by Simon and Philip Hibbs, with help from the larryniven-l list
The Tnuctipun Plot (TTP) started out as a post to the larryniven-l list, and to alt.books.larry-niven.
Part 1 of this text is pretty much the original text of the post, with only minor corrections.
Part 2 consists of a number of elaborations on the plot.
Part 1: The Basic Plot
by Simon Hibbs
A few things bother me about the outcome of the war between the Tnuctipun and the
Thrintun [see Tnuctipun-Slaver War]. The Tnuctipun must have
realised that victory was not guaranteed. Surely, they must have had a backup plan?
This post is not intended to be the last word on the Thrintun plans. It's all simply a series of unsubstantiated
hypotheses and theories. I'm sure there are holes in my arguments, and I'm not claiming any particular authority
or expertise in the study of known space.
I came up with this theory long before reading
"Down in Flames", but whereas DiF relies on discarding or modifying 'known' facts about known space
from some of the novels, I have worked as closely as I can within the accepted known space corpus of material.
I openly welcome comments on the following article, either supporting or rebutting any of the points raised. I hope
you have as much fun reading it as I had dreaming it up.
The Tnuctipun plot :
Genetically modify various food yeast strains with pre-programmed genes to jump-start the
evolution process, and guide subsequent evolution down certain paths. Food yeast strain programmes are tailored to
the planet's environment. This is why terran biology and Pak homewold biology are so compatible— they share
the same pre-programmed evolutionary sequence. See end notes for details.
The food yeast evolutionary programs are designed to simultaneously (in evolutionary terms) produce sentient life
forms on many different worlds throughout the galaxy.
Precipitate a galaxy-wide civil war against the Thrintun, but secretly put the Tnuctipun homeworlds into
stasis in the galactic rim, out of harm's way.
Set the homeworld stasis fields to switch off after the development of sentient life forms, but before the life
forms have had time to develop more than rudimentary interstellar technologies (by comparison with the Tnuctipun,
anyway). Say, about 2 billion years. This also leaves enough time for the suicide command to fade, including any
echoes off nearby galaxies.
Seed the galactic core with anti-matter bombs timed to trigger a core explosion at about
the same time as the homeworlds are due to come out of stasis.
Run a planetary shield technology 'protection racket', saving a selection of the evolved species. This will place
them in debt to the Tnuctipun, the new 'saviours' of galactic civilisation. An ideal starting point for a program of
total galactic domination.
Rule a galactic empire, populated with slave and prey species.
Secondary Hypotheses :
The starseeds were designed by the Tnuctipun as biological probes. Their life cycle takes
them from the galactic rim to the core and back. When the Tnuctipun come out of stasis in the galactic rim, they
can examine the starseed's breeding patterns and remains, which form a continuous record of conditions in the
galactic core, and indeed the rest of the galaxy, over the last few billion years. The core phase of the starseed's
life cycle is designed to be dependent on interaction with the core explosion triggering mechanisms. This way, all
the Tnuctipun need to do to check on the status of the core detonation systems is examine the starseeds.
This is why the Outsiders are so interested in the starseeds. The starseed nesting
sites in the rim are a clue to the locations of the Tnuctipun homeworlds. Perhaps the Outsiders developed the starseed
lure in order to interfere with the Tnuctipun plans?
The Tnuctipun must be aware of the dangers presented by Thrint that survived the great war in stasis. Indeed, one of their
strategies was to force Thrint warships into stasis, thus taking them out of the fight during battles. Some of these warships
are bound to have survived. Perhaps the Tnuctipun have a method of safely destroying stasis field boxes,
without opening them? After they bring their homeworlds out of stasis, they could trigger a device that collapses all the
stasis fields in the galaxy into singularities— bye, bye, Thrintun!
The Tnuctipun designed many strains of food yeast, tailored to the conditions on different worlds. Even the yeasts
for similar worlds were sometimes varied to minimise the damage done if a particular strain proved to be flawed. The
food yeast nuclei contained vast libraries of genetic code designed to activate in a programmed sequence. This accelerated
the evolutionary process, and guided evolution in certain desirable directions. This is why we have so many seemingly
redundant genes— the 'extra' genes are actually the libraries of Thrintun designed code. Pakhome and Terra must
have been seeded with the same yeast strain, this is why human (Pak) molecular biology is so compatible with terran biology.
Unexplained mass extinctions in prehistory were caused by the timed release of viruses from the DNA libraries.
Each phase of evolution is allowed to continue until certain species have evolved to a particular stage, then the viruses
wipe out undesired species, freeing up evolutionary niches for the next phase.
I'm not suggesting that the Thrintun could control evolution to such an extent that they could control the specific
characteristics of the 'end product' species beyond general biological parameters. Their aim was probably just to accelerate
the evolutionary process, and make sure it resulted in sentient species within a desired time frame. This is just enough to
ensure that terran and Pakhome biochemistry will be highly compatible.
The Tnuctipun would have spread individual strains widely apart, to prevent a star faring species from finding
biologies that were too similar for it to be a coincidence. The fact that the Pak colonists found
Earth was pure luck. (!)
The Trinocs are a bit of a problem because their biology is so different from anyone
else's. Perhaps their world suffered a catastrophic trauma such as an asteroid impact or a geological event that wrecked
the Thrintun tailored gene program. Perhaps the Trinocs were designed to be the way they are after all. Who knows?
There really aren't many suspects when it comes to figuring out who the Ringworld Engineers
were. None of the main Known Space species fit the bill, including the Puppeteers. This only
leaves a few possibilities:
The Tnuctipun — These guys are a possibility, but why would they build the ring? It's certainly
not two billion years old and the idea that some Tnuctipun would come out of stasis and build a ring then go away again
is bizarre. However, it may well have been built using Tnuctipun technology.
The Pak — Favourite contenders with many, The Pak are resourceful and ingenious. They also certainly
colonised the ring at some point, though breeders may have been seeded there by an external agency. Still, why would they
do it? No particularly brilliant reasons spring to mind. There are at least six good reasons why not.
Note that this is pretty much all my own theorising, building on TTP, none of this has any solid basis in Larry Niven's writings.
The Outsiders inhabit most of the nearby galaxies. They were around in this galaxy at the time of the
Slaver Empire, and when the Thrintun discovered them, they ordered the Tnuctipun to wipe them out
(they couldn't stand the fact that Outsiders are immune to the Power). This the Tnuctipun dutifully
did, but some of the free Tnuctipun got some ideas from the Outsider physiology. They used what they learned to breed the
starseeds, which they would later use as a mechanism for monitoring the conditions at the galactic core. The Slaver war
happens, and for a billion years there is nothing but evolving food yeast and starseeds in the galaxy. Then some more
Outsiders show up— the Tnuctipun never knew that they were an intergalactic race.
They spot the starseeds, and realise that something very strange is happening in this galaxy. So, they follow the starseeds,
and over the course of a billion years, work out what they are up to. This puts the willies up the outsiders— something
wiped out their kin in this galaxy, and it's still around! This won't do. So, they set about preparing to deal with these
impertinent hotlife when they show up again. They notice the Pak, and their colony world (Earth), and have the idea that
these protectors can be used as an anti-Tnuctipun device. They build the ring, and populate it. In order that their
precious plan doesn't get disturbed, they monitor any traffic going towards or away from the ring, and make sure that
no protectors are among them.
They spot the Home protectors heading off on a genocide mission towards the core, and this distracts them from the ring
long enough for the inhabitants to sneak off with a load of attitude jets. Maybe the Home protectors defeat the Outsiders,
and this screws up their plans in a big way. The remainder of the Outsiders decide to abandon this galaxy to its fate,
maybe drop in for a look in another billion years, and stop worrying about the ring. They therefore allow the Puppeteers
to find it. The stage is set for a four-way battle between:
The Pak (they hate everybody)
Humans, Puppeteers, Kzin, Kdatlyno, etc.
The various hominid Protectors, who have a real hard time working out whose side to be on, the Pak and Tnuctipun
are the most serious enemies, and kicking off against the hominids' various allies and neighbours is just asking
When did the Pak come to Earth? Niven tells us that they came this way three times:
The colony ship that came here two million years ago, bringing our ancestors, which failed due to the tree-of-life
(TOL) crop failing.
Phssthpok's rescue mission, based on an ancient laser message in an obsolete language, which says that they found
what they thought was a suitable planet, but that TOL would not grow properly.
The Pak fleet that Brennan-monster discovered, and Truesdale and the Home protectors went
off to intercept.
We only have Truesdale's word for this last one, there has been no corroborating evidence since. I'm unsure whether
the warning message that comprises the last couple of pages of Protector ever got to humanity.
This still leaves unexplained the overwhelming similarity between Earth and Pak biology. Garner and Sohl said to Brennan
that there is considerable evidence that we evolved here alongside everything else, and all that Brennan says is "I
have a few ideas about that". That is absolutely typical of protector mentality, he presumed that we would not
understand, or it would take to long to explain— we're like children to them.
In my opinion, there must have been a prior pak expedition to Earth. Lets presume it was 65 million years ago. They had
no idea what they were going to find out here, there might not be anything that was remotely edible to a breeder. So,
they would bring along a potted ecosystem— everything from viruses and bacteria, through plankton, plants, insects,
fish, scavengers, herbivores and maybe the odd carnivore, but maybe not. Plus, of course, breeders.
They found Earth, full of dinosaurs, and decided that it was probably the best bet. It may have started from the
same food yeast strain, which would help. They seed the environment with all the enabling lifeforms, which begin
adapting the atmosphere, reducing the oxygen content towards a comfortable level, and killing off the dinosaurs as
it did so. Once the place was getting towards being suitable for habitation, they established a base on the planet,
and moved out of orbit. The protective wrapping of an atmosphere is better than any shielding device that they had.
However, something goes wrong. An enormous meteor suddenly appears, and BOOM— all their breeders get wiped out.
They do the decent thing, and send a laser message back to the Pak homeworld, telling them that there's a planet here
that will soon be ripe for colonisation. The library protectors file it away, and it is lost for sixty million years.
A tiny fragment of this message, almost entirely illegible but just enough can be decoded to work out that is contains
instructions on how to get to a particular planet, is found— and the second expedition is launched. By Phssthpok's
time, no trace of the original mission can be found, it is all lost in among the details of the second mission.