I have been thinking about baboons again lately, and read Robert Sapolsky's book, 'A Primate's Memoir'.
Robert Sapolsky is this brilliant neurobiologist at Stanford University who I came across when I was first training for my current job in October/November 2010. He was giving a lecture (which is on Youtube) about 'the uniqueness of humans' and it was one of the videos we were given to practise our respeaking. He talks at a hundred miles an hour and throws in anecdotes and side comments all over the place, so needless to say, I tended to miss a lot of his content in those early days of attempted transcription.
After I watched that video, I raided Youtube and Google for anything else that had him in it, which included a lecture about the nature of depression, and plenty of good stuff about the endangerment of neurons by chronic stress. I managed to get a couple of his books from the university library, but 'A Primate's Memoir' wasn't there.
The other week I made an account on Kobo so I could finally get hold of and read 'Who Censored Roger Rabbit?' (the book which inspired 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', of course) which I had been wanting to read for about 20 years, ever since I saw the little note in the end credits of the movie that said it was based on a book.
And so I also bought Primate's Memoir. Sapolsky spends part of every year in Kenya, taking blood samples of baboons to test theories about how chronic social stress impacts on physical health. So his story was about the baboons he studied, as well as the people he's met, and the way things are in Africa (generally pretty rubbish, because humans are depressing). Generally, male baboons are much bigger and musclier than the females, have massive canine teeth, and spend their time scheming and fighting to get to the top of the hierarchy. And when they get bested in a fight, they go and work out their feelings by beating up a female. Who then whacks someone below her, who whacks someone below them. Apparently they have very litte impulse control in most situations.
In 2001, after I finished school, I started trying to write a novel about sort-of baboon-inspired people, although they had horsey ears and prehensile tails. They were called 'hruun' (plural 'hruunebi', '-ebi' because it makes an interesting non-English plural marker and 'hruun' because of 'horse-baboon'). I split up the secondary sex characteristics of the male baboons such that the males got the manes and larger size, but the females got the big, nasty teeth. The females also got to be the dominant, aggressive sex. They also got spiky genitals which made them effectively impossible to rape, and indeed, able to assault the males if they wished. The males were in charge of gestating the babies, by means of a sort of parasitic capsule laid by the females, known as a babynut.
I suspect having the females be smaller is a biology fail - in species where the females are dominant, they tend to be the larger, stronger sex. I don't know if being smaller and nastier and on the 'be promiscuous to maximise offspring' side of the equation is enough, if a male is still big enough that the basic laws of physics are on his side.
The theoretical aim of the plot was to get a male, 'masculinist' playwright hruun to be shipwrecked on an island inhabited by a similar but non-civilised sapient species, where the sex roles were the other way around - one powerful male being in charge of a harem of females, which I think gestated babies more like Earth placental mammals. And he would end up having Interesting Relations with one of those males. There were also two other hruunebi - a female pirate captain and a male whore.
I never actually finished that story, although I did do a comic in which a young priest has a fling in a queer pub and comes back later to try and set fire to it in a fit of fundamentalist angst.
The main character in the story, the innocent social-activist playwright, was named Raadjara (/ra'd͡ʒaːra/ in IPA, in spite of the long-looking vowel at the start), which was a deliberate pinch from a rat-person character named Rathcarha in a story I started when I was a kid. This was inspired by Star Wars, and Rathcarha was supposedly one of two individuals who had Started All The Trouble way back when. As far as I got in the story, he was a kid and his friend had just shown him a forbidden mind-controlled(?) weapon he had gotten from somewhere. The other individual was named Kastranori, and I think he was an older general of a related species of rat-people (that had an extra set of eyes on stalks). Presumably Rathcarha was going to Become His Enemy Even As He Sought To Destroy Him. (I wonder what this is called on TV Tropes)
So, anyway, the Rathcarha/Raadjara continuum is fun to get out of the closet every 10 years or so and see what new amusing shapes it can be twisted into.
Maybe I could make them quadrupedal this time, and more physically like baboons, except for the horsey ears, which I like. I also like the colour schemes they come in. In the original story, there were three races - the tiger-striped ones, the gold ones and the dark brown ones. And then there were the other people, who are black like gorillas.
I'd still like the stripy one to meet the black one, but I don't know if they still build sailing ships. There could be some sort of humanoids that keep the hruunebi as pets or guards, and some of them are pets of pirates and others the pets of the traders that the pirates attack. And then the ship gets sunk and the surviving pets float ashore and meet their cousins, the wild black ones. It could potentially be set in a tropical region of the same world as Dark Lord's Garden, thus including the potential for amusing magic animals.
Maybe I'll do something with it.