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More About the Butterflies and the Ants - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

14 comments or Leave a comment
From: minor_architect Date: July 2nd, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, cool! If someone - or a few other someones - will agree to help sponsor this poem, I'll put in $10 towards its publication. (Your "extra" comes at a good time for me because I won't be online most of the day during the July Poetry Fishbowl. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 2nd, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I hope other folks do get interested in this poem.

Also, I'm contemplating a new idea for epic poems: if people start to fund an epic, I could post new verses as the funding covers them. For instance, if you gave me $10, that would cover 20 lines: the two verses already posted, plus most of the next, so I could "round up" and post that next verse.

Do you think it might work to post an epic in pieces, possibly tempting more donations, or would people rather wait and see the whole thing at once?
dulcinbradbury From: dulcinbradbury Date: July 2nd, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I think that would work quite well actually.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 2nd, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I think that's an elegant idea.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 2nd, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Okay, great. I've got 2 votes in favor so far. I'll ask minor_architect if she wants to go ahead and try this.
From: minor_architect Date: July 2nd, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure, let's go for it and see what happens. Although I'd like to stress that I really hope the rest of this poem gets funded so we can read all of it! :)

(And I'll send payment in the usual manner.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 3rd, 2009 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Okay, I have posted the next verse, and a description of the microfunding idea. Hopefully other folks will join in. I really want to share this poem, and the coolest stuff comes at the end.

I think I'll go post about this over in crowdfunding and see if anyone there wants to come try out this new technique.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 2nd, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooooooh! *Applauds*
jolantru From: jolantru Date: July 3rd, 2009 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I see art as well. ;)

At the moment, I am short of cash ... but I support whatever you are doing. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 3rd, 2009 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)


Art would be welcome!

The Sky-Eyes look similar to Large Blues, but with vivid eyespots on their lower wings. The Earth-Hearts look similar to red ants, kind of a fawn-red color. Both species have more domed heads than ordinary insects -- space for bigger brains -- and their heads and faces look very similar. The caterpillars look a lot like ant grubs, too, soft and white. And cute, of course.
From: christinaathena Date: July 3rd, 2009 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I once read a book that contained a chapter where humans intervened in a "war" between two alien races. Only to discover that the two were actually symbiotes, and by disrupting their natural relationship had actually doomed both to extinction.
From: christinaathena Date: July 3rd, 2009 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and the book Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon has some great alien races. One is actually a symbiotic relationship between two races, one fish-like ("ichthyoid"), the other crustacean-like ("arachnoid"). In their early history, they fought bitterly, nearly destroying each other, until they discovered the advantages of symbiosis.

The arachnoids were semi-terrestrial in their ancestral form, while the ichthyoids were fully aquatic. The arachnoids had the advantage of greater manual dexterity and access to dry land, while the ichthyoids had greater bulk and speed. The symbiosis began when the arachnoids would ride on the backs of the ichthyoids, giving them greater range, while the ichthyoids benefited from the fact that one of their major parasites was a prey species for the arachnoids. They gradually became more closely associated. The ichthyoids possessed tentacles that were useful for large-scale manipulation, while the ichthyoids were specialized for fine details. They also developed different mentalities, with the ichthyoids being more introverted and the arachnoids extroverted.

The young of both species lived as independent creatures, but as they reached puberty, they sought out lifelong partners of the opposite species.

Both had contributed equally to the culture of their world, though not equally at all times. In creative work of every kind one of the partners provided most of the originality, the other most of the criticism and restraint. Work in which one partner was entirely passive was rare. ... On the whole, the arachnoid partners dominated in manual skill, experimental science, the plastic arts, and practical social organization. The ichthyoid partners excelled in theoretical work, in literary arts, in the surprisingly developed music of that submarine world, and in the more mystical kind of religion.

They reached a stage of development that strained their symbiosis when they began to develop mechanical and, later, industrial civilization on the islands, which the ichthyoids could not participate in. It resulted in a strain that nearly destroyed both species, but eventually, they found a new form of symbiosis.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 3rd, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)


That sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for sharing! Also, my latest cyberfunded creativity experiment continues apace; I've posted several new verses today in the xeno-entomology poem "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts."
From: christinaathena Date: July 4th, 2009 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ooo...

It's quite interesting. *nods* It was written in 1937, and you can see a lot of influence from the global situation of the time. There's a kind of mixture of pessimism and guarded optimism, the idea that mankind was at a crucial stage in its development, similar to stages that all sentient races reach at some point. Some of the races succumb to their darker tendencies, and destroy themselves in war, or subside into intellectual sloth, while others pass through the crisis and emerge stronger and more spiritually aware, with the warning that mankind, too, could go either way. It's not really a novel per se, more of an exploration of various alien races, beginning with aliens that are similar to humans, and gradually going on to more and more alien races. There's a lot of cool ideas in it. :-)
14 comments or Leave a comment