In the first of a new blogpost series, Our Enemies, FWS will be exploring the common enemies of humanity in science fiction, and in this case, killer space tigers. Frequent readers to FWS will know that I am a cat lover. Yep. It is true. Around my house, the only pets we have are cats, specifically Tortoiseshell cats. I have always enjoyed and been mystified by the dual personalities that cats have. One minute, they are soft and loving, purring away. However, watch them outside with a prey animal, they transform into ruthless hunters, trained to be one of nature's most badass killers. I have respected for their nature, and being the cat lover I am, I am acutely aware of the trend in science fiction that features killer alien tigers from outer space as our future enemies.
Why are Hostile Alien Space Tigers Popular Foes?
The Human-Tiger Connection
As a whole, Homo sapiens are assured of their place
on top of the food chain. However, that was not always the case, and even to this day, people are still eaten by species that are man-hunters. One of the most murderers of man is Felidae biological family. Since before our species had formal language or art, we both celebrated and damned the nature world around us. Animals and natural events that terrified early man, also inspirited us to wonder on a world unseen. One of the hunters of man, besides ourselves, was (and still is) the tiger, and our ancient ancestors were very aware of these beasts and their frighting abilities. Some 40,000 years ago, humans living in the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave curved a zoomorphic man-tiger figurine that is about 11 inches tall and discovered by modern society in 1939. While we can only guess that the meaning behind the lowenmensch, it does translate to a genesis behind sci-fi's love of the space tiger.
The Social Structure of the Space Tiger
The Space Tiger Warrior: The Killers of Man
Packs often come up in the space tiger social structure, and pack hunting is used as a basis for the felinoid military tactics. Stalking, taking an enemy when they do not expect it, and from an angle not expected, along with raid tactics are all hallmarks of the warrior felinod. They also attack either the weakest or the strongest assets of the enemy This alien martial culture also worships loyalty, honor, and victory. Often leading these packs are the royal family members of the monarchy of the felinoid social structure, much like the British nobility leading their officer corps. This was seen with Kilrathi, where their top space fighter aces were nobility. If one off-shoots of the nobility achieves honor via victory in combat, than they would curry more favor with the monarchy, and some creators have used these angle.
If They Existed...Why Would We Fight the Space Tigers?
Would we fight space tigers over the Vega sector as depicted in science fiction? Why would fight these Felinoids when we push out from the Sol system? Let us assume that on some other world, tigers have evolved to the point of intelligence on par with homo sapiens and achieved interstellar spaceflight without wiping themselves with nuclear war. Just because they are tigers instead of jelly fish or bumpy-headed humanoids does not inherently translate to aggression and space wars. As stated before, any species that it the dominate form of life on their planet is going have experience with combat and hunting, and any spacefaring race will be industrial, requiring resources, and other worlds besides their own. For course any notion of aggression, leading to interstellar warfare would also greatly depend on the government, religion, and history of our intrepid felinoids. I think there could be a possibility that because the space tiger developed from a naturally predatory species could lend some credence to these aliens being more aggressive and could fuel wars or conflicts.
Science Fiction and Space Tigers
Battlecats from outer space are nothing new in the realm of human imagination. Long before there was the Kzin or the Kilrathi, there was the Egyptian Sphinx, the Goddess Bastet, the Chinese Li Shou, The Hindu god of Narasimha, and the Polish Ovinnik. This trend is even older than those mythological beasts. In 1939, a zoomorphic lion-man statue was founded in Germany dating back 40,000 years ago to the Aurignacian culture, demonstrating our species long held love-hate relationship with the feline. The idea of using felines for aliens that are both friend and foe has no certain genesis, however, we can seen space tigers in the pages of Flash Gordon in the 1930's with the character of Prince Thun along with other types of "tiger people".
The Kilrathi from the Wing Commander universe
In the Wing Commander universe, the main foe of the Terran Confederation is the Empire of Kilrah, composed of aggressive space tigers called the Kilrathi. Since the original computer space fighter simulator dropped in 1990, the Man/Kilrathi War was the focus of the series. According to the back story, on March 15th, 2629, an Terran Confederation exploration is destroyed by the Kilrathi. All attempts at communication are refused, and two years of raids by the Kilrathi are answered by a full-scale war. For 11 years, the Empire and Confederation engaged in a bloody war that ended when the homeworld of the kitties was destroyed by Christopher Blair. After the war, the various clans of the Kilrathi organized themselves, and attempted to keep the tense peace with the Terrans.
The Kilrathi society is constructed along lines of clan and status. Much like ancient Terran societies, the nobility on Kilrah ruled over the masses of lower-born, and only the ruling classes could endeavor within the arts or creative efforts. The values that run throughout the bulk of Kilrathian society is honor and loyalty. These traits are often credited to the 10 million year developed cycle of the furballs from pack hunting felines to spacefaring imperialist space tigers.Unlike the Terran Confederation, the Kilrathi have a warrior class that direct and fight their wars. These wars are not just isolated to the Terrans. Prior to that conflict, the furballs were engaged in a long struggle with the Mantu that ended in a stalemate. At the time of the Man/Kilrathi War, it is believed by TC intelligence that a low-level conflict still brews with the Mantu. They have subjugated other races, like the Varni, and the TC used these races against the furballs. The depiction of the Kilrathi evolved over the various video games. By the time of the Full-Motion-Video Wing Commander III, the Kilrathi were people in costumes, and over-sized hairless puppets for the beyond shitty 1999 Wing Commander movie...oh yes, FWS will be talking about that "movie" soon...prepare thy self!
The Kzin from Larry Niven's Known Space universe
On a cooler world orbiting the star known to humans as 61 Ursae Majoris, some 31 LYs away from the Sol system, evolved an 500lbs feline race known as the Kzinti. During the Kzin iron age, aliens known as the Jotok landed and uplifted the space kitties to be used as interstellar mercenaries. The Jotok got more than they bargained for...the Kzinti revolted and enslaved the Jotok, and even ate them. This started the ball rolling on the five Man-Kzin wars. The Kzinti have a royal family, and their whole society is based on the superiority of the males. Honor and being heroic populate the Kzin mindset, and they live under a marital honor code...sound familar...yeah the Kzinti are some sort of alien samurai space tigers. The female Kzin are breed to be stupid, and any female showing signs of intelligence is killed. Lovely.In the 1960's, one of the great minds of science fiction, Larry Niven developed the Kzinti, the warlike and bloodthirsty outer space tigers. They would make their first appearance in 1966, and from 1988 to 2013, 11 volumes of the Man-Kzin Wars volumes were printed. The Kzinti would influence generations of sci-fi writers and creators to include their own take on the felinoid.
The Dilgar from Babylon 5
During the first season of Babylon 5, the ninth episode exposed us fans of B5 to the felinoid race of the Dilgar from the planet Omelos. When the Centauri Republic weakened, the Dilgar made their move on the other races, who the Dilgar regarded as mere slaves, and would serve the Dilgar. In the 2230's, the League of the Nonaligned Worlds and the Dilgar were locked in a bloody war. By 2231, the Dilgar were winning and committing war crimes and medical experiments, causing the Earth Alliance to join the League and fight the Dilgar back to their home system. One of the reasons for the Dilgar aggression could have been linked their home system's star going nova shortly after the war ended in favor of the League. The Dilgar could not escape the supernova with their jumpgates blocks and were completely extinct in 2232 save for one. Interestingly, the Dilgar aggression would thrust Earth into the galactic stage, and allow for the critical Earth-Minbari War.
The Y'Kin from The Hunters of Man
The Kzinti from the Star Trek universe
The Caitian from the Star Trek Unvierse
The Tharil from Classic Doctor Who
The Na'vi from AVATAR
The Hani from The Chanur Novels by CJ Cherryh
The Garudan from ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels
The Fucking Thundercats from The Thundercats
The Tavitans from the Dynamo Joe comics
In the mid-1980's, First Comics would published Doug Rice's brilliant military science fiction comic Dynamo Joe. In those pages, was the cat-like alien race of the Tavitans located on the Londree. This race is ruled by a queen-mother, the matriarch. When the Orion War started with the invading Mellanares, the Terrans, the Imperial society of the Great Khan, and the Tavitans joined together in the Alliance. According to the few clues presented in the fifteen issues of Dynamo Joe, the Tavitans were not warlike, and contributed few "hard" military assets to the Alliance, mostly technical elements. The main kitty character of the DJ series is Private Pomru, who worshiped Old Earth culture, and is the navigator/technical of the Joe battlesuit. However, a few times, Pomru would pilot Joe into combat. It is sad that DJ would only run for 15 issues when it was plotted out over a two year run. It is likely that we would have seen the homeworld of Pomru's cat-people.
The Mrrshan from Masters of Orion