Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gw'oth revealed! (And other fun stuff)

Several Known Space alien species have been imagined by artists, both pro and fan. But not yet every species, and I've been eager for someone to visually capture the essence of the scary-smart, aquatic Gw'oth. I think that's natural, given that the Gw'oth are prominent among my contributions to Known Space. (If this paragraph isn't obscure enough, I'll be forthright: its neat images aside, this post is aimed largely at Known Space aficionados.)

What are the Gw'oth? These aliens [singular: Gw'o] were introduced in the novel Fleet of Worlds; they went on to figure prominently across the Fleet of Worlds series. Most important among the Gw'oth are the very few individuals who together can form -- what I can't characterize further without spoilers -- into a special group called a Gw'otesht.

What do they look like? I'm happy you asked. Here's a descriptive passage from Destroyer of Worlds:
     A Gw'o had five limbs arrayed about a central disc, sort of like a starfish. Spines covered the skin, again like a starfish. There the resemblance ended. A Gw'o's skin changed colors like a squid or octopus. Its appendages were flexible, like those of an octopus, and hollow like tubeworms. Tier after tier of sharp teeth ringed the inner surface of each tube. Eyes and other as-yet unidentified sensors peeked out from behind the teeth. Almost certainly Gw'oth had evolved from some type of symbiotic carnivorous worm colony. Yes, Gw'oth had become familiar, singly and in groups. Except--
      Fascinated and repulsed, Sigmund examined a pile of writhing Gw'oth. The archival image was flat -- in the era of Explorer’s visits, the Gw'oth had yet to develop holography -- and for that Sigmund was grateful. Those piled, pulsing tubes, ends swallowing one another, the throbbing flesh, the occasional limb disconnecting and groping free of the twisting mass (to breathe?) came just a little too close to ... what? A spill of loose intestines? A nest of snakes having an orgy?
 I took a bit of a vacation last week, during which I dropped by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And what did I discover at the MFA but -- most extraordinary! -- the Dale Chihuly exhibition of blown-glass sculptures. Through the Looking Glass, the exhibition is called -- but Alice was not the fictional character who came to my mind. 

So: you see me here with a Gw'otesht on a lunch break.

The Gw'oth are predators. Happily they settled for those purple worms instead of my arm :-)

(Chihuly calls this piece "Orange Hornet and Eelgrass Chandelier." I prefer"Gw'oth Behaving Badly." You may quote me.)

The next day, at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, deep in the evolution exhibit, I came across this coral cluster. If Gw'oth hung around in groups long enough to form collective fossils ...

Down the hall at the HMNH I met a Pak breeder -- or, as they are mundanely known, Homo habilis.  At least I encountered one's skull.

(My apologies on the poor focus. The glass case confounded the sonar-based auto-focusing mechanism of my camera.)

It wasn't raining or unbearably hot for my entire Boston visit and I did get outdoors. This spectacular frigate, the USS Constitution, aka "Old Ironsides," is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. The Constitution was built in Boston, where it was launched in 1797. This warship, among the first built for the fledgling US Navy, famous for its exploits during the Barbary War and the War of 1812, has long been one of the city's premier tourist attractions.

Deservedly so ... great technology transcends obsolescence.


Erik said...

I always pictured them with a larger central piece and long, slender limbs. In my mind the Gw'otesht looked more like connected neurons than a ball of worms.
In any case they were a great species for thought experiments. I love how in known space, species without common ancestors are vastly alien to each other, and the Gwo were a great addition.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Erik,

This sculpture isn't a perfect match for my mental image, either, but still -- the moment I saw it, I thought: Gw'otesht. So did my wife (who took the photo).

I'm glad you find the Gw'oth interesting; it's been fun working with them, too.

- Ed

Jaycee Adams said...

For all the legions of fans of Known Space, so very few are artists who are both capable AND desiring of making art out of the odd species or artifacts. After having long been a part of the Traveller RPG scene, which has an oppressively large amount of very good art, especually now with cheap rendering programs, I am shocked and amazed that Known Space, which surely has more, and more vocal fans, doesn't have a similar deluge.

Maybe it's because spaceships are easier to draw, maybe it's because tech-heads flock to sci-fi and space ships are cooler to them than critters, but I would think that after 40+ years, there would be a larger sample of art based on Known Space to give those of us who can't properly imagine things like Puppeteers and Outsiders and Gw'oth some idea what the heck you guys are talking about.

I think it's well past time Larry open up to the idea of a movie. Protector would make an excellent candidate. It's the near-future, filled with amazing wonders, and features superhumans. (And it could legitimately take the 6th Harry Potter route and make two complete movies out of it!)

Edward M. Lerner said...

Thanks for your note, Jaycee.

I know that Larry is quite open to a Known Space movie(s). As always, the devil is in the details.

(Now if you happen to know a producer with the desire to make such a movie and the capital to do it right ....)

- Ed

Jaycee Adams said...

Well, I keep pestering my favorite actress cum producer-wannabe that she's got everything she needs to create the movies she's always wanted to be part of, so it's only fitting I lay some smackdown on my favorite sci-fi author.

People are making good movies with shoestring budgets. We're talking spending a few grand TOTAL, rather than millions of dollars. They have the will to make it happen. They enlist their friends, find out what they need to know (the internet makes it embarrassingly easy to learn almost anything), and find people who want to be a part of it.

True, proper SFX require talent and decent money, but you'd be amazed how little it costs nowadays.

You'd also be surprised how many friends you have, and what they can accomplish if you ask them nicely for their help. I'd bet anyone reading this goes to a friend for help with their computer, their car, or their relationship problems. They also have friends they could ask for help getting a job, or other important tasks, but they never use those resources at their disposal. It's far easier to continue to wallow in the feeling that "I'm not worth it to ask."

The actress I spoke of above has at most two degrees of separation from EVERYONE. She either knows them or knows someone who knows them. Instead of asking them for help or guidance, she has marginalized herself, told herself that she'll never be anything more than what she has now, and consequently few of us regular people have heard of her.

I'll bet Larry knows some people, or his friends know some people who can make things happen. I'll bet he's been given enough business cards from people looking to do him a favor that he could build a bridge. I'll bet he has enough money, or has friends who have enough money, or he could convince a bank that they should invest in him. I'll bet he has friends inventive enough to find people with the necessary talents for all aspects of writing and making a movie. (In fact, I'd bet almost everyone reading this has the above resources at their disposal, sitting untapped, itching to be called upon.)

It's not that hard to find someone who can convert a book into a script. LA is full of them and more immigrate every day. It's not hard to find an aspiring director/producer who, properly funded, can make a genius film. Decent actors are cheap too. It's not even hard to get your film distributed around the world and popularized. People do it every day, and they don't have Larry's resources or star-power. If regular people like me can do it, how embarrassing it must be for Larry to claim he can't when he has so much more at his disposal?

All it takes is asking the people you know, who are itching to prove their worth to you as a friend.

Larry is a man who comes up with some pretty interesting questions and some pretty interesting answers. It's time he start asking questions which result in action, rather than those which result in inaction. "If the fate of the world depended on me making this movie by the end of the year, what steps would have to be taken to make it happen?" Heck, he can treat it as research for a novel!

Old age isn't for sissies. Neither, apparently, is success. Larry knows how to be a successful novelist. Becoming a successful movie maker isn't very different, and it's a heckuva lot easier than it was even 10 years ago. Stop selfishly depriving the world of good science fiction movies!

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Jaycee,

I'll leave it to Larry whether he wants to take on a new career.

Ringworld, IMO the most likely (and eagerly sought by fans) Known Space movie, was optioned *long* ago -- and efforts to turn the novel into a movie keep falling through. (Sorry, but the details aren't mine to share.)

- Ed

DintVerge said...

I think the problem with making a Known Space film or television franchise is Ringworld itself. People automatically will want the Ringworld series produced. However, due to the relative difficulty of rendering Rishathra a lesser role, I don't see how you can get much traction outside perhaps independent avenues like Pioneer One did.

Protector and the Fleet of Worlds series would make the perfect film franchise for Known Space, in my opinion, because it is relatively updated material and far more adaptable to a screenplay. Man Kzin Wars might actually make a decent television series.

But then, you still have to convince people these will not just be another lame Star Trek franchise, complete with Deus Ex Machina in every episode and film.

But as far as films, I would go with the Fleet of Worlds novels. If that works out, you can always adapt Protector as a prequel.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi DintVerge,

An FOW movie? A series of movies? I could handle that. From your fingertips to Spielberg's eyes ;-)

Having said that, I'm confident modern CGI would be up to handling the Ringworld. I hope someday to see it on the big screen.

- Ed