Gallery – The Grondargian Porpule


Alien Artifacts - The Grondargian Porpule

2004 - Bryce Render

This piece is one of my explorations that combines some visual art with some other creative endeavor.  In this case, writing.  I like to think of these as “Oh, and then this happened…” pieces, because that’s how it usually goes.  I’ll be working on some visual art or a piece of writing and then my muse taps me on my shoulder and says “Hey! Look over here. This is happening too.” 

For “The Grondargian Porpule” the image came first, then the story.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  Sometimes I’m in the middle of one and the other part barges in and demands some attention for a time and the parts end-up chasing each other around like playful kittens.  However it happens, the parts all become part of “the piece” at some point.  

Alien Artifact Tales – The Grondargian Porpule
copyright 2004 James Allen

This flatpic is from the collection of noted xenoarchaeologist Stephen Arrens. When I asked him about it’s history and origins, he had this to say…

“Ah yes, I remember this one well. We discovered this most unusual piece on Betelgeuse VII. It was the year 711 GUT [Galactic Universal Time] and Rowan and I had just come from a particularly hair-raising bit of adventure in the Fomalhaut system, where a leak in our ship’s head caused us to make a forced landing on the fourth planet of that system. Let me give you a piece of advice. Never buy a ship with a Recycoilet. They are cantankerous, fragile and, at times, downright rebellious. Not, as you might imagine, a good combination for an onboard toilet. When the blasted thing vented our entire ship’s water supply into space I thought we were goners. And why does a supposedly closed recycling system have a hull vent anyway? That’s what I’d like to know! What a pain in the… *cough* uh, but I seem to have digressed.

Right, so what you’re seeing here is the Grondargian Porpule of the long extinct Witheren Folk of Betelgeuse VII. Now, as you may be aware, the Witheren Folk are a most ancient people, extinct now for many millions of years, presumably since the superheated outer shell of Betelgeuse expanded and engulfed their world. Bet7 is a real hellhole of a world. And I can’t help but note that most of the worlds I’ve visited while pursuing my passion for xenoarchaeology are hellholes. Arid, dry, and lifeless, burning hot or frigid wastelands – great for preserving ruins, but generally not the kind of place you’d go for a relaxing holiday. Of course, there was the tropical paradise world of Fintabula. We had no idea it was inhabitated when we dropped ship there. The occupants are technologically quite primitive, but very friendly and quite remarkably well endowed in their, ah, physical aspect. Also, they are possessed of the most amazing ideas about hospitality. Would you believe that every day, after the warm oil massage, they would take each guest by the… ahem, well, yes…a story for another time perhaps.

As I was saying about Bet7 – horrible place for a holiday, but a great place for ruins. And a lot of them we found too. Very few of the structures there remained intact, but we found a few caches of documents in some underground vaults. After several weeks of work we managed to decipher a good bit of their language and eventually came across references to a mysterious artifact called, as I mentioned previously, the Grondargian Porpule. One of the documents related the planetary coordinates for the artifact. We went there and found… well, you can see it for yourself in that flatpic you’re viewing. Glowing, polished and pulsing with energy, resting in the midst of a flat green plain that stretched for miles in every direction. After millions of years it appeared as though it had just been made yesterday. No. Actually more like it would be made tomorrow – it was that perfect. Bizarre and awesome it was. We spent many days trying to gain some clue to its purpose, but to no avail. Rowan and I tried numerous approaches to interacting with it. Cautiously at first, but increasing in, umm, zeal, as our frustration grew. Nothing we could do seemed to affect it any way. By the same token, it seemed to have no effect on anything else. Well, except being fascinating to look upon, of course, and that we spent many hours doing.

A week after we upped ship from Bet7, Rowan came to me with an expression somewhere between perplexed and hysterically amused. “You remember those language documents I’ve been translating?” she asked. “Well, I think I’ve just pieced together the meaning for Grondargian Porpule.”

“Really!” I exclaimed. “That’s tremendous news Rho! Is the mystery solved then?”

“Perhaps,” she replied with a laugh “but it’s not quite what we were expecting. As near as I can make out, Grondargian Porpule means, roughly at any rate, ‘a bloody useless thing we built that does absolutely nothing, but, hey, at least it doesn’t wear out’.”

I gaped at her.

“You know Stephen,” she said bemusedly, “I think this may explain why we’ve not found anything in the Witheren language that corresponds to the word ‘Art’.”