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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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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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Old November 14 2012, 08:13 AM   #2
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
So: anyone have anything to say on Ra-Havreii and his people?
I loved the ST IV Efrosian and was thrilled when the makeup design was reused in ST VI:

For those wondering about how and why Efrosians have links to the Deltans:
http://therinofandor.blogspot.com.au...336471480.html
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Old November 14 2012, 08:15 AM   #3
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

I love them. Could you provide links to every previous thread every time you make a new species analysis?

It would be intersting to see Efrosian diasporas on some worlds.
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Old November 14 2012, 11:40 AM   #4
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

When I first saw The Undiscovered Country, I didn't realise he was supposed to be an alien

I just thought he was some old dude
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Old November 14 2012, 11:45 AM   #5
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

There is also the idea that the Efrosians were originally supposed to be all blind - thus providing the first example of the "blind guy driving the ship" gag (that later crystallized with Geordi LaForge) in the person of the Saratoga helmsman. That character was given all-white contact lenses (Saratoga helmsman) in an attempt to suggest this.

When the make-up was re-used for Ra'ghoratreii, the white lenses were dropped (as can be seen in the image above). But the glasses he wears at the Khitomer conference, and the way Kirk gently leads him around, might be seen to suggest that he is still blind anyway, even without the lenses.

If the Efrosians were all blind, that would fit in very well with the idea that their history and culture is based on music and spoken word - if they can't see, they wouldn't have much of a written language, would they? Of course information would be conveyed verbally and musically.

I don't believe any Lit has ever made reference to this, though. Ra-Havreii, Altoss and Fellen Ni-Yaleii have never been described as being blind. I don't quite remember the novelizations of TVH and TUC, so I can't say if the idea is included there or not.

Which leaves us with the conclusion that, if Efrosians are not intended to be all blind, then the all-white contact lenses on the Saratoga helmsman must simply be a natural occurence in a certain percentage of Efrosians which does not signify anything in particular. Or that that guy was blind, but most of them aren't.

I did really enjoy that scene in Sword of Damocles where Ra-Havreii locked himself away in his quarters and diagnosed what was wrong with the Titan's engines simply by listening to them. I thought that was a fascinating insight into the species, and made me like him for the first time. Up to then I'd found him worrisome, a man whose personal issues and demons could be very dangerous for a man in such a position of power. Not the promiscuous thing (I'll discuss that later) but the Luna thing - how he seemed to obsess over it and be almost fixated on it. I didn't trust him in the role of Chief Engineer - not because I didn't think he could do the job, but because he was doing the job for all the wrong reasons. After Sword of Damocles I softened towards him.

Another point that Over a Torrent Sea brings up about Ra-Havreii is that he is agoraphobic - he's extremely uncomfortable in the open-air locales of the Droplet planet. But I don't see this as being a general trait of all Efrosians. I'm sure I remember something about Efrosian civilization being largely outdoors and built in the trees (almost like the Nasat), and so agoraphobia would be quite unlikely in such a culture. Therefore I think this is just a trait of Ra-Havreii individually. It might even have contributed to his decision to become an engineer - to quote Sheldon Cooper, "a career I chose in no small part because it takes place largely indoors."

As to the promiscuity issue, I’m thrilled that the Lit continues to explore sexuality in different ways, not just with the LGBT issues but by exploring the truth that some people are simply not designed to be monogamous, and some people are, and there is no value judgement in that, by extrapolating it out to an entire culture. I like that Ra-Havreii is not looked down upon for liking the ladies, and that most people simply accept it as who he is and who the Efrosians are (or if they don’t immediately accept, they recognise that they’re the one with the problem, not him). It’s another way in which Titan the series has really got its teeth into the concept of diversity and different types of people living together and getting along. I loved the little titbit that was dropped in Orion’s Hounds that explains that, to Efrosians, it would be considered rude not to flirt with a person of one’s preferred sex, that it would be tantamount to calling them ugly. I think that’s delightful.

But then that leads me to be mildly disappointed that, over the course of the novels, Xin seems to have “settled down” into a monogamous relationship with Melora. I’m blocking a lot of Fallen Gods out so maybe I’m forgetting, but I don’t think there’s been any mention of Xin still being free to have sex with other people while he’s in a relationship with Melora. I can see the appeal of the relationship to the writers – the woman who won’t let anyone in with the man who lets everyone in but none of them mean anything – but while it may not have been the intention, I can’t help being left with the message that promiscuity is just a thing a man does until he finds “the one” and that monogamy is inevitable and superior to non-monogamy, which is precisely the opposite message the same character gave at the start. It feels like Ra-Havreii being forced to change what is completely natural to him, ordinary and standard and culturally expected, to fit in with what the majority of other cultures might expect. And that’s disappointing.

Finally, Altoss and Fellen are both female Efrosians, which have never been seen on screen. One assumes that the females don’t also have the long white moustaches, but I actually picture them with traditionally much shorter hair than the males as well, comparatively close-cropped or perhaps in a ponytail.

There’s also the fact that Fellen was a non-Starfleet Efrosian, and part of a criminal gang. It’s not unusual for individuals of nations that are members of the Federation to have gone rogue and follow their own rules – we’ve seen that in plenty of Federation races, not least humans – but it’s nice to see that Efrosians, as individuals, are not immune from disenchantment with the Federation way. It stops them from appearing monolithic as a culture.

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Old November 14 2012, 01:33 PM   #6
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
When the make-up was re-used for Ra'ghoratreii, the white lenses were dropped (as can be seen in the image above).
The actor does wear lenses, though: brilliant blue ones! And they really hampered his vision, according to an interview he did a few weeks after the film came out. (I understand he was ready to put his boot in the makeup artist's ass.)

If the Efrosians were all blind
IIRC, it's the FASA "ST IV Sourcebook" which speculates that Efrosians can see in certain lighting conditions, eg. the "red alert" state of the Saratoga bridge in ST IV.

Finally, Altoss and Fellen are both female Efrosians, which have never been seen on screen.

Efrosians by Therin of Andor, on Flickr

Although the actress didn't necessarily assume she was Efrosian, the Federation president is seen escorting (or being escorted?) into the conference a pale-haired female, of similar orange complexion to the President, in the ST VI theatrical trailer. Before I read the actress' online comments, I had assumed she was intended to be the President's consort, rather than just an aide.
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Old November 14 2012, 01:50 PM   #7
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
The actor does wear lenses, though: brilliant blue ones! And they really hampered his vision, according to an interview he did a few weeks after the film came out. (I understand he was ready to put his boot in the makeup artist's ass.)
Well, that would certainly explain why he looked like he couldn't see where he was going at times. Even if the character wasn't blind, the actor was!


Finally, Altoss and Fellen are both female Efrosians, which have never been seen on screen.


Efrosians by Therin of Andor, on Flickr
Ooh, I never noticed that. She doesn't look like she has the forehead lumps though. She just looks like a human who spent too much time on the sunbed.

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Old November 14 2012, 03:36 PM   #8
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
If the Efrosians were all blind, that would fit in very well with the idea that their history and culture is based on music and spoken word - if they can't see, they wouldn't have much of a written language, would they? Of course information would be conveyed verbally and musically.
But if they were all blind, why would they have eyes in the first place? That doesn't make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. The idea that they have trouble seeing in our light spectrum because their eyes are adapted to their own world's conditions makes somewhat more sense, except that there wouldn't realistically be much difference in the lighting conditions of most Class-M planets. The one thing I can think of that might make sense would be if they were a nocturnal species and couldn't see well in bright light.


Another point that Over a Torrent Sea brings up about Ra-Havreii is that he is agoraphobic - he's extremely uncomfortable in the open-air locales of the Droplet planet. But I don't see this as being a general trait of all Efrosians. I'm sure I remember something about Efrosian civilization being largely outdoors and built in the trees (almost like the Nasat), and so agoraphobia would be quite unlikely in such a culture. Therefore I think this is just a trait of Ra-Havreii individually.
I don't think I meant for him to be agoraphobic per se, just the kind of person who's more comfortable in a high-tech, clean, controlled environment and is not at all fond of the messiness of nature. And no, I definitely didn't intend it to be a racial trait, just a personal quirk.
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Old November 14 2012, 04:11 PM   #9
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Christopher wrote: View Post
lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
If the Efrosians were all blind, that would fit in very well with the idea that their history and culture is based on music and spoken word - if they can't see, they wouldn't have much of a written language, would they? Of course information would be conveyed verbally and musically.
But if they were all blind, why would they have eyes in the first place? That doesn't make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. The idea that they have trouble seeing in our light spectrum because their eyes are adapted to their own world's conditions makes somewhat more sense, except that there wouldn't realistically be much difference in the lighting conditions of most Class-M planets. The one thing I can think of that might make sense would be if they were a nocturnal species and couldn't see well in bright light.
I've assumed that problems relating to poor vision are simply more common among Efrosians than in most humanoid species, perhaps because they were less dependent on sight compared to their other senses and so faults on the genes governing eyesight and the health of the eyes were less likely to be left by the roadside and fail to propagate? Perhaps in the blizzards, etc that defined the climate in which Efrosians developed, sight was less useful than smell or hearing or touch, and survival wasn't tied so strongly to it? Also, perhaps we can assume that those lacking in vision benefitted from the care of the others even if they couldn't contribute much, due to the Efrosian instinct for communal support, and so they survived in spite of their disabilities where in many other young humanoid societies (those less tightly-knit) they might not have? And as a result the modern Efrosians have a higher incidence of problems relating to vision?
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Old November 14 2012, 05:53 PM   #10
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Christopher wrote: View Post
But if they were all blind, why would they have eyes in the first place? That doesn't make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
Well, perhaps the lower species they evolved from had eyes but with climatic and cultural changes, the need for vision became less important to survival, so eyes became less functional but not removed altogether, a more obvious analog to the appendix. After all, we have moles on Earth who evolved from fully sighted creatures but whose own eyes have almost withered away - still present but mostly useless and unnecessary because of their environment.

Or maybe they have eyes because their genetic heritage from the aliens in "The Chase" demanded they have eyes, even if they didn't really need them.

Or what DerangedNasat said.

All of which is moot anyway, because the whole idea of them being blind appears to have been dropped.

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Old November 15 2012, 01:52 AM   #11
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
But if they were all blind, why would they have eyes in the first place? That doesn't make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
Well, perhaps the lower species they evolved from had eyes but with climatic and cultural changes, the need for vision became less important to survival, so eyes became less functional but not removed altogether, a more obvious analog to the appendix. After all, we have moles on Earth who evolved from fully sighted creatures but whose own eyes have almost withered away - still present but mostly useless and unnecessary because of their environment.

Or maybe they have eyes because their genetic heritage from the aliens in "The Chase" demanded they have eyes, even if they didn't really need them.

Or what DerangedNasat said.

All of which is moot anyway, because the whole idea of them being blind appears to have been dropped.

.
It may not be moot.

A few things:

1) From what I can see, 23rd century Efrosians seem more likely to have been depicted with vision problems than their 24th century counterparts. Perhaps Federation science came up with a simple fix for chronic vision problems in Efrosians in the interim period. (Might be something as simple as a vaccination against a common virus that targets Efrosian eyes.) This sort of thing isn't unprecedented; 100 years ago in the US, polio was a major concern. Now, no one worries about it here. Maybe it's like that (which would explain why no one ever talks about it; why would they?).

2) Didn't the Efrosian Ice Age occur even more recently than ours did? If it did, and if Efrosian blindness was related to it, evolution wouldn't have had time to eliminate the eye, particularly if Efrosian civilization was developed enough to severely limit the power of natural selection (which it sounds like it had). Like lvsxy808 said, losing vision just might not have been that big a deal for them, and so no one bothered to correct it while the civilization was limited to Efros Delta.

3) Efrosian eyes could also simply be naturally much poorer than human eyes (and always have been), and as such, they are "blind" by our standards. By canine standards, humans are anosmic (unable to smell), but few people worry at all about improving our sense of smell. So the Efrosians might have felt that their eyes weren't anything to worry about, and it was only after they as a species had spread enough through the Federation to be at a substantial disadvantage that some form of vision enhancement (biological, prosthetic, genetic, I dunno), which Xin would appear to have received, became important to function.

I'd be curious if Starfleet Academy had some sort of visual acuity requirement in the 24th century (the way it has other physical fitness requirements), and/or some sort of auditory acuity requirement. How would that work with the ban on genetic engineering? Could you use prosthetics to increase already normal-for-your-species abilities?
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Old November 16 2012, 07:08 AM   #12
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Paper Moon wrote: View Post
Could you use prosthetics to increase already normal-for-your-species abilities?
You mean like taping a magnifying glass to your hand? Or wearing steel-capped shoes?
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Old November 19 2012, 05:32 AM   #13
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
Paper Moon wrote: View Post
Could you use prosthetics to increase already normal-for-your-species abilities?
You mean like taping a magnifying glass to your hand? Or wearing steel-capped shoes?
Lol! Haha, no, I was thinking more like very small hearing aids, or vision improving contact lenses.

In hindsight, "prosthetics" is not really the best term. And there aren't really that many "improvements" that you could make without it being really blatant. Anyway.

Have we really seen that many species in TrekLit who substantially lack some human ability? (Aside from the Efrosians possibly being blind. Well, I guess there's also the Aenar...)
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Old November 19 2012, 07:26 AM   #14
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

It's kind of a standard trope of sci-fi in general, especially TV sci-fi, that aliens have some amazing magical ability or other that simple ordinary humans don't have.

In Trek, aside from those you mentioned, the only ones I can immediately think of who buck the trend by having some quality less effective than humans are Cardassians (Garak admits that their hearing is less sensitive than humans in "Distant Voices," which granted was within Bashir's imagination at the time, but Bashir wouldn't make something like that up), and Vorta ("weak eyes, good ears"). And I guess maybe you'd count the Ocampa if you think of life expectancy as an "ability."

But in general it's difficult to find an alien species who is weaker than humans.

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Old November 19 2012, 11:43 AM   #15
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
But in general it's difficult to find an alien species who is weaker than humans.
True, though the physical superiority of other races (in lifespan, strength or sensory capacity) is usually balanced by some vague notion that humans are "special" and uniquely equipped with determination, or compassion or idealism or creativity, or some other ill-defined quality that supposedly makes up for it. Regardless of whether humans actually come across as different from other species at all...
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We are all the sum of our tears. Too little and the ground is not fertile and nothing can grow there; too much, the best of us is washed away.
Deranged Nasat is offline   Reply With Quote
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