Friday, 28 June 2013

An Interview with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra Series - Part 3

Part Three – Translation Nodes and the Granda Node

Question:  Helena Puumala, what gave you the idea for the translation nodes in the Kati of Terra series, and especially the cantankerous old Granda Node?

Answer:  Well, the translation nodes were my response to the problem of language barriers among alien species.  I didn’t want to go down the mechanical translation device route, so I decided that my translation devices would be living organisms.  The translation nodes are posited to be small conscious nuggets of the Brain Planet.  The Brain Planet is an intensely curious planetary organism which wants to learn all it can about the galaxy in which it resides.  To that end, it developed a symbiotic relationship with the various human and other sentient species, providing nodes which augment their hosts’ brains, particularly in the matter of the knowledge of existing  languages and the rapid acquisition of new languages.  In return, it learns about the galaxy and its inhabitants, when the nodes go back to the Brain Planet.  This arrangement is a longstanding one, which developed in the distant past.  Currently, the Star Federation mediates the arrangement.  This is one of its most important functions, but by no means the only one.

Question:  Most nodes just reside in an individual’s nervous system, augmenting various perceptual and cognitive abilities, but the Granda Node (who by the way, is a great character) is different.  How does that work?

Answer:  In general, a Granda has a personality and a consciousness that allows it to interact with the host, as a separate entity within the host’s mind.  Granda Nodes develop this by living for many lifetimes among other sentient species, as they tend to assimilate some of the host characteristics the longer they are away from the Brain Planet.  Only a very small proportion of nodes choose to do this - nobody knows why. 

Question:  It sounds like that could be uncomfortable at times, for the host if not for the Granda.

Answer:  Yes indeed, as Kati learns very quickly when she escapes from the slave spaceship, the Granda having been “accidentally” implanted in her nervous system.   The Granda becomes something of a foil to Kati.  Where she is somewhat naïve and innocent, it is cynical and of a somewhat criminal disposition.  It has spent several lifetimes on the fringe worlds, mostly shuttling among the low-lifes and criminal elements of these planets.  But nodes, even Granda Nodes, are dependent on the host’s nervous system, and therefore must accept the decisions and direction of the host mind, being in a distinctly subservient position.  Though Granda Nodes can be awkward for the host, they also are very knowledgeable and talented, so the benefits of a Granda generally outweigh the drawbacks.

Question:  But Kati’s Granda Node makes more than one attempt to have the final say in their relationship, especially when dangerous weaponry is in view.  How does Kati handle its “bad boy” nature?

Answer:  Basically, she just has to be on her guard not to let it stealthily take control.  It’s not easy, but she gets better at it as time goes by.  The first incident comes as a shock, when she senses the Granda’s obsessive blood lust and its fascination with dangerous weaponry.  She has to struggle to stay in charge, all the more so as she is an abductee from distant Earth and is therefore entirely unfamiliar with any of this.  The Granda is not above trying to take advantage of that fact.  Fortunately Mikal is no stranger to nodes in general, and as a Star Federation Peace Officer he certainly knows about Granda Nodes and their various proclivities for good and ill.  So, that helps Kati to deal with the situation.

 Question:  And the Granda doesn’t care much for Mikal because of that, does he?

Answer:  No, he considers Mikal to be an interfering pacifist, and a wimp to boot.  But he eventually comes to understand that the Peace Officer is very capable of handling himself in difficult and dangerous situations, even to the point of using non-deadly force when necessary.  The Granda develops a grudging respect for Mikal, though he would have preferred Kati to have fallen in with a James Bond type agent, once he learns of that character via Kati’s memories, which he can access.  After all, the Granda loves weapons and gadgets.

Question:  That brings up the tricky point of the Granda sharing Kati’s mental space, while she is in love with Mikal and all that implies.  Things could get awkward.

Answer:  To a node, love and sex are just more intellectual information about human beings to report back to the Brain Planet.  Emotionally, the Granda is something like a pre-adolescent boy on that score, who just has no interest in romantic interactions.  With a mental shrug, he departs the scent for more interesting contemplations when things heat up between Kati and Mikal.  Perhaps that’s one reason why the Granda eventually personifies as a monk, in Kati’s visualizations of it.

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