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Old November 14 2012, 01:36 AM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Formally one of many underused aliens with ties to the Federation, the Efrosians have now become reasonably prominant in Trek lit, ever since Star Trek: Titan established one of their number, Chief Engineer Dr. Xin Ra-Havreii, as part of the series' main cast. Efrosians are increasingly one of the go-to aliens to add a bit of colour to scenes set in the Federation. If we were being unfair, we might call it the literary equivalent of the Token Bolian, a phenomenon we all know so well from the 24th century TV shows. However, the increased visability of the Efrosians seems justified to me, given that thanks to the Titan books, and a few other novels, we now have a cultural context for them (more than we were ever given onscreen for the Bolians). They've been made a minor but functional part of the wider fabric of the universe.

The Titan novel Sword of Damocles comes closest to an attempt at simply defining them, and decides that a useful summary is “complex”. Have the novels given us enough insight into that complexity, that degree of complication, or has the ease with which readers like myself feel we can get a grip on them undermined the unfathomable mystery that Ra-Havreii presents in those earlier Titan books? You tell me!

The production history of Efrosians has been covered by our friend Therin of Andor on his blog, so I’ll sketch this bit in quickly before moving on to the novel appearances. The Efrosians are the race to which the Federation President in Star Trek VI belonged (a man who in Trek lit has acquired the name Ra-ghoratreii). They’re also, then, the race to which the Saratoga helmsman in Star Trek IV belongs, as the President was a reuse of that alien makeup. The name “Efrosian” was never used onscreen but is from production notes, having been given in honour of unit production manager Mel Efros. Novelizations for both Star Trek IV and VI insisted that these men were actually Deltans, the male Deltans presumably having stolen all the females’ hair so they could knit it into amusing facial accessories. Some RPG materials also went with the name Atreonid. However, the current novels have returned us to the venerable “Efrosian”, beginning, I believe, with Dayton Ward’s In the Name of Honor in 2002.



Naturally, the male Efrosians in Trek Lit tend to have the same appearance as the characters we saw on screen; they wear drooping mustaches, goatees and upswept eyebrows, with several novels confirming this appearance as “traditional”, and thus presumably of some importance to many Efrosians’ racial or national identity. It’s worth noting that minor male Efrosian characters with other hair styles have been seen – for example, in Destiny: Lost Souls an Efrosian medic is noted to have unusually short hair by the standards of his people. We see that his departure from the more common appearance is considered noteworthy, reinforcing the sense that the style sported by President Ra-Ghoratreii is strongly associated with his people.

One of the Efrosians' most notable traits is the lack of monogamy in their culture(s). This doesn’t, we're told, necessarily translate into sexual promiscuity, but the most notable Efrosian character, Titan’s Ra-Havreii, is indeed infamous for sleeping around. Efrosians apparently consider sexual intercourse productive to forming functional work units, and have few hang-ups over it. Whether this is another nod to Deltans I don’t know, though Efrosians lack the pheromones or empathic abilities of that race. In both “Over A Torrent Sea” and the non-Titan “A Singular Destiny”, we’re given explanations as to how Efrosian family life works, with Ra-Havreii and the character Altoss offering their perspectives on Efrosian cultural norms compared against the experiences of their conversational partner. Between these accounts, we learn that children are raised by their mothers alone; in fact, the Efrosian word for “parent” is the word for mother - the closest term for a father translates as "seed-donor”, and many Efrosians won’t ever meet him. The mother is by default the single most important person in a child’s life, but Efrosians are also rather communal when it comes to raising the young, with the mother's current lovers often heavily involved.

This set up should probably be considered alongside the ice-age conditions of their homeworld Efros Delta (a nod to that early identification of their people as “Deltans”) - what we're seeing, presumably, is a culture where communal survival once depended of tight-knit cooperation to such a degree that dependence on one particular person was a risk judged too high to seriously consider. The question is - do Ra-Havreii and the other Efrosians we see have characterizations that resonate with this idea, that these are a people used to communal dependency but a lack of long-term partnerships, and whose norm is comfort found in close-knit variety rather than the sturdy familiarity of a select few, or one? Ra-Havreii's reservations about his worth, his guilt over the Luna incident, his tensions with the rest of the team, and the Titan's diverse crew and particular mission profile...we can see the potential for his Efrosianness as well as his individuality to offer us interesting angles on the series and its character dynamics; have these been explored as they could be?

Point of interest: As the most stable, long-term relationship among Efrosians is mother-child, do monogamous races seem to have things the wrong way round by favouring single mates but multiple parents? Is monogamous sexuality indeed disturbing and confusing to some Efrosians, given that "it's not natural" to be sexually engaged with someone that you've built a permanant one-on-one connection with?

One other point that might be worth chewing on is Efrosian names. According to Therin, these are also in a sense holdovers from the Deltan days, where the Saratoga helmsman, who introduces us to the prefix Ra-, has a name similar to those of Deltan characters in the Star Trek II novelization. Having stolen the Ra- and made it their own, the Efrosians went nuts with it, giving us a string of characters with the prefix in multiple novels. Further, the Ra- prefix seems to be used both with family names and on those Efrosians given only a single name, suggesting that whether or not a surname tradition is in use is irrelevant to whether or not the Ra- is. As is often the case when a race has a follow-the-leader naming pattern, a bit of variety is thrown in every now and then, with prefixes like Ni- and Hu’ being introduced, and this leaves us with a situation whereby multiple options exist but one is notably dominant (assuming we simply haven’t been given a very skewed sample )

This in turn raises the question: why is this variant so dominant? With Vulcans, the obsession with giving them five letter names beginning with S and ending in K was justified in-universe as homage to Surak, and dedication to his teachings. To use a non-Trek example, the Narns in Babylon Five use the G’ prefix far more than any other because (according to background materials that I can’t recall the canonicity of) it originally carried connotations of religious approval or destiny, and so became incredibly popular in a way that actually made the original connotations of extraordinariness obsolete. So, my one unanswered question regarding Efrosians – why is “Ra” so common? Are they worshippers of the ancient Egyptian sun god? Do they perform the hokey-pokey as part of their sacred rituals? Who can say?

They certainly can, if we asked them, because another important fact about Efrosians is their in-depth knowledge of history and culture due to their dependence on spoken record. In Taking Wing, Alyssa Ogawa is surprised to hear that Ra-Havreii can speak with authority on Efrosian history simply due to being raised in the Efrosian culture. Whether this idea has been built on to any extent in other novels is questionable, though I wonder if a case can be made for Ra-Havreii’s inability to move on from the Luna disaster being tied to this cultural tendency for keeping the past alive. Has anyone gotten a sense of that in his characterization? How would other Efrosians deal with his problems? As an additional point of interest, the Efrosian language is said to be musical, with their historical records more comparable to symphonies than libraries. This at least is put to use in a later novel – Sword of Damocles – when the Efrosian trait of conveying complex information through music and keeping such information alive through repetition becomes a plot point. Indeed, Sword of Damocles has perhaps given us the greatest insight into the Efrosians, and in my opinion made good use of facts established in Taking Wing.

So: anyone have anything to say on Ra-Havreii and his people?
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 14 2012 at 03:42 PM.
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