Like a cross between Star Trek and Calvin And Hobbes, my novella The Gorilla with Twenty-Four Heads features many strange animals and plants, including bushes that defend themselves with prisms, starfish with retractable spines, spear-tail monkeys, and the nocturnal, carnivorous crystals that blur the line between living and non-living. It tells the story of a young dinosaur and his living stuffed-animal friends exploring a desert planet in orbit around a red dwarf star. Here is the blurb:
Having discovered a previously unknown planet, Captain Nathaniel and his crew cannot resist exploring it, but a run of bad luck and poor choices leaves them stuck on a hostile world of extreme temperatures, aridity, and dangerous and fascinating animals. Now an entity known only as “The Gorilla” wants them dead. How will they ever survive long enough to repair their ship and escape?
You may also enjoy my other stories and illustrations from the life of Nathaniel at my blog, ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com
Nearly all life in the galaxy is descended from the same ancestor through the process of panspermia – and something is trying to kill it. The Sage of Sagittarius by Kenn Brody is a fast read. It is full of scientific details, but without slowing down the action at all. The end is satisfying without being too unrealistic (the “bad guy” is destroyed, but at a heavy cost). Each twist makes sense in the context of the story. The characters are quirky, yet believable, and fairly well developed without getting bogged down in a lot of internal musings – nothing wrong with that, but this book’s focus is on the struggle for survival between species of radically different biology (and physics).
In the course of the story, the characters encounter many alien ecosystems. I liked the mollusk-like beings that sift gold from the sea. I liked the “birds” that planted themselves into the ground and became trees. I liked the centipede-like creatures that kept harems. I loved it.
There are many awesome artists on DeviantArt.com, but not all of them have well-defined exobiology projects. Some focus on the behaviors and outside appearance of long-extinct organisms on Earth. Some engage in all kinds of art and mix all their work together. Some post great alien pictures, but give no descriptions or environmental context. Some deal more in fantasy than science fiction. Some only had a few good ideas and then stopped. Some create strange landscapes covered in what might possibly be plants perhaps inspiring someone else to offer design and explanation. Here are those that at least deserve recognition as artists:
Their work and that of others of all genres can be found in my favorites gallery.
Heart crabs are a reef predator. They eat worms, screwcap shells, and even reefbuilder crabs and are only repelled when attacked by superior numbers. That this often happens has caused some to band together for protection and to provide distractions so others can steal food from the reefbuilders. Heart crabs are heart-shaped and have two heads. They crack open the shells by smashing them against other shells.
Clapping worms are highly mobile little worms that swim by means of rows of tiny oars down their sides. They spend most of their waking hours poking out of tiny holes in their castles to catch plankton by “clapping” their hands and drawing it into their mouths. When not feeding or sleeping, they spend time building up castles with secretions from their hands, spreading it over the surface. The mineral-rich mucus hardens after only a few seconds, containing active cells to finish the process before dying. Inside each castle are common living spaces and a complex network of tunnels.
By far, the strangest reef inhabitants are dodecablobons. They are made of twelve, semi-autonomous, worm-like bodies attached in a row to a common trunk that allows them to share an oxygen circulatory system (some are also capable of sharing nutrients). Some bodies are predators, others herbivores, others filter-feeders, others decomposers and detritivores, others parasites, and others contain symbiotic monocells (photosynthetic or chemosynthetic). Some have gills and some have lungs (they will on occasion wander onto shore or float on the surface when the water becomes polluted by excessive monocells). Any one of them can go dormant and accept a protective mucus secreted by the central mass to prevent drying, abrasion, or damage from extremes of PH. This makes them extremely versatile and able to adapt to different habitats. The central nervous system operates on a "rotating presidency" principle. Each of the twelve members of the symbiosis takes turns at control of the central mass and locomotion of the creature, while the other eleven retain control only over themselves.
Some dodecablobons’ member bodies grow all the way around the central trunk and so resemble the segments of a worm. The most common of this type is Lucy’s worm (named after its discoverer). The first segment of these animals has three jointed pincers surrounding a mouth. The twelfth segment is elongated and covered with suction cups in order to hold it firmly to the rocks (or screwcap shells or clapping worm castles) in the rough surf near shore. Segments two through eleven each have a single eye and numerous hairs protruding between the segments that capture plankton, which the first segment picks clean with its claws and eats.
Another dodecablobon that resembles a segmented worm is the rhinoceros fern fish. The first segment forms a rhinoceros-like head, the next seven segments each have two lateral swimming fins, and the last four segments form a distinct, tapering abdomen with four vertical fins above and four vertical fins below. The horn is used to break free reef-building animals or weeds so they can be sucked into any one of its twelve mouths. Some of the other segments have horns as well. It is among the most colorful and most rare of the reef’s inhabitants.
Concavenator is the creator of Horus, a world connected to Victorian-era Earth via wormhole. It is home to red plants with hearts, tube-jet fish, and large land vertebrates. The animals have a double spine. The dorsal spine runs from the skull along the back, while the ventral spine runs from the chest along the tail. They are connected by ribs. The tail houses the respiratory and sometimes reproductive organs. The land animals have six limbs. Some run on the hind limbs and use the forward limbs for grasping while the middle limbs are vestigial. Others stand on the front limbs while the rear four are used as wings. My favorite is the lazy animal that uses its front limbs to carry its head around while it grazes.
Preradkor is the creator of not one, but two worlds, planet Coatlique and planet Ullr. Coatlique is home to large animals reminding me simultaneously of mammals and arachnids, although some resemble sharks with whip-like jaws. Coatlique is hot, stormy, and irradiated, leading to a high level of mutation such that all animals and plants are chimeras. Ullr is much colder. It is home to the askewbugs, asymmetrical insectoid organisms. Check out his DeviantArt gallery.
Demmmmy is the creator of planet Fentil, an Earth-like planet of higher gravity and thicker air. It is the flora of planet Fentil I am most enamored with. There are plants that grow at the top, creating gigantic basket-like structures. There are plants whose seeds conveniently burrow themselves into the ground. There are plants that breathe. There is good fauna, too. There are the complex skeletons of the Dystroma and the complex vascular systems of the Photonimals. They are both highly creative and surprisingly plausible.
Ectoran weeds are multicellular, photosynthetic organisms common in the reefs whose cells contain green and purple chloroplasts. This gives them a dark, grey-blue color. Some weeds are small, soft-skinned, and ruffled in order to better exchange dissolved nutrients. On the other hand, most are large and have thick, tough skins to deter herbivores. To exchange nutrients, they have a vascular system that includes blood, heart(s), and gills distinct from the light-gathering leaves (if any). Cells throughout the body freely detach and ride through the bloodstream, soak up the nutrients they need in the gills, storing them in vacuoles, again ride through the bloodstream, and finally take the place of another cell with depleted vacuoles. Often, the blood pathways will change position the same way rivers erode one bank and build up another. Gas in the vacuoles in each cell is what makes most weeds so buoyant.
Written by Daniel Noe, ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com