Tag Archive: science fiction


Year 9 Day 212

If there is a northern ice cap, it is not land-based anywhere on this northern continent or on this island or peninsula whose coast I have been following, and it’s getting too cold to continue northward. As far as I can tell, there is nothing but ocean to the north, anyway, and I’m well above the Arctic Circle here. From the time of year and the sun’s height at noon, I’m around 71° N.

The word is barren, but there’s no ice in sight. Or land farther north, for that matter, even when I levitate as high as I can go. Just salt water, and very unfriendly-looking salt water, at that.

So what shall I do next? The fur-bearers are well along on growing their winter coats, though I think it will be a few more fivedays before they’re at their best. I wonder if Songbird has weaned her daughter yet, at least enough that she could be gone for a few hours? Watching the northern hunters (or rather their women) tan furs was her idea, but I find I am looking forward to it. Maybe I can even figure out how they tan the really big hides, like the one on that carnivore I ran into the other day.

Could there be a floating ice cap?

Jarn’s Journal is a regular Friday feature. For the entire Journal to date see my author site.

Year 9, Day 34

I don’t know why I even spent time wondering whether I should tell the People about the northern hunters. I’d asked Little Gnu about the spear tips.  I had Rainbow trying to tan fur and make me warm clothing. And I unthinkingly assumed that only those two knew?

I might as well have stood up at the most populated part of the Gather and announced everything I knew or had surmised about the hunters. It probably would have taken longer for word to get around. Everyone seemed to arrive knowing of my explorations. They may call themselves the People, but I have to say the Gossipers would be a better name!

Granted, it was fresh news to most of them, and the salt pebbles and stories of the salt lake were of far more interest than the northern hunters. The exception, of course, was Songbird, who was rather obviously pregnant again. The soft-tanned furs and my tales of skiing the mountain snowfields fascinated her.

“If you took me to watch the women preparing furs, I might be able to learn by watching them,” she said hopefully.

I looked at her protruding belly. “I can teleport you, yes,” I said. “But right now there are two of you, and I cannot teleport both of you together.” I wasn’t really sure, but I did not want to take the risk. “Besides, the season for the best furs is past. It is getting warmer, and the fur animals are beginning to shed their winter coats.”

“Winter coats?”

“Here we have rainy and dry seasons. In the far north, they have warm and cold seasons. In the cold seasons, the animals grow thick coats. When it becomes warm, they shed them. Right now there is shed hair caught on every twig. The skins would not make good furs.”

She thought a minute or so. “My child will be born soon, probably before we leave. How soon will it be cold again there?”

“The cycle of seasons – warm to cold to warm again – takes about as long as the time from gather to gather. So it will always be warming up there at the time of a gather here.”

She frowned and thought a little. “So the furs would be getting thick again when the new baby has teeth?  But before it can walk?”

I was stunned. The People simply did not think ahead that far. At least, the men did not.

Songbird looked at my face and giggled. “I am a woman,” she informed me loftily. “We must think ahead, for our children. So can you take me to see the snow and these northern hunters when I begin to chew food for my baby? I know you can find me.”

I sighed and gave in. “Yes. But remember we must stay hidden. They do not know of my existence, and I do not want them to find out.”

What have I gotten myself into now?

Jarn’s Journal was supposedly written by a human-like alien stranded in Africa some 125,000 years ago. This is part of the very early back story of the universe in which I have set my science fiction. Jarn’s Journal to date is on my author site.

Year 8, Day 230

I think I saw one of the northern hunters today.

It was quite a distance from where I met and killed the pig – I’ve been careful not to go back to the immediate vicinity of that spot. True, I have interfered with one sentient species, and I will continue to do so. I cannot stand to be alone again. But one species is enough. I will not bear the guilt of a similar interaction with this new species.

The People travel in search of game, following the rains. The group I saw seem to migrate also, but in response to temperature rather than moisture. There is now snow on the higher peaks, and the group or possibly family I saw appeared to be traveling toward the warmer coastline. They wore furs, which are so warm as to be punishing among the People, but I found myself coveting them in the mountains..

This species is even less R’il’nian-like than the People in many ways. Their skin and hair are lighter than that of the People, who are toward the darker end of the R’il’nian spectrum. Reasonable, as the People live in a very sunny climate. This area is a good deal cloudier, especially as we move toward the local winter, so heavy pigmentation would actually be somewhat of a handicap.

They are also built somewhat more heavily, with barrel chests and heavily muscled limbs. It’s hard to be sure of relative size at a safe distance, but I suspect they are not too different. Probably they mass more, though I imagine there is overlap between the two species in height.

The faces are quite different, with heavy brow ridges, large noses and little forehead, but with a great deal of brain case at the back of the skull. This suggests a difference in the brain organization, but without careful observation I cannot know what the difference is. Some of the differences appear to be cold adaptation, but not all. For the moment, I had better leave them alone.

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of a human-like alien who was stranded in Africa about 125,000 years ago. The Journal to date can be found in its entirety on my author site

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Year 8 Day 165

I’ve found the end of the trench.

It’s been running pretty well parallel to the coastline, but both the northward trend of the coastline and the trench stopped with a jumble of mountains trending east-west, as far as such a jumble can be said to have a trend. The coast turned abruptly westward at almost the same latitude.

My geology is pretty shaky, but I checked the plate tectonics in the computer. If the trench is an incipient opening between two plates, as I suspect of the lake I live on, the jumble ahead, which looks very new and raw (geologically speaking) probably represents a plate colliding with the separating pair. A triple point.

Once again I went very high to survey the mountains ahead, and found some areas that merely looked crumpled and earthquake-prone, and others with some very odd looking erosional features. Although it is still hot and dry, I suspect from the vegetation I am in a winter-rain area. Allowing for the considerable elevation, this area may even be prone to snow in the winter.

Several of the trees have what looks like unripe fruits and nuts of varieties new to me. I will have to check them out later in the season, and perhaps bring some samples back to Rainbow. But on the whole, this mountainous plateau doesn’t look very hospitable.

Jarn’s Journal is supposedly the journal of a human-like alien who was stranded in Africa roughly 125,000 years ago. He has met a group of our ancestors (who much to his annoyance persist in treating him as a god) and has mapped the coastline of Africa. He is now mapping the Mediterranean. His Journal (a regular Friday feature) gives some of the back story of the Confederation in which my science fiction is set, and can be found on my author site.

Year 8 Day 150

I’ve been getting lazy, but with all the time in the world ahead, there’s no use hurrying. Mornings I take a swim in the salt lake and explore northward along the trench. Then I teleport high enough I can see both the trench and the tideless sea , fly out to the coast and map the coastline to the north, often finding a good swimming beach and having a second refreshing dip.

I keep an eye out for things Rainbow might use in food preparation or clothing, and spend about one day in five at home, checking both my building and food for the two of us. But all in all, it is a very placid existence, compared to what I had with Rhino and Torch Flower.

Vegetation along the coast has been getting steadily denser, especially on the seaward slopes of the coastal mountains. I’ve been seeing good-sized trees for several days, and two days ago I examined them closely for the first time. They aren’t at all like the tall trees of the jungle, having needle-like leaves and a unique but very pleasant odor. The odor even extends to the wood itself. Rainbow has been experimenting with using a couple of the tools Little Gnu made her to carve wood, and I brought her back several pieces to see what she could do with them.

She says that the wood carves well, and if I will bring her more, she will make me a storage box for my clothes.

Letter JJarn was a R’il’nian who lived around 125,000 years ago, during the penultimate interglacial on Earth. He was a starship designer, but he was young and he left a few safety features out of his design. As a result he was stranded in Africa, and met primitive humans there. By everything he had learned he should have avoided having anything to do with them – the morality he had grown up with emphasized that proto-sentient and sentient species were to be left strictly alone to work out their own destiny. But he could not refuse to help a badly injured child, and as a result of this and other well-intentioned acts, he wound up hybridizing with the primitives, so that ultimately all of these Human ancestors had a small contribution from Jarn’s genes. In my science fiction universe Jarn made it back to his people after several thousand years, taking many of his hybrid descendants with him.  Here he is recording his first thoughts after the crash.

His Journal is currently being blogged a bit at a time on Fridays, and is also on my author site. The Jarnian Confederation, home of all my science fiction, is named after Jarn.

Earth, as photographed from Galileo in December. Photo credit NASA I am alive, which still astonishes me. I do not know enough about this planet yet to have more than a rough idea of its year length, but no doubt I will find out soon enough. If I ever get back to where designing another starship is possible, I will design it with a few more of the standard safety features. Like the block against exiting a jump point too close to a gravity well.

If by any chance I do not get back home, and this record does, perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Jarn, a R’il’nian and a designer of starships. Not, I regret to say, as good a designer as I thought, or my third ship would be around me instead of lying in pieces on the bottom of one of this planet’s oceans. Indeed, it all happened so fast I am still somewhat confused, but I will try to state briefly what happened.

I was aiming for the vicinity of a G-type sun, and I came out of the exit jump-point too close to the third planet’s atmosphere, and heading into it. All I could do was maneuver into a braking orbit and try to kill enough energy that a water landing wouldn’t vaporize the ship and cause a major tidal wave. No, I could not have teleported to safety. I never was any good at interstellar teleports, or at going someplace I hadn’t been before. Another thing to work on if I ever get home.

Anyway, not only does the planet have lots of water, it also has land areas with large stretches of chlorophyll green. A huge one stretches almost halfway around the planet in the northern hemisphere, with an extension into the southern hemisphere at its trailing end, and a pair on the other side of the planet together extend almost from pole to pole. It looked as if there was ice at both poles, though it could have been clouds, and the readouts as I got into the atmosphere indicated one part oxygen to four of nitrogen. All this strongly suggested life, and it would be unethical in the extreme to let the ship destroy any more of that life than I could help.

I managed to trigger the escape capsule a minute or so before impact, which was toward the leading edge of the broadly serpentine north-south ocean, and flew it, with some difficulty, to the trailing edge of the southern extension of the larger land mass, where I am now recording this. I suppose it was a good landing, since I am still alive and sound, if shaken, but the capsule will never again be anything more than a rather crude shelter.

There is a small stream nearby, and an abundance of fibrous-looking vegetation which is being eaten by a wide variety of animals, including what appear to be perfectly good mammals. I don’t have and probably never will have the equipment to test whether their proteins are compatible with my own, but a fish from the stream was tasty enough. The stream water seems reasonably pure, though the larger water areas taste salty and are probably too mineral-rich to drink on a regular basis. The atmospheric oxygen content is neither so high as to allow uncontrolled wildfires nor so low as to give me any problem in breathing, and so far there are no obvious atmospheric toxins. So if I don’t swell up and die tonight from the fish, it looks as if I have the basic requirements for staying alive.

I didn’t manage to get a measurement of axial tilt, so I have no idea what the weather is likely to be or what season I am in. A lot of the vegetation looks desiccated, which may indicate that I arrived during a seasonal dry period, in which case I may need shelter when it starts to rain again. Or I may have landed in an area entering a long drought. I hope the stream does not dry up completely.

I suppose I should count myself lucky, but I have no idea of what I can do beyond keeping myself alive.

I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. Background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live just after midnight Alaska time.Banner AZ logo

Year 5 day 200

seal, MorguefileAt least it is not raining any more. More accurately, I’ve gotten out of the equatorial rainy zone.

For a while it was so wet I almost dreaded my coastline mapping, even though after the delta the coast turned more or less southward. Things have become gradually drier over the last fiveday, and I’ve increased the length of coast I’ve mapped each day. Today I think I’m back in desert, although a considerably rockier desert than the sand dunes far to the north. In fact, I rather think this may be the same desert I found when I was first exploring.

I knew there were predators such as crocodiles in the inland waters as well as on the land. But today I realized for the first time that ocean predators can be a real threat to mammals that live partly on land. I came on a group of mammals unlike any I have seen before, obviously adapted to the water. Fish are abundant along this coast, no doubt because of the cold current offshore, so there is a rich marine food supply and these mammals are adapted to take advantage of it. They are streamlined, with very dense, oily fur, their limbs are reduced to flippers and they are as awkward on land as they are graceful in the water. They are not small; even the females mass more than I do.

I watched as a mother left her pup and headed out to sea to feed. She never made it much past the first line of breakers. A great fish, with rows of sharp teeth in a gaping mouth, leapt from the water to seize her. It was so hot I had thought of dipping myself into the water, but not until I have tested that the warnoff will work with this creature!

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of an equally fictional human-like alien, Jarn, stranded in Africa roughly 125,000 years ago. He is in the process of mapping the coastline of Africa. His Journal to date can be found on my author site.

Year 5, Day 85

Lioness, MorguefileThis year it is much clearer why the People do not stay here permanently.

Last year the final group hunt was highly successful, and I had to modify the heat pump to keep some of the excess meat frozen. As a result, the fish from the lake and Giraffe’s hunting with Patches were more than enough to keep us fed.

This year the final hunt brought in almost nothing, and the group dispersed early.

I followed one of their hunts, mostly flying over them, and for the first time realized that their upright stance, together with their ability to sweat freely, actually helps them hunt. Not just ability to wield spears, not just being able to see farther, but endurance.

Ever watch a four-legged animal run? They contract and stretch their bodies, and pump their lungs in the process. Breathing speed is tied to running speed. That’s not true for two-legged runners, and while two legs are not as fast as four, they can keep going a lot longer. I wonder if my own race evolved an upright stance for the same reason?

The People need a group with at least one expert tracker to keep after a single animal until it is tired, which is why Giraffe by himself cannot keep us fed. With Patches, he is able to keep track of a single animal and wear it down, and Patches is also good at picking the weakest of a group to follow. But it is Giraffe’s ability to run for hours, carrying water to avoid dehydrating himself, that allows him to chase an animal to exhaustion.

All of this, of course, assumes that there is an animal to chase down, and right now there isn’t. Luckily I can teleport to areas where game is plentiful, find a pride of lions hunting (usually at night) and teleport a quarter of zebra or wildebeest away from them once they’ve made a kill. With the modified heat pump, I can freeze the meat and only have to “hunt” about once each two fivedays. I still have too much empathy for the prey animal to make a kill myself, but we are eating quite well – well enough that I think I can resume my mapping.

Jarn’s Journal is a fictional journal of a fictional human-like alien stranded on Earth about 125,000 years ago. The entire Journal to date can be found at my Author site.

World Building logoIf you’re looking for the World Building Blogfest Excerpt, scroll down or click on the logo to the left. However, Jarn’s Journal is also a part of the history of my science fiction universe, and is the basis for several holy books — much modified by priests, of course!

Year 5 Day 24

You’d think that by now I’d know that I haven’t a shred of artistic sense in my body. No, I had to try to decorate myself. Giraffe and Meerkat are too much in awe of me to laugh in my face, but Songbird could not suppress her giggles.

“Fine,” I said. “You decorate me. But I absolutely am not going to wear that mask and leopard skin!”

feathers, MorguefileShe fingered my skin, covered with splotches of the red-purple dye. “Can you get that off?”

Rather sullenly I felt out the structure of the dye and teleported it away. It took me a while – I’m not exactly expert in that kind of work – and while I was working at the problem, Songbird was drawing with a stick on a patch of dirt. She finished and began chewing a twig about the time my skin returned to its normal dark bronze color.

“Now, do you have more of that color? It’s different from any I’ve seen before. We’ll say it’s a holy color, just for you, and set it off with white.”

I handed her the rest of the shellfish dye, and she dipped the chewed twig into it and began painting a curving design on my inner thighs, the least visible part of my body. Gradually she extended her design over the rest of my body and face, now and then asking me to remove the dye in some small area she had painted by mistake. “There,” she said. By then it was night, and I went to one of the small glass windows I had made and looked at myself. The reflection was distorted, of course, but I was very definitely not an animal. And it was clearly adornment, the red dye and the white clay in a pattern that followed my body with symbols I had come to recognize.

“You do need a headdress,” she said. “Feathers, perhaps? I could braid them into your hair so they make a crest. And I should touch up the skin color, especially the white, just before the celebration.”

I rolled my eyes a bit, then thought of the sap. “Could you scent the feathers with this?”

At least it is better than the gear I have had to wear the last two gathers, and the sap should cover some of the other smells!

To find other participants in the World Building Blogfest, click on the logo.

Species

World Building logoIn order to understand the history of the Jarnian Confederation, we need to be introduced to three different species: the R’il’nai, Humans, and Maungs.

The R’il’nai are very human-like in appearance and environmental requirements, the major differences being that their facial features are set somewhat lower than ours, and their eyes have metallic veining. Most have well-developed esper abilities (teleportation, telekinesis, telepathy, and conditional precognition being the most important) as well as empathic ability (ability to actually feel what another is feeling, including sensory input.) They have an advanced science and an inherited language, but tend to be lacking in creativity. Artists, poets and musicians are very rare, but highly valued. Less obvious is the fact that they do not age, and have an extremely slow reproductive rate. (Women are fertile a few hours per century.)

Veil Nebula, hubbleHumans, at the time of the early history of the Confederation, were using learned language and living in hunter-gatherer groups, really extended families. They had developed a great deal of creativity, mostly expressed at that stage by personal adornment, which they regarded as what set them apart from animals. (This was about 125,000 years ago, our time.)

Maungs were a symbiosis, adapted to much higher gravity, denser air and somewhat different atmospheric composition than Humans or R’il’nians. They were not in competition for living space; a Maung would find Death Valley chilly and with the air far too thin, while a Human would find a mountaintop on a Maung planet a little warm for comfort. They were valuable trading partners to the R’il’nai, with the main items of trade being “spices” (often medical) which grew in the conditions preferred by one species or the other.

Physically, the Maungs were around the same mass as Humans, but much different in shape. The simplest description is an animated six-legged footstool with tentacles arising from a stripe down the middle and between the legs. Some of these tentacles carried eyes, others were grasping organs. Communication was via changes in skin color and pattern, and the central nervous system was within the body, not in a separate head.

There were other star-faring species, but they come into history only through a general agreement: intelligent species were to be left strictly alone until and unless they developed interstellar flight on their own. Aggressive species almost always destroyed themselves in the process of getting to the level of science needed.

Jarn

Starburst Cluster, HubbleA young and rather impatient R’il’nian starship designer, Jarn, designed a new ship and took it out for testing. Being young and thinking he knew better than his teachers, he neglected a few basic safety features. The result? A crash landing on Earth, during the penultimate interglacial, with Jarn managing to get to Africa alive. (His story is being blogged on Fridays, and accumulating on my author site.)

Jarn met early humans, and eventually yielded to the requests of their leaders to share his godlike powers by sexual congress with their female leaders and the mates of the male leaders. He resisted at first, but finally gave in as by everything he knew, there would be no offspring.

Wrong.

They were rare, and many were sterile, but a very few of the People (as they called themselves) began showing unmistakable R’il’nian traits. Jarn had with him a major computer library and by that time was very homesick – could he teach his descendants enough that they could build a starship that would get him back home?

It took over a thousand years, yet not one, but a fleet of starships eventually followed Jarn back to the planet, Kentra, that he called home. By then all Humans carried some of Jarn’s genes, and those who chose not to go with him became our ancestors. Those who followed Jarn were granted a planet by the R’il’nai who, however annoyed they were with Jarn, held the Humans blameless. They did, however, promise the other starfaring species that they would be responsible for the new species that had not really reached the stars on their own.

Early Confederation

Star birth in the Carina nebula, credit Hubble GalleryHumans accepted this guardianship of the R’il’nai for two reasons. First, the R’il’nai resolved disputes between planets. Second, it turned out that the Maung reproductive cycle was potentially deadly to Humans. The Maungs were a symbiosis of an insect-like, highly intelligent nervous system and a mammal-like body with an incomplete nervous system which required the insect-like symbiote to develop intelligence. Death of the mammalian body released the next generation of insect-like symbiotes. Maungs already complete gave off a signal that prevented them from being infected by the insect-like symbiote, and R’il’nians gave the same signal. Humans did not, and the symbiote acted as a true parasite in Humans, eventually taking over the brain. The R’il’nai could detect and cure infections if they were caught early enough, and agreed to do so if the Humans would allow them to mediate disputes

Kharfun Epidemic

Infant Stars, HubbleThe Humans, with their high reproductive rate, began to colonize many more planets, but the system worked until about 10,000 years ago, when a flu-like disease in Humans proved deadly to R’il’nians and many of the early hybrids that were often leaders in Human society. A treatment and a method of immunization were found, but there was a drastic reduction of the already low R’il’nian population and virtually complete death of the early-generation hybrids who often took leadership roles on the Human planets.. There simply were not enough left to act as mediators and protect the Human planets from the Maungs. At the request of some Humans, Human-R’il’nian hybridization was again tried, this time deliberately. The successful hybrids, called R’il’noids, took over the guardianship duties. A governing system developed with two Councils of R’il’noids taking over much of the day-to-day running of what was now called the Jarnian Confederation, though the R’il’nai retained veto power. Individual planetary systems were left strictly alone unless they asked for help (mostly medical or natural disaster related) or attempted to attack a neighbor, and a wide variety of planetary governments developed.

By the time of my first novel, Homecoming, there was only one surviving R’il’nian.

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