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Old October 21 2012, 02:09 AM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Two: Tzenkethi!

The "pilot" thread, focusing on the Nasat, did well enough, if slightly hampered by the relative obscurity of the subject race. So here's the second thread, and this time I thought I’d choose a more prominent species. In light of their recent importance to the Typhon Pact, I’ve picked the Tzenkethi.

The Tzenkethi were actually introduced onscreen, in Deep Space Nine, but received no attention on the show other than getting a name, a vague history of conflict with the Federation, and a leader with the title of Autarch. Trek lit, though, has recently taken an interest in them: they appear as major antagonists in two of the Typhon Pact novels, Rough Beasts of Empire and Brinkmanship, as well as furthering plots in three other entries in that series. They’re one of the Federation’s most devoted foes, and lately one of its most prominent rivals. They're also a cross between a human and a scheming, radioactive cheestring, which makes them fun to visualize. Since there's no official art or anything, you'll have to.

The Tzenkethi (comparatively lengthy real world description):

For a long time Trek lit ignored the Tzenkethi outside of a few name-drops here and there, perhaps because next to nothing was known about them. They were introduced in the DS9 episode “The Adversary” as a race unfriendly to the Federation. Remaining unseen in the episode, they were mentioned exactly twice more in the series, and then forgotten. Not usually a problem, except that this particular race apparently engaged in a war or two with the Federation, and were a big enough distraction for the Founders to attempt steering the UFP back into conflict with them.

Speculation about who the Tzenkethi were seemed to focus mostly on their name, and a theory that they were related to/were a homage to/simply were the Kzinti, who appeared in The Animated Series having wandered in from Larry Niven's Known Space. I’ll reproduce what Therin of Andor wrote in the Nasat thread upon hearing of my plan for this one:

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
From my Toon Trek site:

Although we never see representatives of the Tzenkethi Coalition ("DS9: The Adversary", TV), some fans (wrongly) assume that this non-aligned race, with whom the Federation fought two wars ("DS9: Paradise Lost", TV), was intended to be the Kzinti, due to the near-anagram of the name....In 2006, the screenwriter Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who coined the term "Tzenkethi" for DS9 recalled, "I basically made them up. And yeah, I named them. But I can't remember if I was making a purposeful homage to Niven or not. If I had to guess, I suspect I did my usual and combined a couple things. Probably Kzinti and Tsankth.." (The Tsankth are from "RuneQuest" and "HeroQuest", RPG)
Their first real outing in Trek lit was probably in Articles of the Federation, where we finally learnt a few facts about their biology, psychology and those parts of the government that aren't the Autarch - but we weren't allowed to see one. A few years later, Tzenkethi ships played a major role in Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers, which established further facts about Tzenkethi psychology, technology and political history but still played coy with their appearance. As a side note, the story Iron and Sacrifice in Tales From The Captain’s Table established the full Tzenkethi naming convention but, you guessed it, didn't show us one.

All was finally revealed in the Typhon Pact series, when the Tzenkethi became one of six former adversaries to form the newest interstellar superpower. They’ve since become one of the most frequently-used nations – some might call them the surprise stars – of the Typhon Pact era.

The Tzenkethi (surprisingly brief in-universe description):

The Tzenkethi are a flexible race of humanoids, or near-humanoids, with no bones other than a spine. They’re instead supported by fluid-filled sacs, which can be contracted and expanded as needed. They’re beautiful and ethereal, glowing with natural light and giving off a noticeable electrical charge. Psychologically, they like enclosed spaces and make use of ceilings and walls as often as they do floors, thanks in part to artificial gravity envelopes. Their ships are sleek, organic-looking vessels armed with plasma weapons.

Most notable is their social structure, which is orderly, hierarchal, and controlled to an obsessive degree. All Tzenkethi are placed into roles determined by genetics and testing in youth, and every member of their society knows his or her place, ranked according to exact occupational duties and proficiency level. The absolute leader is the Autarch, who is advised by the Tzelnira ministers but, as the title suggests, can do as he or she wants by virtue, it seems, of being genetically perfect. Otherwise, chaos and uncertainty are anathema to Tzenkethi, as is democracy, and they fear and hate the sprawling mass of the Federation next door. Their media apparently spins any and all galactic news to portray the Federation as imperialist madmen, apparently because the Tzenkethi leadership fears the UFP will infect their society with its chaos and confusion. Within the Typhon Pact, they seem to favour stability over agitation, in contrast to their blatantly provocative stance against Federation interests. They manipulate their allies, enemies and neutral parties alike, and prior to the Pact's formation had apparently been standoffish with everyone.

That’s enough for the introduction. My own ponderings on the Tzenkethi and their role in recent Trek lit will come later; I’ll let someone else take it from here.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; October 21 2012 at 02:20 AM.
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