The Quetzalcoatlus Northropi

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We might see a lot of dinosaurs and associated paleocritters around here for a while. After all, the past is an alien world to which we cannot go, and from which we get brief, weird glimpses that we must use to furiously speculate. And, unlike most alien worlds, it’s something that actually happened!

We can see here, for instance, a Quetzalcoatlus Northropi. Scientists have speculated about whether it could muster the strength to make powered flight at all because of its enormous size.

The human smudge by the left knee is the size of a modern human, who showed up some 65,000,000 years after this guy died. BIG NOTE! This stance is wildly inaccurate, and based on what turns out to be crappy science! Thanks to Paleo Twitter for helping me figure out that they weren’t like the seabirds I grew up with, but probably more like bats!
The Quetzalcoatlus was a big-ass animal. With a wingspan somewhere around 54 feet, it’s bigger than many aircraft. Current thinking is that it probably ate on land like a stork, since grabbing fish on the wing would have caused too much drag, crashing it into the water.
I’m speculating here that it doesn’t want its prey (really, you-and-me-sized dinosaurs) to see it up in the air, so it has a white underside to disguise it against the sky. From above, though, it’s got bold stripes that, from a distance, break up its profile against the ground: in an air rivalry, whoever’s got the greatest altitude wins. I’m also speculating, though, that these guys are so big and consume so many calories that they’re territorial; once you’re actually up close, the bold stripes are a bit of a “come at me, bro!” They’re a bold warning; “I can have stripes THIS BIG and you still can’t take me down!” Sort of the equivalent of a fiddler crab’s claw, where it’s gotten so big, it’s not actually useful for claw-based activities other than display.
I’ve also given it a big nasal passage. It’s got a crest of bone over its head that most artists use as a display. I’m speculating that it’s a support for the giant jet intake that such a prodigious consumer of oxygen must have had.
In this image, it’s making a run to launch itself into the air. Though the wings are foreshortened by the traditional side-on perspective of this drawing, its wingspan is twice the whole length of its body. The ground is sloping away because it’s moving into slope lift. It’ll pull up its feet as soon as it’s got just enough airspeed to catch some lift, and then suddenly, like the Northrop flying wing it’s named after, it will be a sleek, low-drag flying wing. With no long tail like its early ancestors, its shape is extremely unstable; just turning its head dramatically changes the forces on its body, making it terrifyingly maneuverable for such a huge creature.
An interesting note: I started to paint the ground green. Grass, though, had just evolved when this guy was coming into existence, so I don’t know what weird form it had. So I made the background a blue-grey, as though it’s on a rocky cliff.
To give you an idea of the size, I’ve added a humanoid glob to its shadow. By its knee, you can see roughly how big I would be standing there. But I gotta say, I don’t think I’d stand there.

The Kchkkhc People of Ekrfu 5

This story is funded by Patreon patrons like you! Thank you!

.7 deciyears ago, the contactor Probably Not Who You Were Expecting entered orbit around Ekrfu 5. The contactor’s constituents have made initial contact with hominins living here, and present this abstract of our findings. For more detail on their economic and familial structures, see the work of Utshfishr and Katshrzjn.

Ekrfu 5 occupies an orbit at the very outside edge of the habitable zone from its main-sequence, G-type star Ekrfu. The surface of the planet appeared at first to Probably Not Who You Were Expecting as an uninhabitable, ammonia-blanketed, rocky sphere, but closer analysis revealed a series of geometrically-placed vents leading below. The contactor has not yet determined if the ammonia atmosphere, caustic and toxic to organic life, is caused by or merely supplemented by these exhaust vents. Continue reading “The Kchkkhc People of Ekrfu 5”

The Channelers of Tzjetshu 2

xenoglyph4 is backed by  Patreon patrons like you!

Zjetshu 2 is a small, dense, rapidly rotating, rocky world with a thick atmosphere and powerful magnetic field. In combination, these features combine into the two major forces on the tectonically quiet sphere: its constant and terrifying coriolis storms and its dense, radioreflective ionosphere.

Most life forms on Zjetshu 2 live a subterranean existence. They have evolved in the thin band of soil that is neither too far from the warmth of the sun nor too close to the blasting winds, absorbing water and nutrients brought by underground rivers before they can dissipate into the atmosphere. Some life forms are more mobile than others, and most can at least move themselves to different strata of soil as it accrues and scatters with the wind.

Continue reading “The Channelers of Tzjetshu 2”

Proof of Concept

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The Rectifier Dismissal of Belief sparkled in the blackness like a single raindrop that had escaped the blue sky that curved, convex, above Etshuzju’s head. With her right hand, she clung to a handhold on the outside of the cylindrical Messenger Metastatic Self-Importance, waiting for the moment to leap. In her left, she held a gyroscopic sphere the size of her fist. If she made the 32000 meters with no propellant, unable to make any course correction, she would find herself with an Academic record. Continue reading “Proof of Concept”

It’s Hard to Find Someone [Illustrated]

I posted this story a couple of weeks ago to announce my Patreon campaign, and I repost it here with portraits of three of the characters. One of them doesn’t get a portrait because he’s a jerk.

You’ll note that the orthography — the way the words are written — differs from the eReader version. Such are the travails of a typesetter who puts a diaresis over an ‘h’.

Continue reading “It’s Hard to Find Someone [Illustrated]”

The Climbers of Oehun

In this first, Patreon-funded issue of xenoglyph, we look through the eyes of the Academic Contactor Time Enough for the Meaning to Change as is presents its preliminary findings on the Climber people of the planet Oehun. We look at their physiology (especially their tongues), their families, we glimpse their self-motivated philosophical growth, we pick at some mysteries of their existence, and we look back at their tongues.

(Don’t forget to hover over the footnoted words!)

Continue reading “The Climbers of Oehun”

It’s Hard to Find Someone

xenoglyph on Patreon

This week, I’m starting my Patreon campaign to help me get back to the fun stuff on this blog. The alien lifeforms, the languages, and the critical analysis of our favorite media and the fore-ripples of the bow shock of the future.

I’m adding a goodie, though: prose science fiction. To inaugurate the campaign, I include here a story of mine, called It’s Hard to Find Someone. It takes place on a planet called Ejtḧangh in the major cultural center of Tetej where, sadly, the people are no more enlightened than we are when it comes to the vagaries of sex and relationships.

A note on pronunciation: The language of Tetej and its surrounding culture uses a lot of aspiration, so  one would pronounce “Ejtḧangh” a bit like “Edge to hang uh”. The hs are both pronounced in the back of the throat, as in Arabic. Th is therefore not a digraph, but two separate sounds. To avoid confusion, I have used a diaeresis (¨) to separate the letters as a reminder to native readers of English.

It’s Hard to Find Someone

Hjatḧa woke up in the late morning and stretched before opening her eyes. The sun, trailing a string of the smaller moons, poured light through the window. It was a friendly but sudden awakening as the sun rose through the feathertree outside the window. Beside her lay Kwatḧash, the impregnator she’d met last night. He was beautiful and sleek, asleep there on her pillow, his chest rising and falling, snoring unselfconsciously. Hjatḧa was still struck by his pretty face, lit now by the dappled light as it was last night by the flickering light of the incense candles, his eyes flashing as he composed little poems about the rhyme in their names. As the night went on, they both found looser tongues under the influence of incense, and the poetry turned more direct. Kwatḧash promised to rhyme all night, and he did. Continue reading “It’s Hard to Find Someone”