Today I’ll be writing a bit about one of the species that inhabit August – the Scarabs.
Scarabs are pillbug-like creatures about the length of a human forearm and hand. Curious and industrious, their calling in life is to build, tinker, and maintain. They are as intelligent as humans and naturally fit into human habitats as custodians of infrastructure – keeping settlements running. Scarabs are an ancient race whose origin is unknown. Scientists (including scarab scientists) still disagree on whether scarabs evolved organically or whether they are artificial life-forms who were left to evolve eons ago. The primary driver of this disagreement is the scarab brain, which functions very similarly to a semiconductor processor and is not seen in any other non-artificial species. The electrically driven muscles and highly efficient energy use are also topics of speculation.
Although they do maintain their own colonies, scarabs seem almost happier managing hearth and home alongside other species. To these diligent technocrats, it is more fulfilling to manage than to rule.
A peculiarity of the scarabs is that they are somewhat vulnerable to mental stress. War, unpredictable environments, overwork, even severe weather can cause many scarabs to enter a temporary catatonic state where the individual will be incapable of functioning. It is because of this that more warlike and chaotic civilizations do not attract many scarab inhabitants. However, a civilization that is patient and nurturing enough to host the scarabs will be the beneficiary of feats of technology, engineering, and efficiency that no other species could muster without extreme efforts in administration and automation. But to the scarabs’ diligently preoccupied minds, this all comes quite naturally.
A couple of excerpts from the novel involving scarabs:
From Chapter 1:
Scarabs skitter across the street, oblong hemi-ellipsoids about the length of a human forearm with no visible head or feet. They beat a roughly curved path across the pavement, then climb up walls or fixtures, pause for long seconds, then proceed down; all this, done at a pace seemingly impervious to any obstacle or change of surface – horizontal, vertical, slanted, or littoral.
From Chapter 4:
Coal walks behind Milleanthe, enjoying the sight of Eyol swaying lightly off her shoulder like a half-slung backpack. At times she can even spot the tips of his eye stems peering beyond his shell. Brave Scarab, she notes. Most Scarabs are creatures of habit, curious and industrious in an established environment and routine. But exposed to a new place or situation, most become timid, apprehensive, or even disorientated. Because of this, the majority of a Scarab’s business is conducted within the confines of its hemi-ellipsoid shell. The lip of the shell extends down beyond the underbelly, creating a protected hollow between the underbelly and whatever surface the scarab is on. The hollow provides ample room for the sensor stems, claws, and many legs to perform their functions wholly underneath the shell. That Eyol is willing to extend any of his appendages beyond the borders of his personal space hints at great relative bravery – an overpowered instance of his species’ paradoxical curiosity. I have to introduce him to Quince when I get the chance, Coal thinks.
The personality matrix for scarabs is below. Note the fear-curiosity duality: Stressful, short-term encounters tend to see scarabs as more pensive and anxious. Routine encounters and long term behavior is highly curious and engaged.