Sunday, May 14, 2006

Surviving Kalieda

Perusing the ZBB forums this evening, I came across this question posed by "Turtlehead": Whats the biology and chemistry like in your conworld? Do you have strange new elements and compounds? What is the main element used for the biology of your conworld?

How can I resist such a question! This is the response I posted ...

Kalieda is mostly like Earth, except for a few crucial differences. For instance the bulk of the protein-forming amino acids in Kaliedan lifeforms are D form whereas terrestrial amino acids are mostly L form (Aidan convinced me that this is a stupid idea a couple of years ago, but I'm still emotionally attached to it). There are 23 mainstream Kaliedan amino acids, compared to the 20 mainstream terrestrial ones, but only 16 are common to both. There's also some small but critical differences in DNA structures.

The reason I chose to incorporate these anomalies in my conworld was to give me a plausible reason why the human (terrestrial) inhabitants found it so difficult to establish viable settlements on the planet. They may find themselves in the midst of an ecological paradise, but they can't survive by eating it. They need to establish and maintain "plantations" - in effect oases of terrestrial ecologies - to provide them with the food they need to survive.

Competition between the native and alien (terrestrial) ecologies provides the second strand of my conworld's narrative. Over the course of 6,000 years the two ecologies have been busily adapting themselves to feed off each other, evolving proteins capable of breaking down and converting the "wrong" types of amino acids into forms they are able to make use of. This competition is mostly taking place at the bacterial level, but has impacts on the human population - for instance in the form of novel diseases that every so often crop up and wipe out 80-90% of the population (I used to call them "assimilation plagues", but then Star Trek nicked the word "assimilation" for their Borg and I haven't got round to choosing another name for them yet).

People use these adaptions for their own purposes. Have you heard of kombucha tea? Vile stuff, believe me. The Kaliedan humans have something similar - a pancake concoction of bacteria and yeasts that they can place on top of a vat of "native broth" (for a better phrase) which converts the broth into something they can survive on. Terrestrial ruminants have internalised something similar into their guts, which explains why the goat is percieved by many cultures as the epitome of resourcefulness, determination and luck. Goats survive in vast numbers across all continents of the planet, happily eating terrestrial crops and native vegetation.

Interesting place to live, Kalieda: gorgeous, yet deadly.

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