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From:Brian Betty <bbetty@...>
Date:Thursday, April 15, 1999, 20:53
I've posted this also on conculture and S1889; each has its own area of

I have decided to start running a Space:1889 game with an alternative
twist. For those of you unfamiliar with S1889, it is a Victorian
"Steampunk" game that posits intersplanetary travel through the use of
ether flyers during the 19th Century. Hence, colonialism on a John
Carter-esque Mars (think pre-1940 scifi movies set in the 1890s). It allows
a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun, since you can flagrantly break the laws of
modern physics and science and get away with it.

However, *my* solar system is not like that of the S1889 core rules,
although I may borrow things for fun, kitch, and laziness. Instead, I am
building a different solar system, one that uses some Lovecraftian horror
elements and my personal interest in primatology and hominid evolution ....

The rough theory, which will be refined over time, is that aliens have
interfered with human development. My original inspiration was the Hainish
series by Ursula K. LeGuin, which uses the idea that humans and the
familiar Terran animal kingdom exists on many worlds because millions of
years ago, intelligent prehumans called the Hainish settled colonies on
many planets. I then combined this with the neat Lovecraftian idea of
'prehuman races,' alien settlers who arrived on Earth millions of years
ago. So: humans and other mammals were settled on Earth and on the other
planets in our (and other?) solar system by these aliens, who then
influenced evolution by cross-breeding the species (keeping them from
becoming reproductively isolated over the millions of years since the
cretaceous 'asteroid' wiped out the dinosaurs).

The Lovecraftian element is the aliens, which will turn out to be mean,
mean bastards that are no humanoids - they are monstrous, perhaps like the
Tripod People of the "White Mountains" series, and don't breathe oxy. Think
Vorlons or Shadows crossed with the Elder Things of Lovecraft. Luckily,
there are none (conscious) in our solar system ...

Mars and the Martians aren't quite like those in the books. Rather, I am
modelling them on the early australopithecines, the erect apes. It was at
this point in my new timeline that the 'aliens' went away, so the early
intelligent apes went on their own evolutionary paths since about the time
of h. habilis. Martians took back to the trees, so they also have vestigial
hands instead of fully 'human' feet, just like in the S1889 universe, but
they look like the Cetian branch of the Hainish of "The Dispossessed: An
Ambiguous Utopia:" they have short, fine, soft, shiny fur on their bodies
much like bonobos or orang-utans. They aren't going to be brutish, warlike
creatures, either; they will be as civilised and complicated as humans, or
as motivated and cruel as humans. I will use a range of human societies as
models for the Martians, from hunter-gatherers to industrial societies. But
in the end Mars will still be "collapsing" (people gradually abandoning
industrial cities for other lifestyles) and the environment is drying out
over the aeons, so the population is low low.

So given my interests in conlanging as well, I can say this will be a fun
project, and I can't really 'give up' on it since I will be gamemastering
... I expect inspiration to come from the gaming as well. I am excited
about the long-term (Xfilesian!) 'alien cycle' - completely aside from the
intro adventuring on Mars and Venus, I can promise long-term plots driven
by the darkness beyond the understood - what are those funny glyphs that
Martians still use on certain types of machinery all about? What *is* this
weird object I found in X adventure about the Hill Martians? Why are there
constant pointers towards the moons of Saturn and Jupiter? And slowly the
questions will build - what is on those moons? It's a kind of 2001
scariness, curiosity driving the characters to build ships that can make it
to Jupiter and then to Saturn.

As Kenji noted on conculture, the prospect of inventing an alien language
and then several alternate human languages is really neat. It gives me the
opportunity to use some of the smaller projects I've been working on AND
have someone appreciate them in realtime as if they were real cultures, a
real luxury. I will be discussing some of my conlangs for this setting here
on Conlang. I've been thinking of using proto-Anatolian as a proto-Martian
dialect, but I need to work out who is where on Mars before I can do that.
Could be really fun ...


Ther cam a privee theef men clepeth Deeth,
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo,
And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence.
- Geoffrey Chaucer, The Pardoner's Tale

James E Johnson, 1920-1999