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

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Old October 28 2012, 06:03 PM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

The first two threads have apparently prompted some board members to read the stories involving the featured species, so I guess this is working pretty well as a feature, for all that it’s a mostly unorganized one. For the third entry, I thought I’d take another step back from big players like the Tzenkethi and take a look at the Pahkwa-thanh, who are a relatively minor species, but have a major character representing them and so in that regard are at least as notable as Nasats.

The Pahkwa-thanh are the race to which Dr. Shenti Yisec Eres Ree of Star Trek: Titan belongs; so far, he’s the only Pahkwa-thanh character we have. He – and they – were introduced in Taking Wing, the first Titan novel, and were immediately interesting by virtue of being non-humanoid (as mentioned in the Nasat thread, a rarity among Federation aliens). We have art; a head-shot, anyway. Behold the smiling face of Pahkwa-thanhity:



Of course, one of the defining characteristics of the Star Trek: Titan series is its heavily non-human, impressively non-humanoid crew. Given that Dr. Ree is one of the major characters, and especially given that his introduction in Taking Wing serves to demonstrate how Titan differs from the comfortable and familiar world of TNG (Riker learning just how hard it might be to adjust, best intentions aside), it’s clear that the Pahkwa-thanh are one of the “showcase” aliens for the series. Basically: “This is a very diverse crew, and here’s a good example, the chief medical officer is a therapod dinosaur!”. Indeed, a lot of readers have taken the dinosaur resemblance, made explicit in Taking Wing, and made it the defining trait of the character: Dr. Ree, he’s the dinosaur. I’ve done it myself in my “humorous novel recap” thread (in that case the implicit joke being that he’s actually a dinosaur). Dr Ree is the friendly dinosaur from our imaginations.



It's not my fault they didn't give us art for the rest of the body. (Yes, I know he's oriented horizontally, not vertically )

Is this "dinosaur" label really fair to the Pahkwa-thanh, though? While they’re not a very notable species in the Trek lit universe as a whole (their appearance outside of Titan stories limited to one walk-on cameo and a name-drop), we have learnt enough about them to justify relating to them as an actual alien people, not a walking advert for IDIC or a Startrekosaurus vocalis. For one thing, while they’re still essentially one of the aliens created by taking Earth creatures and giving them sapience, at least in this case they borrow from several sources. Physically, a Pahkwa-thanh is essentially a cross between a komodo dragon and a dromaeosaur. And while the venomous bite introduced in Destiny takes them deeper into the reptile camp, other habits are borrowed from the dromaosaurs’ avian relatives. We’re given insight into their breeding in Over A Torrent Sea (with a few hints established prior to this in Destiny, regarding nesting behaviour and feeding the young), and it’s clear that Pahkwa-thanh breed like ratites. (Ratites being large flightless birds without a keel on their sternum, meaning they couldn’t fly even if they had suitable wings). Like many such birds, Pahkwa-thanh apparently construct nests where the male watches over the eggs and young, implicitly attracting as many mates as he can (and so perhaps raising several females' young together?)

Moving on to what truly makes them a memorable addition to Trek lit, a defining trait of the Pahkwa-thanh is their aversion of the “Carnivore Confusion” trope. This refers to the general awkwardness which results when members of a multi-species cast have a natural diet that should logically include other members. Rather than hand-wringing a vague answer or ignoring the issue, instead it was decided to embrace the implications and give readers some interesting comparative alien psychology. While the Pahkwa-thanhs’ carnivorous diet (and some people’s poor reaction to it) is established in the opening novels, their predatory nature is first explored in the third book, Orion’s Hounds, where through Ree’s relative comfort with the hunting practices of the novel’s guest aliens we start to see the universe through Pahkwa-thanh eyes. They themselves still engage in hunts, having a metabolism geared toward bursts of activity prior to feeding, and consequently they maintain a sense of integration with the natural order. As such, their prey animals are defined by their spiritual presence, considered to have souls and respected as equal participants in the struggle. Prey is not just food; it’s a powerful entity that must be honoured and grappled with on both the physical and the metaphysical plane. As a result of this cultural mindset, Pahkwa-thanh have, in theory, no qualms about killing and consuming other sapient beings. In practice, they wouldn’t prey on their alien colleagues because (and besides the Federation presumably having a “citizens may not consume other citizens” law hidden away somewhere) it would be intolerably rude. And when you’re a large predatory being with the capability to do serious damage in a very short time, you need to have social mechanisms in place to prevent conflict, meaning Pahkwa-thanh are nearly never rude.

In Orion’s Hounds, this aspect of the Pahkwa-thanh race is played alongside not only the Pa’haquel people (who seamlessly combine mystical and practical perspectives on the hunt) but also the Fethetrit, another predator species who in contrast to Pahkwa-thanh are very rude indeed. In later stories, further mileage is gotten out of the uneasy contrast between Ree as a gentle and good-natured character and Ree as a predator. The biting incident in Destiny (with the Caeliar expressing shock at his methods), the intimidating paternal protective mode he enters in Over A Torrent Sea, even the reversal in Seize the Fire when Ree’s presence proves comforting to the Gorn character (who is himself a carnivorous reptile). So, Trek lit has actually explored the mindset and cultural worldview of Pahkwa-thanh, demonstrating how a predatory species might integrate with the other peoples of the Federation. Which means Ree is indeed more than just "the dinosaur", joking aside.

I'd personally enjoy seeing more Pahkwa-thanh, and maybe someday seeing their society or homeworld?

One final comment to conclude this introduction: I like how the name "Pahkwa-thanh" is distinct from the normal naming conventions for Trek (and other) aliens. However, since we've discovered that their homeworld is Pahkwa, it seems likely that, actually, they're indeed "Pahkwa-ians". Which is amusing, I suppose.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; October 28 2012 at 07:49 PM.
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Old October 28 2012, 06:11 PM   #2
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

^I'd also call attention to the Mirror Universe Ree in Shards and Shadows: "Empathy." The way I handled him there was to assume that he was basically the same person with the same basic societal and personal values, but living in a different context where his predatory side was more socially acceptable and encouraged.
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Old October 28 2012, 06:47 PM   #3
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Dr. Ree is one of my favourite ST characters.

I have a hard time trying to draw the line between dinosaur and reptile in the case of the Pahkwa-thanh. Are they hot or cold blooded?

A decidedly non-dinosaurian feature is their lack of feathers. On the other hand, Humans aren't exactly furry, either.

Anyway, everything is better with dinosaurs!
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Old October 28 2012, 06:53 PM   #4
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Christopher wrote: View Post
^I'd also call attention to the Mirror Universe Ree in Shards and Shadows: "Empathy." The way I handled him there was to assume that he was basically the same person with the same basic societal and personal values, but living in a different context where his predatory side was more socially acceptable and encouraged.
Another interesting thing you established about the Mirror Universe Pahkwa-thanh was their healthy relationship with the Klingons. (For those who haven't read "Empathy", the Pahkwa-thanh managed to repel an invasion attempt by the Empire, and in fighting so effectively apparently impressed the Klingons without offending them (always a difficult balancing act with Klingons, it's difficult to "win" where they're concerned). This led to the Klingons holding Pahkwa-thanh in high regard, so apparently they're doing a lot better than most cultures who wind up in the path of the Alliance). It was only a small piece of background history, but given that you describe Ree as essentially the same character in both universes, it suggests great adaptability on the part of the Pahkwa-thanh while also giving us a sense of how effectively they're grounded in their own identity - they can prosper as an effective part of the Federation in one reality and as an associate of the Klingon Empire at its battle-thirsty height in another, without being truly subsumed by either. That in itself gives a sense of the vigor of these aliens, and emphasises their distinctiveness, rather than having them be one of "the mongrel races" of the Federation (to quote a certain Romulan). They're not just hangers-on to humans, they're uniquely distinct.
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Old October 28 2012, 07:07 PM   #5
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Markonian wrote: View Post
I have a hard time trying to draw the line between dinosaur and reptile in the case of the Pahkwa-thanh. Are they hot or cold blooded?
Good question! I think I recall it being said in the books that they were cold-blooded, but while I'm no expert I also remember that the debate involving dinosaur metabolisms has touched on possibilities other than "mammal" or "lizard", that there are potential points in between "cold blooded" and "warm blooded" as we usually understand them. I imagine someone here can provide some actual information on that front, but I suppose it means that Pahkwa-thanh (particularly as large animals) might have a few metabolic tricks up their sleeves and avoid easy categorization?

I do recall Ree warming himself with a particular kind of breathing in Destiny...
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Old October 29 2012, 08:21 PM   #6
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

It may be worth to notice that Ree once said he is not the most attractive male by his species' standards. I can't remember correctly, but I think he was talking with Commander Troi in sickbay and she said something along the lines that he could be a good father.

Do we know any other Pahkwa-thanh by name, aside from Ree and Ree (mirror)?
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Old November 1 2012, 10:11 AM   #7
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Was her homeworld ever visited in Treklit?
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Old November 1 2012, 07:52 PM   #8
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Drago-Kazov wrote: View Post
Was her homeworld ever visited in Treklit?
No.
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Old November 3 2012, 02:30 AM   #9
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Do we have a homestar specified for them yet? If memory serves, the answer's "no", but my memory's been faulty of late at times.
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Old November 3 2012, 12:22 PM   #10
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

DEWLine wrote: View Post
Do we have a homestar specified for them yet? If memory serves, the answer's "no", but my memory's been faulty of late at times.
We don't, no.

Although given how Caitians are from 15 Lyncis and Gorn from Tau Lacertae, what's the bet that Pahkwa-thanh are from Alpha Dromaeovaranus?

Oh, even better: we already have a canonical star named Deinonychus, which was a dromaeosaur. What's the bet that they'll turn out to be from there?
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Old November 4 2012, 12:33 AM   #11
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
We don't, no.

Although given how Caitians are from 15 Lyncis and Gorn from Tau Lacertae, what's the bet that Pahkwa-thanh are from Alpha Dromaeovaranus?

Oh, even better: we already have a canonical star named Deinonychus, which was a dromaeosaur. What's the bet that they'll turn out to be from there?
Nah, that would constitute small-universe-syndrome and you know Star Trek is devoid of that.
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Old November 4 2012, 01:15 AM   #12
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

So it'll be a system found in either Draco, Lacerta (again), or perhaps Serpens?

Possibly also from one of the more obscure stellar catalogues this time?
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Old November 8 2012, 12:48 AM   #13
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

[QUOTE=Deranged Nasat;7168600]Pahkwa-thanh apparently construct nests where the male watches over the eggs and young, implicitly attracting as many mates as he can (and so perhaps raising several females' young together?)[QUOTE]

^ I wonder if this means that Ree would have lots of half-brothers and sisters. We know nothing about his family life.

[QUOTE]Moving on to what truly makes them a memorable addition to Trek lit, a defining trait of the Pahkwa-thanh is their aversion of the “Carnivore Confusion” trope. This refers to the general awkwardness which results when members of a multi-species cast have a natural diet that should logically include other members. Rather than hand-wringing a vague answer or ignoring the issue, instead it was decided to embrace the implications and give readers some interesting comparative alien psychology. While the Pahkwa-thanhs’ carnivorous diet (and some people’s poor reaction to it) is established in the opening novels, their predatory nature is first explored in the third book, Orion’s Hounds, where through Ree’s relative comfort with the hunting practices of the novel’s guest aliens we start to see the universe through Pahkwa-thanh eyes. They themselves still engage in hunts, having a metabolism geared toward bursts of activity prior to feeding, and consequently they maintain a sense of integration with the natural order. As such, their prey animals are defined by their spiritual presence, considered to have souls and respected as equal participants in the struggle. Prey is not just food; it’s a powerful entity that must be honoured and grappled with on both the physical and the metaphysical plane. As a result of this cultural mindset, Pahkwa-thanh have, in theory, no qualms about killing and consuming other sapient beings. In practice, they wouldn’t prey on their alien colleagues because (and besides the Federation presumably having a “citizens may not consume other citizens” law hidden away somewhere) it would be intolerably rude. And when you’re a large predatory being with the capability to do serious damage in a very short time, you need to have social mechanisms in place to prevent conflict, meaning Pahkwa-thanh are nearly never rude.[QUOTE]

^ I'm surprised that the Vulcans haven't given them all a lecture about their carnivorous ways, like they did with humans!


[QUOTE]I'd personally enjoy seeing more Pahkwa-thanh, and maybe someday seeing their society or homeworld?[QUOTE]

^ Amen to that one! It would be nice to have some time dedicated to this in a short story or two, especially when considering that there are some worlds and culture in the Trek-verse which have been done to death (Vulcans and Klingons immediately spring to mind). Such things I'd like to know include:
  • What are the major cities like, and what are their names?
  • Do they all have skin colouration like Ree, or does it differ depending on factors like gender, sexual maturity or region?
  • What is the climate of the planet like and what are the names of the various geographic features?
  • Who would be their equivalents of such people as William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Zefram Cochrane etc?
  • What sort of holidays and festivals do they have and how are they celebrated?
  • What are the names of their gods?
  • How is their planet governed?
  • How is subaa juice distilled?
One final comment to conclude this introduction: I like how the name "Pahkwa-thanh" is distinct from the normal naming conventions for Trek (and other) aliens. However, since we've discovered that their homeworld is Pahkwa, it seems likely that, actually, they're indeed "Pahkwa-ians". Which is amusing, I suppose.
^ I have a theory about this one. In most cultures, there is the notion that the earth is some sort of 'mother' and everything is born from it. Perhaps the word 'thanh' in their language means 'child' or 'offspring' in their language, therefore 'Pahkwa-thanh' would mean 'children of Pahkwa'.

The Pahkwa-thanh have become one of my most favourite races in Trek. What makes them interesting to me is the way they value being polite, outgoing, friendly and civilised but at the same time be predators, especially since 'Alien' there has been this tradition in science fiction that all alien races with big sharp teeth and claws are merely out to kill puny humans or die trying. They don't have any other aspirations beyond that.

Finally, hands up who else thinks they should be a playable race on Star Trek: Online?
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Old November 8 2012, 12:37 PM   #14
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

Epsilon IX wrote: View Post
*snip*

Finally, hands up who else thinks they should be a playable race on Star Trek: Online?
Here, me! Me!

You raise nice points. The Typhon Pact series is still focused on the major players in galactic politics but maybe we get another Worlds of Star Trek ___ miniseries? There are some more-or-less frequently seen species that could be fleshed out.
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Old November 8 2012, 05:57 PM   #15
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit: Chapter Three - Pahkwa-thanh!

I would love a Worlds of Star Trek: Titan series.

Although, kind of the point of Titan was to be exploring new worlds, not ones that the Federation is already familiar with. Yes, Pakhwa and Irriol and Pacifica and Choblav and so on are new to us the reader, but they're presumably not new to the characters. The only way the actual characters from USS Titan could give us a tour of their homeworlds would be if the ship came back to the Federation, or the story was told in flashback. Otherwise we're dealing with unfamiliar characters as well as unfamiliar locales, which kind of spoils it a bit.

I've also always been strongly in the "We need a Titan graphic novel!" camp as well.

.
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