I’ve been invited to do author interviews in a few places, so I don’t want to steal any thunder from the questions they’ve sent me. But there’s one question I’ve been asked by several readers that hasn’t come up in the interviews.
The story I wrote for Sojourn‘s first volume, Surviving Sunset, deals with a pair of teenage girls trying to adapt to life under alien invasion and occupation. I’ve done quite a bit to develop the universe where that story takes place, and I’ll be visiting it again in future installments of the anthology (though likely not in the next volume).
The aliens menacing these girls are the Sirini. They’re not an evil race, even if they are the antagonists in this particular story. I hope to show the complexity of their culture and motivations later, but in this article I want to deal with a more basic question: What the heck is a Sirini?
The race’s name is pronounced [SEER-in-ee]. If you say the phrase, “beer in knee,” you’re basically there. (Though if you actually have that issue, you should probably seek medical help.) Oddly enough, every person I’ve talked to has mispronounced the name the exact same way — [sir-IN-ee] — so maybe they’re onto something.
Sirini are intelligent, cultured, and physically imposing beings, though they lack our overall agility. They stand about 9 feet (2.75 meters) tall and are roughly 6 feet (1.8 meters) across. I doodled out the race’s appearance back in 1997. However, Keith Curtis did an amazing job of helping me really figure this species out, literally starting from the inside.
The Sirini skeleton is designed with the major organs sitting in a saucer-shaped bone near the top of the body. Rib-like structures offer some protection while leaving enough gaps for the tissue to stretch during respiration and digestion. Since the brain sits below the heart — and the legs have a lot of muscle tissue — I imagine their blood pressure being rather high.
After putting that together, he started adding soft tissue to the design, as you can see with the addition of muscles, trachea, and esophagus. We talked about the brain being potentially divided into two hemispheres that are coordinated by a lot less tissue than we have between ours.
The only clothing they typically wear is a stole on the front-left leg. Its color indicates their philosophical inclinations (much like a human’s religious pendant). The three patterns are constellations that represent a Sirini’s birth circumstances (bottom), social role (middle), and personality (top). I suppose it’s something like reverse astrology — they dip into the constellations they’ve assigned meaning to, evaluate an individual, and then decide which ones best describe you.
The primary role of the stole is to help Sirini understand each other at a glance. If you were trained to interpret them, you would immediately have some idea what a Sirini believes, their childhood history, their areas of expertise, and their notable personality traits. As you can guess, Sirini have a much more open culture than we do, skipping the small talk and lengthy trust-building that would precede most humans disclosing that sort of information.
If you want to see any of the art in more detail, you can click the pictures to see them in higher resolution.