Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's Alive!

Oh, THAT fichus.

Originality in writing sometimes comes in the fundamental shape of race generation.  I’ve been toiling in the laboratory for years, and while I haven’t quite managed a new race, I do have a fungus that plays checkers.  He’s not that good though, which builds my confidence up for chess with the hybrid fichus.

Generally (and that’s the caveat right there), any species isn't going to be stagnant. Stagnation equals death.  Take Tolkien's elves in The Lord of the Rings (too late, they already sailed West!). Their entire history was one of trying to regain the past, so much so that they attempted to arrest time and built the tools of their own destruction—the Rings of Power. They didn't progress, they only remained, and eventually they faded away and were lost.

Tragic Elf is Tragic!
That’s sad for the Elves, but great for us.  Tragic stories make for some great fantasy reading.  You have to be aware, though, that if your race isn’t moving forward, they’re being left behind, and there should be consequences of that.

Or, your race can be like we humans: a mix of individuals, divided/united by geography, and working toward/against certain goals. Trying to achieve a goal means overcoming obstacles, which is something we humans do rather well.  It might take us a few generations or millennium, but give us a place to stand and a lever long enough and we can move the world.  Along the way, this will mean advances and innovations which can have small effects on the culture culminating in large changes over time, or sometimes sudden, vast, sweeping impacts very quickly.

Take, for example, the stirrup. That little horse-step doesn't seem like much, and in fact, to our view,
Wait, what?
it's so incredibly logical as to render it invisible. However, saddles and bridle gear were all in use for some time, the stirrup was actually a significant development, and had a MAJOR impact on warfare.  Horses were domesticated around 4500 BC but the stirrup doesn't show up until around 500 BC, and that's just a loop that goes around your big toe.  You don’t think that will make a difference?  Next time you’re out riding, take your feet out of the stirrups and kick your horse into a gallop.  Enjoy the ride!

Even the toe-loop gave the rider so much better stability, that he/she could now fight far more effectively from horseback.  This completely changed the way battles could be fought. All things being equal, a swordsman on the back of a horse is easily a match for one on the ground.  A group of swordsman on horseback, cavalry, have a strategic advantage over a troop of foot soldiers, and so forth.  Cavalry, or a means to defeat cavalry, become a part of every serious nation’s military until the invention and promulgation of gunpowder.

Yeppers, that’s right.  The stirrup, invented by a race of humans attempt to solve the problem of keeping folk from slipping off the back of horses, is roughly equivalent to the invention of gunpowder.

Scary Trolloc is scary.
That's just one innovation; one advance.  The simple presence of geographic features—rivers, lakes, deserts, forests, etc.—have united and divided peoples, created wholly different cultures, friendships and animosities.  Everything has the potential to impact everything, so improvements in agriculture, industry, trade, travel, communication, cartography, treaties, alliances, wars, etc. all change the landscape of how a race was, is now and will be tomorrow.

An especially long-lived race would have different view of the seasons than a race that was especially short-lived, and their culture, artwork, philosophy, etc. would all reflect in that. The short-lived folk would probably have little use for most arts (little, not none) and be more concerned with tangible accomplishments (whatever those are). They might even have a fatalistic society, preferring to seek a death of their own choosing, rather than waiting. But they wouldn't JUST seek death, it would be ways in which they could pursue a glorious death, conquer more, make a name that would be heard by other races and outlast them.

(perhaps they employ the longer-lived folk to “remember” them).

So when all you mad geneticists out there are tinkering with the DNA of Dwarves, Elves, Trollocks and Sandworms, remember there is a lot more to consider than: Pointy Ears—Yes or No?

Hybrid fichus, it’s your move.


  1. Oh my good sir, you are entirely forgetting the Parthians who managed to be quite ferocious warriors without a stirrup. Really, you should consult a historian before making these statements.

    1. Not at all, good sir. While I certainly bow to my historians wealth of knowledge, in this case I didn't discount any particular fighting units that predated, postdated or went-steady with the innovation of the stirrup. Parthian, Assyrian, Persian, etc. cataphracts were all quite impressive for their lance or spear work without the stirrup. What the stirrup did was, as I said, “gave the rider so much better stability, that he/she could now fight far more effectively from horseback.” Cavalry became more than shock troops (or, as the Romans used them, mop-up skirmishers). They evolved into an incredibly effective fighting force after their initial charge, with “a strategic advantage over a troop of foot soldiers.” The die was effectively cast, and cavalry became an important component of serious warfare, both offensively and defensively.