July 2nd, 2009


Large Blue Butterflies Are Back

I was charmed by this article about the return of a butterfly species that had become extinct in Britain:

Butterfly Species Reborn 30 Years After Extinction
Thirty years ago it was officially declared extinct in Britain. But the beautiful large blue butterfly has made an astonishing return. Around 20,000 will be flitting through the countryside this summer as a result of reintroduction efforts, scientists say.

First, this case demonstrates that it is absolutely crucial to understand the real cause(s) behind a species' demise. Otherwise nothing will save it. Second, it demonstrates that livestock and nature are not always opposed: the large blue requires closely grazed land for its habitat, because it depends on an ant species that really only thrives under those conditions.

Third ... well, you know me. I'm pondering what kind of alien species might evolve with a relationship like that, and what they would be like, and how humans would react. I think the aliens would get along fine, and humans would be horrified by all of them. Imagine a species that raised the young of another species that ate the raisers' own babies. Ant Alien to Human: "Yes, I know they eat babies, but ... but ... they're so cute! I can't help myself. I just have to pick them up and cuddle them and take them home." Butterfly Alien to Human: "How could you imply that we abuse the Ant People? We love them! They're our parents!" And I think they would both say: "We can't help how we're made."

Yai, like I need another story-farm. Me to Butterfly and Ant Aliens: "Go to the end of the line, folks."

Ant Alien: "I can't smell the end of the line from here."

Me: "Neither can I. Start walking."

Butterfly Alien: "Look at me, look at me! I can fly!"

Me: "Go follow your nursemaid or I'll take a net to you."

*sigh* And here I was supposed to be working on sabbat history. What does my brain do?

-- Ooo! Butterflies!!

Literally. *headdesk*

Chinese Knots

haikujaguar directed my attention to this page of gorgeous knotwork ornaments. I am now fascinated by this tradition of tying knots to mimic Chinese ideographs and other things.

As I have some modest skill at knot magic, I surmise that in the right hands these could become quite effective magical artifacts. They are far beyond my current skill, however. In order to do something like that, I would need to spend a little while learning Chinese and a long while learning to tie the knots.

More About the Butterflies and the Ants

As several people have suggested, I did some more exploration of the butterfly and ant aliens. I liked the poem suggestion, so that's where I went for now; someday I may come back and write fiction as well. Meanwhile the poem allowed me to capture the core of the storyline in a more concise way, although it's still a very long poem.

I learned a lot about both species and their culture while writing this. Much of that is stated or at least hinted in the poem. Some of what I learned includes:

* These species are true symbionts: both of them contribute effort to and gain benefits from the relationship, and they cannot survive without each other.

* Neither species has any individuals who raise babies that come out of their own body. The butterflies scatter their eggs widely and leave. The ants have a queen who does all the laying, and then the babies are raised by nursemaid ants. Both species produce more young than will survive to adulthood. So they just don't have the tight attachment to individual babies that mammals have.

* They are not really "Eeek, monsters!" aliens, even though some of their habits are disturbing to humans. They are quite civilized.

* Their dominant senses are different than ours. The ants and the butterfly caterpillars can see, but their dominant sense is smell followed by touch. Adult butterflies have sight as their dominant sense, followed by smell. They can hear, but it's not as important to them.

* They are all oriented to cooperation rather than competition.

"The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" is a free-verse poem in which first the Sky-Eyes (butterflies) and Earth-Hearts (ants) speak to the humans, and then the Twin Peoples speak together, so it's in three sections. The parallels are very tight between the first two; there is a lot of repetition and alliteration. It's epic length, almost a thousand words. Since several folks expressed interest in reading more about these characters, I'm making the poem available for sponsorship (there's a permanent PayPal button on my profile page) and including a teaser below.
117 lines, Buy It Now = $58.50
Donations: $26.50
Remaining to fund whole poem: $32.00
Amount to fund next verse: $4.50

EDIT: This poem is being microfunded. Price is $.50/line so $5 would get 10 lines, etc. I have just posted the third verse in response to the first donation, and I'll continue to post more verses as funding arrives. Sponsors: minor_architect, nhpeacenik, browngirl, siliconshaman

The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts

The Sky-Eyes speak:

We are the Sky-Eyes,
the blue people of the air.
When you came to our world,
it was our territory you flew through
on your way down.

To us Queen Cosmos gave wings and the wind:
it is our duty to defend against threats from above.
When the songhawks come with their deadly voices,
we draw them off with the dance of eyespots.
You say that you mean us no harm, but
Your words batter our ears as savagely as hawk-song.

We know that our young eat the young of the Earth-Hearts.
We know that you think this is wrong,
but this is how our peoples live.
We cannot raise our own young as you do;
those perverts who have tried it always fail.
Without our family ties to the Earth-Hearts,
we would have no balance for the lightness of our minds
and no defense against dangers from below.
We live as we were made to live, and our life is good.
We cannot help how we are made.

How can we tell you
that what would be abuse for you
is for us a fair exchange?
How can we make you understand
that it defines rather than undermines our morality?
We cannot live without the Earth-Hearts;
the ruins of history have shown us why.
Your species was born to compete, even with each other:
how can we teach you cooperation when it is not in your nature?

The Earth-Hearts speak:

We are the Earth-Hearts,
the red people of the land.
When you came to our world,
it was our territory you landed upon
when your ship touched down.

To us Queen Cosmos gave strength and the earth:
it is our duty to defend against threats from below.
When the burrowers come with their crushing claws,
we bite them and sting them and drive them away.
You say that you come in peace, but
we smell the metal claws with which you would crush our culture.

We know that the Sky-Children eat our young.
We know that you think this is wrong,
but this is how our families love.
We cannot abandon their young as you would do;
they are so adorable, they rouse our nurturing instincts.
Without our family ties to the Sky-Eyes,
we would have no balance for the heaviness of our bodies
and no warning of dangers from above.
We love as we were made to love, and our families are good.
We cannot help how we are made.