Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Nine: Gorn!

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Deranged Nasat, May 13, 2014.

  1. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Yes, another one, and another Typhon Pact member race, a race that naturally has been quite popular ever since Kirk wrestled with one in Arena. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so given their reptilian origins and preference not to exert themselves unless needed, they’re one of the less prominent Pact players, overshadowed in the ongoing narrative by the Romulans, the Breen, the Tzenkethi and even the Tholians; until recently, that is, as they’ve become important as a potential UFP ally.

    I think that unlike the Breen and Tzenkethi, the Gorn are not yet definitively pinned down as a culture, though we're coming close, since a recognizably "Gornian" perspective was evident in Revelations and Dust when Sozzerozs evaluated Deep Space Nine and its history.

    The Gorn have always been territorial; indeed one of the few insights we get into them canonically is their extreme territorialism - they respond to an accidental incursion into their space by annihilating the Cestus III settlement with overwhelming force. That’s probably their most notable trait as a species –- single-minded commitment to their goals, with obstacles being swept aside, crushed or ignored. The spin that Sozzeoszs gives to Bajoran history in Revelation and Dust is a perfect example. Gorn defend themselves brutally and with single-minded zeal if they feel their holdings are being encroached upon, but apparently their outlook is almost entirely defensive. It seems to be rare for the Gorn to expand their borders unless they have practical need for it (see: Hranrar). After the Cestus incident they spent a hundred years with mostly static borders; according to The Gorn Crisis it was “a century of peace and isolation”. They were apparently so set upon this policy that the caste that did want to conquer had to topple the government to do so.

    In Destiny, disputes with the Klingons are mentioned - the Empire holds systems the Gorn believe to be theirs by right. However, it's more likely that the Klingons conquered them than the Gorn were “playing Tholian” by suddenly deciding their border should now be there when it wasn’t before. Invasion and expansion are near-essential to Klingon political and social policy (both as a quasi-religious requirement and because Klingon belligerence and aggression has to be directed somewhere, and if not outward then against each other); to the Gorn, it's far less so. What I’m gathering from this is that Gorn are not typically expansionist, but they have long memories. If something is theirs, it is theirs. Indeed, even the Black Crests framed their warpath in terms of “retaking Cestus”.

    We do hear, from K’mtok in Zero Sum Game, that the Gorn have taken advantage of the strength afforded them by the Pact to harass Klingon holdings – possibly those same eight systems? The Kinshaya are said to be doing the same, a state of affairs that I interpret as “mobbing the bully” – the Klingons’ neighbours taking advantage of a rare opportunity to hit the weakened empire without being absolutely pummelled back. K'mtok indeed shakes his head and sighs that it should come to this.

    I suppose it makes sense that the Gorn are less visible regarding the political shenanigans than the Breen, Tzenkethi or Romulans (even their Cold Equations appearance was the result of the Breen pushing them to be politically active). In Vanguard: Declassified there’s evidence of a mostly insular outlook - on the Gorn border worlds of the 23rd Century, law applies only to Gorn, and the various alien residents are left to do whatever they like, being considered beneath notice so long as they don't get in the Gorns' way.

    On top of all this, the novels have further established the Gorn as a very old, very conservative culture with traditions stretching back many millennia. Where the Tzenkethi stratify on the basis of testing in youth and tinker with themselves to phase out "nurture" leaving only "nature", the Gorn castes are so long-established and tied to specific bloodlines that they’re essentially different sub-species by this point.

    (Just as I want Breen-Tzenkethi comparative scenes, I also now want Gorn-Tzenkethi).

    Putting all this together, I think the Gorn, even more than most species, are motivated by the desire to retain their holdings and defend what they have - their territory, their traditions, their boundaries. Not as insular as the Kinshaya, perhaps, but very much focused on what they already have, the appeal of their ancient culture, and the need to brush aside or trample anything that threatens to intrude on their boundaries. They’re not unreasonable and they have their noble traits, but they’re wary, ever wary of intrusion.

    We’re dealing with a very old race that hasn’t made strides into the galaxy the way younger nations like the Federation or the Cardassian Union have; and no doubt this is the Gorns’ choice. They strike me as a people set in their ways - they’re a moderate in the Pact, I think, in part because they’re such a conservative people. As I see them, they’re motivated by the certainty that, resting as they are in the deep, comfortable trough of millennia of tradition and a social order that’s become almost an aspect of biology, they must be onto something good. The outside galaxy is not too important if it doesn’t intrude on them, and if it does, that Gornian single-mindedness comes to the fore and the threat is eliminated.

    The point is, that in the modern galaxy the Gorn, like everyone else, have been shaken out of their complacency. The Borg Invasion, with the Federation trying to push and pull everyone into cooperating - it’s sinking in that sticking your head into the sand isn’t going to get you anywhere. Like Rom arguing (in Satisfaction Is Not Guaranteed) that the Ferengi need to learn to function as part of the galactic community, not just its exploiters, or get left behind as a joke nation, I think the Gorn have realized that the only way to keep their ancient order strong for another half-million years is to be more actively involved in the galaxy, more cooperative. The Breens' betrayal has only, I'd argue, hammered that home. If the Gorn are to be something other than a second-rate power and a tool of the more ambitious, they need to get out there and find a place for themselves.

    Whenever I consider the Gorn relationship to the UFP, I used to think of Ambassador Zogozin’s comments in Mere Mortals. After K’mtok responds to the Breen ambassador with a sneering dismissal, Gorn Ambassador Zogozin (evidently fed up with Klingon posturing) makes a pointed remark along the lines of “Why are you even here? Didn’t the Federation annex your empire?”. Obviously, he’s trying to get under K’mtok’s skin, but I see no reason to assume that he doesn’t genuinely mean what he says; evidently as far as the Gorn are concerned, the Klingons are ruled from Paris. This distrust of Federation encroachment comes to an end in Silent Weapons, when the Imperator realizes that the Federation is a truer friend than the Breen; a compromise of sorts is reached, in which the Gorn and their Romulan trade partners form an unofficial alliance-within-an-alliance that has since, we’re told, maneuvered itself into the leading role within the Pact after the Breens’ latest embarrassment.

    While Seize the Fire was “the Gorn book”, it was also a Titan adventure disconnected from the politics “back home”; it’s Silent Weapons that brought the Gorn into the political narrative as major players, helping tip the Pact towards a more peaceable relationship with the Federation while fraying its unity to a degree we’ve not yet seen.

    So, with the Gorn having finally arrived as a player and a more defined species, and not just "the rubber lizards", what do you all think of their Trek lit appearances?

    Long live the Imperator!
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
  2. Enterprise1701

    Enterprise1701 Commodore Commodore

    Mar 24, 2014
    Sol III, Sector 001, 2063 C.E.
    I hope a future canon work canonizes the novels' explanation that the Gorn from "Arena" and "In a Mirror, Darkly Part II" look vastly different because they come from different castes.
  3. Markonian

    Markonian Commodore Commodore

    Jun 2, 2012
    Derbyshire, UK
    Seize the Fire is among my favorite novels because of the Gorn involvment. The idea of physiologically diverse casts is a handy explanation. in Silent Weapons, the Gorn came across a likeable.

    That the Hegemony has developed closer ties with the RSE might come into play in 2387. The Needs of the Many depicted the Federation sending aid to the Romulans and convicing the Cardassians to spare a few ships. I can see the Hegemony doind the same thing.

    In the mirror universe, the Gorn Hegemony was the initiator of the Taurus Pact. They joined forces with the Tzenkethi and the Breen already in 2377, predating the founding of the prime universe Typhon Pact. In Rise Like Lions, the Taurus Pact is depicted as a friendly power towards the Galactic Commonwealth. I can easily imagine them siding with the GC in a potential Dominion War; and being on good terms with the Federation when permant relations are finally established.
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Although this can express itself in subtler ways. Alien Spotlight: Gorn shows a Gorn crew seeking to help an endangered Starfleet shuttle crew. As the commander explained his motive: "Fifteen years ago, a human captain spared the life of ours. Finally comes our chance to balance the scales. We will not allow the Gorn Hegemony to appear inferior."

    "Dying of the Light" in Marvel's Star Trek Unlimited #1 asserts that the Gorn burial world discovered there is nearly half a million years old. That seems hard to believe, but maybe they've had a number of rises and falls within that time.

    Personally I've never had a problem with the idea that they're just different artistic and technological interpretations of the same concept. Like the way Gareth Edwards describes the design philosophy behind the new Godzilla: Assume this was the real creature that observers saw in 1954 and described to the filmmakers at Toho Studios, who recreated it only approximately with the limited resources and secondhand descriptions they had available.
  5. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Good point; that was indeed a clever way of combining the Gorns' aversion to weakness (as in the Black Crests' slogan, though I imagine they're particularly extreme about it) with their more compassionate traits. They insist on showing equal compassion in this incident because to do otherwise would be an admission of inferiority.

    I'm also thinking of Bacco's friend Slask. I don't know if it's fair to consider him as "a Gorn" rather than as an individual, but his willingness to serve as a courier between Kamemor and Bacco shows a measure of the same single-mindedness. The Gorn will not be swayed from their goal or task, whether that's slaughter or friendship.
  6. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Aug 19, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Such a conservative and long-lasting society as that of the Gorn must have remarkable history records. What did the Gorn notice as other, more dynamic societies flared into brilliance and then burned out (or sublimed, or migrated, or something)?
  7. Argrathi

    Argrathi Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    May 18, 2014
    I loved the portrayal of the Gorn in "Silent Weapons" and, although it was touched on in "Revelation and Dust," I was a little disappointed that the possibility of the Gorn and Federation having a closer relationship wasn't explored more in depth in The Fall series. Of course, the series took place over a short period of time, so it's understandable.