Fri Apr 17 14:19:52 UTC 2009


So, I was recently linked to a piece on the EVE ISK vs. the ISO ISK from the weekly RPS linkdump. I found it disappointingly unrigorous, (Where an actual economist would back up his assertion with data, Dan furiously handwaves and says something along the lines of, "It totally makes sense, man!") but it led to a post about a story based on a dream, which was surprisingly non-terrible.

Non-terrible, but not perfect. In short, it needed some nitpicking. And you all know how much I love nitpicking. My comment, slightly edited, follows.

The carniflowers would experience significant predation during their dormant phase, in an evolutionary equilibrium. Whatever exotic metabolic chemistry they're using must be astoundingly energy-dense, and thus a high-value food. Since this is not observed, it follows that the carniflowers must be an invasive species, and given their flight abilities, an extra-solar one.

It is even more extravagantly improbable that the carniflower biochemistry would be sufficiently compatible with native biochemistry as to be able to derive food energy from them, let alone terrestrial biochemistry. Aggression can only be interpreted as territory defense or a maladaptation remaining from the ancestral evolutionary environment, rather than predation. The effects of local or terrestrial biochemistry on the carniflowers could range from simple unreactivity (worst effect on the carniflowers: olestra-esque diarrhea) to accidental synergestic effects, depending on story purposes. (much like how some of the organochlorides inhibit acetylcholinesterase in mammalian nervous systems, and thus cause death at vanishingly tiny doses)

Given their demonstrated effects on local fauna, it is improbable that they would achieve global coverage before obliterating the ecosystem. It is similarly improbable that the local fauna would adapt so quickly.

A more likely scenario would be a small patch of carniflowers on or near an ideal settlement site and a wide zone of depleted fauna populations with no apparent environmental cause.

Examination of the carniflowers would reveal their extra-solar origins and extraordinary biochemistry, but for story purposes would not indicate their taste for human blood, a blah, a blah, until it is too late.

Something I didn't mention in my comment, however, is that this trope is fairly old one, most extensively explored by Niven (you remember him) in the book he co-authored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes. Plot summary: Native life turns out to be unexpectedly dangerous.

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