KSK

First Flight (Chapter 103 - Coming Home)

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Just finished this, and it is amazing!

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On 31 October 2016 at 8:44 PM, KAL 9000 said:

Just finished this, and it is amazing!

Thanks! And thanks for stopping by to say so.

Next chapter is finally underway and I managed to set down a pretty solid chunk of text today.

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16 hours ago, KSK said:

Thanks! And thanks for stopping by to say so.

Next chapter is finally underway and I managed to set down a pretty solid chunk of text today.

Quick question: Did the Kerm and Kerbals just decide to help each other out, or did they evolve in symbiosis?

Edited by KAL 9000

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57 minutes ago, KAL 9000 said:

Quick question: Did the Kerm and Kerbals just decide to help each other out, or did they evolve in symbiosis?

They evolved together but to begin with the kerbals were just aggressive seed carriers for the Kerm, more slaves than symbiotes. The symbiosis came later after prehistoric kerbals discovered that planting Kerm cuttings made smarter Kerm that they could communicate with (after a fashion) and persuade to use their ecological control abilities (evolved for fighting off other Kerm) to help with kerbal agriculture.

Edited by KSK

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On 11/2/2016 at 8:11 AM, KSK said:

They evolved together but to begin with the kerbals were just aggressive seed carriers for the Kerm, more slaves than symbiotes. The symbiosis came later after prehistoric kerbals discovered that planting Kerm cuttings made smarter Kerm that they could communicate with (after a fashion) and persuade to use their ecological control abilities (evolved for fighting off other Kerm) to help with kerbal agriculture.

So... what about before Kerbals? Which came first...? I have the impression the Kerm are very old.

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18 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

So... what about before Kerbals? Which came first...? I have the impression the Kerm are very old.

It's a good question and one that's still hotly debated in the kerbal scientific literature. Kerm Groves (that is, sentient beings arising from the neurological merging of multiple Kerm trees) are indeed very old and date back at least as far as kerbal prehistory. Logic dictates that the indiviudual Kerm trees must be even older as a species and on that much there is consensus. On the evolutionary origins of the kerbals themselves, there is much less consensus and likewise on the evolutionary history of the Kerm. Fossilised Kerm leaves have been discovered but key parts of the Kerm, such as the interfacing leaf hairs and the subterranean nerve balls don't survive fossilisation. Or at least, no fossil record has been found to date.

One school of thought holds that the kerbals were originally a sessile Kerm symbiont that evolved motility. Some radical thinkers even postulate that kerbals were originally dwarf Kerm that were ensnared by their larger parents. Supporters of that theory point to the unusually diverse nature of kerbal biochemistry compared to many other lifeforms on Kerbin. Carbohydrate chemistry (glycoproteins and various other saccharide polymers) play a much greater role in kerbal cell biology, than in other species (and certainly when compared to Terran biochemistry). The modern day neural interface between Kerm and kerbal is thought to be an evolutionary development of a posited subterranean nerve and fibre network between Kerm and symbiont, which has also been co-opted by the modern system of clonally propagated sets of Kerm trees.

Opponents point out that kerbals are unusual but by no means unique. Other species are clearly related, for example the four-legged, two armed luffa. [Aside, Terran geneticists would clearly recognise this as a homeobox mutation - somewhere in their evolutionary history, the lower torso and limbs of the luffa body plan were duplicated resulting in a pelvic girdle that is essentially two kerbal pelvises fused together.]

A competing theory posits that early Kerm were carnivorous and that the leaf-hair neural interface evolved as a way of immobilising their prey which was then consumed by their vines - which have since evolved into the modern day healing vines. Proponents of this theory hold that the relatively unusual kerbal biochemistry was the serendipitous key to them becoming symbionts/servants of the Kerm rather than prey.

 

So there you go. :) 

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21 minutes ago, KSK said:

[...first-class world-building]

9909953816_e8cecebfc3.jpg

. . . conspiracy theorists on your Kerbin must have no shortage of source material. :D

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On 5 November 2016 at 7:07 PM, CatastrophicFailure said:

. . . conspiracy theorists on your Kerbin must have no shortage of source material. :D

Heh. :) The kerbaldebate over evolution was different that's for sure.

My kerbals are largely non religious. That's a personal choice - I'm not a religious man myself and so don't really have much of a feel for it, a place where I could stand and write about a kerbal faith with any sort of conviction or authority. On the other hand, I don't have any particular beef against religion and, for example, am completely cool with @JakeGrey's Kerweh (although I might have objected to Kod - the very cheapest and laziest overuse of K-words in my opinion) in The Next Frontier. Not something I'd choose to write in myself but spaceflight had an extremely deep, spiritual effect on several human astronauts, so I see no reason why that couldn't happen to my kerbonauts too, especially when they really start venturing out into deep space. There's nothing quite like a close up look at the infinite to make you wonder if there really are more things in the universe than are dreamed of by your philosophy.

In-universe, I think that lack of religion also makes a certain sort of sense. I've written about this elsewhere (possibly on this thread?) but for obvious reasons, my prehistoric kerbals never really had much truck with the notion of nature spirits and the like. They knew exactly what caused bountiful crops and fertile tribes - and best of all they learned that they could ask really nicely and reliably get both on demand. Hence the concept of invoking unseen powers to explain natural phenomena (and with that, an important factor driving religious tendencies) never really gained any traction.

Put another way, in a very real sense, kerbals have always walked amongst their gods. They didn't need to believe in them any more than they needed to believe in the sky or the grass under their feet. This may also explain the majority of kerbal oaths - where a human would swear on a god or a heaven, kerbals will reliably swear on the Kerm.

To cut a long story short, when my kerbals first started seriously thinking about their origins, they weren't especially perturbed by the concept that they had evolved from another species. Once the idea had been floated and the evidence started to accumulate, it just made sense. However, the notion that they had evolved from the actual Kerm themselves was a very popular one. In his or her heart of hearts, it's a thought that the average kerbal finds deeply comforting - although the recent revelations about their history have shaken that somewhat. Regardless, the popular notion that kerbals evolved from the Kerm made it harder than it might otherwise have been for competing theories to get a fair hearing.

 

And on a completely different note, I got about a chapter and a half written last week. The bad news is that one of those was the very last chapter so it won't be seeing the light of day for a while. I suppose the good news is that there is a last chapter. :)

 

Edited by KSK

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Ah, once again another fascinating wall of text from a simple question (that's a good thing :wink:).

32 minutes ago, KSK said:

This may also explain the majority of kerbal oaths - where a human would swear on a god or a heaven, kerbals will reliably swear on the Kerm

@Ten Key once observed it's easy to be a bit jealous over your convenient source for blasphemy :D. I dunno if it's just an English thing or what, but a writer can do so much with such a simple phrase as "oh... Kerm!" etc. I was a little unsure of it at first but yes, the way you weave it into your world makes perfect sense in context. It makes the whole place seem very... alive. No pun intended. 

I, on the other hand, will thumb my nose at politics and flirt with off-color humor, but I'm not touching Kerbal religion with a ten foot pole (or a 3.3 foot Russian).

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Yes - a bit of a happy accident but Kerm makes a very good four letter word (literally of course :) but figuratively as well). It's got the right hard syllables (like certain human four letter words) that you can inflect in so many ways to imply anything from jublilation to mild vexation to 'if somebody doesn't get out of my face right now, there's going to be trouble.'

And @Ten Key as always is spot on. Having a conveniently forum friendly cuss word has been very helpful for writing dialogue. :)

 

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So, on an unrelated related note, my overactive imagination just came up with this little gem of fridge logic:

With Kerbals being marsupial & all, is there a medical specialty devoted to in-pouch-ero care or is that something a Kerm might do? I imagine crushing injuries for.... whatever they call a pouch-attached neonate... are all too common. ;.;

 

darnit now I made myself sad

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Me too - not an aspect of kerbal society that I'd thought about before now :( 

As for what neonates are called, if you don't mind, I'd like to take a leaf out of your book and call them kerblings. And yes, neonatal care is a definite medical speciality. Kermol mothers are (understandably) extremely careful to avoid injuries to, or falling on their pouches (and the pouches themselves are fairly resilient and shock absorbing) but accidents do happen. Sadly, the Kerm aren't a lot of help for the very smallest kerblings -  healing vines are simply too clumsy at that scale and are likely to cause more damage than they mend. They start being useful about the time a kerbling is transitioning to a kerblet but even then it can be touch and go for very young kerblets.

I have another wall o' text on Kerm healing (and its limits)  if you're interested? Jake's rather melancholy opening to 'Beyond the Next Frontier', prompted me to put some notes together.

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57 minutes ago, KSK said:

have another wall o' text on Kerm healing (and its limits)  if you're interested? Jake's rather melancholy opening to 'Beyond the Next Frontier', prompted me to put some notes together

Always interested in your walls o' text. As long as it doesn't distract too much from actual chapter writing. Such is the danger of worldbuiding. :D

Or maybe the next chapter needs someone sitting through a documentary on the Discovery Khannel. Hmm. Apparently adding K to every word doesn't always work out. 

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9 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Always interested in your walls o' text. As long as it doesn't distract too much from actual chapter writing. Such is the danger of worldbuiding. :D

Or maybe the next chapter needs someone sitting through a documentary on the Discovery Khannel. Hmm. Apparently adding K to every word doesn't always work out. 

Heh. I've had this particular chunk of worldbuilding in my head for a while, so it's not holding anything else up. :)

Currently in a spot of creative procrastination regarding actual chapter writing - so the epilogue is going well but the next chronological chapter is only about halfway done. I'm a bit stuck finding a suitable POV to work through a couple of plot points - I could literally just infodump them in a paragraph or two but that doesn't make particularly good reading. Writing about war is also rather gloomy - the next chapter is all a bit Mark Knopfler which isn't helping.

"These mist covered mountains.
Are a home now for me.
But my home is the lowlands - and always will be.
Some day you'll return to.
Your valleys and your farms.
And you'll no longer burn to be brothers in arms."

Anyhow - better get to work. More on Kerm healing to come at lunch.

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On 7-11-2016 at 8:39 PM, KSK said:

I suppose the good news is that there is a last chapter.

I guess that depends on your perspective :P

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Thanks @superstrijder15:)

 

Alrighty then - Kerm healing.

Healing, or as the more cynical kerbal scientist might term it 'repair', has always been a vital part of the Kerm-kerbal symbiosis. The Kerm extends one or more subsurface tendrils or vines (commonly known as healing vines) which can burrow through kerbal skin and tissue in much the same way that its leaf hairs can extend through the kerbal skull to effect a neural interface. Biochemically, the two processes are not dissimilar. Where appropriate and necessary, the vines may also enter through natural bodily orifices. The most striking example of this was in the case of the first recorded an-Kerm, Jonton Kermol, whose Kerm effectively became a life-support system, able to remove his wastes and feed him enterally.

Once in place, the healing vines primary function is to disinfect wound sites and then accelerate tissue repair and wound healing. From an evolutionary biology perspective, this makes sense; kerbals were originally seed carriers and de-facto soldiers for the Kerm and the ability to repair those carriers and press them back into service would have offered an important advantage. The associated benefit to the kerbals was probably largely incidental.

Early kerbal medicine (as on Earth) relied largely on identifying and cultivating beneficial plants, herbs and other natural products. As kerbal science developed, it became clear that the extensive battery of compounds exuded by the Kerm for pest control could have medical implications, particularly for treating bacterial and fungal diseases. By this time of course, the modern system of Kerm, kermol and kerman had been long established and with it, the ability of kerbal Keepers to communicate with their Kerm. Just as Kerm could be persuaded to help with kerbal agriculture, so too could they learn to treat an increased range of kerbal maladies. Typically, Kerm tend to be a measure of last resort for treating bacterial infections, since successful treatment requires extensive and invasive use of the healing vines.

However, Kerm healing has some significant limitations, most notably in treating degenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases and proliferative diseases such as cancer. Kerm mediated tissue repair relies on very tight control over cellular proliferation, differentiation and migration - in effect these processes are carefully accelerated in order to rebuild and regrow various tissues. Unfortunately, the cell signaling pathways for all three processes are precisely those which are inactivated or aberrantly regulated in, for example, cancer. Tumours therefore present a welter of conflicting and confusing biochemical cues which the Kerm is simply unable to deal with. At best, it is unable to treat the tumour, at worst, it actually accelerates that tumour's growth or ability to metastasize.

 

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8 hours ago, KSK said:

Currently in a spot of creative procrastination regarding actual chapter writing - so the epilogue is going well but the next chronological chapter is only about halfway done

I dunno how you can even do that. If I tried to skip ahead like that everything would unravel in an instant, it's hard enough to concentrate on one chapter when I'm alreafy

 

4 hours ago, KSK said:

 

Alrighty then - Kerm healing.

:D Love seeing stuff like this in stories, the rational and practical analysis and application of what is effectively "magic" in everyday life. 

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Just too bad my teacher doesn't know about KSP! For the test we will have to write a scientific essay, and these worldbuilding notes would be great sources for whatever I write :D

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On 27/10/2016 at 7:49 PM, KSK said:

 

First up is @peadar1987's Storm Clouds. A word of warning - if you're the kind of person who waits for the whole trilogy to come out before diving into Book 1, then this might not be for you. Wee small matters like a PhD thesis to write up won't leave Peadar a lot of time for more creative writing over the next few months but the story so far is shaping up into an intriguing political thriller with some lovely world-building to boot. We're promised actual rockets at some point but I can honestly say I'm not missing them!

 

Thanks for the plug KSK! The pace is pretty glacial just now, but I've got another chapter pretty much ready to go. And I have to catch up on First Flight as well. The PhD writing is on-track though, so small blessings!

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Wait, one of the new chapters is the very last one? Will there be a sequel? If not, NOOOOOOOOO!

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You're OK. :)

The last chapter is written but it won't be the next one to be posted by a long way. I just got a bit stuck with the next chapter in the story so I took a break and skipped ahead a bit. I've had the last chapter and epilogue in my head for quite a while anyway, so this seemed like a good time to set them down. In fact I've had the last few lines of the whole thing in my head for over a year I reckon. :)

 

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So, will there be a sequel?

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There already is. :)

 @JakeGrey's The Next Frontier is set around 30 years after the events of First Flight and takes place in the same universe. Or the universe next door anyway - Jake was writing his story in parallel with mine so unsurprisingly the two don't dovetail exactly. A word of warning - parts of TNF are officially not forum friendly which is one reason why the link points to a completely different website. If you don't mind that though, I can thoroughly recommend it - for me it's a great standalone story with an obvious and very personal bonus.

Will I write a sequel? Possibly. Maybe. It really depends if I can think of something fresh to say about Kerbin, its inhabitants and their space program. As I found out early on in First Flight, there's only so much you can do with 'flags and footprints'  - eventually writing about yet another rocket launch or yet another landing (this time on a different rock!) gets a bit old. At least it does if that's the whole story.

There's always the monoliths and other easter eggs I suppose but again, finding something different to say about them (rather than doing warmed-over 2001) could be tricky. Which isn't to say that it'll never happen - I just don't have much of a notion how it would happen right now. :) Anyhow, there's quite a bit of First Flight to go yet. We're on the last lap, I know where the finish line is but we're far from done!

Incidentally, I ran a word count for interest (since we're talking about sequels) and the story so far weighs in at 258,953 words. The final count probably won't be far short of 300,000. Depending on typesetting, a paperback will normally have about 350-400 words per page, so we're looking at a final page count of somewhere between 750 and 850 pages for First Flight.

I reckon that's either two decent sized novels (for the genre), a slightly undernourished trilogy or possibly the kind of doorstop tome that normally comes with a fake gold leaf embossed title and will serve as a spare table leg in an emergency. A sizeable pile of words either way.

Edited by KSK

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