The War Against the Chtorr

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The War Against the Chtorr
Amatterformen.JPG
Cover of the first book in the series, A Matter For Men Second Edition.
Author David Gerrold
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction, book series
Publisher Timescape Books, et al.
Publication date
1983

The War Against the Chtorr is a series of science fiction novels by American writer David Gerrold.[1]

Books in the series[edit]

The Chtorr series was originally planned as a trilogy, but as the story became more intricate, Gerrold realized that three books would not be enough for him to tell the entire story. For a time, he was uncertain how many books there would be in the end, but finally settled on a heptalogy.[2] Currently, four books have been completed with a fifth in the works. The first draft of the fifth book, A Method for Madness, has been completed and is now being reviewed for editing.[3]

A Matter for Men (1983)[edit]

After mysterious and deadly viruses decimated the world's population, strange and violent alien creatures, dubbed the Chtorr, start to appear. Jim McCarthy is a military scientist tasked with clearing a nest of worms, one of the more well known types of Chtorr. He notices that they have a level of intelligence and brings back three eggs for further analysis. Back at base, he learns that political squabbling is getting in the way of making any real progress on understanding the invasion. He is soon recruited to a mysterious group known only as "Uncle Ira" who dedicate themselves to clearing out the Chtorr at any cost. In a presentation demonstrating a live Chtorran worm to a visiting group of dignitaries, the worm breaks loose and kills several people before it's stopped by McCarthy. He quickly realizes that the massacre (and his death) was planned by Uncle Ira as a way of getting the international community to wake up to the Chtorran problem. Along the way, Jim's best friend and sometimes lover, Ted, decides to join the Telepathy Corps, and to Jim's chagrin, seems to be losing himself to a larger hive mind.

A Day for Damnation (1985)[edit]

On a mission in deep Chtorran territory, Jim McCarthy and his crew crash their helicopter in a blizzard of strange pink fuzz. The crew takes this opportunity to observe previously unknown aspects of the Chtorran life cycles and ecology. Particularly interesting is an odd ritual observed between bunnymen and worms where they seem to play together in harmony. Upon return to San Francisco, McCarthy spends some time studying the zombie phenomena that surfaced soon after the invasion; massive groups of people seem to lose all but the most basic animal intelligence and wander aimlessly in herds, occasionally luring in others who get too close. Seeing a similarity between the zombies and the bunnyman/worm rituals, McCarthy briefly allows himself to join the zombie herd in order to study them, and only barely manages to be rescued and restored to his former self. Using what he learned, he leads a team near a nest of worms and attempts communication like the bunnymen. Although the experiment seems to work initially, the worms turn violent and attack the humans and other Chtorr.

A Rage for Revenge (1989)[edit]

The third book in the series alternates between two stories, Jim McCarthy experiences Mode Training and flashbacks to his time in a cult. On a routine mission, McCarthy's platoon is overwhelmed by a group of renegade humans. He is taken prisoner and slowly brainwashed into the lifestyle of the cult and their leader, Jason Delandro. The cult believes in serving the Chtorr and have several worms on their campgrounds, although only the few high up members are allowed to know the worms secrets. The cult also practices a type of hedonism, characterized by free love including pedophilia. On an expedition, Jim discovers a military base with a working radio. Snapping back to his senses, he calls in the renegades location, then wanders aimlessly in the wilderness while fighting an emotional internal battle over having betrayed the renegades. Jim heads to a peninsula on the California coast where his mother used to live, called Family, and adopts three orphans. When Family's leaders ignore his demands for anti-Chtorran defenses, a group of worms break into the grounds and slaughter many of the Family, including his adopted children. Jim realizes that the worms were led by Delandro and manages to capture and execute him. Jim flees Family and after a hallucinatory eperience brought on by the Chtorran ecology, he is picked up in a helicopter by Colonel Elizabeth 'Lizard' Tirelli. Jim is sent to Mode Training to learn to overcome basic human psychology. As a final test in the training, the group is forced to accept the death of one of their own, Jim, by the hand of the leader Daniel Foreman. The gun Foreman was using turns out to be loaded with blanks, and as the group accepted his death, they pass the course. Tirelli and McCarthy had previously been romantically involved, and they expand that relationship after Tirelli leads McCarthy to testify in a meeting with the President of the United States regarding the need to drop a nuclear bomb on the heavy Chtorran infestations in the Rockies, arguing that the people who live there are no longer human.

A Season for Slaughter (1993)[edit]

Leading a patrol, Jim McCarthy is annoyed by a senior officer from Montreal who insisted on coming along but does not understand the gravity of the situation. In order to get him out of the way, McCarthy tricks him into thinking that the two of them had walked into a live shambler grove sensory network and are likely to be eaten alive by the grove's residents. In reality, the grove looked dead, but the officer did not know this and agreed on record to cede all authority to McCarthy. While examining the grove, the scientists discover a massive womb-like structure beneath that they theorize is the place where all the Chtorran life forms were formed when they fell to Earth. After being reprimanded by his commanding officer, McCarthy is sent on a mission to an area of the Amazon rainforest with some of the heaviest infestations anywhere. The mission commandeers a massive dirigible originally built as a pleasure craft before the invasion. Aboard the ship, McCarthy and Tirelli finally marry. When trying to figure out a way of communication with the worms via flashing lights, the team accidentally sets off a Chtorran war where the worms battle each other in a massive slaughter. On the way home the flight crew realize too late that Chtorran stingbugs have created too many holes in the helium chambers, causing a massive loss of lift gases. Quickly dumping cargo, the ship heads back to civilization as fast as possible but crashes when it's still several miles in Chtorran territory. Fearing that Liz was dead, Jim hears her voice on a radio briefly. To rescue her he contacts a government official, a woman with Down Syndrome with brain implants who McCarthy (correctly) surmises is an unwitting member of the Telepathy Corps and utilizes their communications network to request a search for Tirelli. Although Liz is eventually found, the book ends with everyone still awaiting rescue.

A Method For Madness[edit]

In this as yet unpublished novel, Jim McCarthy must cope with the fact that humanity will need to change if they ever want to continue living.

It was reportedly slated for release September 2015[4][5] but according to the author, at the end of August 2015 only the first draft was finished and given to beta readers.[3]

Story line[edit]

Set in a devastated early 21st century United States with logical expected advances in current technology such as a fledgling moon base, this series of science-fiction novels describe the invasion of Earth by an alien ecology. The story is unusual in that the tactics used by the aliens eschew the usual direct attack in favor of terraforming the ecosystem.

The United States has just lost a harsh war in Pakistan, after which they were required to greatly weaken their armed forces. The U.S. decided to increase weapon exports in order to make other countries reliant on them. Secretly, they continued researching and developing weapons, which is illegal according to the treaty.

Soon afterwards, a series of devastating plagues sweeps the world, killing 60% of humanity. As the survivors struggle to rebuild civilization, they discover that hundreds of alien plant and animal species have begun establishing themselves. They are almost universally far superior to the native organisms which occupy the same ecological niches. As a result, Earth's entire ecology is being rapidly supplanted (or "chtorraformed"). The invaders are called Chtorrans after the sound made by the most deadly predator encountered so far.

There is no sign of sentient aliens, but humans presume the invasion to be deliberate, either "seeded" from space or brought by undetected spacecraft. Many of the Chtorran organisms (see below) exhibit behaviors that are quasi-sentient (building structures, creating and using tools, farming/herding, setting traps, singing), yet the central question of whether they are doing so out of sentience or collective and programmed behavior is unanswered. With each new layer of organisms, a bit more hierarchy to the Chtorran "societal" structure is revealed, allowing the possibility that all these organisms will transform the Earth in support of some worse, higher form of Chtorran life. The presumed goal of these off-stage aliens appears to be nothing less than the complete replacement of Earth's entire ecology and the resultant extinction of all native life, at which time they can claim the planet without a single shot needing to be fired. Another possibility is that collectively the Chtorr are the alien, the invasion has begun and gained major footholds, and humanity has yet to figure out who the true enemy is (let alone how to successfully fight it).

The books largely follow the adventures of Jim McCarthy, a scientist and soldier in the U.S. Army, who attempts to understand the Chtorran ecology even as he engages in combat to destroy it. His early efforts primarily focus on the "Worms", a particularly large and dangerous carnivorous Chtorran species whose prey includes humans. McCarthy and other scientists investigate the rapidly expanding Chtorran ecosystem and attempt to unravel the ecological relationships between the various species.

In addition to descriptions of alien ecology, the Chtorr series includes lengthy expositions on various aspects of human psychology, particularly under wartime and survival conditions.

Characters[edit]

  • Jim McCarthy: The series protagonist, the books are written from his point of view. Jim is a military scientist who was drafted into the secret "Uncle Ira" group as a way of fighting the Chtorran infection without political oversight. He is bisexual, and retains a loving relationship with Lizard Tirelli. Jim is often characterized as being very brash, abrasive and impulsive. He cannot stand when bigger issues get swallowed up in politics, and is often bailed out by Lizard or the Uncle Ira group after taking certain actions, such as goading a Québécois Major to resign his commission out of cowardice.
  • Archibald "Duke" Anderson: Jim's commanding officer.
  • Elizabeth "Lizard" Tirelli: An officer in the US army. She starts off as a captain who pilots helicopters, but by the fourth book she has been promoted to general and is one of the leaders in the US military in their war against the Chtorr. She is in a complicated relationship with McCarthy.
  • Ted: Jim's military partner and sometimes lover. Ted joins the Telepathy Corps early on in the series and has a chip implanted in his brain which allows other Telepathy Corps members to access his body. He talks about how he no longer feels a connection with his body; as part of the Corps mass mind, he can occupy and use any other Corps body.
  • General "Uncle Ira" Wallachstein: The leader of a top-secret military group with authorization only from the President. Officially, it doesn't even exist. The purpose of the "Uncle Ira" group is to do whatever it takes to fight the Chtorran invasion, and ignore the politics that inevitably get in the way.
  • Daniel Foreman: An enigmatic and harsh man who leads the Mode training courses. He teaches people how to reach their potential required to fight the Chtorr by changing in and out of "modes" and how to accept the limitations and concepts of one's own psychology. He writes articles under the name "Solomon Short" and is quoted as such at the heading of the chapters in books 3 and 4.
  • General Wainwright: The highest-ranking member of the military shown in the books. The General is more of a politician than a fighter, and is usually characterized as putting his own troops at risk rather than risk a political bungle. He has told McCarthy numerous times that he has a personal hatred for him, something that only seems to amuse McCarthy. Wainwright has an assistant, Dannenfelser, who has an open personal dislike for McCarthy and often seeks to make him miserable.
  • Jason Delandro: Jason is the spiritual leader of a group of renegades living nomadically in unpopulated territory in the United States. He is very convincing and has an extremely loyal, almost religious, following. He believes in living as hosts and treating the Chtorrans as guests, with the understanding that the Chtorrans could take whatever they need, including innocent human life. Three of the members of his group are actually worms; one, Orrie, raised from birth, and the other two trained by Orrie to understand humans. The human-Chtorran relationship amongst the renegades is complex, but ultimately results in a loss of humanity for those involved (characterized by people giving their newborn babies as food to the worms) and complete acceptance and subservience to the Chtorrans.

Groups, technology and other concepts[edit]

  • Telepathy Corps: The Teep Corps (as they are often referred to) is a group of people with microchips implanted in their brains to allow each member full access to every other members memories, senses and thoughts. Although originally initiated as a government program, many characters mention a fear that the Teep Corps has become a massmind, and is free from any oversight. Members are stripped of their personal identity and lose their personal connection to their own bodies. Often, a new initiate will become "lost" by losing sentience and simply becoming a body and collection of memories for the Corps. Although it has been shown that members can show individuality, they have a different concept of what it means to be an individual. Since any member can potentially fully control any body of any other member, bodies are conceptually separate from individual minds. Many Corps members are actually not aware that they are members, as they have had the microchip implanted in them without their knowledge. This was originally done to allow the Corps to spy on renegade groups within Chtorran mandalas, but it is hinted that the process has become out of control and the Corps may have used it as a way of controlling political entities.
  • Zombie Herds: In some metropolitan areas, humans have been observed losing their sentience and shambling around in mindless herds. It is uncertain what is the cause of it. Zombies have been observed having almost no desires, or inhibitions, acting like simple animals. Some government agencies have taken it upon themselves to feed the herds, as they seem not to possess the ability to forage for food. People who follow, or spend enough time with a herd will eventually find themselves drawn in. Sometimes a herd will start up a strange sort of singing that can attract more humans to join them. Occasionally, like in moments of extreme pain or stress, a zombie will snap back to being a human, although they'll retain few to no memories of time spent in the herd. By the fourth novel, zombie herds are becoming heavily infected with neural parasites, giving them the appearance of having developed fine coats of pink fur - apparently the first stage in their mutation into bunnydogs and libbits.

Chtorran ecology[edit]

Chtorran ecology was designed in large part by British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen. It is quite complete and consistent, making it hard science fiction.

If there are two things that all Chtorran life forms have in common, it is that they are hungry, and are normally a bright shade of red. Virtually all Chtorran life forms engage in some form of symbiosis, which can be recursive. Indeed, by later books scientists began to suspect that the "Chtorran biosphere" isn't so much a collection of different species as it is one vast hive-like superorganism, with each species not only fulfilling a niche but laying the groundwork for other more complex forms. Several species of prey animals are in fact suspected to be the juvenile versions of larger predator animals - the few who survive to adulthood metamorphosize and feed on their younger cousins.

What little can be guessed about the Chtorran homeworld is that it must have slightly higher gravity than Earth, and its atmosphere somewhat lower oxygen content - explaining the strength of Chtorran musculature and how efficiently they process oxygen on Earth. Their planet is also suspected to be located near an older red giant star, resulting in most Chtorran creatures possessing a warm color scheme of pink to red (though this varies).

Chtorran fauna[edit]

  • Chtorran Gastropedes (commonly known as "Worms"): The main antagonists of the series. Range in size from as small as a dog to as large as a bus, or even larger. Normally bright red, but have been seen in other colors ranging from white to green. They have two double-jointed "arms" which end in very dextrous three-digit "hands", with incredibly sharp claws. Their bodies are covered with symbiotic "fur", each strand of which is a distinct lifeform and acts as a sensory input. Thus they resemble large, furry pink caterpillars - with a pair of large goggle-like eyes atop their heads, clawed arms, and rasping tooth-filled mouths. Worms are capable of remarkable acts of problem solving and interaction and some have been observed to understand a rudimentary form of English, but both their intelligence and their communication abilities have yet to be fully understood. As long as they eat meat, they can continue to grow, but their growth slows when their diet is only on vegetation, but their appetite is much larger. It is understood that a worm "family" consists of four, though their roles are unclear. When a group of worms form a family, they build a large, domed structure referred to as a hut. The worms live in a series of tunnels within and beneath the huts. When many huts are built close together, they start to merge into larger huts, and so on. This process repeats recursively, forming Chtorran cities which the military calls mandalas due to their spiraling shapes. When a worm reaches a mass that makes it unable to move, it will crawl into a dead end corner of the nest and eventually die - it is suspected though not confirmed that these older individuals incubate new gastropede eggs which burst out of them in death. While the worms do form social units of four, scientists remain baffled at how exactly they reproduce. Analysis of their complex genetic material seems to indicate that they don't have different sex chromosomes, so every worm should be one biological gender - but whether this means they reproduce with each other (like Terran slugs) or reproduce through fission of some kind, remains unknown. By the second novel, scientists observe that the gastropedes don't seem to fit within the Chtorran ecology's food chain - at least what parts of it are currently present on Earth. While they do eat Chtorran millipedes and bunnymen, the ratio of protein they provide versus the vast amounts the worms need to consume simply doesn't match up. Thus the gastropedes can only meet their dietary needs by eating native Terran life forms as well, i.e. humans. This leads some scientists to suspect that the gastropedes are essentially "sheep dogs" for whatever intelligence is truly directing the invasion, a servant race intentionally set loose on Earth for the express purpose of wiping out the indigenous large life forms, specifically humans.
  • Neural Symbionts: The most ubiquitous creature in the ecology. The neural symbiont is a small, hair-like creature that attaches itself to the nervous system of a larger creature. The host will then achieve heightened senses, reflexes and some form of communication with other hosts. Many Chtorrans such as the gastropedes and bunnydogs are completely covered in symbionts - in what appears to be a very dense "fur" of light pink to red hairs. It is theorized that the symbionts actually do most of the thinking and communication for their host creatures, thus accounting for the small brain yet high functionality in many Chtorrans. Humans that bond with symbionts soon lose the ability, or will, to communicate with uninfected humans, but can live in harmony inside a Chtorran mandala. Outside of a mandala, symbiosis is usually fatal to Earth creatures. Some scientists suspect that the neural symbionts, acting as a hive mind, essentially are the main leaders of the invasion - if there can even be said to be one leader. An alternative view is that the entire Chtorran biosphere is a superorganism which can be thought of as a large body, in which case the neural symbionts are the brains. Although most often observed on the gastropedes and bunnydogs, neural symbionts are ubiquitous throughout the Chtorran ecology, found not only on Chtorran animals such as gorps but also plants such as shambler trees and manna plants.
  • Millipedes: These bear no relation to terrestrial millipedes. Though similar in appearance, they tend to have hard black shells and bellies of varied colors. Their bite is very powerful, and they are capable of devouring and digesting wood, leather, rubber, plastic—anything even remotely organic save their own (or worm) waste. Their bite is also toxic, introducing various diseases and micro-organisms into the bloodstream. The worms keep them in "corrals" near their huts like chicken farms—and eat them like popcorn.
  • Bunnydogs/Bunnymen: Bipedal herbivores about a meter in height possessing roughly the same intelligence as chimps. Bunnydogs are covered in the same "fur" as the worms and resemble pink or red rabbit-eared teddybears. Some Bunnydogs eventually become Bunnymen—a variant of bunnydogs that lack that fur and are about half again as tall, making them resemble bipedal rats—with a disposition to match. Not all bunnydogs mature into bunnymen, though both are capable of reproduction. All bunnydogs/bunnymen are male. Unlike practically all other Chtorran life forms, Bunnydogs are not particularly aggressive, and are playful towards humans and each other. Bunnydogs are bubbling with joyous energy and have a massive sex drive, bouncing around trying to have sex with everything around them, particularly libbits but also other animals.
  • Libbits: These quadrupeds resemble pigs. Short and squat, they are covered with red fur and are very docile. They have heavyset hind legs and while they normally walk on all fours, they can rear up and use their front limbs as hands. All Libbits are female. It was later discovered that Libbits and Bunnydogs/Bunnymen are actually male and female of the same species. Their reproductive process is strange—if a single Bunnyman mates with a Libbit she will give birth to a litter of Libbits, but if multiple Bunnymen mate with a Libbit, she will produce a litter of Bunnydogs.
    • Assimilated humans - humans infected by the neural symbionts turn into "zombie herds": aimless, docile, and capable of living within Chtorran mandelas (though the gastropedes will still randomly eat them from time to time, like a farmer eating his sheep). The fourth novel revealed that the later stages of Chtorran viral/parasitic infection actually mutate and transform humans into new bunnydogs and libbits - though the process is slow and they are still disturbingly recognizable as former humans for quite some time. Because bunnydogs and libbits only live a few years before being eaten by the gastropedes they reach sexual maturity very quickly. Human scientists were deeply disturbed to discover this by comparing aerial reconnaissance photos of Chtorran mandelas over a period of months and years: mutated but still recognizable five year old human boys transformed into adult bunnydogs, gleefully having sex with everything around them until eaten without protest by the resident gastropedes, while similarly aged girls mutated into near-sessile libbits, acting as breeding vats for a new generation of bunnymen/libbits. This is the ultimate form of co-existence that the gastropedes intend for humanity: fast-breeding domesticated cattle.
    • Bunnydogs and libbits only started appearing in the second novel, as a new layer of the Chtorran ecology - somewhat implying that there never were "original" bunnydogs and libbits, produced by the shambler tree wombs, but that every bunnydog and libbit seen in the series was actually a mutated/Chtorraformed human child. Characters in the second novel were also puzzled at why the Chtorrans were seemingly going out of their way to collect and corral human children instead of just eating them immediately (at least not all of them). Other scientists in the second novel point out how odd it is that the bunnydogs seem to be herbivores, yet still have forward-facing eyes like a predator animal (for stereoscopic vision), leading them to suspect that the Chtorrans mutated the bunnydogs out of some previous stock. It is also mentioned that recon missions into gastropede mandalas have found eggs for millipedes, jellypigs, snufflers, and gorps - but no mention has been made of bunnydog/libbit eggs.
  • Meeps: These are red furballs, ranging in size from tennis ball to bowling ball in diameter. Like another alien fuzzball envisioned by Gerrold, they reproduce very quickly, and possess many traits which induce adoration in other species. In the wild, mother animals of many species will actually abandon their young in order to take care of meeps — a potent adaptation indeed. Some scientists speculate that the bunnydogs essentially rely on the same tactic as the meeps in a sense: they are so disarmingly cute, literally resembling living teddy bears, that humans are reluctant to attack them.
  • Stingflies: One of the most common Chtorran creatures, stingflies resemble large mosquitoes. Although their bite is not very harmful to humans or animals, they can attack in swarms and do a large amount of damage. They lay their eggs on a Chtorran plant called a "wormberry" and hatch once in the stomach of whatever ate the berry. Gastropedes and other Chtorrans do not seem to be harmed by stingfly larva living in their bodies, but humans can die of painful ulcers and infections if they accidentally eat stingfly eggs. Stingflies are ubiquitous around gastropede mandelas, their swarms above them so large that they noticeably dim the sunlight in the sky. Through parallel evolution, stingflies operate much like mosquitoes as a vector for Chtorran viruses and bacteria: scientists believe that they were one of the major vectors that quickly spread the devastating plagues which began the invasion.
  • Nightstalkers: resemble large bats, and of roughly similar size to larger bats and birds of prey. They have a similar ecological niche to birds of prey, eating large rodents and the like.
  • Vampires: A very bizarre creature, essentially resembling a living tarp or translucent blanket fluttering in the wind. It eventually falls on large creatures (often cattle but also humans), and drains them of blood to feed, hence their name. These feedings aren't necessarily fatal but frequently are due to severe blood loss.
  • Jellypigs: Small, blob-like creatures that live off of nutrients found in dirt. Their part of the ecology seems to be to dig out the tunnels and underground areas necessary for many creatures to survive. They are only found in "clumps" of several dozen or more, and often several hundred. Jellypigs excavate tunnels by literally eating as much dirt as they can: when they eat so much they slow down, millipedes or gastropedes eat them - given that most of their mass by this point is actually soil, these other creatures then remove it from the nest when they defecate outside. Reproduction happens when jellypigs rub against one another in a clump, cross fertilizing small eggs contained just beneath the skin. When a jellypig stops moving for a certain amount of time, the babies eat their way out of the mother. Jellypigs seem to be genetically related to gastropedes and may be a simplified version of them or an evolutionary cousin; other reports indicate that millipedes may metamorphosize into them - or perhaps they are some sort of intermediate stage between millipede and gastropede.
  • Nest-boas - Snake-like creatures which inhabit gastropede mandelas. They are known to eat congregations of jellypigs, but otherwise, their exact role in the Chtorran ecology is not yet fully understood.
  • Snufflers: Relatively harmless to humans, snufflers are bipedal creatures ranging in size from chickens to ostriches. They somewhat resemble a headless chicken or a slug/snake mounted onto two legs. Their "neck" tapers off without a head into a circular, snout-like mouth, hence the name "snufflers". The end of their neck is ringed with eyestalks, but they do not possess a "head" as such. In more advanced gastropede mandelas, bunnymen actually ride snufflers as a basic form of transport. As observed in these more socially complex large settlements, snufflers are compared to house servants, and bunnydogs to pizza delivery men. Bunnydogs perform basic maintenance tasks on the tribal level, while on a family unit level, snufflers clean up dwellings by eating up any waste.
  • Gorps: These large creatures resemble sloths, but stand 10–15 feet tall, with disproportionately long arms and barrel chests. They emit a horrible smell (capable of destroying non-Chtorran life), and are mostly carrion eaters, though they do not always wait for their meals to die before they eat them. They are so-called for the noise they make, though they are also known by the military reporting name "Ghouls" due to their frightening dietary habits. Gorps are slow enough that humans can evade them fairly well, though they are lethal to anything within arm's reach.
  • Finger Babies: These small creatures are from one to two inches in length, and closely resemble humans. Their ecological niche appears to be that of an insect. The RPG sourcebook revealed that Finger Babies are actually embryonic Gorps.
  • Enterprise Fish: These are the largest Chtorran creatures known. These creatures go through the oceans, eating anything in their path. The upper size limit is unknown, but the largest one killed massed over one million tons, and far larger ones have been reported. An individual blamed for the near-sinking of the USS Nimitz was said to be at least twice the length of the aircraft carrier, making the fish over 2,000 feet long. At least 30 of them exist in the world's oceans as of the fifth novel, tracked by satellite, but due to their massive size and near-invulnerability they have reduced humanity's dominance of the oceans.

Chtorran plants[edit]

Some Chtorran life-forms are similar to plants or fungi, but many are carnivorous plants, or mobile animal-plant hybrids which defy easy categorization.

  • Shambler Trees: Chtorran trees that act as hosts to countless separate species of predatory creatures identified as "tenants". The trees are mobile, able to cover up to a half mile a day and leaving a root network of "tickler nerves" in their path. The "tickler nerves" alert a tree to approaching prey, which triggers the tenants to swarm and feed. Once the tenants eat their fill, the prey's remains will fertilize the root network. Ultimately, the trees become a Clonal colony or "Shambler Grove". At an undetermined point in their growth, a shambler grove may permanently stop in one area and grow a sort of womb beneath their roots where all the different Chtorran species will emerge. McCarthy theorized that the Chtorrans came to Earth by shambler seeds, which contains the DNA of every Chtorran lifeform. They are a complex and key element of Chtorran ecology on Earth, essentially acting as factories which can produce all of the other species after making planetfall - though subsequently species like the worms are capable of reproducing on their own without the shambler groves.
  • Manna plants: Small pink fungi that can rapidly blanket an area. During some seasons, the plant dries out and becomes brittle and powdery. It will dissipate when touched into powdery strands. The strands of many plants clump together into puffballs which can grow to enormous sized. Eventually, the puffballs explode into a fine powder compared to cotton candy. This creates a storm of powder that lasts about a week, during which the lower Chtorran fauna come out to feed and reproduce, which is then echoed all the way up the food chain. Most Earth animals and plants will die in a puffball storm, and humans will easily get lost and overwhelmed. They are perhaps the most subtly dangerous lifeform in the Chtorran ecosystem; the powder destroys machinery, as it is not only flammable, but (like grain dust) fine enough to act as a thermobaric weapon. The powder is every bit as hazardous to terrestrial animals as it is filled with Chtorran bacteria; exposure to it quickly results in an equivalent of Legionellosis known as "pink lung" that is 100% fatal within days of exposure without state-of-the-art treatment. As basic mushroom-like fungi in their simpler stages, scientists suspect that manna plants were among the first Cthorran life-forms to appear on Earth, acting as primary plant growth which established groundwork conditions for other Chtorran life forms birthed out of the shambler tree wombs. Retroactive analysis confirmed that there were reports of manna plants (thought to just be a new kind of fungus) years before the wave of plagues hit in the initial invasion.
  • Red Kudzu: Similar to the terrestrial plant, but red in color. This plant ranges from jet black to pink, red, violet, and orange. It grows extremely quickly and can cover an entire town in weeks. Its greatest danger is in its ability to shelter Chtorran predatory life—attempts to control its spread through napalm strikes are negated in days by further growth, but massive numbers of human remains have been found before it reclaims the scorched ground. All attempts to destroy it have failed, and it appears to be resistant to all known poisons. Red kudzu exists in a symbiotic, or at least mutualistic, relationship with shamble tree groves: the red kudzu grows in shambler branches and uses it for transport across large distances, and in return, the red kudzu provides the shambler and its tenant creatures with shade from the sun and predators. This is not true symbiosis: the red kudzu can potentially envelop a shambler to the point that it is immobilized and dies (particularly younger ones), but the shambler tenants regularly eat the red kudzu. In a delicate balance, the tenants eat just enough of the red kudzu to keep it from immobilizing the shambler grove, but without outright killing off the red kudzu. It is noted that the red kudzu
  • Wormberries - an important part of the gastropedes' diet, which stingflies lay their larvae on. The fact that gastropedes continue to eat them despite the constant presence of stingfly larva implies that they are a keystone element in the gastropedes' nutritional needs. Humans can safely eat wormberries - if grown in isolation so no stingfly larva are present. They are actually a good source of Vitamin C, though they are said to have an odd taste described as a cross between "cherries and sauerkraut".
  • Shrike-vines: A rubbery mass of coiled vines covered in spikes which is capable of movement on its own, somewhat like a venus flytrap, but more of an animal/plant hybrid. Shrike-vines are ambush predators that are frequently encountered as "tenants" in shambler tree groves, though they can also appear independently from them.
  • Revelation flowers: Blue and red flowers that, when ingested, put a person into a state of intense euphoria. People undergoing "Revelations" view Chtorran flora and fauna as beautiful, and seek to become part of it. They are often used by the renegade humans to somehow understand Chtorrans.
  • Land coral - Much like Terran coral, they are actually colonies of small animals that build reef-like structures: towering edifices which can reach 20 meters high and several miles long. Land coral is tougher than granite and halts the progress of human vehicles, from bulldozers to treaded tanks. For that matter, they are so tough that even the gastropedes cannot simply tear through them.
  • Lizard-grass - Alive, lizard-grass is a relatively harmless blue-green grass which can grow 8 inches high. After the plant dies, however, the dried leaves become razor-sharp and dangerous to walk through. Vast swaths of the North American Great Plains and Eurasian Steppe have been subsumed by lizard-grass as far as the eye can see.

First and second editions[edit]

There are two distinctly different editions of the first two books in this series. The first edition was released in 1983 by Timescape Books. This edition was edited by the publisher and removed several items which they objected to. All of the chapter introductions (the "Solomon Short" quotations) and several pages of homosexual content were removed. The same thing was done to the 1984 release of A Day for Damnation.

In 1989, David Gerrold made a new publishing contract with Bantam Books. This time, both A Matter for Men and A Day for Damnation were released with all redacted content restored.

Connections to other Gerrold works[edit]

Many characters and ideas from other works by David Gerrold have made appearances in this series. Amongst them are H.A.R.L.I.E. (from the book When HARLIE Was One), tribbles (from Star Trek, disguised as Meeps), and the Space Elevator (from the book Bouncing Off the Moon).

The reverse is also true—there are references to the series in other Gerrold novels. In Bouncing Off the Moon, there is a mention of a woman in Oregon claiming that a giant worm ate her horse, along with numerous passages about plagues spreading across the Earth, also suggesting that the two stories take place in the same story universe. References to the series also appear in the Star Wolf novels, such as Chtorrans proper and a self-help guru named Daniel Jeffrey Foreman, suggesting the two series exist in the same universe. In Gerrold's 1977 novel Moonstar Odyssey, there is a reference to "Chtorr-plants" "...named for the legendary place of child-eating demons from which they were supposed to have come" and having an alternate form of photosynthesis. Reference to the Chtorr or Chtorr-like species and situations also pop-up in Gerrold's 1993 book Under the Eye of God and its 1994 sequel A Covenant of Justice.

Naming of characters[edit]

For Season for Slaughter, Gerrold named several characters after actual people, who donated handsomely to Gerrold's favorite charities for the privilege ("tuckerization"). Gerrold had not thought to repeat the effort, but as work on Method for Madness progressed, he received so many fan inquiries about "buying a character" that he decided to do it again. Prior to that, In A Rage For Revenge, Gerrold included several characters, particularly children who were fated to be eaten by worms, named after friends he had made when attending his first UK Star Trek conventions.

References[edit]

External links[edit]