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Literature / Paradox

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The Paradox/Pelted universe is a Space Opera setting written by M.C.A. Hogarth that primarily focuses on the Alliance between humanity and the Pelted, a variety of genetically engineered human-animal hybrids who left earth centuries ago. It has been in development since the 1980s and covers a variety of areas, from military to anthropologics of the dozen Pelted races and a few completely alien species as well.


The best introduction to the series would probably be the anthology Claws and Starships, in particular the short story A Distant Sun about a history and bioethics teacher with a multi-species class, as it gives an overview of the Alliance's history.

Series within the universe include:

  • Her Instruments: Earthrise, Rose Point, and Laisrathera. An ornery merchant finds herself entangled in the politics of the mysterious Eldritch when she rescues a nobleman from pirates.
  • Mindhealers: Mindtouch, Mindline, Family. An "asexual romance" story with two telepathic psychology students who come up with the idea of using their powers to treat people, and find themselves developing a psychic bond of their own.
  • Prince's Game: Even the Wingless, Some Things Transcend, Amulet Rampant, Only the Open, In Extremis. The Alliance and the Chatcaavan Empire are on the verge of war, can an ambassador and a Slave Queen reform the Empire before it's too late?
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  • Stardancer: Alysha's Fall, Second, Who is Willing, Either Side of the Strand. Following the career of the young but determined Fleet officer Alysha Forrest.

This setting contains examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: After a Chatcaava noble tries to poison him Lisinthir starts smoking small amounts of the poison in question to build up an immunity. It has problems though, such as addiction, and coughing up blood.
  • Aliens Never Invented Democracy: The Eldritch and Chatcaava have feudal governments. Though the Chatcaava place more importance on strength than bloodline. Most governments run by humans and their Pelted creations are representative democracies though there are some (like the Hinichi) that chose other forms of government.
  • The Alliance: The Alliance, obviously, consisting of humans, Pelted, and a few alien races, the Eldritch are aligned with them but not full members.
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  • Ambadassador: Lisinthir was chosen to be ambassador to the Chatcaava because he was one of the hardest Eldritch nobles and an avid duelist, and the Alliance wanted an esper. Even so he does spend a lot of Even the Wingless getting raped by the Emperor, though he does manage to inflict some serious wounds on the Emperor on one occasion, and slays Third and his hand.
  • Arranged Marriage: Family features a marriage to secure an alliance between two Eldritch houses using a little girl and a boy who still thinks girls are icky.
  • Artificial Animal People: The Pelted were created by splicing genes from various animals into human genomes, technically making them a Human Subspecies (they share 99% of their genome with humans and are capable of interbreeding with them). They were originally designed as servants to humanity but after a number of demands for rights (and a scandal or two where a billionaire got knocked up by her "pet") they left Earth, then returned centuries later to invite humans into their Alliance.
  • Asexual: Glaseah are engineered to have no sex drives, they have two genders but tend to reproduce artificially.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The Chatcaava Empire operates on this principle, determining rank via duels to the death or dominance fights that simply end in the loser having a few horns ripped off and getting raped.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Male Chatcaava have two arms and a pair of wings, as well as the ability to shapeshift, females have an extra pair of arms instead of wings. The Slave Queen is unusual as she is a female with wings and shapeshifting ability, though the Emperor had her wings maimed.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Even the Wingless and Alysha's Fall portray violent torture and pseudo-rape, though at least four of the females in the Emperor's harem apparently enjoyed it (three after Third killed one of them).
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Sascha and Irine in Earthrise, apparently tolerable among their species.
  • Cain and Abel: Baniel and Hirianthial.
  • Common Tongue: Universal, designed by the Seersa for the Alliance. Most races have their own languages as well.
  • Data Pad: Data tablets are ubiquitous in the Alliance.
  • Decadent Court: The Chatcaava's.
  • Death by Childbirth: Hirianthial's first wife died this way, taking their child with her. It's said to be a disturbingly common cause of death for Eldritch women given their literally medieval medical technology, and why he became a doctor after leaving the homeworld. One of the Chatcaavan Emperor's concubines almost dies in childbirth as well, as they consider females not worth medical attention, but Lisinthir convinces the royal Surgeon to help her and the Emperor is somewhat grateful that his newest son survives.
  • Distressed Dude: Hirianthial seems to have a habit of getting kidnapped. Though he is skilled at fighting, it's just his empathy, physical weakness, and high value to slavers.
  • Dominant Species Genes:
    • The shapeshifting abilities of male Chatcaava enable them to impregnate females of other species, producing more Chatcaava.
    • Eldritch traits are dominant to the baseline human phenotype.
  • Draconic Humanoid: The Chatcaava look like humanoid drakes in their natural forms, though most females have a second pair of arms instead of wings.
  • Dream Weaver: Jahir and Vasiht'h use it for psychotherapy.
  • Duel to the Death: A number of cultures have them, Aera, Eldritch, Chatcaava...
  • Dying Race: The Eldritch due to low fertility, inbreeding, and refusal to ask the Alliance, many of whose races had similar problems and developed work-arounds, for help.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: The Solar system is a backwater, after the Pelted left in their Generation Ships Earth and Mars had a bloody war and both worlds became isolationist while the Pelted were inventing Well drive and expanding.
  • The Empire: The Chatcaava Empire.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: Harat-Shar practice polygyny. The Chatcaavan emperor keeps a slave-harem.
  • Fantastic Drug: One of the few drugs the Alliance bans is "wet", so called because it liquifies the brain after a few months of use. And one of the cheaper ways of producing it is apparently to crack open sentient crystals.
  • Fantastic Ship Prefix: United Alliance Fleet's ships are designated UAV, and Terran merchant vessels are TMS. I.e. the UAV Stardancer and TMS Earthrise.
  • Fantastic Slur: "Furry" for Pelted, "Skinny" and "Devvy" (from "devolved") for humans.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Well Drive, which was invented by the Tam-illee after the exodus.
  • Feudal Future: The Chatcaava Empire is feudal, with the Emperor being the one who can overpower the other kings. The Hinichi and Eldritch are feudal on a planetary scale, and the Eldritch noble houses are comprising an increasingly large proportion of the dwindling population.
  • Fish out of Water: A common theme in Micah's books is the outsider thrust into a strange culture they do not fully understand.
  • Force-Field Door: The prison at the beginning of Earthrise has Halo fields, and conventional bars as well.
  • Generican Empire: The Alliance is usually just called that, the Alliance. In contrast to the Chatcaavan Empire.
  • Generation Ships: Used in the Pelted exodus from earth to what is now the Alliance core worlds.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Harat-Shar have a form of slavery where people voluntarily indenture themselves for a limited time for assorted reasons. Averted by the Chatcaava's slaves and those taken by slavers.
  • Hard Light: Solidigraphs.
  • Heavy Worlder:
    • Glaseah were engineered for a planet with slightly heavier gravity than Alliance standard, as such they tend to be about five feet tall and stocky, the four legs probably help too.
    • The rarely seen alien Faulfenza are also heavyworlders, but they're nearly as tall as the lightworlder Eldritch.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In Some Things Transcend Captain Raynor stays behind on the Quicklance to scuttle it and take the Chatcaava Boarding Party with him while his crew and passengers escape. Behavior the dragons don't understand and weren't expecting.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jahir and Vasiht'h are near inseparable, they even have a dedicated mindline, but no kind of sexual attraction to one another. The author has referred to Mindtouch, the story about how they first met in college, as an "asexual romance".
  • Holographic Disguise: "Dominoes" are just holograms and popular at parties. "Roquelaures" are restricted to Fleet Intelligence and feature a full solidigraph that can even change the user's apparent mass and voice.
  • Hot for Teacher: Margeaux for Kellen in A Distant Sun, he tries not to reciprocate, not only because he's her teacher but also because he has a genetic disorder that makes his bodily fluids toxic, and it turns out she has an even worse disease that does not interact well with what she gets from a bit of his blood from a split lip.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Humanity has a lot more experience with war than their Pelted children. Many high-ranking officers in the Alliance Fleet originally transferred from the Terran Navy.
  • Human Subspecies: Despite their varied appearances humans and Pelted share 99% of their genome and are capable of interbreeding, one pre-Exodus scandal involved a billionaire woman who got impregnated by her "pet" Seersa. The Eldritch are similar.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The Mindhealers series, and its first two stories, Mindtouch, and Mindline, have a theme of Mind[Word], but the third story is called Family.
  • Indentured Servitude: In Earthrise Harat-sharin slaves sign themselves into temporary contracts. During their terms as slaves they have a lot of protections under the law and their savings accrue much higher interest than normal. Indentured servants on the other hand are convicts who have practically no rights.
    • In Only the Open an early-generation D-per says that she was indentured to Fleet for thirty years to pay off the cost of her programming.
  • Interspecies Romance
  • King of Thieves: Admiral Kamaney is a pirate queen with the intent of carving out a nation of thieves and slavers from the remains of the Alliance and Empire once they destroy each other.
  • Laser Blade: Holoswords, which project a Hard Light blade of variable length, width, and sharpness. They're primarily used for sport fencing, with an entire fighting style based around changing the blade settings in the middle of combat, but in Laisrathera Hirianthial uses one to great effectiveness in a series of duels.
  • Lightworlder: Eldritch are adapted to a low gravity world and often grow over six and a half feet tall, though they sometimes experience difficulty on other Alliance planets until they've acclimated to the gravity, as Jahir's fainting spell early in Mindtouch demonstrates.
  • Lost Colony: Many of the Pelted worlds forgot their origins. And then there's the Eldritch, who concealed their origins from the Alliance.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Sascha and Irine epitomize the "Harat-Shariin hedonist" stereotype.
  • Matriarchy: the Eldritch are ruled by a queen and matrilineal, though the queen is traditionally succeeded by her niece. When asked about one character says that it's "the only way to be sure of lineage without reproductive technology."
  • Matter Replicator: "Genies", though the energy expense is significant enough that most foods are still bought.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Many between Eldritch and "mortals".
    • Reese and Hirianthial seem to be growing on one another over the course of the (uncompleted) Her Instruments trilogy.
    • Not quite romance, but they are similarly close, Jahir and Vasiht'h.
    • Jahir's cousin Sediryl had a relationship with a human man, and later a woman, though partially to piss off the more conservative houses.
    • The short story Precious Things seemed to imply the start of something between Lesandurel and Sydnie Unfound. Though it's presumed that Sydnie eventually found a Tam-illee mate given that the Queen's Tams are all descended from her. Granted they're still loyal after nine generations.
    • Even Queen Liolesa confessed to loving a human geneticist, who died of old age long ago. She tells Hirianthial that she doesn't regret having that relationship, she was only sad that it ended so quickly.
  • Mildly Military: In the military stories the Alliance Fleet acts a bit more like Starfleet than any actual military. Somewhat justified as the Pelted based it on vague cultural memories from before the Exodus of human militaries, many officers on loan from the Earth Navy are dismayed by the lack of discipline.
  • Mind over Manners: Eldritch customs strongly discourage the use of their telepathy. But in a subversion most of their race aren't any more ethical than other people.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Many Pelted species have more than two species in their ancestry:
    • Naysha combined the sturdiness of wolves with the delicacy of foxes, the strength of orcas and the agility and intelligence of dolphins. As well as a number of other deep-sea denizens and coral fishes for color.
    • Seersa look mostly like anthropomorphic foxes with feline coat patterns (jaguar rosettes for instance).
    • Aera have the DNA of foxes, mongooses, big cats, humans, deer, and sparrows, they mostly look feline except for the tiny wings on their ankles.
    • Ciracaana have cat-like lower bodies and canine upper bodies.
    • Glaseah look mostly like skunk-taurs with a pair of bat wings and outer ears composed of feathers.
  • Multiple Government Polity: The Alliance is governed on the whole by representative democracy but some member planets are governed by other ways, such as feudalism for the Hinichi.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted with the Eldritch their homeworld's native flora is inedible to them and their Terran livestock, and with their medieval tech they can't grow enough Terran crops to support their population. They've been dependent on imported food since re-contact with the Alliance, unfortunately Liolesa never told the rebellious xenophobic Houses that.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: The majority of Pelted are mammals with human-like breasts. Chatcaavan females look reptilian but are actually mammals with mammary glands, the Slave Queen is an exception though.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Reese wonders if Eldritch have fewer ribs than humans when dressing for an appearance at the Winter court.
  • Omniglot: Seersa have enhanced linguistic centers of the brain. There's a proverb that "there hasn't been a Seersa born who didn't have twenty tongues".
  • One-Word Title: Multiple:
    • The title of the whole universe, "Paradox".
    • The Stardancer series, and the story called "Second", in it.
    • Every story in the Mindhealers series, Mindtouch, Mindline, and Family
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Chatcaava look like anthropomorphic dragons in their natural form.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted, despite knowing that they were genetically engineered each of the Pelted races has at least one religion. For instance the Hinichi mostly follow a variation of Christianity while the Glaseah believe that the goddess Aksivah't inspired the scientists who created them. The card game "Pantheon" has players choosing which gods they think matches a certain condition each round.
  • Parental Savings Splurge: Alysha Forrest's mother decided to spend her daughter's inheritance from her father on fancy electronics and other luxuries, forcing her to work at a seedy strip club to afford tuition to the Fleet Academy (yes, the Alliance doesn't know how to run a functional military).
  • Planet of Hats: Many of the races come across as this. With the Pelted and Eldritch it may be justified in that their homeworlds were established less than a thousand years ago. And there are exceptions to the stereotypes.
    • Seersa are Cunning Linguists.
    • Glaseah are best known as scientists, and espers.
    • Harat-shar frequently come across as polygamous sex fiends (though those from the newer colonies are noticeably different in attitudes).
    • Ciracaana = barbarians. According to a city-dwelling specimen of the race with a sense of humor.
    • Eldritch = Space Elves.
  • Portmantitle: Some of the series' titles, and some of the stories in those series':
    • The Stardancer series.
    • The Mindhealers series, and its first two stories, Mindtouch, and Mindline
  • Power Incontinence: Eldritch seem to have little to no control over their telepathy, sensing other's thoughts and emotions are often even painful for them.
  • Psychic Powers: Eldritch have touch telepathy, which is why they have a taboo against touching. Glaseah are usually telepathic as well.
    • The Eldritch also have stories of "mind mages" with greater powers. The main story of Rose Point is set off by Hirianthial discovering that he can quite literally kill with his mind.
  • The Quisling: Baniel sold out his entire homeworld to the Chatcaava.
  • Sapient Fur Trade: The possibility of a black market in Pelted skins is suggested in Earthrise and confirmed in Only the Open.
  • Sex Slave: What all Chatcaavan slaves appear to be. In Earthrise Irine states that heavy labor is done by machines so slaves are either used as personal servants or used for pleasure, and that she wouldn't mind being Made a Slave too much. Reese suggests that the pirates after them might prefer to make her into a rug instead to motivate her to fight.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Pelted vary from Beast Man to borderline Little Bit Beastly.
  • Space Amish: The majority of the Ciracaana population live as nomadic hunter-gatherers, while two cities are full members of the Alliance. The odd thing is that they were created by the Alliance as "friendly aliens" with a fabricated culture and memories and when they discovered the ruse they were offered a chance to go off-world but most of them decided they preferred the tribal lifestyle.
    • In Rose Point the Earthrise crew stop at Kerayle, a planet where the colonists intended to live as herding nomads, with the colony divided in half and the two halves alternating between the settlement and the plains, at least until they'd cloned enough horses for everyone. But when Reece and her crew arrive they're having some "labor troubles" and many of the colonists have rebelled and turned to banditry.
  • Space Elves: The Eldritch, fair skinned and haired, psychic, live for many centuries, extremely isolationist, and slowly going extinct
  • Space Fighter: The Chatcaava, with their obsession with personal glory and power, base their naval doctrine on fighters and boarding parties, their larger warships are essentially carriers. While the Alliance hasn't shown any indication they use fighters at all which might explain how an Alliance Scout (as opposed to the small courier that barely managed to fight off an earlier ship) curbstomped a Chatcaava warship in the end of Some Things Transcend.
  • Space Pirates: Most of the antagonists in the Her Instruments trilogy, though they might be more accurately described as slavers working for the Chatcaava.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: "Pads", though one way, a Pad can send someone to a distant location without any sort of receiver but they can't take them back.
  • Touch Telepathy: Eldritch have this ability, but they can't control it, and reading other people's thoughts can be traumatic for them. Hence their strong taboos against making skin contact and penchant for heavy clothing.
  • Transhuman Aliens: The Pelted, though at the time of most of the stories their ancestry is common knowledge. Also The Eldritch whose ancestry is a close guarded secret.
  • Trust-Building Blunder: Second features a Fleet wilderness retreat, Alysha and Taylitha end up hospitalized because their tyrannical team leader made them take the "advanced difficulty" river route.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Chatcaava have six limbs, a pair of wings in males and an extra pair of arms on most females. Ciracaana have four legs and two arms. And Glaseah have eight limbs in total (four legs, two arms, two wings.)
  • Vision Quest: Carevei EarthHunger in The Elements of Freedom undergoes one, including drugs, to convince a Ciracaana tribe of the truth behind her warning of an earthquake. Her totem inflicts physical injuries which persuades them, and she decides to stay with them, changing her found name to HawkFreed.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Chatcaava males (and winged females like the Slave Queen) can shapeshift into other species by obtaining their "Pattern" through touch.
  • We Are as Mayflies: All of the Pelted races with life spans listed on the author's wiki commonly live over a century. With the Naysha (150), Glaseah (150 or 260, depending on source), and Phoenixes (620?) being the longest lived. Eldritch of course can live over a thousand years barring the violence or diseases that are all too common on their world. And the completely alien Faulfenza live about seven hundred note 
  • Winged Humanoid: Chatcaava. Malarai, Phoenixes, and Glaseah have wings but can't use them to fly in standard gravity, while the Aera's ankle-wings seem little more than decoration.
  • Wolverine Claws: claw-knives, which are gloves with retractable blades meant to mimic the claws of feline Pelted, are illegal in the Alliance, but Lisinthir is given a pair when he becomes ambassador to the Chatcaava as they have very long claws which they use in duels.
    • Alysha Forrest lost her natural claws and replaced them with prosthetics made of a molecular alloy called breathnache.

Alternative Title(s): Paradox Universe


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