is an original science-fiction Web Comic
by Melissa DeHaan, a.k.a. Wayward Martian (a.k.a. author of the Insecticomics
), that draws on the concepts of Theodore Sturgeon
. Two centuries into beginning their exploration of the galaxy, humanity encountered a stray Aquaan colony ship, the Aquaans being a much
more advanced alien race. The Aquaans, however, decided to voluntarily slow down their advancement in favor of helping humanity acclimate to the needs of spacefaring society.Harbourmaster
focuses on the colony world of Tethys, the only known world to have its own landbound species, the entomorphs. The focus of the strip is on how Humans and Aquaans relate to each other. To quote the main site, "Harbourmaster
has spaceships and genetic engineering and aliens, but mostly it's about evolution and love."Harbourmaster
can be found here
This webcomic provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: It's a good idea to look at the DeviantArt postings, just to read Wayward's explanations of minutiae and other bits that the characters would have no reason to immediately speak of.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Yogzarthu, although good luck telling them that. Chaotic Evil from a human or Aquaan viewpoint, yes...
- Aristocrats Are Evil: If Perius is anything to go by, this applies to a good chunk of the Monteblanc family—and why Tal and Anthemys are very happy to be away from them on Tethys.
- Blood Knight: Thunderfall in Nonsense. He's kind of upset that Partasah passed over him in favor of Technical Pacifists for the Super Soldier treatment.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Some of Tethys's wildlife are similar enough to Earth-style life that they get Earth-ish names. A good example being the "wolf shark"—an orca-patterned shark-like fish that hunts in packs...and uses electrical pulses for both communication and attack.
- Colony Drop: The Yogzarthu basically announced themselves by bombarding the planet Garden with a swarm of asteroids. Not meteors. Asteroids. The planet's still there, but the same can't be said for most of its life. They later did the same with Earth thinking that would demoralize humanity into truly easy pickings. They got the opposite effect.
- Deadpan Snarker: Zefonith.
- Gender Misdirection: A curious version of this involves pronouns referring to entomorphs. The entomorph language doesn't have gendered pronouns; pronouns refer instead to an entomorph's caste. Rather than mint new words for entomorph pronouns, humans just re-mapped their own pronouns for new entomorph-specific definitions. For example, "she" is mapped to a member of the entomorphs' hunter caste. So it's completely proper to refer to a male entomorph hunter with "she" and "her". Imagine the confusion if someone completely unfamiliar with this makes Tethys landfall.
- It is also confusing with the Aquaans themselves. Consider this page, and study carefully. The author admitted she struggled with whether to put a NSFW tag on this page and the ones that follow in that chapter. Why? Because while both characters portrayed are hermaphrodites, and they are not displaying any genitalia to the reader, the lighter-skinned Gilou prefers to identify by a female pronoun, and in several panels you can see "her" chest.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The Aquaans have a society strongly built on genetic adjustments, particularly on themselves. In fact, when the humans first encountered them, the Aquaans were built like skinks and crocodiles. They only took on their humanoid shapes to avoid freaking out humans. There's also the Super Soldiers developed to fight off the Yogzarthu. Unlike type, though, they're not engines of bloodlust. In fact, Jendolyn hates films with lots of crime and violence; she'd prefer her entertainment to not remind her of the criminal problems Tethys occasionally suffers. (Her non-soldier girlfriend, on the other hand...)
- Go Mad from the Revelation: When a Qohathoth monument was discovered on Mars, some groups had a hard time believing and/or accepting that there could be sapients besides humans (read: they weren't unequivocally special). At least one group thought they could only be demons—and this group had some rather impressive weaponry.
- Hermaphrodite: Although individual Aquaans have preferred pronouns, they're all genuine hermaphrodites.
- Humans Are Special: Gets deconstructed in the With More, With Less arc. The entomorphs are aware that humans cannot help but "let" the entomorphs be self-determinate. Not because of anything peculiar to the human psyche or the like, but just because humans are the ones with the far more potent weapons et al. That said, the entomorphs do like humans and a select few of their devices (mostly PDAs with their texting capability), but understand that however benevolent the giant might be, its moments of carelessness, while not malevolent, can easily be malign.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: With More, With Less.
- Just Think of the Potential: Anfre Sovi is all over this in the Disputed Territory arc in his attempts to get Tal to ignore the treaty with the entomorphs in favor of development that would de-backwater Tethys. He's just the latest in a bunch of would-be developers who can't believe the Tethyns are content with being a relative backwater.
- Noble Bigot: Ever since he set foot on Tethys, Tal's been throwing everything he's got at progressing from this (and the influence of his snooty upper-class family) to just plain Noble. He's still good at torturing himself whenever he finds himself partaking of even a little of his old ways and/or thought patterns, though.
Tal: I'm still rotten. The herring barrel always smells of herring.
Gilou: Mm. Less so than I remember.
- Overly-Long Name: Bretnon Falstoph Perius Tallifens Monteblanc LVII. He never uses the whole thing except to poke fun at his aristocratic past. In every other instance, "Tal Monteblanc" or "Tal" are quite sufficient.
- Please Put Some Clothes On: One of the early arcs has a tourist woman incensed at her entomorph guide's "nudity"—as in, she isn't wearing anything like pants, skirt, etc. Despite the fact that entomorphs are insects, not mammals, and should look armored to humans, as Tal notes. Twinkletoes putting on an ad-hoc skirt mollifies the woman, sure enough. Although one wonders how she'd react when she learns that entomorphs, like dragonflies, have their genitalia bound to the tips of their tails (which aren't covered).
- Precursors: The Qohathoth. Their motivation? Loneliness. The reason they terraformed so many planets was that they wanted to at least make sure that succeeding sapient species wouldn't suffer the same torment.
- Right-Hand Cat: Perius has several such cats. Unusually for the idea, the cats are very affectionate. Being a cat lover is probably the only good thing about him.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: After their defeat, the Yogzarthu were sealed into a pocket dimension.
- Shrouded in Myth: Earth seems to have suffered this somewhat. Meanwhile, memories of earlier human culture have become muddled enough that the Cthulhu Mythos is now thought to have been an actual (although defunct) religion. Hence planets and geological features getting names like Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and Shub-Niggurath.
- Single-Biome Planet: Tethys is essentially an Ocean Planet, although given the emphasis on the creatures above sea level, we haven't yet had much cause to look at all the pelagic biomes there might be.
- The Social Darwinists: The Yogzarthu, full-tilt. That's why they attempted to destroy humanity, but also why humans could defeat them—Yogzarthu really only act individually, teamwork hampered by an innate drive to dominate and/or destroy the weaker/unfit (read: every other creature). Humans don't quite have that problem.
Jendolyn: A cougar can take down a wolf...but wolves hunt in packs.
- It's worth noting that their big hint that humans were hopelessly unfit was that they went to the trouble of terraforming. To a Yogzarthu, that's cheating—you don't get to use advanced mentality to come up with shortcuts. Either your body can already happily endure whatever Death World it might run across, or the Yogzarthu who noticed you will cull you ahead of schedule.
- Starfish Language: Entomorph language consists not just of vocalizations (which already use mandibles, rather than vocal cords), but pheromone releases. Therefore, they use PDAs to communicate with humans. Although they love PDAs for more than just that (they can more easily communicate over long distances, for one).
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: While humanity for the most part understands that the Qohathoth were just these, there's still a tendency to fetishize them as just short of demigods. The main exception to that is the Listeners, who deify the Qohathoth.
- ‹bermensch: Alu sees herself as this, with a teeming dose of Above Good and Evil. She also sees it as the destiny of the Aquaans.
Gilou: If this is our destiny, then I question the plan.