Monday, July 1, 2013

Flora and fauna of the firmament—Part 1

When we get a better look at exoplanets, here are some of the life-forms we may find:

The Spiroplatnapi of Gliese 667 c
This artist's conception depicts the kind of intelligent life-form that may inhabit one of three "super-Earth" planets circling the red M dwarf star Gliese 667 c. Here we see a spirosplatnapus, a giant fishlike creature evolved to ply a planetary sea consisting of a soupy, aromatic hydrocarbon stew that to a human taste bud would suggest a hint of nectarine yogurt overlaying a base of heavy crankcase oil. It and the organism resembling a tar ball attached to what seems to be its head represent two of the species's 137 genders.

In order to procreate, all 137 spiroplatnapus sexes must copulate simultaneously in one coordinated 20-hour insemination frenzy in correct sequence via each gender's numerous and specifically evolved orifices, phalli and glands. Although all genders are fertile and, once impregnated, can produce offspring, the complex arrangements necessary to meet, date, match and mate have precluded successful procreation among the members of this busy, pragmatic species. The one time when all genders managed to coordinate a somewhat unruly ménage à 137 and reach the foreplay stage, the 17-clawed, 100-meter-long Gender 67 spiroplatnapus released its thorny sucker pincers, reared back and, with its 27,000 compound eyes tearing up, revealed it was unable to live a lie, confessing that it was only responsive to love that could be returned by other Gender 67s.

In its entire history, reproduction has been accomplished exactly zero times, and the only thing preventing extinction so far is the organism's multi-Earth-century life span. Scientists think only with the technological development of some kind of online speed-dating system that the species could shorten the arduous dating/courting/mating process to less than an Earth decade. But prospects remain dim—as most of the Gliesian spirosplatnapus genders agree, it's just so hard to meet anyone from Gender 122 that isn't a total creep.

Flora and Fauna of the Firmament is a satirical collaboration featuring illustrations by Ken Silber and descriptions by Michael Battaglia. Cross-posted at Quicksilber and Beige Matter.

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