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Encyclopedia > Moties

Moties are a fictional species featured in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's SF novels The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. Image File history File links Please see the file description page for further information. ... Bury, Horace Hussein Chamoun al-Shamlan: Imperial Trader and Magnate; Chairman of the Board, Imperial Autonetics Ltd; native of the planet Levant; educated on Sparta, the Imperial capital; owner of the space yacht Sinbad. ... Laurence van Cott Niven (born April 30, 1938 Los Angeles, California) is a US science fiction author. ... Jerry Pournelle at the 2006 Stanford Singularity Summit Jerry Pournelle, (born August 7, 1933) is an American essayist, journalist and science fiction author who contributed for many years to the computer magazine Byte. ... Cover of 1991-03-01 paperback edition The Mote in Gods Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, was called possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read by Robert A. Heinlein. ... The Gripping Hand is a 1993 novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. ...


Motie physiology

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Inhabiting the planet Mote Prime and most of the habitable orbiting bodies in Mote System, as well as many artificial orbiting constructs, the Moties' primary distinguishing physical feature is their specialization into castes. This combines with their high fertility to make them extremely dangerous to any other species with which they might compete for living space. Castes mentioned in the chronicles include Mediators, Engineers, Warriors, Doctors, Runners, Porters, Farmers and Meats. All of these castes will be in the entourage of a Master. Feral forms have also been observed. Engineers use the semi-intelligent Watchmaker caste (called "miniatures" by the crew of MacArthur) as mobile tools. Where a Human can to a greater or lesser degree carry out all or any of these functions, a Motie of a given specialisation is (to a Human) astoundingly skilled in it. Caste systems are traditional, hereditary systems of social stratification, enforced by law or common practice, based on classifications such as occupation, race, ethnicity, etc. ... Depiction of the INSS MacArthur, based on the Lief Ericson space cruiser model kit. ...

Moties alternate between being male and female. A female Motie will revert to male after giving birth, changing back to female after a time. At some point the female must become pregnant again or else the hormone imbalance will kill her. This naturally forces Moties to become pregnant whenever possible.

The Moties' high fertility drives extremely rapid population growth, which causes wars in the competition for resources. The consequences of the wars cause population collapse, and this cycle is repeated when civilization recovers. These 'Cycles' have been going on for perhaps a million Earth years, and all Moties believe that they cannot be broken - Moties give the name "Crazy Eddie" to those among themselves who have developed the belief that such a break is possible, and regard them as insane. Cover of 1991-03-01 paperback edition The Mote in Gods Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, was called possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read by Robert A. Heinlein. ...

Since Moties have been a space-based creature for an incredibly long time, at some point they evolved the basic Motie body plan to change from a symmetrical (possibly four-armed) to an asymmetrical layout. Most Moties have two right arms and a much heavier left arm. A form with two human-scale left arms and a heavy right arm occurs when a motie is born left-handed. The gripping hand has only three large fingers, while the other two smaller hands have six each — four fingers and two opposable thumbs. By analogy with humans counting in base-10 supposedly as a result of their having ten digits, it can be posited that Moties count in base-12 as a result of their two right hands having twelve digits. Handedness is an attribute of human beings defined by their unequal distribution of fine motor skill between the left and right hands. ...

Moties have no spine, instead simply having three bones which perform a similar purpose. During first contact with humans, the Moties found the spine to be of great interest. Moties also have no shoulders, the arms instead attach directly to the head. The heavy attachment for the strong gripping left hand causes the head to become permanently tilted to that side. The vertebral column seen from the side Different regions (curvatures) of the vertebral column The vertebral column (backbone or spine) is a column of vertebrae situated in the dorsal aspect of the abdomen. ...

Motie castes

Motie castes are physically distinct, and differ in coloring, body size and the number and size of the arms. Some of the castes, such as the Masters and Engineers, in some cases so different genetically that they form separate species, can produce offspring together, but the offspring are usually sterile, as with the Mediators. Obedience has been bred into the inferior castes, so Engineers will obey Masters and Mediators without question, while Watchmakers take instruction from Engineers. Warriors can only be controlled by Masters, and their Master's Mediators. Even then it takes a certain number of Masters to control an army of Warriors. In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biodiversity. ...

From time to time in Motie history attempts have been made to eliminate some of the dangerous castes, but these have never succeeded. Some Master has always kept a small breeding stock, from which the numbers have been rapidly replenished.

Each of the listed castes come in numerous space-adapted and planet-bred versions.


Motie Masters have white fur and are described as decision makers by the Mediators. Some might be ship commanders; others might be warlords who control large territories. Masters have the biological imperative to breed and protect their offspring and siblings; however, sterile individuals, or those who have bred a sufficient number of times, can hold positions for the good of the Race. These positions include that of Keeper. Keepers are responsible for the safeguard of the "museums" that preserve technology so that the survivors of a Collapse can find the tools to rebuild civilization as quickly as possible.

The Ambassador to the Second Empire of Man, Ivan, was sterile, and might be considered a Master in accordance with the conditions described above; he was so considered by Jock and Charlie, his Mediator companions.


Motie Engineers (also referred to as Browns) have brown fur and are essentially idiot savants. They communicate very little but are geniuses when it comes to anything mechanical or electrical. They can build, modify, or repair almost anything with great speed and competency. The first Motie encountered by humans was an Engineer. Without prompting, she inspected a crew member's gun, then his hand, and modified the grip of his gun using a tube of epoxy resin to better fit his hand. She later had to be locked up because she started disassembling an airlock. She was even able to dissasemble, modify and reassemble a pocket computer, despite it being fabricated as a single integrated circuit. Engineers tend to have a supply of Watchmakers on hand, which they regularly cull to keep the numbers down, for instance tossing most out into the vacuum of space, keeping a few back to use and breed. An autistic savant (formerly called idiot savant) is a person who expresses extraordinary mental abilities, often in the fields of numerical calculation (not to be confused with mathematics) (see also mental calculator), art, or music but usually set within the context of autism or mental retardation. ... Epoxy or polyepoxide is a thermosetting epoxide polymer that cures (polymerizes and crosslinks) when mixed with a catalyzing agent or hardener. Most common epoxy resins are produced from a reaction between epichlorohydrin and bisphenol-A. The first commercial attempts to prepare resins from epichlorohydrin occurred in 1927 in the United... An airlock is a device which permits the passage of objects, people, and the like, between a pressure vessel and its surrounding space while minimizing the change of pressure—and loss of air—in the vessel. ... Integrated circuit showing memory blocks, logic and input/output pads around the periphery Microchips with a transparent window showing the integrated circuit inside. ... To cull is to remove from a group of animals those individuals who show signs of weakness. ...


Watchmakers are not Moties proper, but a related (sub?)species[citation needed]. They are about a third the size of Moties, have four arms and brown-and-white mottled fur. They are used by Engineers as assistants and share that caste's ability and ingenuity with anything mechanical or electronic. A pair which got loose on MacArthur quickly bred while also secretly modifying the ship from the inside, simply following their instincts. A contributing factor was that crew members found things being magically repaired and even improved. They quickly discovered that if they had anything broken, to simply leave it out overnight with some food, and it would be fixed by the morning. The items included customized sidearms and shoes, a coffee pot that automatically separated bitter oils from the brew, one-man re-entry vehicles replacing the ship's lifeboats, and even an improved Langston field for the ship. In addition to repairing items in return for food the watchmakers on the MacArthur supported themselves by farming rats in ranches and eventually through cannibalism.. In the end, war broke out among the Watchmakers with humans caught in the crossfire, and MacArthur had to be abandoned and destroyed. The Langston Field is a fictional device featured in the CoDominium series of science-fiction novels. ...


Mediators are created by breeding Master moties with Engineers. They have mixed white/brown fur and are highly empathetic. They are sterile mules, and because of this their lifespan is shorter than average - about 25 years. Since Moties mature in 15 years the useful life of a Mediator is short. A barren of mules. ...

Mediators learn languages very quickly, which is essential on Mote Prime with its millions of years of population-explosion cycles and competing Masters. They are actually a product of genetic engineering, with their ability to think independently carefully tuned to allow them to negotiate away conflicts while still being loyal to a Master. Mediators can commandeer any kind of transport, so they can travel quickly to damp down hostilities. Extremely fast aircraft are reserved for Mediators alone, as Masters will not trust each other to use them for peaceful purposes.

In The Mote in God's Eye infant Mediators are assigned to several humans when the latter visit Mote System, with the intention that they will learn not only the language but also the culture and personality of their host. Mediators have a word - Fyunch(click) - which describes their relationship with a counterpart whom they must learn about and emulate in every way. Humans who encounter Mediators eventually "...have to count arms to check who is talking..." since the Mediators emulate the sound of the voice and the mannerisms of their human counterpart.

However, relationships with humans are not good for Mediators - they tend to go Crazy Eddie or worse, such is the difference in thought patterns between humans and Moties. Giving the infant Mediators to humans was an attempt to avoid this.


Warriors are controlled by Masters and far surpass any human warriors or soldiers. They can operate and maintain any weapon, fire with deadly accuracy, throw any object at high speed, and fight hand-to-hand using built-in weapons. These include fangs, hard edges and horny points on the limbs and extremities, and a vestigial second left arm adapted as a bone dagger. Warriors have enhanced senses, especially vision, enabling them to resolve detail at a distance impossible for a human. They are described as "standing like coiled springs". Their marksmanship is described as "inhumanly accurate" and one of the midshipmen refugees from MacArthur is told that "if you had exposed an eye, any Warrior could have shot it out".

A feral and degenerated form of the Warrior was seen by the expedition from MacArthur during their visit to the zoo in Castle City on Mote Prime, where a swarm of them was seen in the hall devoted to a simulacrum of a ruined city. Video records of these animals gave the analysis team the first clue that there was more to the Moties' history than had been divulged by the Moties brought back to Human space by the MacArthur expedition. In a parallel development, Warriors also degenerated into a wild miniature form which appears in the second novel as a War Rat, a spaceborne version with Watchmaker abilities living in hive-like space colonies.


The last of the truly sentient Motie classes, the Doctors are to physiology what Engineers are to electronics. They have a great store of instinctive physiological knowledge, can manipulate the smallest objects, and can build, or cause to be built, any necessary medical devices. Their fur is a rust-red color.

While Doctors do not fight, there is a Doctor-Warrior hybrid which fills the role of the field medic or corpsman in human armies. Hospital Corpsmen (HMs) are members of the United States Navy Hospital Corps. ...

Runners, Porters

These semi-sentient Moties do menial jobs, carrying messages in the one case, and heavy objects in the other. Both are much taller than other Moties, but the Runner is mostly leg, while the Porter has symetrical strong arms. The Gripping Hand also describes a variety of Runner whose multicolored layers of erectile hairs allow it to camouflage itself while delivering messages.

A feral version of the porter is seen in the zoo, with large teeth and claws.


Farmer Moties tend crops, which grow on whatever land is not covered by buildings or roads. They ignore anything except plants and anything that seems to threaten the plants. Their hands and feet are adapted for digging and tamping down soil. They can operate machinery such as tractors.


A Motie caste bred as a food supply, this caste caused understandable disgust among humans when they discovered them, even though they were kept in a museum as a relic of an earlier time. It was implied that they could again be used as a food source when civilization fell, however.


Besides the Mediators, several other hybrid types were mentioned in the books. The doctor and warrior castes were crossed for a field medic. The engineer and warrior became an engineer with combat capabilities. A master and doctor cross was for when more thought was needed in addition to the doctor caste's instinctual medical ability (this was thought to be useful when the Moties needed to treat an injured human.) It is unknown whether these crosses are mules or fertile.

Mote Prime

Mote Prime is the only habitable planet orbiting the star known to the Empire of Man as the Mote. It is the origin of the whole Motie species, but at the time of the CoDominium chronicles is only one place of many within Mote System inhabited by various Motie groupings. It is a land-and-water planet similar to Earth, but shows evidence of severe environmental damage in the past. Many wars have been fought on Mote Prime, and as some at least were fought using asteroids as weapons - they were dropped onto areas inhabited by a rival social group - the planet from space appears to be all circular land structures as a result of the craters the asteroids created. Understanding planetary habitability is partly an extrapolation of the Earths conditions, as it is the only planet currently known to support life. ... The fictional CoDominium universe is a future history (now alternate history) setting for the books in the CoDominium Series by Jerry Pournelle. ... Understanding planetary habitability is partly an extrapolation of the Earths conditions, as it is the only planet currently known to harbor life. ...

At the time of the visit to Mote System by MacArthur and Lenin the planet is in an advanced-industrial phase, with the resulting industrial pollution dimming the sunlight and making necessary the wearing of atmosphere filters by the expedition from MacArthur. However, reports from the Human archaeological teams working on the planet show that wherever they dig and however far they dig down, they never find native rock structures: they always find debris from artificial constructs of some sort, with primitive above - and hence more recent than - complex. They fail to draw from these observations any conclusions on what their findings imply for the history of Mote Prime until much later when back in Human space.

By the time of the second visit to Mote System as a result of the events described in The Gripping Hand, access to Mote Prime is impossible. The Humans are told that in the 25 Earth years since the previous visit, the civilisation on Mote Prime has collapsed; their current condition is vividly described as having "bombed themselves back to the invention of the brick." The Gripping Hand is a 1993 novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Communication and Understanding (1307 words)
Their society is extremely efficient, because there is no question about a particular Motie’s place in society, no need to prepare a Motie for more than one career path, or waste time or resources teaching them skills they may or may not use in the future.
The Moties also seem to have an instinctive, genetic talent for their jobs, so that it is easier to educate them than it is to educate a human.
The Cycles have proven in Motie history to be thus far unavoidable, and Crazy Eddie ideas have only served to either put off collapse, speed it up, or in the case of the Crazy Eddie probe and presumably the asteroid civilizations, expand it to new places.
Motie - Wikipedia (311 words)
Een motie is een uitspraak (in de meeste gevallen een verzoek) van een volksvertegenwoordiging (bijvoorbeeld de Gemeenteraad of Tweede Kamer) aan het dagelijks bestuur (bijvoorbeeld Gedeputeerde Staten van een provincie) om iets te doen of juist na te laten.
Een minder zware motie is de motie van afkeuring, die in wezen betekent dat er een motie van wantrouwen zal volgen als het beleid niet veranderd wordt.
Een motie in een gemeenteraad die voornamelijk gericht is op de landelijke politiek ('De raad verzoekt het college bij het Rijk dit en dat onder de aandacht te brengen') heet ook wel een postzegelmotie.
  More results at FactBites »



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