Astrographer’s Notebook – The Fruzanni

This is essentially a set of notes I’ve collected over the past several years on a species in my Malthusian Empire setting. The earliest notes on this race which I will admit to making go all the way back to a parenthetical description of, Torpedo Millipedes,” I made for a lame fan-fic back in 1997. In posting this I’ve tried to organize it a bit better than the mess I found in the notes, and maybe make the writing a bit more fluent. I’ve added a few fairly crucial elements about the brain structure of the Fruzanni and its effects on their character and culture that never actually made its way into my notes, but which I well understood and even touched on in some of my early stories. Anyway, here are the Fruzanni…

Physical Description and Senses

The Fruzanni has a roughly cylindrical body that is about 1.2 meters long and 30 centimeters in diameter when at rest. Fifteen legs run in three rows of five legs down the ventral spinal column. This is sometimes referred to as the pelvic column. Two shoulder columns, each with two rows of five arms, slide radially on the ribcage which is fixed rigidly to the pelvic column. This allows males to bring all twenty arms to one side of the body. The female ribcage is split along the dorsal side to allow the body to expand while bearing young. Fruzanni bear well-developed young in their bodies like Earth mammals. Thus female Fruzanni can only use ten arms on either side of their body, but can bring all twenty arms to the dorsal surface, making work directly above easier. Both male and female Fruzanni have inflexible bodies, but they can stretch or constrict their torso from about 1.5 meters down to about one meter. The instinctual fear-response is to constrict the body, bringing the ribs together into a solid overlapping layer of bony armor protecting the vital organs within.

Each end of the body is capped with a head. Fruzanni have no concept of back or front, being capable of movement in either direction with equal agility. Each head has an iris-like mouth filled with sharp triangular teeth. In males, the tongue is adapted as a genital organ. The female has a slot beneath each tongue which carries the male’s zygotes into a space in the torso where eggs are secreted and the young grow. Thus, the “Fruzanni Kiss.”

The heads are surrounded by seven eyes(fourteen total) mounted on flexible stalks that can extend out up to a meter or retract completely into bony slots in the outer gusset bone behind the head, almost like human eyes. Retracting the eyes is another fear-response of the Fruzanni. These eyes allow the Fruzanni to see any point on or around their body. Their visual spectrum extends far into the infrared giving them some vision even in total darkness. Their ability to distinguish colors is somewhat less acute than human’s ability, especially at the blue end of the visible spectrum.

Three tympanic membranes mounted around each head give Fruzanni hearing with a somewhat narrower frequency response and a bit less sensitivity to direction. The Fruzanni have a somewhat more developed sense of taste and smell than humans due to receptors on their tongues. They also have chemo-receptors in slits along their arms and legs which are less discriminatory than their tongues but more sensitive and directional.

Habitat

Although the Fruzanni homeworld is normally considered as having a dense oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, the fact that ninety percent of the continent on which the Fruzanni evolved consists of a plateau about three kilometers high led to the Fruzanni having atmospheric preferences very similar to the human norm. Because of the dense sea level atmosphere on Fruztt and the fact that Fruzanni have adapted to live on the other smaller continents, the Fruzanni are tolerant of high-pressure, high-oxygen environments. Because of their ability to adapt to high-pressure and high-oxygen atmospheres, Fruzanni are reasonably comfortable on most Sha’Twee’Ar worlds. On the other hand, Fruzanni have limited tolerance for low atmospheric pressures. Many thin-atmosphere worlds that humans consider tolerable are quite beyond Fruzanni habitation without artificial aids.

Psychology

Like most sentient beings, Fruzanni have a distinct central nervous system. The structure of the Fruzanni CNS is unique among the sapient beings so far discovered. Although, in total, the Fruzanni have nearly twice as much brain tissue as human beings. Instead of being concentrated into a single brain, however, the Fruzanni central nervous system consists of a dozen or so large ganglia and scores of much smaller ganglia. The largest of these ganglia are the three primaries between the gusset bones at each end, which are each a bit smaller than the human cerebellum. The pathways through which these ganglia communicate with each other are much longer and narrower than the equivalent structures connecting the ganglia in a human brain, making communication between what might be seen as the parts of a widely distributed Fruzanni brain very slow.

The effect of this neurophysiological structure is that Fruzanni are in some ways brilliant. They can make and follow wide-ranging plans of awe-inspiring detail, often planning for contingencies most beings would consider unforeseeable. In other ways they’re downright insipid. When a Fruzanni meets a situation for which they have no contingency plan, they are terrible at thinking on their feet. The natural Fruzanni response, unless they are very well trained(and sometimes even then), is to leap as far from the offending stimulus as they are able(even on their own, somewhat high gravity, planet, their jumping ability is considerable; on lower gravity worlds it’s astonishing how far they can leap), and constrict into a hard tight ball. If any of their rather small ganglia still perceives a threat, a decision is made whether to fight or flee from there. This has lead to some unfortunately and shockingly violent encounters. Never jump out and yell, “BOO!,” at a Fruzanni, though most probably have that as a known contingency. Most Fruzanni on worlds where they can expect to meet other races have special neural implants which override the fear response momentarily, hopefully allowing the Fruzanni time to ascertain the situation and deal with it intelligently rather than falling on instinct. Many Fruzanni find the implants disconcerting and often feel faintly threatened or paranoid while they are operating.

The world of a Fruzanni mind consists of an immensely detailed model of the world built from old information that slowly trickles into the primary ganglia through the body’s senses and the thick protective bones of the gussets. These ganglia confer among themselves and the slightly conscious lesser ganglia throughout the body to build a set of shared models of what might have been happening since the last sensory inputs filtered in. These models are used to build plans of action which will in turn be used to create what amount to programmed reflexes for the lesser ganglia. In some sense the Fruzanni sees the world of a few seconds to, in some cases, several minutes ago, and thinks of its actions minutes, hours, or years in the future. This different time sense bleeds even into affairs of culture and politics: Fruzanni are far better at planning decades or centuries into the future and they are better at making flexible plans which can handle unknowns as shift to meet them as they come along.

Cultures

The Fruzanni have been starfaring for nearly 5,000 years and in that time have made homes on many worlds separated by the long wide gulfs of sublight interstellar travel. To describe all of the cultures they have formed over this wide expanse of time and space wouldn’t be possible even in a very long book. Technologically sophisticated industrial societies among the Fruzanni vary as widely as New Guinea hill people, New York mobsters and investment lawyers working in the brightly lit skyscrapers of Dakar.

In a very general sense, and understanding that this is only a very general sense, most Fruzanni cultures can be divided into two very(very) broad camps. The Tar Shial might(at a stretch) be considered the more liberal camp: xenophilic, individualistic by Fruzanni standards, and, also by Fruzanni standards, chaotic and unplanned. These are young vibrant and somewhat dangerous cultures, fast to friendship and fast to enmity. These are also the most openly friendly to humans and other races. The Krantz culture could be considered(again carefully and always with a grain of salt at the ready) as the traditionalist camp: planned, orderly, usually downright legalistic, perhaps not xenophobic so much as suspicious of the new and different. The neural implants previously described are popular among the Krantzv, because they help one to maintain a considered and planned path that they believe defines civility and intellect. The Krantzv want knowledge of everything that is approachable in their world or which they believe they can not avoid approaching so that they can plan and devise legislation accordingly. They have no desire to widen the space of their experiences to satisfy some insane and misguided curiosity(which is a word in their lexicon, typically held in the same esteem as talking about flatulence at the dinner table; especially with demonstrations).

Surprisingly, in spite of their focus on ancient tradition and propriety and general distaste for technology compared to the forward-looking modernity of the Tar Shial, Krantz is a younger culture. Tar Shial was very much the dominant culture of Fruztt when the Fruzanni first left their world. In many ways Krantz was a primitivist, almost Luddite, reaction to that culture that seemed simultaneously to spread from the homeworld out to the distant colonies and inward from the outside. Given the slowness of communication between the worlds at that time, it really couldn’t have had a cohesive centralized focus. Only over several centuries did the Krantzv come to see themselves as related movements, ultimately culminating in a new, loosely integrated society that took its name from one of its early centers on Fruztt.

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