Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe

Contents:

I’ve always loved designing interesting, hopefully plausible nonhumanoid aliens. I’m not a great artist, but here are my pencil sketches of the alien designs featured in my various works.

Height chart for species from ARACHNE’S CRIME (top) and ARACHNE’S EXILE (bottom). Green Blaze (1.67 m) included for scale.

CHIRRN

Appear in: “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average length 2.5 m. Avg. height in erect posture 2.1 m. Skin colors in blue range, often tending to green or violet. Manes naturally black, dark blue, or white, but usually dyed in vivid colors. Eyes are chameleon-like and lidless with bioengineered visual enhancements. Olfactory bristles on muzzle surround numerous respiratory pores. Locomotion is through hopping, in the manner of a Terran kangaroo; shock-absorbing tendons in the neck and padding in the skull protect the brain from the repeated jarring of this motion.

A sexually mature member of the Chirrn can alternate between male and female, with organ function changing due to hormonal shifts. The Chirrn sexual organ is its tongue; childbirth is through the mouth.

My design for the Chirrn was an attempt to counter the common assumption that tool-using aliens would be likely to evolve an upright bipedal body plan similar to our own. I wanted to create a species that fit all the parameters for a tool-using biped, yet was nonetheless far from humanoid. It still turned out a bit too derivative of Earth animals, though — mixing and matching a kangaroo’s body, chameleon’s eyes, and horse’s mane. But I found other ways to make them more alien internally and in fine detail.

For more detailed worldbuilding notes, click here.


Seekers of the Zenith

Seeker of the Zenith

Appear in: Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average height 2.5 m. Avg. wingspan 5.4 m. Covered in silver featherfur (hairs with fine barbules, forming aerodynamically smooth, insulating coat). Beak has three mandibles, two atop and one below. Middle eye sees color; outer pair see form, depth, movement. Zenith speak in multitonal whistles generated in resonating chambers in the headcrests. Sides of crests coated in keratin microfibers creating an iridescent diffraction effect. Wing dactyls fold back along forearms when not in use. Females have larger crests and sharper, more hooked beaks.

As a rule, Zenith have matrilineal, polyandrous societies. Females keep harems of males, the size of which depends upon (or in some cultures determines) their social status.

Zenith crouch

Here’s a sketch showing two Zenith in their crouched posture. This is their normal, more relaxed stance, particularly in high gravity, or when not asserting dominance over lower-ranked Zenith. The image is a detail from a larger illustration that I may share someday (it includes another species I haven’t introduced yet).

Zenith “featherfur” is my attempt to imagine an alternate evolutionary path for a body coating somewhere between fur and feathers. The idea is a featherlike structure that bifurcates with long hairs inside the V and shorter, interlacing hooks outside, meshing together like feathers but in a diamond pattern with more of a furry texture.

I came up with the Zenith as sort of a “replacement” for the Shesshran, a similarly resplendent pterosaurian species I created for my original fiction but then incorporated into my first Star Trek novel, Ex Machina. Again, I tried to devise a distinctly non-humanoid variant on bipedal anatomy.

For more detailed worldbuilding notes, click here.


Ryohoch

Appear in: Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Avg. height 3.2 m. Avg length 3.6 m. Dark brown to gray-brown skin. Eyes, respiratory slits on sensory orb. Head tendrils possess various sensory, communicative purposes. Nine limbs in groups of three, one on either side of trunk and one underneath to provide support against native superterrestrial gravity. Forelimbs somewhat prehensile, but Ryohoch rely on symbiotic manipulator drones that rest on back or legs. Two mouths on flanks in front of forelimbs.

This sketch is cruder than the previous ones since I was out of practice. I’d never really worked out their anatomy in this detail before; until recently, I only had a very rough sketch and a mental image. I deliberately wanted them to be as bizarre and incomprehensible as I could make them, so I haven’t worked out the logic of their anatomy to the same extent as I have with my other species. I don’t even know what the head tendrils are supposed to do, except to work with the sensory orb as something akin to a parabolic dish and its focus.

The ancestral idea behind the Ryohoch was a species I created decades ago as inhabitants of a Dyson sphere built because their population grew out of control. Since the premise was reminiscent of Star Trek: “The Mark of Gideon,” I designed them as a tall, upright species based on the word GIDEON written vertically: G as the head, I the neck, D the upper body, E the three sets of arms, etc. I went in a different direction (literally, horizontal instead of vertical) when I designed the Ryohoch, but I kept the head, the bulbous body, and the limbs in groups of three.


Zhalevey

Appear in: Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average height 1.4 m. Downy fur and skin in green, gold, or brown tones, often mottled. Three arms, three legs. Limbs are flexible, lacking discrete joints. Wide, flexible ears change position to express emotion, and are also temperature regulation membranes. Though endothermic, Zhalevey can match their skin temperature to the environment, a trait evolved as camouflage from nocturnal predators.

The Zhalevey are descended from one of the earliest alien species I created back in my teens, with their head shape inspired by the flattened image of Yoda on a crushed paper cup. The final version of their head and ear shape, though, owes at least as much to Gizmo from Gremlins. I also went through a stage when I was trying to make them appear “angelic” to human eyes, so I made their ears winglike and placed nostrils on the forehead to suggest a “third eye.”

I rethought their anatomy several times over the decades, finally replacing their narrow-hipped tripedal base with a pseudo-centaurian build. My thinking is that their ancestral species evolved from hexapeds with a leg on the front and back and two on each side, then adapted to raise the front half of the body to vertical. Given how flexible their bodies are, they may be able to revert to something close to that body plan.


Shayal

Appears in: Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average height 1.9 m. Skin colors in blue-gray to green-gray range, usually with dorsal stripes. Eyes are chameleon-like and lidless with bioengineered visual enhancements. Olfactory bristles on muzzle surround numerous respiratory pores. Additional bristles on neck emit and receive pheromonal cues. Locomotion is through hopping, in the manner of a Terran kangaroo; shock-absorbing tendons in the neck and padding in the skull protect the brain from the repeated jarring of this motion. Tail short and vestigial.

Of all the new species in Arachne’s Exile, the Shayal were the easiest to design, as they’re related to the Chirrn (and I traced the hands directly). The original drawing came out too tall and long-legged, but I just squashed down the aspect ratio a bit, which is why the image filename has “short” appended.


Gaurim

Appears in: Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average length 2.4 m. Avg. height 1.7 m. Thick, knobbly hide typically in brown, orange, or gold shades, darker on dorsal surface. Eyes on short, flexible shafts, able to prolapse or retract into skull. Hands have thick pads with fine manipulation capability like the foot of a Terran snail. Evolved from hexapedal ancestors in which the central limbs became specialized for running and the forelimbs for grapsing, with the hind limbs evolving into clubbed, tail-like appendages. Herbivores armored for predator defense and mating competition.

Here’s a sketch I did to work out the evolutionary logic:

My original concept had no head, just a symmetrical body with sense organs and mouth on the front between the arms. But I decided there were good reasons for a head and mouth on a flexible neck in the species’s evolutionary history before it had grasping limbs. I wanted an armored, spiked skull, but I had trouble figuring out how to depict that with my limited artistic skills and gave up until recently. I’m still not entirely satisfied with the head design.


Mykhshad

Appears in: Arachne’s Exile

Physical traits: Average length 3.5 m fully extended. Avg. height 1.4 m. Skin covered in mobile sensory bristles similar to thick hairs, highly sensitive to air movements and pressure variations, as well as bearing chemosensory (scent/taste) receptors. Skin/bristle colors generally blue-gray to purplish-gray, usually with dark gray tigerlike stripes. Head contains echolocation organ analogous to the “melon” of Terran cetaceans. Four rudimentary eyes. Prehensile trunk widening to flexible, paddle-like grasping appendage with fine manipulative tendrils. Forelimbs end in strong grasping digits that can be freed for use by rearing up and resting on hind legs and tail (facultative tripedalism).

The mobile sensory bristles were inspired to some extent by the demon boar from Princess Mononoke, which was covered in writhing worms, a compellingly intricate piece of animation. The Mykhshad are nowhere near as gruesome, though. Still, such bristles are hard to draw, so it came out looking rather shaggy — and much more like Mister Snuffleupagus than I intended.


Aksash’sk

Aksash'sk

Appears in: “Twilight’s Captives”

Physical traits: Average height 1.4 m.  Skin in yellow-brown range.  Two tonguelike scent/taste organs extending from corners of mouth.  Infrared vision, sensitive to wide range of IR frequencies; does not overlap the human-visible spectrum.  Headfin functions as a heat dissipator, which helps keep the eyes thermally isolated from the brain.  Nares (nostrils) located on chest.

For a more detailed discussion, see “Twilight’s Captives” Annotations.


Denzeuur

Denzeuur

Appears in: “Twilight’s Captives”

Physical traits: Average height 1.7 m.  Thick fur, blue to violet in color.  Tactile whiskers on head.  Biaxially symmetrical; by flipping head up and over, either side can function as front of body.  Visual cortex instantly adjusts to inversion of eyes.  Exclusively nocturnal, with sensitive eyes and hearing.

Marsupial, with two sexes.  Females have dual marsupia, one on each face of torso.  Genitalia between legs.

For a more detailed discussion, see “Twilight’s Captives” Annotations.

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