Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Could Be Trouble: Insane Puppeteers

Art by John Byrne

Sorry about the bait-and-switch. This isn't the first time John Byrne has put Larry Niven's Puppeteers into a comic. He did that in his X-Men run too. But today's post isn't about Puppeteers in Star Trek. We just think it's a fun image!

What we're on about today is Puppeteers in the more modern milieu of transhuman SF. I will be running a Nova Praxis "Ringworld Reloaded" scenario at Con of the North in February, so I have been wondering a bit what the "new" Puppeteers I will introduce there will be like.

Specifically, what does Puppeteer insanity look like in the transhuman future of "Ringworld Reloaded"?

Well, because the Puppeteers are cowardly herd-based herbivores (they're definitely not the brave kind), any Puppeteer who shows signs of not being afraid - things like being out in the world, travelling in FTL spacecraft, spending time with carnivorous and impulsive Kzinti, poking around Neutron Stars, or exploring strange new worlds in person - they are most definitely insane!

Niven showed us all that back in the day.  The Puppeteer's supreme leader - the very icon of that species' cautious and cowardly nature - is called the Hindmost for a reason.

I am thinking of adding a few new forms of not being afraid to the insane Puppeteer's behavioral repertoire. Here they are, with the voice of the Hindmost in italics as a silent critique of these insane behaviors:
  • Cybermodification: the Puppeteer has replaced many parts of its body with cyberware. Risky, risky. Who made this tech? It certainly isn't of General Products manufacture. Humans? How extensively was it tested? For how many Puppeteer generations was it tested?
  • Genetic modification: the Puppeteer has hacked its own genes to make improvements - maybe a third eye-stalk, of course backward-facing for greater safety from predators. They've left the herd, that much is clear. But with all these messy genetic modifications, are they even a part of our species any more? And what if these modifications spread virally?
  • Shells: the Puppeteer has discarded (or at least left behind) its natural body in favor of downloading its mind into an artificial body (whether cyber, organic, or a combination). What kind of puppetry is this? This one is taking the human name for us too literally.
  • Forking:  the Puppeteer makes multiple, downloadable copies of its own mind. We approve of redundancy; our race has organized itself around this form of conservatism. But this one goes to far. It seeks to become a herd of one. That is not a proper herd. Who would go to the Back and become the Hindmost?
So, what are we missing? What would you add to the list?


  1. I always found the Puppetteers interesting and these are some neat twists.

    1. Thanks, Trey! I have been thinking about them more overnight so I think I have a few more twists too.

  2. I imagine in terms of brain backups/uploads of any sort, the Problem of Continuity would give Puppeteers seizures. They're not a species well equipped to deal with existential uncertainty!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nentuaby! I think the POC would bug them. To make matters worse, my guess is that collectives of insane Puppeteers have pushed some of the boundaries around issues like this until they break...