Mawas, Clade

A clade of provolved orang-utans

Clade Mawa
Image from Arik

(Pongo sapiens mawas)


Clade Mawas, the second official clade produced by the Institute for Primate Provolution, was derived from the baseline orangutan population in the wildlife preserves that they created from their famous Cache of data regarding Old Earth primates. True to the IPP's provolution goals, the clade preserves something from the essential mind-set of the original species and yet has had the ability to survive Terragen civilization. On the one hand Mawas are among the most asocial and aloof of Terragen clades, but on they other they have spread throughout the Sephirotic regions and beyond into the Periphery of Terragen expansion.


Members of the clade are superficially very similar to baseline orangutans, though they have much larger heads and somewhat less powerful jaws than their ancestors. They have extraordinarily long arms and short legs (standing erect they are about 1.5 m tall but they have a 2.2 m arm span), and are covered in red or reddish hair. The hair varies from individual to individual and from population to population, both in length (short to shaggy) and in colour (from flaming red through orange to reddish brown to nearly black). Females are about the size of a human baseline, at 50 kilograms, but males are nearly twice as massive at maturity. Males who opt for full maturity develop moustaches or beards in various styles, a vocal pouch (a resonator for the famous Mawas male voice), and the signature broad cheek-pads. Mawas males sometimes tattoo these pads in various styles.

Clothing varies a great deal among Mawas from culture to culture and from individual to individual but most opt for minimal protective clothing (sometimes in bright colours), or sometimes a simple satchel for personal effects and no clothing at all.

Communication, Senses, and Locomotion

Mawas senses are comparable to those of most human nearbaselines, though many Mawas subclades and individuals have especially enhanced daytime visual abilities (improved colour discrimination, depth perception, acuity, etc.).

At first the clade adopted Old Earth Malay as their clade language, (the clade name is simply "Orangutan" in Malay), but Mawas who still use descendants of their original clade language have changed it considerably in the time since, mostly to allow for more communication in a shorter time. Mawas to not enjoy "chatter" and their communications tend to be terse and information-rich. When Brev became available they adopted it enthusiastically, since it allows very short conversations. Mawas are laconic in whatever language they use.

Mawas are climbers first and foremost, and prefer three-dimensional environments. If they descend to a simple level surface they may move bipedaly for short distances or may cover longer distances by moving on all fours, with their hands held fist-wise. Unless there is an emergency their movements are very deliberate and careful.

Lifespan and Reproduction

Mawas have always had life spans comparable to that of the latest upgrades available to human nearbaselines. Since they are so careful and averse to risks, though, they tend to live longer than most other primate clades. The exceptions are young males, who tend to die in duels, engage in risky ventures in an attempt to win a name, or to become morose and commit suicide. Females and mature established males may live for a very long time indeed.

Females bear single children, or very occasionally twins, who remain with their mothers until they reach full social maturity (generally at 30 years of age though sometimes later). At that point they either leave on their own or are driven away from her home in typical Mawas cultures. Young males do not gain the distinctive facial hair, cheekpads and vocal apparatus of full maturity until they establish themselves in Mawas society. This is a conscious decision, so those who develop such traits without the requisite accomplishments are shunned or actively driven away. In non-Sephirotic areas they may be subject to savage retribution, up to and including death (usually in duels with other, established males).

Environmental Requirements

Mawas were designed originally to live in Terragen standard environments, though of course they also received the standard set of microgravity adaptations that had been available to human spacer clades. Today they tend to avoid full Terragen gravity, and many prefer orwood habs. Mawas like warmth and humidity, and they prefer environments, natural or artificial, that are cluttered and dense like the forests that gave rise to their baseline ancestors. Their houses and habitats consist of a few level platforms or pods connected by chutes or climbways.

The natural diet of the Mawas consists almost entirely of fruits and seeds, and new leaves or tender tree cambium. Mawas sometimes consume these raw or sometimes eat them boiled or steamed. They will eat small arthropods, but most find the concept of killing and eating higher level sentient beings such as vertebrates quite disgusting, and will not even accept nanofabricated meat. Some Mawas cultures reinforce this repugnance with strong taboos.


Members of the clade are, on the average, more intelligent than the typical human baseline, but with some characteristic areas of strength or weakness. They are extraordinarily thorough and patient, and particularly good and solving problems in abstract mathematics or logic, or other purely intellectual pursuits. A Mawas' memory is phenomenal, and the Mawas spatial sense is second to none. However, they have very little social sense, and often seem solipsistic. Though they can deal fairly well with one or at most two individuals at a time they become irritated and confused in the presence of "crowds" of three or more sophonts. Other clades find them generally lacking in empathy, but this is not exactly the case. A Mawas who focuses on a single other individual can be extraordinarily charming and hospitable, and may even show true loyalty and attachment. However, such Mawas "friends" are perfectly comfortable ignoring the other party for months or years at a time, and they do not make contact or expect to be contacted unless there is some specific need.

A Mawas' tenderest feelings are those between mother and child, since the two are inseparable for the first two or three decades of life. Even after they part this leaves its mark as a lingering affection. Siblings also feel some slight bond with one another, as do a male and female who have been in a consort relationship more than once. The most a non-Mawas may hope to achieve is to be regarded as a "brother" or "sister". For their other relationships, though the Mawas are not entirely without empathy, the fundamental distinction is whether or not another individual is reliable as an ally.

Mawas have almost no community feeling at all. Other than their few personal attachments they have no particular loyalties, and cannot be relied upon to make any sort of emotional commitment to a particular polity or cause, though they may be intellectually convinced. All their arrangements on these lines are based purely on logic and self-interest, and should the situation change a Mawas will realign alliances accordingly. This has given Mawas something of a reputation as traitors, but on the other hand it makes them the ideal Machiavellian analysts. They are often employed by an organization or polity precisely for their cool, thorough, and dispassionate judgment when difficult decisions must be made.

Most members of clade Mawas, whatever their culture, are almost obsessively private, and seldom welcome beings of any clade into their homes. They prefer to carry out their business over the Known Net, and depersonalize interactions as much as they can, in the form of text messages. If forced by circumstances to interact, they prefer voice, virch or utility fog representations to direct contact.

A Mawas who has been thwarted may be dangerous, and (particularly if the Mawas is male) morose and vengeful. Mawas are also extremely stubborn and persistent, and can wait and plan for years or decades if they feel it is necessary. While this has its benefits when it is used in a positive way it can be a liability to those around them under some circumstances. Long after the Version War was officially over, for instance, some rogue Mawas with one grievance or another were striking back at enemies who didn't even remember the Mawas in question existed, or just what wrong had been committed.

Mawas who become transapient often lose the last vestiges of attachment to other beings, and become one of the "ahuman" AI groups, or join the Objectivists. A few become anti-human, and are extremely dangerous if not restrained by the presence of other transapients. Some polities on the Periphery restrict godseed access or transcension information to all Mawas or in particular to male Mawas, for fear of the result of a perverse transcension.


The form of Mawas society, if it can be called a society, is a type known as a "noyau"; the simplest form known to primatologists. Females (and their immature children) have a set of separate dwellings or territories, and seldom interact with each other. An established male has his own dwelling and a territory that includes that of several females with whom he is in loose alliance. Occasionally he will spend time with one of them, by preference a well established and mature individual, for a period of time in a "consortship", and if a child is the result he may (or may not) remain with her until the child is old enough to speak, after which he returns to his own home. He might never again interact directly with her or with his offspring, or he may return again and again over the centuries. This, as with so much of Mawas social behaviour, is unpredictable. Young, poorly established females are not favoured by the established males, though they are generally tolerated; young unproven males may be actively driven out, usually by the dominant males but also by well established females (who consider them undesirable in every sense).

Whether male or female, Mawas can only acquire status (and, if they desire it, the attention of the opposite sex) if they have some notable accomplishment. Females are usually more inclined towards accomplishments in the arts or sciences, or may become famous simply for their ability to bear and raise offspring who themselves have significant achievements. Young males who have not made a name for themselves are often wanderers. In Sephirotic regions they may work for decades or centuries and travel great distances in their effort to establish a reputation before returning to claim a place of their own and the attention of Mawas females. Direct challenge is also an option, of course. Some form of dueling between males is a part of every Mawas culture. In most Sephirotic controlled zones, this most often is a contest of skill. In non-Sephirotic regions these contests may be fatal combat, or young males may even lurk at the fringes of settlements hoping to murder an established male and take his place. There are no distinct Mawas polities; they are simply too individualistic to form any but the loosest kind of common government. In fact, Mawas usually live dispersed among other clades. There are a few exclusively Mawas regions within other polities, however, simply as a result of settlement preferences. An exclusively Mawas settlement can be very strange. Good examples of these can be seen in the ancient Mawas "communities" at Ao Lai. These consist for the most part of forests and orchards, interspersed with the strange and beautiful corundumoid or jadeite towers that serve as individual dwellings. Each Mawas lives in solitary splendour, with his or her own nanofac, power source, and retinue of subturing macrobots and synsects, linked to the rest of the world only by a Net uplink.

Mawas are ideal for solitary occupations. They include many eccentric artists and scientists (especially painters, mathematicians, and astrographers), prospectors, crew on relativist ships, and independent privacy and security experts. They are particularly likely to become archivists and librarians, and in fact the transapient librarian at Ken Ferjik is a post-Mawas, as is the present guardian of the Institute for Primate Provolution's data store. Mawas also have notable achievements in any area having to do with privacy or independence. Mawas have designs for some of the best privacy screening software, the most reliable synsect-based home security systems, and the most adaptable and independent nanofacs and nanofac programs. Mawas exploration singleships, with their extraordinarily robust designs and resilient subturing programs, are among the best that any subsingularity being has ever designed. All Mawas males are excellent singers, and the greatest have become famous outside the clade as well; their work and performances are comparable in quality to the best efforts of Megapteran provolves.

Interestingly, Mawas have become a part of the vanguard of Terragen expansion. Young male Mawas unable to make a name for themselves in other ways commonly scan the Known Net for data on promising new prospects on the Periphery, or unexplored regions within the Terragen bubble, and then set out in relativistic singleships to investigate, hoping to bring back valuable clarketech artefacts, archaeological or biological data, or news of areas with good economic or colonization prospects. Few achieve any great success, and there is a high mortality rate, but those who do may hope to attract many consorts over their subsequent life spans. This phenomenon is natural, and requires little organization or direction, though the Ozymandias Institute does make a practice of seeking out and training promising young Mawas males to work as scouts for their Archaeology division, and some NoCoZo exploration corporations employ Mawas in their operations.

Religion is a very individual thing for most Mawas. Though there are Mawas of almost any faith, they tend towards the least socially oriented. Many Mawas are neo-Taoists, Eremitic neo-Christians, or follow their own idiosyncratic version of Etodism or variations on the Keterist memeplex. A large number are pragmatic agnostics of one sort or another. Revolutionary and missionary memetics have no attraction whatsoever for Mawas, and naturally they do not take part in mass movements of any sort. Mawas are not particularly numerous, but they are widespread in Terragen space. They roam wherever they can, and settle wherever there is a niche. They lack particular biases and prejudices, so their density in any one region depends on the degree to which they are accepted by others.


Clade Mawas was the second clade that was entirely of the Institute for Primate Provolution's devising, and was something of a surprise when its members appeared in 2143. Like their elder 'sibling' clade, the Ngagi, they were not the 'hairy humans' that were more commonly the result when other human groups had tried to provolve apes. As one member of the new clade expressed it, "we are enhanced apes, not second rate humans". Despite some early predictions of disaster and failure for such an asocial mind-type, the new clade did thrive and flourish in its own way. It also enhanced the power and fortunes of the Institute: It is notable that the IPP, already a rather secretive organization, became even more adept at hiding its motivations and its data once members of clade Mawas became part of its operations. Apparently the new clade's skills in matters of privacy were put to good use. Otherwise the Clade Mawas seems not to have greatly affected, or been affected by, the rest of Terragen civilization, except for the fact that some members are very active as early explorers in the uncharted byways and on the active Periphery of the Terragen Sphere.

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Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 19 September 2005.