Meet Thyron, a Flora Peda Telepathis
Creating engaging characters is not only important to a story’s success, but fun and challenging. Sometimes it takes deliberate thought and hard work to figure out everything about him or her: hair and eye color, quirks, talents, weaknesses, favorite comfort food. However, knowing your characters intimately brings them to life, at which point they help write the story. I love it when that happens!
Thyron, a flora peda telepathis (telepathic walking plant) who appears throughout the Star Trails Tetralogy, was different. I didn’t have to go through a long, drawn-out, creative process to bring him to life. Rather, it was more like Pallas Athene, who burst forth from her father, Zeus’s, head as an adult (clothed in battle armor, no less–no wonder he had a headache).
In other words, Thyron showed up fully developed. Getting to know him was more a matter of discovery than creativity. I knew immediately that he could shuffle about, had eyes, and communicated telepathically, usually in rhyme. In spite of being nearly omniscient, he was naive due to his lack of experience. He hailed from a planet named Sapphira, which was populated by pygmies who didn’t have a spoken, much less written, language. As the most intelligent species on that planet, the flora peda telepathes were worshipped as gods. No ego trip there!
As reviewers began to mention Thyron as their favorite, considering he’s a minor character in the series, I realized he deserved more attention. Thus, I wrote a short story that explained how his path came to cross with Creena’s, protagonist in Beyond the Hidden Sky. In A Dark of Endless Days, he and another minor character, the robot, Aggie, wind up at Area 51. Clearly, that story needed to be told as well. And thus the seed was planted for The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51.
Getting into Thyron’s head was a trip and a half, trying to figure out how he would perceive Earth and us earthlings. Here’s an excerpt when personnel at Hill Air Force Base placed the chamber in which he’d been secured in a shipping box:
Two others arrived, measured the chamber, then quickly constructed a box similar to the others… As he was lowered within its depths, Thyron hyper-photosynthesized with horror–he was surrounded by material that had once been the living tissue of a very unfortunate tree. His villous leaves tingled with revulsion as he sensed screams emanating from the wood’s coarse grain, his mind assaulted by the vision of it being murdered in its prime–cut down, stripped of its bark, then mutilated to suit the demented purposes of humans.
A few scenes later, he was horrified again:
Everyone left except two helmeted MPs. The pair took up stations just outside the open door, weapons slung over their shoulders while they engaged in muffled conversation. One removed a small human-finger-sized cylindrical roll of vegetal materials from a package in one of his pockets, then offered one to the other, after which he lit the bundle with a tiny flame and began to inhale the smoldering vapors, emanating considerable pleasure as he did so.
Thyron gasped, horrified. He’d felt fear vicariously, but never experienced it personally before. Now it gripped him at a visceral limb-chilling level as he considered the many ways people on this dreadful world tortured vegetation. Would they do the same to him? He shuddered with the realization he was probably about to find out.
When Thyron arrives at Area 51, astrobiologist, Gabe Greenley (another character who just showed up) begins to check him out. Gabe’s favorite expression is “Holy guacamole!” which Thyron assumes to be the scientist’s personal diety. Thyron isn’t exactly the usual lab specimen, given he’s sentient and Gabe is psi-sensitive, so the two can communicate. The relationship that developed between them surprised even me. My biggest challenge with this story, given the characters were essentially self-animating, was when Gabe started his scientific investigation.
I pride myself in writing hard science fiction with a generous side-order of science. As a physicist, I knew precious little about botany. To make a long story short, researching and integrating the science side took as long as writing the story! To my delight, however, what I discovered included a generous blast of serendipity.
The plant I decided to model Thyron after was oxalis. As I learned about its properties, as well as the photosynthesis process in general, I encountered numerous fun facts that dove-tailed with Thyron so beautifully that they fit the category “you can’t make this stuff up.” Even his name, which he’d had long before I’d learned anything about plant physiology, had meaning, given that thylakoids are the part of a plant that receives light, and Thyron’s entire journey in this series was about attaining enlightenment. I discovered that oxalis has medicinal properties after I’d assumed such in the story, as well as the fact that it’s not unheard of for plants to have some level of perception, including defense systems.
A lot of humor arose in the interactions between Thyron and Gabe. I think I had more fun writing this side-story than the entire series. Interestingly enough, I’d started writing the final (I think) book of the series prior to this one, but something told me to stop and write The Terra Debacle. By the time I finished, I realized what a large part it plays in the final wrap-up of what has been a long journey.
This is what happens when you have characters that take over the writing process. I love it when that happens.
Marcha Fox is an avid science fiction fan and author with over 20 years’ experience in positions ranging from technical writer to engineer to manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in physics, which was but a prelude to her interest in the unexplained mysteries of the cosmos. Inspired by science fiction to pursue a career in a technical field, she hopes to instill the same fascination in young readers, while providing older ones with classic hard science fiction.
Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family, which included fifteen years as a stay-at-home mom before returning to college in her 30s to obtain her degree, a feat accomplished while she still had six children at home. All are now grown with children of their own providing her with 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren so far. Never at a loss for something to do, besides writing she’ a professional astrologer who enjoys gardening, her two Bengal cats and a sassy tuxedo, and keeping up with family.
Blurb: Thyron is a flora peda telepathis (telepathic walking plant) from the planet Sapphira on an adventure gone terribly wrong. The bad decision of a human girl and her maniacal robot companion has stranded them on Earth, where his botanical cousins face horrible fates such as consumption by herbivores, incineration, and brutal annihilation for use as building material.
Following capture, Thyron is transported to Area 51, where NASA exobiologist, Gabe Greenley, studies his every move, ecstatic with the opportunity to examine an entirely new lifeform. In due course, the scientist makes a ground-breaking discovery, distressed by the fact he can never share it due to his security oaths and research agreement. Eventually, he’s confronted by an even worse ethical dilemma that forces him to make a treasonous and potentially deadly decision.
Will Thyron’s psychic powers be enough to save him? Is Greenley friend or foe? Or does the exobiologist have a few secrets of his own?
Find out in this unique combination of hard science fiction, suspense, and a touch of humor populated with memorable characters in a setting loaded with intrigue. Unexpected plot twists coupled with a unique ending make this an unforgettable tale whether you’re a science fiction fan, botanist, UFO aficionado, or simply enjoy a good story.