Thursday, May 17, 2012

17. Creating science-fiction animals: the strange creatures in Pandora’s Genes

When I began writing Pandora’s Genes, the strange, mutated animals appeared to me fully-formed in the same way as the main characters.

At the beginning of the novel, Zach visits Evvy’s family on an “ill-tempered” mount that becomes immobile at sunset; Zach and Evvy must shelter in a cave, protected by fire, to avoid poison-bats, which cannot bear to exposure to light; and Evvy is helped to find the Garden by Baby, the inquisitive and friendly fox-cat.

Fox-cat Baby, the Fox-cat

Could such creatures exist in real life? Probably not, but some of their adaptations are not really so far-fetched. Take the poison-bats. Most of today’s bats avoid bright lights, preferring to operate at dusk or in the dark. And although it is rare, a number of mammals, such as some shrews and moles do produce venom.

Likewise, the stolid mounts, which in the Pandora’s world have replaced most other riding and pack animals, might have evolved from camels, which do have very thick skins and can travel long distances in unpredictable terrain. They are also known for their unpredictable, surly temperaments. In the Pandora’s world, these mutated creatures have developed the ability to remain completely immoblle after sunset, when hunting bats would be attracted to any movement.

The fox-cats are everyone’s favorite Pandora’s creatures. Although there may or may not be such a thing as an empathic sense in real life, anyone who has ever owned cats knows that they often appear to read minds. In my post-Change world, the remaining house cats developed this ability along with larger ears for more acute hearing, and the superior intelligence necessary to live in such a dangerous world. Like today’s cats and dogs, the fox-cats bond readily with humans.

My wonderful cover designer, Glenace Melton, based the fox-cat’s appearance on that of my most beloved and always-remembered Hatshe, pictured here:Hatshe statue-001

Tomorrow: Plot or not? (Part I)


  1. Saw this article in today's Times. Comments from one of my favorite authors: I love that he scoffs the idea of writing about what you know. Research, research, learning. That is sort of YOU YOU YOU. Love the photo of Hatche.

  2. Thanks for the link. John Irving is one of my favorite authors too, as you know. But I do believe all writers write what they know in their hearts.