Essay on Vulcan by Leonard H. McCoy, MD
The beginning lies in the myths of time and space. Scientists are still not sure as to when exactly “it” happened – and it will probably take them awhile, before they are starting to be close. However, it is agreed that the universe is approximately between 18 and 20 billion years old. Interstellar matter was born and formed gaseous “clouds”, later stars and planets … Galaxies. How long these worlds existed, and whether these so-called first generation star systems harbored planets that could sustain life is left open for speculation. They expired their lives – with or without sentient or non-sentient life-forms – along the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram. These “ashes” – again we are being faced with gaseous interstellar matter, solid leftovers from novae and supernovae – were the cradle for the second generation of stars. New Galaxies, new worlds. We must constantly remind ourselves that time is passing like an infinitely slow slow-motion sequence. Billions of years elapse during the processes that I am referring to. The live of one single star is but a heartbeat in the vastness of the universe. And the birth pangs of one particular star draws our attention to the galaxy named milky way, to a sector called Sagittarius’ Arm, actually the outskirts of our milky way, galactic backwoods, if you like.
The star is called “sun”, there are nine – maybe ten – whirls of gas revolving around it. Very fast, very hot. But not like the central star, those whirls contract, taking on a spherical shape, cooling down more and more. Haphazard makes the smaller whirls become planets, while the larger one is destined to become a sun. Solid matter is accumulated, which enhances gravitation, which, again, intensifies contraction. We all know the result: Our nine planets that circle the sun in “our” solar system, a tenth planet is being discussed. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is hypothesized to be its debris.
Let us now divert our attention to the vicinity of the “Sol-System”, vicinity being expressed on a cosmic scale. Our fictional journey brings us something like ten light-years away to a part of a star constellation that is seen from Earth as the constellation Eridanus. (That it appears to be a constellation, i.e. a coherent cluster of stars, is a deception. Stars of one single “constellation” can be considerably distant from each other.) We are still within the realm of the Sagittarius’ Arm 4.8 billion years ago – around the same time as in the Sol System – , the same process that led to our sun’s birth is taking place.
Here, we register a central whirl of interstellar gas and five minor ones, corresponding with five planets that are taking shape. Our focus is set on the fourth and the fifth, smaller planet. They form what is usually filed under double-planet, being very close to one another. The three inner planets are either too small to maintain their atmosphere, or they are too close to the sun, and the atmosphere is ripped away from them. In both cases, there can be no evolution of life. The same goes for the fifth planet, which is too distant and therefore too cold, and whose atmosphere only reaches up to 65 centimeters above the planet’s surface. No chance for life, thank you. Later, it would be called Charis; after Greek myth, Charis was Aphrodite’s companion.
But, 2.6 billion years later, something very important happens on the fourth planet, forthwith called Vulcan, after the Roman god of the forge. (Indeed, this planet bears a resemblance to a Forge with its enormous deserts and the red, metal oxide stained sand, which makes the surface appear red.) It starts to rain – for the tiny moment of almost two billion years. Heavy clouds, pregnant with water and other vital preorganic material, empty their contents onto the glowing rocks. In the beginning, the water was instantly vaporized. Yet, after some million years, the rocks had cooled enough, and plains of water filled the lower regions of the surface. The famous primal soup had been formed out of the aqueous solution of nitrogenous gases, methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, sulfuric gases and the minerals encrusted in the rocks. While the surface is cooling down, life is born on this planet.
It is still raining, but the sky is clearing slowly, very slowly. Simple organic molecules form simple organic life-forms: bacteria-like organisms. Some have the nasty habit of metabolizing inorganic matter to oxygen. A terrible poison for many organisms. But there are other creatures that use this poison to produce carbon dioxide. Evolution tests the symbiosis of the oxygen-producing life-forms with bacteria that could not use this gas before. The test is a success. Both organisms become integrated in one single cell – the eucaryotic cell. As evolution proceeds through the next billions of years, life grows more complex. Single cells form groups; the multicellular organism is born. As a singularity, on this planet, there is not such a clear separation between animal and plant. Both have copper in their hem-group, respectively their pyrrole ring. Only the protein parts are by 14 % different.
Then, approximately 2.4 million years ago, a peculiar being enters the scene. It is a biped, walks upright and has a rapidly developing brain. At this very moment, one might jump up from one’s seat and shout ‘What the hell’s that?! They’re humans!’ First, let me say this: You’re goddamn right about your perception. They really do look like our early human ancestors. They’re a little early – on Earth, it will take another 1.4 million years for a comparable primate to show up – but here, they are. Our first Vulcans, if you please! They’re everything but elegant or especially bright. Their ears – fie! – are round like human ears. Their body is covered with a hairy fur. They eat, sleep and they – (harrumph) … like our ancestors, indulging in their physical needs, oblivious of any second thoughts. Why, after all, should they worry? They have plenty to eat, and they deem themselves in safety beneath the ubiquitous shade of the forest. The mild light from the sun brings an almost everlasting spring with lush vegetation. T`Rukh, this being the Vulcan name for Charis, changes her aspect, one time shining as a round disc, then diminishing to a small sickle and finally vanishing – only to be reborn a few days later. Again, one does not wonder why. It remains an enigma, as well as the procedures that lead to the swollen bellies of the females and to the birth of little ones. There is a thing called ‘rapture’, which comes every seven suns, but who would make the connection? What for? Someday, a person would simply ‘cease’. But why feel grief, when the thoughts of the deceased accompanied the living? (Does that ring a bell with you? Remember we are talking about Vulcans here … ) An emotion is a double-edged sword (forgive the anachronism). It can be a gift, when it’s positive, but catastrophic, when it’s not. That’s how they might feel about it. Ambiguous.
Their blood, Ladies and Gentlemen, is green, more exactly ’emerald’. They are stronger and have more stamina than our primate ancestors ever had. And their evolving brain is capable of telepathic communication. Thus, it took them a little longer to find the spoken word than it took us. ‘No need, no gain’, my Dad used to say. But, at last, 700,000 years later, here it is! And it is uttered by a man who, during his frequent travels, sees a mountain for the first time. T`Khut’s light is gently falling through the foliage, her shine being reflected on the still surface of one of the many little lakes. His shout is a shout of triumph, of overwhelming joy, that he had found this curious thing, which he interprets as a giant tree, and which touches the sky: S’Heyah!!! This thing is completely new, out of experience, distant, tempting …
The man has found something: the Vulcan innate curiosity. It takes him a week to get to this highest mountain, and he has to pass through a desert to reach it. But he does reach it, after several serious sunstrokes. By this time, he has learnt that it is wiser to travel a desert by night and to rest in a shady place throughout the day. When he returns to his group, he tells them about a giant tree that reaches up to the sky and that can be climbed. His mental image is accompanied by his first word, S’Heyah. In distant millennia, the mountain would still carry this first name: Seleyah.
From then on, Vulcans are confronted with another phenomenon: the desert. Our man describes it to his group as a large lake with no water. Unanticipated, searing heat, a glaring ball of light in the sky.
Not every sun is as prone to abrupt radiation storms as Vulcan’s sun, Nevasa – or ( 40-Eridani), in its early phase. The environment begins to change dramatically. Most of the open water on the planet evaporates. The forests vanish, the atmosphere becomes dry, hot, and thin, as the oxygen is ionized by the high radiation level. Many Vulcans die with thirst, hunger, radiation disease. They suffocate in the thin air, and they are burnt in the many bush fires. The world around them is no longer their friend, but a deceitful, relentless enemy. It smiles on you one day and kills you the next. It kills those one loves most dearly, brothers, sisters, children, parents, partners, takes away food and shelter, makes it impossible to breathe and transforms life into a never-ending horror. Indeed, Vulcan possesses no moon, but a nightmare. T`Rukh reflects the reddish light of the sun, glowing demonically red. Her tiny moon, T`Rukhe-mai, The Eye of The Watcher, is really like a pupil in a horrible giant eye than never blinks.
As the environment changes, the inhabitants of Vulcan change and so does their language. There is hatred, envy, jealousy, greed, brutality. Confidence is replaced by fear, reliance by deception. They are no longer a part of nature – they are desperately fighting against it, using their ever developing brain. Their mind becomes keen, razor-sharp. It is the origin of the all too famous Vulcan intellect. The merry songs that have rung out in the forest, a celebration of language, cease abruptly. It becomes very, very quiet on Vulcan. However, it is no quietude of peace, but of death. A quietude that raises the hair on one’s neck, gives one shivers down one’s spine. The transforming environment has its biological side-effects: The radiation causes mutations in the DNA. Most of them are fatal or teratogenic, leading to the birth of death or mutilated children. Very few of these mutations were not as dreadful. On the contrary. In some clans, babies are born with a curious glow in their eyes. At first, they are suspected to be blind, but they’re not. Only they can see despite the glaring sun and in the dark, due to a special visual pigment. From this discovery on, the birth of such a child is considered a blessing, a good omen. Other babies apparently have defective ears. The ears are larger than normal, and the ear-lobe is pointed. Altogether, the structure of the ear is more delicate. These children are not deaf. Their ears are an advantage in the thin air where sound is not carried forth as well as on Earth. Soon, the individuals with the pointed ears lead the hunt, and they are successful at it. Over the years, these two markers have recombined, and, today, every Vulcan shows them.
Until the appearance of Surak, the philosopher, the Vulcans are an intelligent, but emotional and warlike people. It is a reflection of the deep insecurity and the fear, the abrupt change in their environment had caused. Trust no-one but yourself. Kill or starve. Everything that is yet unknown, alien, and unexplored is a threat – destroy it lest it will destroy you! But even familiar things, things than appear friendly and favorable, can suddenly change and turn against you. You must fight to survive. This attitude leads to the most appalling war, any history of any planet has ever known and, hopefully, ever will. It is a war that not only extended throughout one region – it encompasses the whole planet Vulcan and even its sister planet T`Rukh like a cancer growing. By then, the population of Vulcans had risen to almost 3 billion. After the Cataclysm, the population has crashed down to below 200,000!
The Romulans have retained this old attitude, when they were banned from Vulcan, the price Vulcan had to pay for the ongoing peace that was installed after the years of madness and blind frenzy. And it was this very xenophobia with which the Romulans met the first humans. As up to now nothing has changed about that. Fortunately, the Vulcans have learnt. Surak has clad this people in the thin patina of logic and pacifism. They have learnt to meet the unknown with curiosity and acceptance. The first humans who ever visited Vulcan were taken aback by their selfless, uncompromising hospitality, their reserved interest. It is only the madness of the pon farr that brings back the ghosts of the past, instantly revealing the essence of this people. Pon farr demonstrates what the Vulcans used to be in the time of the beginning. It reminds us that the emotions they are not supposed to feel are not buried forever, but are only temporarily repressed, resulting in a catastrophe. If this essay gives the impression that I don’t quite like Vulcans, I must say that this impression is wrong. Today, I can say this of the Vulcans: They’re almost disgustingly logical, courageous, highly intelligent, pacifist, loyal, reliable, ready to sacrifice, when necessary, unselfish, warm – once, one discovers that – , and they are full of fine humor which they unfortunately never care to show.
Leonard H. McCoy, MD
P.P. I must add that Vulcans are awful losers.- Take it easy, Spock, old pal…