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Thumbnail photo of Kakalea, an unlucky Earthlike world: blue seas, red dry continents. Click to enlarge. Thumbnail photo of Kakalea, an unlucky Earthlike world: blue seas, red dry continents. Click to enlarge.

Kakalea: Peoples and Creatures

by Chris Wayan, 2013-15
for Barbie artists Yvonne Sallee and the late great Al Carbee

Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea
More worlds? Planetocopia!


KAKALEAN LIFE

Without landbridges, each Kakalean continent is Australian, with unique megafauna. Thin air and high gravity mean large-brained animals will be too heavy to fly, enforcing isolation. Diverse? Worldwide, yes, but on each landmass, they'll be sparse: small populations clinging to the coasts, or tribes of desert migrants with big ranges.

What will they look like? Well, the air's thin and the gravity's high, so while midsized birds get off the ground just fine, big-brained fliers are unlikely. Goodbye griffins, farewell pterodactyls, adios angels! Land animals; runners most likely. They won't be swinging round in trees; few trees to swing in. The predominant habitat is dry savanna or desert, so our people wiill be rangy and slender for heat dispersal. Bye-bye, bear people!

So! Since Kakalea is the planet that can't quite get it right, I'm going to populate it with half-baked species made of sawed-up glued-together Barbie dolls (probably singing "Here on the Island of Misfit Toys"). Besides, I was already building a modern dance troupe of Barbie centauroids anyway... so I think a lot of floating theaters will be touring round the Kakalean coasts as I write up the regional tours.

Sculpture of glued Barbies titled 'Lia': a shaggy centauroid cabaret singer on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Lia singing Morla's Fish Rule
Sculpture of glued Barbies titled 'Shya': a gracile, cloud-leopard-pelted centauroid dancer on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Shya backstage during Summer Heat
Sculpture of glued Barbies titled 'Nila': a kneeling, centauroid dancer on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Nila in Fall Moon Rising
Sculpture of glued Barbies titled 'Fuchsia': a centauroid dancer in floral bodypaint doing a handstand; a native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Fuchsia's headstand in Floral Dream
Sculpture of glued Barbies titled 'Spira': a yellow-eyed centauroid dancer in mid-leap on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
the incomparable Spira, in Microgravities

Nearly all the portraits are female because here in San Francisco, thrift stores are full of Barbies but not Kens--he's all snapped up by gay/fetish doll sculptors, I guess. And it takes two dolls per centauroid, you know! I've only found two Kens and built one--Kentaur.

Everyone who sees Kentaur assumes he has a huge erection and figures Kakalea is a furry porn site. In fact, Kentaur's not horny. Believe me, you'd know. Not big as a horse, but big. What's going on is that Kakalean males have a spur of cartilage supporting the penis so it doesn't dangle and flop when galloping (lots of Earth mammals have such structures in bone or cartilage); in its normal state, it looks a bit like a human erection. Of course he is showing off in some of these poses, though unerect; Kakaleans have as much imagination as Terrans.

Sculpture of glued Ken dolls by Wayan, titled 'Kentaur': a centauroid dancer supine in a red desert on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Kentaur, in Red Hot Desert

Galloping has also affected Kakalean breasts: while extremely variable in size, position and even number, on average they're modest-sized; and a small support muscle limits bounce and flop on the run--sort of an internal sport bra. Now if a human ballerina twisted into some of the odd positions these Kakaleans get into, she'd have flattened or dangling or downright migratory breasts, but the Kakaleans look pretty much the same. If you're skeptical such support-muscles would evolve, you can blame Ruth Handler, inventor of Barbie's unnaturally rigid plastic breasts, which of course my Kakalean centauroids inherit; but this would be unkind, given her basically feminist intent (see the very funny film Barbie Nation) and, worse, postmodern. We don't go there. Kakalea is the planet of misfit toys, but there's inept and inept.

How does quadrupedalism affect centaur biology and culture? Most notably: centaurs tend to give birth more easily than humans--more like horses. The forepelvis having to bear the weight of the thorax (upright foretorso) doesn't have to give birth; the rear pelvis through which the baby's head travels has to support only itself; it can widen and loosen more than a human pelvis. Easy births have two big effects:

  1. Sex is safer for females. Centauroids aren't bonobos, but they are more freely sexual than humans, and either gender may initiate. They do have marriage, and raise children together, but not always as couples: triads and quartets aren't rare.
  2. Females are as healthy and long-lived as males; there's little size difference either. So occupations aren't strongly gendered--women are deep-sea fishers, astronomers, lumberjacks, shipbuilders.

These centauroids will be the most successful civilization on Kakalea, I think--at least they've got brains and opposable thumbs to build exploration ships...

SUBSPECIES

Our centaurs will be physically more diverse than humans--ranging from stocky and shaggy in subpolar climates like Lia above, to rangy and gracile like Shya, in the savannas and deserts. Some colorpatterns will be regional--stripes have been shown to confuse flies, for example, so expect to see them mostly in hot climates; but in general patterns and colors will be highly variable and poor indicators of region. And, of course, Kakaleans improve on nature. They dye, paint and decorate freely. It's often hard to tell what's natural, what's artifice...

Cloud-leopard spots on pelt of Proni, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of a dry Earthlike world. Click to enlarge
Proni's natural cloud-leopard rosettes
Ring-spots on pelt of Rira, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of a dry Earthlike world. Click to enlarge

Rira's natural spots enhanced to rings

Zebra pelt of Suplica, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of a dry Earthlike world. Click to enlarge
Suplica's natural zebra stripes
Dyed pelt-pattern of Archa, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of a dry Earthlike world. Click to enlarge
Archa's dyed diamonds
Pink flowers painted on pelt of Fuchsia, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of a dry Earthlike world. Click to enlarge
Fuchsia's pink floral dye-job

Kakalean eyes, while large (inheriting this adorability from their savage Barbie forebears) lack the prominent whites of human eyes; like cats or wolves, a black pupil in a brightly colored iris is typical. Colors range from quite human greens, browns and blues to purples and a wolflike gold.

Purple-eyed Lia, centauroid native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Lia: purple
Blue-eyed giraffelike Zara, a centauroid native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Zara: blue
Green-eyed Lina, a centauroid native on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Lina: green
Gold-eyed zebrid Suplica, a centauroid native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Suplica: gold

OTHER SPECIES

I've been talking as if there's only one intelligent species on Kakalea. I've been lying. I've been recycling. All those spare doll parts left over from centaur-building (a wasteful process) have created a certain evolutionary pressure.

Thus, the Barbietaurs will find a lot of lonely Galapagos chains and long-cut-off Australias where evolution's diverged a long way from that basic Barboid framework. So they're likely to meet even funnier-looking locals made of spare Barbie parts. Octopus Barbie, Triffid Barbie, Indescribable Thalidomide Barbie. Yes, nothing adds realism to science like Barbie.

Sculpture titled 'Octana', made of glued-together Barbie parts; an octopoid native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Octana, an amphibious girl from the Biarati Is.
Sculpture titled 'Pelva' made of glued-together Barbie parts; a handless native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Pelva, a soccer fiend on the Isle of Ksurbai
Sculpture titled 'Trifida' made of glued-together Barbie parts; a small tripedal native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Trifida, a handy girl from Thathai
Sculpture titled 'Tenta' made of glued-together Barbie parts; an amphibian native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Tenta, a slippery girl from Leira
Sculpture titled 'Tiara', made of glued-together spare Barbie parts; a goat-sized hermaphroditic native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Tiara, Queen (and apparently King) of Uups
Sculpture titled 'Bulba' made of spare Barbie parts; a dwarfed hermaphroditic native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Bulba from the Isle of 'A'o
This being Kakalea the misfit planet, many of these mutations were like island flightlessness or dwarfism: advantageous or at least harmless in the short run, but an evolutionary dead end, leaving intelligent creatures with no functional hands. Or plenty of hands but not much else. More evidence for the old claim that evolution's essentially an arms race...

Sorry.

For more on the Barbie art see How I Built Kakalea: Figures.

KAKALEAN CULTURE

Civilization? Speaking technologically, none. Barbie-rism!

No, I didn't just cast my world in Barbie darkness just to make that pun. I'm a humorless Creator: the Great and Humdrum Plod. Kakalea's low technology is no joke; it's inevitable. No single region has the population base to advance quickly; advances happen rarely. Jared Diamond's argument in this regard is quite sound: New Guinea had way more people than Australia which had way more than Tasmania. New Guinea independently invented agriculture (eaten a banana lately?), while Australia advanced more slowly and Tasmania's technology actually regressed--they lost the bow and arrow! At some point every good fletcher on the island died, or just didn't pass on the tricks of the trade. When that's just a handful, it can happen--and in deep time, likely.

So technology will rise slowly in small scattered populations like Kakalea's. But it will advance--sea trade may be slow here, but it's easier than on Earth, in Kakalea's shallow, island-dotted seas. Ideas and seeds will spread, though the pace may be slow.

Diffusion may not be that slow. The Polynesians spread nearly as fast as the British, mostly due to superlative boatbuilding and navigation; Kakalea's fertile areas are scattered in a rather Polynesian way and their boatbuilding skills are similar.

So are their cooperative skills... minus war. As mostly herbivorous herd creatures, Kakaleans tend to trade not fight. The absence of war is an invisible but constant and cumulative factor speeding their development. What's that saying, "A rising sea lifts all boats"?

Very big and very organized boats. Some of the cargo and passenger ships you see are 30 meters long--still catamarans, still lightly built, but running transoceanic routes just as fast as Terran luxury liners in their heyday. True, no ballrooms or pianos... but no snobbery or steerage-class either. If you're on the boat you're part of the herd, for the duration.

Sketch of transoceanic catamaran crewed by centaurs, by Wayan; based on drawing by Herb Kawainui Kane. Click to enlarge.
The transoceanic catamaran Pride of Choi, based on a drawing of a Fijian ndrua by Herb Kawainui Kane.

Kakalean captains will be glad to take up radio, but I'm not sure these seas will ever see an Age of Steam. Centaurs hate being cooped up, their fur keeps them comfortable in all but really cold hard rains, and as herd creatures they expect to help out; passengers are basically interns for the crew. So the paid crew is not huge, and mostly involved with navigation and sailing itself, not maintenance or cooking. So these fast catamarans are quite economical; I doubt human-built steamers could compete.

What does this fast shipping network imply? That "the world is flat." That is, good inventions will spread, flattening technological difference, because it's more profitable overall to have prosperous trading partners.

But the planet's habitable land is so scattered that culturally, Kakalea will remain diverse. I suspect quite a few regions will make it to Renaissance level, fed by sea-trade. But rather than Civilization, I expect civilizations--emphasis on the plural. With flight so difficult for big-brained megafauna and a dozen scattered coastal strips the only places fertile enough for surpluses, I expect a cultural pattern echoing the biological one--diverse, decentralized, a bit thin on the ground--no Europe, India or China, but with luck, some Japans... certainly such islands exist.

Low orbital photo of the green Tasa Archipelago on Kakalea, a mostly unlucky Earthlike world with dry continents.

Imperial Britains? There may be an Age of Discovery (and imperialism) as on Earth, but I have my doubts. Europe's conquests were the fruit of military superiority forged by dozens of rival societies separated by natural boundaries yet living as close neighbors--classic frenemies! But Kakalea lacks a geographic crucible like Europe.

If any Kakalean strip or island chain does start industrializing ahead of the neighbors it'll dominate for generations, but this may be more commercial than military; with each strip-culture growing in enforced isolation, Kakaleans may not even have the concept of large-scale war... or large-scale regions. Continent-names are mere geographic curiosities; mainlanders are more likely identify by coast than landmass. How are two coasts unified by a wasteland between them? The deserts are worse barriers than the oceans! So even if war does exist it may be small-scale.

Kakalea does have a subtle heartland, though it's hard to see on the main map. But consider the center and upper right. All the largest continents--Ara, Kita-Homa, West and East Ata, are here--pink in the map below. No, that's not the heartland--it's the opposite! These big landmasses have relatively more desert and less green coast, just as elephants have proportionately less skin than coyotes.

In contrast, a belt in the southern hemisphere (gold in the map below) has distinctly more fertile land--the west coast of Ata, the Tasa Archipelago, the minicontinent of Suma, Tua's east and south coasts, the minicontinent of Kera, the shores of Bima (east, north, then the large, temperate southwest) and Ata's east and south coasts. It's not a continent, not unified by geography or climate; but once ships develop to the Polynesian level, trade over this network will support a dispersed but large population base, as much as twice that of the north. This is drastically simplified; the north has plenty of habitable lands, more than our Southern Hemisphere; especially note the large cluster of habitable coasts and islands in the upper left (gray); but overall, the south will advance faster.

Rough biomass and population map of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias.
Civilization has hazards other than war--societies can be devastated by diseases spread by trade and exploration. That's true even in our world, of course; smallpox killed more in the Americas than war and slavery combined, and influenza probably outslaughtered all the guns of World War One. Still we gave it a good try, now didn't we? But on Kakalea, famine (mostly drought-induced) and plague (trade-spread) may utterly outweigh war.

Trade stirs up trouble, yes; but it's the only way Kakaleans will advance. Population and resources in a single coastal strip are so limited! It was no coincidence that the first Earth people to industrialize led the world in sea-trade. Okay, libertarians, I know you claim it was the English socioeconomic system. But that arose largely from the cosmopolitanism fed by worldwide trade.

And if a similar society does bloom on Kakalea, I expect sea-trade will feed it.

Sketch of a mid-size catamaran with lateen rig on Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world with a desert problem.
Not just intercontinental trade will be by boat. Local, too. Kakaleans favor river-trade over caravans or wagontrains. They gallop so much and so fast they've never tried to ride domesticated animals. They do use carts for heavy loads drawn by large farm animals like oxen. But this is much slower than a Kakalean's natural pace; they get bored. And roads, except southern Bima's, are poor. Boats are faster and easier.

So soon we'll have Barbie dioramas with reed-boats slipping through mangrove swamps and barges on local equivalents of the Nile...

Patience, patience!

Well, just to get started...

Ariel, a redheaded redtailed centauroid, on a woven reed raft collecting coral; Pem Sish Islands on Kakalea, a model of a dryish Earthlike world. Click to enlarge.
Map of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias.

Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea


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