Sunday, April 6, 2014

Guest Post - H. Paul Honsinger Author of the Man of War Series

I read To Honor You Called Us (Click on the title to see my review) and loved the book.  One of the things that really fascinated me were the aliens that were created for the story.  One was a huge surprise even though there were hints along the way.  I wanted to know how they were created so I asked H. Paul Honsinger if he would do a guest post on how he came up with each of the alien species and he agreed.  Read his guest post first and then keep going to see my review of book two, For Honor We Stand.

H. Paul Honsinger

I tried to make my aliens scientifically plausible, just like everything else I write.  Like many writers, I started with where I wanted to go and worked backwards:  I wanted to be able to have story lines in which the enemy aliens in my books, the Krag, took over human occupied planets, lived on them and grew food on them.  For all sorts of complicated biochemical reasons having to do with stereochemistry, enzyme compatibility, and other arcane stuff, it is virtually impossible for aliens who evolved completely independently of us to be able to do that, so that is where I came up with the idea of the Krag being descended from life forms transplanted from Earth 11 million years ago. 

It was also important for me to have a plausible reason for their wanting to destroy us.  I wasn’t going to fall back on the old tropes about wanting our water or other natural resources because all the water anyone could want, as well as just about any other natural resource, is abundant in the galaxy and available in lots of places that don’t involve having to fight it out with pesky, pink-skinned, technologically capable bipeds.  It occurred to me that a scientifically capable race that evolved from transplanted life forms might develop a belief system that said that their world and, by extension, the universe, was made for them.  From there, I developed the Krag’s beliefs concerning their Creator-God and that it is blasphemy for us to believe in our own evolution on Earth and the Krag being offshoots of life on this planet. 

For the other aliens, I thought that there must be many, many biological pathways that lead to intelligence and that, accordingly, there would be intelligent life that grew out of all sorts of ecosystems and ecological niches.  The Pfelung are mudfish who grew big brains in the process of moving from sea to land, and who even have intelligent and totally aquatic adolescents who play a major role beginning in my second book.  Just because our ancestors were firmly established on land before the explosion in primate brain size doesn’t mean that it had to happen that way everywhere else.  I also made them very direct, ethical, and reasonable—which is probably just as much a function of their culture as their biology.   

The race I have the most fun writing, though, are the Vaaach.  They are an arboreal-hunter species, much larger than grizzly bears with claws as long as rifle bayonets and fangs like steak knives.  One could take down a grizzly without breaking a sweat.  They are also at least a thousand years ahead of us technologically and seem (at least at this point in the story) to be highly contemptuous of humans as tiny, weak, technologically primitive “fruit eaters.”  The encounters that our hero has with the Vaaach are terrifying (for the humans), made the more so because the Vaaach seem to need to be given cogent reasons, right now, for not destroying the humans on the spot.  Again, just because our ancestors came down from the trees before their brains got big, I saw no reason things had to happen in that order.  Intelligence would be a great trait for hunters in the treetops to have, particularly when the trees are as tall and the hunting as dangerous as it is on the Vaaach home world.  

H. Paul Honsinger
Author of the "Man of War" Military Science Fiction Series
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