A supporter of Kicking It Forward.
The elevator pitch
Worldbuilding can be hard, especially when it comes to aliens. All too often, fictional aliens feel like they're really just humans in costumes, and even when they are weird enough to feel truly nonhuman, they're usually still suffering from a serious case of monoculture-itis. Species Shock is a series that aims to supply you with samples of truly alien extraterrestrials, covering everything from their planet to biology, culture, and interactions with humans. It will be published with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, so that you can share, remix, transform, and build upon its contents however you’d like, even commercially, with very few restrictions.
However, because I'm essentially releasing this for free, I can't count on making enough money from Species Shock to offset the costs. This poses a problem for a financially-strapped college student such as myself: I can take care of almost everything on my own, but the one thing that I can't do is draw art for the book.
That's where you come in.
With more detail
The book that I'm currently writing is going to clock in at 40-50 pages before art and nice formatting enters the picture. It's going to be a pretty hefty book, when you consider that it's dedicated to the ins and outs of a single alien species and their planet.
For this first volume of Species Shock, I'm focusing on the Agloanikoi, or aglos, a species of many-legged tree-dwelling aliens that are carbon-based and breathe oxygen, like us, but evolved on a world where jaws were never developed and the most common form of blood is cobalt-based.
Sexually dimorphism is nothing new, but the aglos carry it to extremes rarely found on Earth: the males are herbivorous and the females are carnivorous. The sexes differ in other behaviors as well, including their spiritual inclinations, social behaviors, and the females' fondness for ritual battles that the xenolinguists translate as "flowery warfare." This phenomenon is one of the chief forces responsible for the shaping of their society, as influential to their history as monarchies and capitalism have been to our own.
The book covers a wide range of subjects, of which the following represent just a sample:
- Geography, climate, and relevant information pertaining to the homeworld itself, including the phenomenon of hypercanes, terrible storms that human scientists have theorized about but, thankfully, never had to deal with because our oceans aren't big enough to support their creation.
- The evolutionary history of the aglos and other species on the planet, explaining the development of various notable characteristics (not the least of which are their jawlessness and dietary sexual dimorphism) and show their place in their world's great tree of life.
- Diet, physical development, and other features of their physiology, including the nature of perceptory fronds, a set of multipurpose organs that serve as both ears and nose for aglos, among other things.
- A discussion of the nature of art as aglos understand it, plus popular forms of art, including "hanging hardens" and literary genres like "banquet fiction" (or "nomfic"), a sort of culinary travelogue.
- Mathematics and timekeeping systems, including the tradition of "digit calculators," aglos who use their many arms to act as living abacuses.
- Fringe cultures, subcultures, and other exceptions to the norm, including a lengthy entry on the so-called "atomic pirates," a collection of near-failed states who have maintained their sovereignty, such as it is, through the fortuitous early development of nuclear weapons.
- Entries on close relatives, distant cousins, and other life forms on the planet, from macropedes to spiderbellies.
- Examples of unconventional members of this species - If I were doing this for Klingons, then this would explore how taxi cabbies, doctors, and secretaries, for example, see themselves as fitting into the warrior ethos that drives Klingon culture (or, for that matter, how they don't, and what this means for them).
- How they relate to humans, include possible first contact scenarios and what they think of some of the classic works of human culture. You know, Hamlet, Star Wars, Xena: Warrior Princess...
- An appendix with all sorts of numbers from population demographics to the sizes of just about every region you'd care to look up.
Not to mention economic systems, social structures, metaphysics, popular games, architecture, and much, much more. There's a lot in here, is what I'm trying to say, and I'm absolutely certain that you'll enjoy it.
Also, while this is written with a science fiction setting in mind, there's absolutely nothing to say that it can't be adapted for other settings. Instead of aliens on a faraway planet, the aglos could be from another plane of existence or just one of the weirder nonhumans in your fantasy setting.
What is the money going to be used for?
Art, plain and simple. For starters, it's going to take $300 to commission a high-quality map. I've already paid for part of it out of my own pocket, along with the concept art that you see at the top of the project page, but that's about as far as I can go on my own.
After the map, I want to commission more artwork. The bulk of this project is going to be handled by the talented Tania Kerins, who contributed much of the art for Strange Nations (if you're interested then you can check out some of her other work here). If you pledge $150, then you'll be able to work with me to fine-tune one of those commissions!
Ideally, there will be a two or three illustrations of aglos in various circumstances, another illustration with a human or two, and some illustrations of the native wildlife. Here's some of the original concept art, by the artist TinToad:
Are there any stretch goals?
I'm going to be writing as much as I can for this book. Unlike the campaign for Strange Nations, I won't be offering extra words or subjects at higher funding levels because, if I don't add something to this book, it's because it was impossible for me to do so.
As I said in the beginning, though, this is just the first volume of Species Shock. There are a couple of ways that I could get funding for the second volume, but if this campaign reaches $2500 then I'll distribute $1,000 to the first volume, $1,000 to the second, and let all of my backers decide how the rest of it should be distributed. It would be fantastic if we could achieve stretch goal, not least because it will mean that the second volume can be published much earlier than it otherwise would be.
There are several candidates for the second volume. If we reach $2,500 then I'll let you vote on your favorite:
- The podlings, whose life cycle consists of a motile juvenile stage and a sessile adult stage. Both stages communicate via pheromones, but the adults also make use of electrical signals, propagated through the pools of sulfuric acid on whose shores they are rooted.
- The photovore vultures, nocturnal flying scavengers whose wings are used to catch sunlight for photosynthesis as they sleep. Because of the nature of their distributed brains, they have to be more wary of physical injury than most species, but that doesn't mean that they eschew violence entirely.
- The woodspiders, who evolved from trapping carnivores that figured out domestication before they achieved sapience. In certain ways they resemble a sort of slow-moving woody plant, and a number of cultural mores have arisen out of their practice of grafting limbs to each other (to say nothing of stranger traditions).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Risks and challenges
Most of the book has already been written, but it is possible that I will get hit by a meteor or something like that and be unable to finish it on account of being dead. It is also possible that there will be art-related delays, but I've worked with this artist in the past and experienced no problems at all.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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