A recognizable enemy can be very useful in speculative fiction…
But what if that enemy isn’t recognizable, until it is far, far too late to notice?
I thought it would be fun to put one species of bad guys, my elder race the Suthidruu, up against another species, their own nemeses in my fictional setting, called the Tathladi — never mind trying to pronounce it accurately, human vocal chords can’t manage it, so says me, so there — another species engineered to sapience by the Nine who are One, specifically a being known as the King of Shards, who created them to counter the aggressive, psychotic fanaticism of the Suthidruu when interpersonal splits among the Nine occurred.
No major spoilers here, but what does a Tathladum (singular of Tathladi) look like?
I imagine them as an unlikely-looking combination of pill bug, trilobite, squid, and crinoid, and descended from their world’s equivalent of porpoises…obviously an aquatic race…who, due to details of their uplift, innately lack the capacity for irrational faith, and with a handful of other traits genetically instilled and culturally inculcated are the ultimate rational counterbalance to their insane zealot brethren.
Tathladi and Suthidruu have traditionally been trying to expunge each other from the cosmic stage, and each has so far only managed to check the other, without any conclusive victory for their troubles.
That will change when both species encounter humanity for the first time, and our species’ pseudo-god children, the hominid Mirants…
For the SF novella I’m working on, like most works of fiction, there needs to be a source of conflict, and there’s no better source of conflict than a recognizable villain.
The problem with villains is that plausibly, they shouldn’t think of themselves as being villains: I’m sure the Daleks of Doctor Who are just plain mean-n-nasty pieces of work, but they don’t see themselves as evil, just doing whatever it is that their species does to survive and flourish — at the expense of everyone else.
It’s important to have bad guys who don’t sound like something out of silly 1980s animated toy commercials.
This time around, I’ll discuss one of my species of antagonists, a horrific elder race that for lack of a humanly pronounceable name for themselves, I’ll use a corruption of it instead — Suthidruu — the name of an innately insane species consumed by love — a twisted, murderous love that drives them to bring the gift of merciful extinction to every intelligent species they come across.
Suthidruu are essentially a race of clergy, whose society is based upon the number nine for religious symbology purposes, who worship a group of remote, godlike entities known in their theology as the Nine Who are One, who artificially evolved, or uplifted them, from worm-like colony organisms billions of years ago into intelligent beings to serve as priests and enforcers of the Nine.
Suthidruu physiology is also based on the number nine: with three sets of nine tentacular limbs — 9 limbs for eating and speaking, 9 limbs with sensory clusters for smell, sight and hearing, and 9 limbs to serve variously as arms or legs depending on posture and whim.
Having been uplifted as clergy, the species has a strong tendency for fanaticism, and for most purposes possesses only the emotion of love.
A perverse, inhuman, psychotic love for all the universe’s creatures.
Suthidruu see the universe as a place of unending misery and sorrow, and see it as their holy mission to send all other species to paradise in acts of mass mercy-killing, one planet-buster bomb or nova-trigger at a time.
They generally make no attempt to communicate with the doomed species, until conducting last rites before their victims’ home star explodes and their planet is vaporized.
Why not kill themselves?
Because they don’t see themselves as worthy of eternal bliss until they send everyone else in the universe there first, only then will they have ‘earned’ it, and only then will they bring about their own extinction, in a single orgy of species-wide suicide.
NOT extermination — THAT would be Daleks!
I’m reading “The Last Human,” an awesome book I recently picked up at the local library on humanity’s ancestors and relations going back an estimated seven million years, 22 separate species in all, and none of these distinguished peeps are around any more.
Gone. Deleted. Extinct. Kaput. All your hominids are now belonging to us…
The title of the book is, I think, accurate and quite possibly prophetic, and I strongly suspect that if we don’t start taking better care or ourselves, each other, and the world environment we need to exist, we will be the last humans.
Think about this for a bit: There have been times in the past, even within the last 100,000 years, that multiple human species lived not only in the same era, but in some cases in the same locale as well.
The fact that we are alone as far as human species go, and are in the process of making even the surviving great ape species in Africa and island Asia extinct as well, speaks volumes about our intolerance of competition with “Those other peeps not like us.™”
This is not an attitude I find useful in the long-term and seems in part to be very much a manifestation of our tribalistic evolutionary baggage that could get us all killed fighting amongst ourselves over somebody’s stupid, dogmatic, ideological dislikes.
I mentioned before that our future looks bright if we don’t kill ourselves off to soon, but though this could just be an example of the Clustering Illusion in statistical probability, given the current political and world events of the past couple of years, my confidence isn’t helped much.
I’m very much concerned about the outcome of this, and our future as a species when we seem determined to bring about our own extinction, through war, environmental inaction, and sometimes disastrously mistaken social policies.
I recently came across an old and outmoded idea, dating back to early 20th century ideas on evolution, namely that of the so-called ‘missing link,’ which is still perpetuated by many creationists arguing against evolution.
This is an idea that involves questioning that ‘man evolved from apes‘ (or monkeys, take your pick…), a straw-person, since no reputable biologist argues this, and is based upon the ‘ladder of evolution’ or ‘great chain of being‘ fallacy, the idea that evolution is linear, like the rungs on a ladder from lower or more primitive species to higher, more advanced ones and the idea that evolution has a certain ‘direction’ or goal it must move toward.
This is unlike Darwin’s own actual concept of a sort of tree of life, or shrub, in which species can be compared to ever more branching limbs and twigs, that spread out and diversify over time, but without any goal or directional intent existing in the process.
This more accurate view is used today in biology and in which living things are simply different from one another, and in which humans are not descended from apes, but jointly descended along with other present-day primates from an earlier common primate ancestor that over time diversified into the modern species we see today.
We did not, of course, come from modern apes, or monkeys, or from any species currently extant, but from an earlier ancestral species that was simply different, not ‘lower’ than we on the rungs on a ladder or links in a chain, but which diverged in response to selective pressures and branched out into the current species over millions of years.
All current hominids descend from a common, earlier and presumably extinct form of apelike ancestor, itself branching off from its contemporaries from still earlier primates, those descending from a still earlier mammalian species, themselves deriving from proto-mammals and ultimately stretching all the way back some several billion years to the earliest self-replicating bacteria-like cells, and before them, earlier proto-cells following the origin of the molecular precursors of life on the early Earth.
There is no such thing as a ‘missing link’ and never was, for it assumes an argument that modern biology does not make, and I find it curious that anyone would take it seriously as a genuine weakness in evolutionary biology.
Then again, when one makes use of erroneous facts in support of an argument, the only way to do so consistently and effectively is with equally erroneous logic, something that in any sort of science denial is invariably committed by those so denying.