Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Creating an Alien: Designing Renar

 The funniest part about my life is that I have a history degree that I have used almost as much for fiction as for nonfiction.

Sure, everyone (by now) has heard me talk about The Pius Trilogy having been born from a graduate paper gone amok.

Then I used it to design an alien race in the White Ops series. In book one, you might remember that I had the Soivan and the Touri as two empires who expanded into each other and just didn’t stop since. Well, I took the “two empires expanding into each other” from the Zulus and the British, and I just let it ramp up for five hundred years, because why not? Also, I wanted two political entities that truly and deeply hated each other.

Then there are the Renar.

In designing the Renar, there were several elements I wanted to throw in.

The look

First, the Renar were going to be similar to humans, but I wanted them to stand out, something the demarks them as nonhuman.

I put an external bone on the skull, because I hadn’t seen that since Babylon 5. However, unlike neat the bone crest of Babylon 5’s Minbari, it’s more like a helmet that covers the sides of the head, wraps around the back, and goes from the nape of the neck to either the hairline of a human, or just above the eyes. There are no eyebrow muscles, or ears—the “ears” are a thin part of the bone, with slight, almost invisible divots to channel sound better. Their eyes are two-toned: the iris and the pupil are two different colors.

Oh yes, and the skin tone is the color of metal. Variable metals, but metal.

So yeah, metal / high gloss skin, two tone eyes, full bone helmet like a stone. It was going to look DIFFERENT, damn it.

The Culture

This is where the history was going to come in.

The culture was going to circle around, four castes, like the medieval period. I know what you’re thinking: weren’t there three castes? Nope. By the late medieval period, there was an entirely new social class that had emerged: the merchants.

So this world was going to have four castes: The Ansolas are the peasants / workers. There will be the soldier caste, the Zahal. Then there’s the Religious and Merchants.

With the Religious, there’s going to be an overlap in philosophy. Natural philosophy is a thing. It works no matter where you are. Unless something is decidedly off, it works wherever you are. They believed in a deity, because cause and effect is a thing: the big bang (for which we currently have evidence via telecommunications satellite—they hear the echo). They know there’s a starting point, so they reasoned to a First Cause, and if Something could create the universe, then it’s not going to be the cartoon cutouts they have in most mythologies—there will be no Zeus that has sex with everything.

The Clothes

This is going to be a culture that uses a lot of robes. I’m thinking designs and colors that are more like kimonos. This stems from part of their culture which will come up on the

The religious will wear brighter colors, because they need them for their various professions—like medics. Both Ansolas and the Zahal will prefer darker colors, as they hide blood and dirt better. The merchants will be more of a wine-dark royal purple, because don’t they always?

The Language

I am not a linguist. I’m not Tolkien. I’m not even going to try.

However, I have an eclectic collection of words floating around in my head.

So, I steal from everything.

White Ops is part of a group called the Toten’tanz, they who dance with death. Or death dancers. In context, it’s “sentinels against death.”

Meanwhile, on Earth, you may have noticed that the word is German and I just threw in an apostrophe. I was going to make it “toten’shok” (death + hydrashok hollowpoints) but it looked too close to another SF.

The toten’shok are based in Muskva… which is how the Russians pronounce “Moscow.” I just changed a vowel.

“Ansolas” means “worker”… in Gaelic.

The Zahal… is a mistake on my part. Because the Zahal is another Earth word. It’s Hebrew, and it’s what they call the Israeli Defense Force.

I stole Renar cursing from a Dublin phone book when I was there in 1998. But maybe 6,000 people on the entire planet read Gaelic, so what are the odds?


Putting all of this together, I have

Turak: a Zahal turned religious. Obsidian bone crest / helmet, with silver skin, silver eyes and blue pupils. A wiry sucker, he has to make some hard choices if he’s going to stay in the toten’tanz.

Lakonn: Ansolas. A design engineer. His skin is gunmetal blue. His bone crest looks like granite and almost a battering ram. His eyes are the color of molten metal—a bright yellow in the middle, and a brighter red in the iris. He’s built like an Italian garage mechanic, and he has to design a new weapon system. Preferably before everyone gets eaten.

Furlann: Religious, a medic. She’s almost an albino. Her skin is pale, almost stark white. Her bone helmet is almost smooth, and a pale green, so pale it almost looks like the rest of her skin. The most striking part of her body is her bright violet pupils.

So yeah, I had fun here.

By the way, White Ops #2, Politics Kills, is out. Enjoy.

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