In this month’s Inspiration Gallery we take a look at the artwork of Alex Ries (aka Abiogenisis). Specifically, we’re looking at his study of the Birrin – an alien species of his own creation. Alex’s study of the Birrin explores how their society and technology has developed in parallel to our own.
An Adult Birrin (above).
The Birrin are a sentient hexapod (six limbed) species from a planet approximately the size of Venus. This individual, gaudily attired, lives (and sometimes works) in the tropical regions of their world, bordering the uninhabitably hot equatorial zone many birrin call the ‘Kiln’. Low employment, high temperatures and generally harsh conditions mean that narcotic use is high among many of the population here. This birrin, after ending a work cycle and with no further hive duties, uses and deals in most of the local low end narcotics. The three clasped in the beak offer an enjoyable combination of flavours when partaken together. (More description here)
Two baby Birrin (above).
The Birrin are an egg laying species, and clutches typically contain 3 or 4 eggs which hatch within days of each other to reveal small, hungry and fuzzy chicks.
The young birrin have several adaptations evolved to aid their survival in the humid and life filled swamps in which the species first evolved. The short hair covering their small bodies is a dense mat of fibres designed to keep the myriad nest parasites from gaining access to their skin, while the conspicuous stripes allow birrin parents to immediately locate their young on foraging trips. This fur, while useful, poses an overheating problem in the tropical climate and so the undersides of the large dorsal ‘wings’ are highly vascular and by holding them out from the body the young can cool themselves. (More description here)
Ancient Birrin architecture, representing the height of Birrin pre-industrial civilization. Today, it’s popular tourist attraction.
Part city and part fortress, this gate was built to defend one of the few entrances to a lush, steep walled floatforest valley beyond, in which a society of several million inhabitants flourished for centuries. (More description here)
Two Birrin of the Southern Chey nations enjoying the comforts of a traditional smoking house after a hard day at work. The blue smoking jackets are not only traditional attire, they also protect the clothing underneath. (More description here)
A Birrin steam ship anchored in a floatforest port.
The floatforest is a constantly shifting sea of drifting plant covered islands, in some areas so dense as to be almost indistinguishable from land. Millions of Birrin call this tropical, dynamic world home, from sophisticated city dwellers to nomadic tribes with limited contact with the global civilisation.
The Birrin discovered that, when dried, the heavily compacted masses of dead plants that constitute the older larger islands can be burned as a very efficient fuel. In a short period of time mining began and factories sprung up in the old forest, large areas of vegetation being destroyed to supply fuel for cooking and industrial steam boilers. Soon steam powered ships plied the channels of the float forest , using the forest itself as fuel as they travelled, or purchasing high grade and dried peat from retailers.
As seen here, some more enterprising groups combined the two and use huge ships to transport peat for sale in towns across the forest. The tall hull of this vessel contains racks of high grade peat, being dried on the go and kept warm via heat diverted from the steam ships’ own boilers. (More description here)
A Birrin floatplane.
Birrin societies of the float-forest were faced with unique transport challenges as they reached full urbanisation: How to move large numbers of people and freight around a vast inland sea, where large stretches were chocked with constantly drifting vegetation mats and already heavy and hazardous boat traffic. Many turned to the floatplane: Able to land in narrow lake clearings, operate in areas chocked with vegetation, and with far higher speed than shipping, aquatic aircraft manufacturing exploded across the region. (More description here)
Two Birrin fisher-folk ride the wind back to the coast after a morning’s hunting. Marine creatures surf the waves with them, hoping for scraps.
Industrialisation of Chriirah has had a dramatic effect on many of the planets’ ecosystems. The equatorial zone of this world, dominated by a vast superheated region named the Kiln, has seen perhaps the most extreme changes as the desert continues to expand.
Agricultural needs necessitated the damming of several major rivers to provide irrigation for Kiln border areas, and the lakes these rivers once fed began to evaporate. Ultimately most of these lakes vanished, leaving behind shallow sandy basins and ghost towns.
Unable to afford relocation, or unwilling to spare the expense, shipping companies left their craft to rust on the dry lakebeds.
A kiln-runner aircraft flying over the planet’s vast equatorial desert.
The equator of Chri-Irah, baked to lethally high temperatures by its sun, has long presented a barrier to trade and communication between Northern and Southern Birrin cultures. Prior to the first Birrin civilisations’ destruction, the region could be easily traversed: Centuries later, a legacy of industrially derived carbon dioxide and other substances has cut off the emergent societies that survived the Collapse. It wasn’t until the rediscovery of the internal combustion engine that the first refrigerated ships crossed the equatorial ocean to re-establish contact. Wheeled vehicles, now with useful speed, were able to explore the Kiln at night, darting between safe houses dug deep into the cool desert bedrock.
However it took the re-discovery of powered flight to finally traverse the Kiln. Able to fly high enough to avoid the searing heat, early pressurised aircraft began hazardous day crossings to re-map the expanse. With little chance of rescue, the aircrews had to accept significant risk while also making their aircraft far more reliable. Indeed, it is largely due to the engineering necessities faced by these pioneers that later Birrin aircraft were so reliable.
Pictured here is one of the first dedicated Kiln runners, able to fly non-stop between airfields in the North and South to deliver people and cargo in a regular fashion. The three fuselages enabled heavy loads to be carried, the outer two being unpressurised and only suitable for cargo. (More description here)
A protest at a Birrin refugee camp.
Refugees, faced with starvation and loss of livelihood by the diversion of the river that feeds the vast lakes they live upon, were shipped to uninhabited badlands in neighboring nations. The state responsible for the disruptive developments paid local poor governments, in arms and financial relief, to accept millions of displaced people inside their borders.
Seen here is a vast march from a nearby tent city; angry refugees storm an area of newly (but cheaply) build admin towers created to manage the huge displaced population.
A soldier moves in to an area annexed by the northern recipri-nation, which is removing the Trapulli ethnic group from the territory so it may be modified and converted into farms. Reporters attempting to enter the area are shot on site, and their recordings destroyed, resulting in an information blackout. As the Trapulli villages and cities are burned, the millions of bodies are loaded on to vast trains to be dumped and burned in nearby canyons.
A Birrin astronaut performing routine satellite maintenance.
A Birrin scuba-diver has an encounter with a sardu.
The oceans of the Birrin homeworld are populated by vast numbers of organisms, particularly the mid-latitude tropical zones on either side of the hostile equatorial ‘Kiln’; a region of intense heat and violent storms. The surface waves and currents generated by these weather events create deep oceanic mixing, bringing nutrients to nearby surface waters and supporting the assemblages of life found there.
The birrin are at home in water, and many engage in swimming recreationally with or without the aid of SCUBA systems. Diving activities are associated with risks: as in this potentially dangerous encounter with a sardu. (More description here)
A Birrin astronaut explores a nearby planet.
Artwork by Alex Ries
Descriptions by Alex Ries