Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Melkons

Writer Timothy Zahn often speaks about fiction writing at conventions.  He's talked about how writers should think through new technologies and magic spells.  Zahn says it's important to consider PERSIA when you are brainstorming your story world.  PERSIA is an acronym for:

  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Religion
  • Society
  • Intellectual
  • Art
When you invent a new technology, you'll want to consider the impact it has on those areas of a society.  In this case, I'm using the acronym to help me think about an alien race that will appear in an ASL story.  They're known as the Melkons.  Here's what I already know about them:
  • They are reptilian, approximately the same height as humans.  Their build is more stocky.  They are both stronger and faster than we are, on average.
  • The Melkons' scaled skin is a form of natural armor.  You'd need a very sharp object or a lot of force to get through the skin.
  • The Melkons view other species as potential slaves or potential food.  If they can't eat you or subjugate your kind, they'll annihilate you.
  • They originated in another galaxy.  Their empire in that galaxy grew to cover most of it, until they crossed swords with the wrong species.  That species nearly wiped the Melkons out.  A handful of ships were created and shot out of the galaxy in an effort to save the species from extinction.
  • In a fight, they are incredibly brutal.  They won't think twice about ripping off one of your limbs or using excessive force to take you down.
  • Despite their physical brutality, they are at least as intelligent as humans.
  • They build weaponry that is far more powerful than the Alliance has at the time the Melkons are discovered.
  • Their ships are covered with an organic material that absorbs some kinds of energies fired at them, charges with solar energy, re-grows to cover damaged areas, provides oxygen to the crew, and provides electrical power for the ship's operations.  This plant-based material gives their ships a greenish color.  The longer a ship's away from solar radiation, the less green and more yellow or brown it will turn.
  • The Melkons wear only the most basic clothing, which is intended to convey rank or status, not to cover anything they might consider embarrassing.
  • They came to our galaxy in order to re-establish their society and empire here.  They'll then go back and re-take their home galaxy.  The ship bringing them to our galaxy is piloted by an artificial intelligence programmed to wake up the hibernating Melkons if needed.
Going through the PERSIA acronym, I came up with some additional information about the Melkons:
  • Politics:
    • They don't have civilians, military, police, and politicians like we do.  They see their community as a single entity and have a rank within it.  Members can challenge one another to have their rank increased, in "to the death" combats.  That means the folks at the top of the society are also the most combat seasoned.
    • They don't have a concept or prisoners in combat.  You're either a casualty, a slave, or food as far as they're concerned.
  • Economics:
    • There is an economy among the Melkons.  It's community and rank driven.  Each Melkon has and accepts some role in society (except for moving up as described earlier).  Those who create things like food and weapons accept that these are community property and make them available to those who need them.  In cases of dispute, the higher ranking Melkon gets the item.  If they're of the same approximate rank, disposition is resolved by discussion or battle -not necessarily to the death but certainly to the point of injury.
    • Higher ranking Melkons don't necessarily have "more" or "larger" or "better" things than the Melkons at the bottom of the society.  Rank is more about your ability to command others and reallocate community resources than about accumulating anything for yourself.  A higher ranking Melkon might have a larger residence or office, but this is not a status symbol so much as a practical requirement to gather more lower-ranking individuals together and direct their actions.
  • Religion:
    • They do not have a religion, and would not understand anyone else's.
  • Society:
    • Although Melkon individuals do have male and female genders, there is no distinction or discrimination in their society on that basic.  If a female can best a male at something, then she outranks him.
    • Melkons don't experience love, hate, fear, happiness, etc.  They tend to be very rational and logical, but they do undergo a kind of "bloodlust" in battle.
    • The Melkons are very community oriented.  One Melkon might do battle with another to increase his or her status, but those two Melkons will instantly drop their differences and fight together to protect the community if it's under attack.  When the threat has passed, they'll resume the battle.
  • Intellectual:
    • Melkons see the world very basically.  You are Melkon, or you are a slave, a food source, or someone to be eliminated as a threat.
    • Melkons are very practical creatures.  
  • Art:
    • Melkons don't really have art or music.  There may be a few Melkons who create something like that, but these are anomalies.  If it's not useful in battle, managing slaves, or increasing food yields, they're not interested.
The Melkons figure prominently in an ASL story I'm currently plotting, with the working title "The Ark"...

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