quite unpleasant for human noses. Singular mounds effectively produce clones of the Hydera parent. Hydera do however gather their breeding mounds in clusters (at which the base shape becomes hexagonal) and allow the tadpole stage Hydera to intermingle, based on an intricate political alliance game. Tadpoles that intermingle either kill and devour one another, or go through a mitosis stage, becoming a single new Hydera with “genetic” traits from either “parent”. These “merged” Hydera tend to be somewhat bigger, and enter sentient state earlier, usually after 25 years. The “merged” Hydera are however sterile. Hence the planet-locked traditional Hydera are sexual reproducers, whereas those species that colonized other lands, planets and star systems needed to develop contrived means (hormones, minor surgery) to enter a reproductive stage. There is no social distinction between either strain of Hydera. Both are (generally) societally treated equitably.
Hydera naturally live to an age of about 180 terrestrial years, but in practice most Hydera have long since altered their physiology to be biologically immortal. There are Hydera alive thousands of years old.
Whenever a Hydera corpse is incinerated it is clear what these creatures are composed off -they leave a remarkably aesthetic organic looking chrome skeleton that is essentially a light type of corrosion resistant metal. Hydrian skeletal material decays in the Hydrian organochemistry but it doesn’t decay on earth.
Interaction with Hydera makes clear they are quintessentially “alien” and nonhuman. Hydera think and function very different than humans. Hydera can both be regarded as sentient and “in a continued trance like state”, hyper-alert and remote. The Hydera mind is singular, whereas the human brain operates in distinctive sub-functions. Human minds in comparison have a “sub-conscious”, and a “reptilian brain”. Hydera on the contrary are extremely “in the now”. There are very few double layers in Hydera behavior, and they are not as prone to humans to “superstitions” or errors of pattern recognition. The first impression Hydera make on humans is a remote cynical detached-ness. Hydera have an acutely versatile voice box and are able to communicate “emulating” human language. The reverse is less easy achieved, and only very few humans are able to generate a crude “pidgin” Hydrian speech. The simple fact is that current Hydera, even young ones, are simply a whole lot smarter than the typical human being.
The Hydera Interplanetary Age
The Hydera Influence Spanning Parts of the Galaxy
The Galactic Horrors
– The Galactic Visor 🙂
– Wayne Douglas Barlowe
– David Gerrold
– Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle