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Hrull Pusher

[Posted Monday morning, revised Monday evening.]

The Hrull are slobbering manta-ray-like aliens who are slavers, conscripting humanoids to act as aids to intergalactic trnasport. They fly when in our atmopshere because they’re buoyed by domed hydrogen bladders, or maybe methane bladders. In space they use humanoid pushers to teleport.

I was gonna call these guys the Rull. Years ago, I wrote a story called “Wish Loop” featuring an alien creature resembling a sea skate that is called a Rull. I didn’t realize at the time that A. E. van Vogt wrote a series of stories about humans fighting against nasty worm-like shape-shifting Rull. The War Against the Rull. So I decided I better call them something else this time. I decided to go with Hrull. An element of homage to van Vogt, and an odd-ball spelling, kind of east European, maybe Czech.

Amazing video, it totally changed the way I think of the Hrull. The Hrull aren’t evil, they’re beautiful. Although in Monday morning’s version of this post I speak as if the Hrull will have saucers they travel in, in the evening, after a day with Nick Herbert, I think the Hrull ARE saucers. And maybe, rather than selling engines, they sell freighting. Carrying goods and passengers in ther cavernous mouths.

For the Hrull’s home world, I start with the idea of an ocean world shaped like a water torus encircling a sun—a bit like Ringworld, though not flat. The collection of water-planets is called Hrullwelt; I like the harsh, Teutonic sound of this name. Such a torus would be dynamically unstable. So we can suppose that the torus has broken into giant globs; we have a toroidal archipelago of water globs— like an asteroid belt where all the asteroids are water. And the Hrull leap from one glob to the next.

Their great wings glowing in the empty darkness of space, soaking up solar radiation. Perhaps with pusher-creatures attached to their bellies like remoras. Or perhaps the pushers ride in their enormous mouths like cleaner wrasses. (The Hrull are filter feeders despite their menacing look.) Although the Hrull who visit Earth are only thirty feet across, maybe the big freighter Hrull are a hundred meters across. The littler guys who came here are scouts.

The Hrull conscript humanoids and use them as integrated symbiotes for star travel. The Hrull use humanoids as pushers to power teleportation hops. Practically all of the alien races use Hrull for shipping and for passenger transport. The Hrull come in various sizes, such as interstellar and intergalactic—the power and range of a Hrull depends on how many humanoids are dangling off him or swarming in his mouth. Like cylinders in car engines.

Robert Sheckley wrote a story, “Pusher,” about humanoids as being the only kinds of species which are capable of teleportation. I discuss this in a Feb 24, 2007 blog entry.

As I said before, with Sheckley, I would maintain that we can teleport precisely because we have so much regret, doubt and fear. Why? Having doubt and fear involves creating really good mental models of alternate realities. And being able to create good mental models of alternate realities means the ability to imagine yourself being there rather than here. And this means that we can spread out our wave functions in ways that other beings can’t. We carry out certain delicate kinds of quantum computation.

Perhaps the humanoids that make up a Hrull pusher are surgically and chemically made into pathetic paralytics unable to escape the engine rooms? No, that would be too harsh, as I want my character Chu to be part of a Hrull pusher for awhile and then bounce back. Let’s suppose that when you’re a Hrull pusher, your encased pupa-like in Hrull body-slime, which slowly hardens. The Hrull slime provides full life-support—oxygenation, hydration, nutrition, and waste removal. People call it godslime.

Why? Well, the kicker here is that the humanoids pretty much enjoy being a Hrull pusher—it produces an intoxication of some kind. Perhaps psychedelic ecstasy, but perhaps something cozier and lower-chakra.. Perhaps The Hrull are intensely interested in the infinite, and being swathed in their godslime makes you feel as if the most important part of you is infinite, in heaven. Your body becomes just an attachment point to maintain a presence in the gross material plane. Or maybe the godslime just makes you feel like you’re on a happy date with your best girl. At home with grandma for the family reunion up in heaven.

But working as a Hrull pusher isn’t endlessly pleasurable. After awhile, you notice that you’re hearing a continual hum—like a leaf-blower or a clothes-dryer or a refrigerator—the hum is in some sense driving and owning your thoughts. The hum is the mentation of the Hrull. The pushers get to go off on leave in the Hrulls’ ports of call. But eventually they make their way back to their owner Hrull, as they miss the godslime. I can see an evening of spacers like this, the vibe reminds me of Samuel Delany’s story, “Aye, and Gomorrah.”

The Hrull carry Chu back to Hrullwelt to test and display him as a sample for a new line of Hrull pusher. The Hrull clients also know about Earth, but they leave the use of pushers to the Hrull. The clients aren’t going to be kidnapping humans themselves. Only the Hrull can exude the essential godslime. That’s the Hrully angle for using humanoids as pushers.

Maybe, as a pun on the Sheckey usage of “pusher,” the Hrull pushers also make a little money when in port by selling small amounts of godslime to rubes. “Just a taste. Your heart’s delight.”

4 Responses to “Hrull Pusher”

  1. Nick Says:

    I don’t know how easy it is to do so nowadays (or if I’m preaching to the converted), but you should check out The Puma Blues, a beautiful eco-sci-fi comic book from the 1980s, which featured mutated, airborne manta rays, its main symbol of post-nuclear environmental impact. You can see them airborne on the Wikipedia entry:

    The Hrulls sound great, by the way!

  2. Ross Says:

    Yeah, I remember THE PUMA BLUES; that was a great comic. I still have some issues around here (in a box in the closet, actually).

    THE WAR AGAINST THE RULL is generaly regarded as one of van Vogt’s classic works. A. E. van Vogt shared with William S. Burroughs a deep fascination with the non-Aristotelian “General Semantics” of Korzybski. I think van Vogt’s General Semantics-based THE WORLD OF NULL-A is his best novel. It was Philip K. Dick’s favorite SF novel. I’m also very fond of van Vogt’s THE ANARCHISTIC COLOSSUS; it’s certainly the most unique vision of an anarchist future ever written. Check it out.

  3. Steve H Says:

    Rudy, terminology like shrigs, stonkers, cluspers, flurb, Peng woogies and Hrull is one of the things that sets you way apart from other science fiction writers. And I think Sheckley would be delighted to see the pushers reappear. I also think it would be dangerous for the Hrull to try to paralyze or otherwise oppress people who can teleport. Someone who can move a huge starship can also make YOU vanish if critically stressed.

    Hrullwelt is a great word. Maybe it should be Hrullmeer? I think Melkweg is a cool word but Via Galactica has a better ring. Probably why they didn’t call that show BATTLESTAR MILKY . . .

  4. kim Says:

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