Remember those request posts frooooom, six months ago now?
Well there was one left!
Hey I don't know the right place to ask this and it feels weird to make requests, but since you asked I'm gonna do it.
I'm running an Ben Laurence's Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper, an adventure in which the characters visit the lair of a wizard studying vivimantic arts. He's used this place to conduct biological experiments in creating new life forms. He seems to me like the sort of guy to brave the veins to further his research. I think he would have been keenly interested in atomic bees, particularly the part where their royal jelly can breed new species without divine consent. I'm thinking there is still a living hive in here, as the bees have a long half life.
Would it be crazy to ask what might the players find in his decaying lab notebook, given that he wanted to cultivate and experiment with the jelly? I'm thinking the bees are still alive as they have long half lives. I'd like to think he succeeded in some form or another but he's long dead now. Maybe some more information about the honey would be cool too.
If you think this is lame feel free to ignore it. Looking forward to Silent Titans!"
Vivimancy is tricky for me as I already put a huge amount of my limited supply of Bio-Horror into some parts of Silent Titans.
(Available now! Link to the right!)
As well as that, Arnold and Scrap are the true experts at making weird shit out of living stuff. I feel out of my element.
Biological horror is interesting because it’s all stuff that's inside us or in the world, and which powers everything, but it freaks us out when we witness it directly.
So our safety and sanity as biological organisms is based on a kind of duality in which it’s important that we are not fully aware of our existence as biological organisms. We are this magical other thing, and so long as we believe that, we are safe. And a lot of ‘unnatural’ bio-horror is about carefully stripping back this illusion.
Many of these programmed-in aversions make immediate intuitive evolutionary sense;
- Don't want our skin penetrated or for things to lay eggs in us. Pretty simple as any organism that does want to have its skin penetrated and to have other species lay eggs in it is probably not gonna survive very long. So some deep aversion/desire to personal and bodily integrity would seem to go right along with the whole concept of individually-distinct beings.
(Brief aside, I can't begin to express how good it is to be a mammal with hands. I've seen photos of field and forest beasts just infested to fuck with all kinds of nits, mites and burrowing creatures and they disturb the hell out of me. Just being able to reach and scratch any part of my body, and to pull a bug off me if it’s trying to get in, is indescribably wonderful.)
(Would things be different underwater? There's already a much more conductive medium between everything. What would be horrific for an evolved underwater species?)
- Don't want decay or poop on us. Again, this makes perfect sense for a physically coherent entity.
But what if poop wasn’t dangerous. And we already have some bacteria inside us working their stuff, so what if we extended that to say a being could take advantage of its bacteriological environment in a more complete way, say what if its immune system could re-fit bacteria as bacteriophages or make them extra cells that could rove the body doing useful things, so, the more poop and decay the better?
- Don't want body parts to be too independent or alive. No living severed limbs, no squirming organs, intelligent cancers or eyes or mouths opening on our bodies and seeing for themselves.
- Multiplication, mutation, pattern shifting. This is a really interesting horror element because depending on how you look in it, the mutant can be monstrous or divine. A lot of magical, super-good, or at least super-great Gods often have extra stuff, like the hyper-signalling arms of some Hindu sculpture, various different heads and eyes, horns etc.
And transiting between forms also, werewolves and shapechangers, these are numinous powers that can belong to a god or a monster equally, it depends on the cultural music around them.
Still, in modernish times, there is a reasonably strong binary between the 'cool' mutant and the monster, which we can see pretty easily with the X-Men. 'Good' or godlike mutants tend to have idealised human forms and one extra or other-signifying thing. The otherness acts as a kind of counterpoint to their otherwise perfection.
Bad monsters and mutants have too much, the coherency of the human form is distorted beyond a certain point, and that point is certainly somewhat relative culturally.
And the good god team can have one pure counterpoint character, like the X-Men have Beast, and the Bad god team can have one 'pure' (physically) character, like Magneto is very purely human and the highest status character in his group. Lucifer, when seen in a group of demons or dukes of hell, it seems to me is often very pure and near-angelic compared to them. (Though I don't know if this is true in the data, it may be merely a cultural seeming).
- Sex/Pregnancy/Gender, it’s hard to know how much of this is generally mammalian, how much apelike, how much homo-sapiens and how much specific human culture. Certainly taboos around sex, pregnancy and gender always feel ancient, absolute and deeply real and old, like core values. And the enormous strength of those taboos and feelings does strongly suggest deep roots. But they can be pretty damn different in the details.
(What would ant body-horror be like? What would horror be like if you just don't have a strong sense of individual identity, if you feel subsumed in a crowd always so that it is you and you are it?)
I should probably try to bring this back to some kind of point.
What would non-divine-consent species be like?
Assuming that for 'Divine Consent' in this case we simply assume that our deepest intuitions about how things should be and what is right count for 'divine order' and not the alternate, (but interesting to think about) path of just reading the main Abrahamic books and then creating species based on the moral laws and divine assumptions in there, >as read< that is, textually accurate species. Which might be something like a hyper-version of the medieval legendarium where every animal is both a being and a moral lesson and a sermon.
(There are other physical/biological laws where it’s quite hard to find a level of subversion which feels horrific rather than just odd, and pseudo works rather than just self-evidently crashing reality. I guess that's why natural laws are natural laws. And also most monsters and science fiction terrors have heavily colonised and exploited already.)
SUBVERT PREGNANCY - Alien already did this one way by forcibly implanting the egg.
Elves did it the other way by stealing the baby.
Could make even-darker elves that steal the baby from inside the womb and the mother gives birth to something impossible like a flower child.
Got It - An animal where the creature is unintelligent, but the fetus is self-aware, but becomes dumber as it ages.
So the pregnant version is extremely dangerous and smart, because it borrows the intelligence of the fetus. For maximum horrors have it look a little humanoid, like Homo Erectus or something, but be mute and thoughtless, then gradually get smarter and smarter as the fetus grows, so it learns to talk. Then you have a horror-movie moment when the mute beast exhibits thoughts it should not have.
SUBVERT INTERPENETRATION - Like maybe a friendly little Aye-Aye except it has a mosquito face. Just creeps up on you in the night, sits in the curl of your hand and dives its face into the artery of your wrist?
But that doesn't seem impossible or disturbing enough.
Maybe it can draw more blood out of you than you actually have inside you?
I think I got it. It’s a little black Aye-Aye with a mosquito face, mild hypnotic powers and a narcotic injection. But its little proboscis is too slender and fine to get easily through human skin. So it creeps up your body, gently opens its mouth with its little monkey hands, leans in and drives its proboscis into your tongue. Then it draws moisture from your sinuses and brain, maybe its drinking your neural transmitters. Your face dries out and your brain shrinks and dies in your head. Your eyes shrivel to raisins in your face. The little monkey fattens and thickens, becoming more shiny like a fat trick, but still clinging to your face like a beard with its head inside your gawping mouth. Its narcotic sends you into a dreamy slumber and the slow death of your brain is interpreted as euphoria so your face and head bear a stretched goofy grin on their dried out and sunken-in features and that's how they find you. If they shake your head your brain can be heard rattling around inside.
This isn't that great. Honestly anything where you are dealing with penetrating the body ends up reading like a really sketchy Gridr profile;
- You'll get penetrated, and it will be unusually messy.
- You'll get penetrated, but you'll be into it.
- You'll get penetrated, and I'll leave eggs in you, and you will love the eggs.
- You'll get penetrated, and they you will penetrate, and then die.
SUBVERTING SINGULARITY - Disturbing Colony Apes. Like an ape where, if you cut off a piece of it, that part still lives and will seek revenge, and will find other animals and attach itself to them, growing into them and gradually taking over their bodies.
No that's pretty much the Thing.
SUBVERTING INFECTION - A Disease Dog, like a pallid pink caniform with skin and flesh like the goo of a petri dish, made specifically to be easy to penetrate and open to every kind of infection. And it just keeps getting more and more infected with every single thing it comes into contact with, and gradually grows bigger and bigger and bigger until its huge, bear-sized, encrusted with these competing colonies of fungus and disease and they keep cracking open and its disturbing pink flesh still shows underneath, warm and easy to slip your hand into. And everywhere it goes it picks up and spreads diseases.
AUTO-CANNIBALISATION - A species can't just be an auto-cannibal. It can't get more energy out of eating its own kind that it puts into generating its own kind, or it would just feed on itself and become everything.
So a purple monkey breed that, when it eats another purple monkey, gets waaay more calories than you would ever need to grow and raise a batch of new purple monkeys. So the number just keeps growing. They eat everything else but they eat each other too, and when they do that, you get insane numbers of new ones.
So you have to either exterminate them all or make them religious figures that must be appeased, maybe you need to make sure the purple monkeys are fed the most tempting foods and make that a priority, or they will eat each other, hyper-breed and become EVERYTHING.
LAMARKIAN TIGERS - honestly Arnold did a Tiger post a long time ago so maybe just read that one.
But if you did have a species that predated on man and did evolve in a Lamarkian way, every problem it had to solve to get its prey would affect its young, so they would become, what? beautiful half-men? Hot tiger vampire babes who could pick locks? Can they do taxes as well? Run an empire? Or do they stay at animal-level intelligence but have only these specific skills gained from Lamarkian evolution? (He even did a book of tigers)
REASONABLE BIRDS - Something like Ravens or Crows, but they have a higher I.Q. than humans by quite a way, but only bird bodies and bird desires. So they can solve any abstract problem for humans in return for food and shelter. And, they collectively won't let human society evolve into anything that might threaten them of their species/environment. So effectively any kingdom or polity that works with them is effectively spreading a Reasonable Bird-Biome.
Buut, other than that, they don't really care what we do. And their needs and desires don't intersect with or even conflict greatly with ours, so human society goes on. We are technically a subservient client species, but it barely seems to make any negative difference to our lives, since we still go after and get roughly the same things as usual in roughly the same proportions.
This is like an alien encounter story of a kind rarely told, where we meet aliens and we don't instantly supermurder each other, and we don't immediately Federate up and work together, instead, we just don't have much to say to each other.
We know they are intelligent and self-aware, and they know we are intelligent and self-aware. We are not hugely in conflict. Our desire patterns and goals are just so utterly different that they barely even seem ridiculous to each other.
There are so many animal species that live around each other, and seem to recognise each other, but don't really care or interact. Where are the stories about the mute indifference of nature?