The Xemulos of planet Erretaz are a species with four legs, fur, hooves, and tails. Their society is still fairly primitive by our human standards, they tend to live in herds that gather around watering holes on their fairly arid world without shelter and with little tool use. In spite of their resemblance to Earth animals such as horses or donkeys, their actual biological processes are more similar to what we’d call a reptilian style. Xemulos do speak vocal languages, all of them being tonal in nature, but more important to the meaning is the position of the ears while they speak.
Brrai is part of the leading unit of a herd. The leaders are generally the healthiest specimens of the herd, those who can lead and bear the risk of any danger that may strike from the front. They decide when and where the herd must go, they meet with the representatives of other herds, and they fight when necessary. That is rare, though, so most, including Brrai, have never resorted to violence. It’s much easier to run, after all.
Eabrur is addicted to Unnhurf, which is a fruit that Xemulos gather and store in such a way that it becomes intoxicating to them. Most Xemulos will just have Unnhurf as a celebratory thing, but those with addictive personalities, like Eabrur, can develop problems with it. Eabrur’s addiction has caused problems in the herd, with Eabrur lashing out at friends and family when they try to help.
Rhodit is part of a herd that is atypically nocturnal. In their region, the weather can be hotter than most of the rest of the world so they have adapted by taking shelter in cool caves during the day and coming out to eat at night. Rhodit is more territorial than most Xemulos and actually has claimed ownership of a preferred section of the cave. If it were possible to go without food, Rhodit would be perfectly happy never to leave the cave.
A Fact About Xemulos: A species of flea-like insectoid-creature has evolved to live off of Xemulos. They are mostly harmless, though annoying, to their hosts, and since the vast majority of Xemulos are infested with them, they don’t even realize how much better they’d be without them. The exception is a population of Xemulos on a secluded island who live with a species of flying animal that grooms the Xemulos by eating the parasites off them.
A largely humanoid species that evolved in a planet in a distant galaxy, the Zunkpork has developed technology capable of backing up their memories into computers, then growing new cloned bodies to house those memories when one of them dies. The clones are not considered to be the original person reborn, but is seen as a new person with the same memories. Numbers are assigned to the names of the new clones to designate how far down the line they are. No natural reproduction continues for the species any longer.
The Zunkpork have also spread into space and explored their galaxy, conquering some smaller species and forcing them to live under the rule of the Zunkpork Empire. The Zunkpork Empire was glimpsed in one Space Army comic, and then again when Little Choy insulted one of them, as is his wont.
Jogday 22 works in the Zunkpork Empire’s communications department. With an Empire that spans many planets, it is important to keep contact if the Emperor’s rules are going to be followed. Jogday simply does not care. Jogday will neglect to send important messages, will make up messages that were never sent, and in one case even posed as the Emperor and had Zunkpork forces evacuate a colonized planet just so they would stop sending messages. If anyone ever found out about any of this, Jogday would be punished. Luckily, nobody who investigates the problems ever seems to get the results of their inquiries.
Coquine 7, as can be judged by the single-digit number, is a survivor. Only six Coquines have died since the backup technology was invented, and every one has lived a fulfilling life. While not a bad person, Coquine has let this inflate their ego a bit, and does boast about survival skills and longevity to others. Ironically, this has led more than one person to daydream about killing Coquine just to prove a point, though luckily none have let this gone beyond fantasy. So far, anyway…
Stosus 46 lives in the shadow of predecessor Stosus 45. 45 was a criminal, executed for their crimes, but because of the rules of Zunkpork society, that did not prevent a clone from being made. Though 46 is considered another, different individual, all of 45’s memories are still in there. 46 definitely remembers the thrill of living as a criminal, but does not actually want to repeat the mistakes. But still, others look at Stosus and remember the last one they encountered, who was not quite as nice, and treat Stosus accordingly. With acquaintances like these, it isn’t easy to keep on the right track.
A Fact About the Zunkpork: Though they may look spongy or flabby, Zunkpork’s skin is actually hard like crystal and quite cool to the touch. If shattered, their skin takes a very long time to heal.
“There is more to life than this crazy, sick-headed preoccupation with honey, honey, honey, everything for honey—and death to anybody who can’t make honey!”
Listen: Kurt Vonnegut is probably my favorite author. I don’t like choosing favorites, but if I had to, he’s the one I’d pick. So when I learned this week that a previously unpublished Vonnegut Story was just put online, I was very happy. When I learned it was about a beekeeper… Well, that’s a thrill I will probably never see replicated.
Vonnegut Beekeeper! This is a top-priority review!
Now, as the world’s foremost reviewer of fictional beekeepers, I will remain objective here. This, as always, is a review of the beekeeper, not the work in which the beekeeper appears. The beekeeper will be judged on their beekeeping abilities, any supernatural or fighting abilities they have, and their ability to overcome Beekeeper Rage.
Sheldon Quick is our beekeeper here. Around fifty years old, he spends most of his time in the Millennium Club, a club for wealthy gentlemen. But, as the fortune left to him by his father is dwindling, very soon his club membership will end. But for a year or so he has been experimenting on bees with the intent to start a business that will recoup his wealth, and also save an oppressed group: male honeybees.
Quick plans to get rich by using drones, who would have otherwise been killed by their hives after the mating season is done, to send messages, carrier pigeon-style. He is not deterred by the fact that vastly superior communication systems exist. The sympathy he feels for the poor drones is so strong that he feels that alone is reason enough for the venture, which he describes as the “greatest thing in humanitarianism since the New Testament.” He creates a males-only hive (a “Bee Millenium Club”) where the drones get to live without the threat from the females. Like a pigeon returning home, the drones will always return to their club, so they work as couriers of tiny little messages. I mean, the plan fails of course (the drones happen to see a queen fly by and that’s the end of that), but Quick did succeed in setting up the all-male hive.
Quick has some sexist views, that’s for sure. He hides in the Millennium Club because women aren’t allowed in, and he fixates on occasions in nature where females kill males (in addition to the honeybee drones, he mentions praying mantises and tarantulas, as examples). It’s probable that he went through some bad experiences and came through with a lot of hatred. But he is, at least, trying to focus his Rage on a mission that is nice. As he says to the reporters who witness his failure “Report me as a fool, if you must … But report me as a fool with one of the kinder, grander dreams of our time.”
Enough summary. Time for review. Is he a good beekeeper? Well, he manages to run ten hives successfully enough to build up his stock of drones. He has no apparent preternatural connection to most of the bees (they sting him, but he has nothing but contempt for the females anyway), but he gets along with the drones. His experimentation is the sort of thing I like to see fictional beekeepers try (there should always be an element of a mad scientist to a beekeeper). He doesn’t seem like much of a fighter (though he is described as “very tall” so he has a physicality that might allow for physical strength), and though he comes from wealth it is not a lineage of ancient beekeepers or anything great like that. Apart from the experimentation, the most impressive thing about Quick is that he is trying to focus his Rage somewhere constructive.
Three Honeycombs out of Five. He’s a broken man, and his dumb idea fails, but he is a decent beekeeper and he wants to do what he thinks is right. And I feel bad for him.