Space Harpies (also known as Avians) have some weird fusion society based around recreational drug use, harems, super flamboyant garb like it's the freaking city-states italian period, and being incredibly hedonistic and foppish about -everything-?
Space harpies possess 4 limbs, a semi-hollow bone structure, and feathers covering most of their limbs and down their back. The inside of their upper arms, thighs, and the front of their torsos are bare of feathers and instead covered with smooth, flesh like skin similar to the Hominids of the sol system known as humans. Their lower legs and the 3 digits located at the 'joint' in their wings are flexible and rather than covered in wings, are covered in hard podotheca similar to earth avian life.
Long term exposure to drugs has rendered the species incapable of producing several key types of hormones in their bodies naturally, instead relying upon a steady diet of various recreational drugs at appropriate times.
A consequence of this has left them incapable of breeding without such assistance. To reproduce, they must be in estrus, and the hormones that induce this are no longer produced in sufficient amounts to allow themselves to reproduce. Luckily the ability to artificially create these drugs, and locate them on various planets, is common enough to not overly endanger the species.
Harpies are omnivorous, but tend to focus on plant based feeding, with carnivorous behavior only exhibited in times of duress or extreme hunger.
Males do not significantly differ in anatomy from females except in superficial dimorphism. Males tend to possess far more colorful plumage than females. Further, their bodies produce adrenaline and testosterone in far greater amounts, and react differently to it than human males do. Harpy males, rather than entering into Fight-or-Flight states similar to humans, become nearly euphoric. Harpy males can become addicted to 'dangerous' situations, seeking them out as excitement addicts. This plays a key role in their mating process, and further, might explain the high mortality rate amongst male Harpies that allows their society to function as it does.
Female harpies once again possess only superficial differences to the males of their species on the surface. Their plumage is far less showy, often it is close to the native flora of their homeworld, possibly an evolved and natural camoflague. Unlike their males, who react with an almost addicted glee to dangerous situations, female harpy bodies react entirely differently to either Human or male Harpy biology when exposed to the same hormonal imbalances. Female harpy's mental processes quicken and their judgement and decision making centers are far more active, emotional states, while not dampened, are paid attention too less. Basically, where a male Harpy will fling himself into dangerous situations and fight them head on, female harpies become analytical and thoughtful about how to tackle them, their sped up mental processes allowing them to quickly solve problems and get out of danger, or neutralize it.
There is not a great deal known about Harpy History. Their society is not conducive to purely speculative areas of study, and instead focuses upon practical applications of sciences and history whenever possible. If it has no practical use that would could be used to entice a mate or advance one's placement in society, then chances are that the study of it will soon be abandoned.
It is suspected that Harpies evolved in a temperate arboreal environment, without significantly larger predators than themselves that were at all common. It is suspected that they drove most of the smaller species that could threaten their food sources into extinction, allowing them a larger population in their natural environments than might otherwise have been possible.
Previously they would have formed into flocks or tribes that flew seasonally between arboreal environments in order to feed and avoid the famines of winter in their arboreal homes. As time passed, it is likely that they began a concerted effort to expand the reach of forests over their entire planet in order to expand their living spaces and food supplies. Rather than fields, it is likely that Harpies first developed Orchards, assisted with the quite rapid development from seed to full tree that their homeworld's macroflora experienced. It was at this point that their patriarchal system likely formalized and fully developed. A select few males dominating over a majority female population, with a slave/serf class of single males below that.
Slave population is kept stable through selective breeding. Festivals permitting slaves to mate are held, with only those who bought into the system and were not trouble makers being given access to females. Further, 'noble' males who would automatically gain a harem, were often only the sons born of favored wives in their father's inner circle. Males born from other members of the harem were often sent directly into the slave districts to be raised communally by other single males.
During this period, chemistry became more and more common, and recreational drug use became exceedingly common amongst the upper classes. Gunpowder and rocketry were discovered far earlier into Harpy history than human history because of their focus upon chemistry, with highly dangerous explosives becoming exceedingly common amongst the front line troops. A system of proving one's worth on the battlefield soon became standard, as single males found a new avenue out of bachelorhood (and thus slavery) through service to their lords. Troops would proceed to the front lines and ignite highly volatile, unstable, and flammable rockets and fling them into the enemy lines, or into their forest homes, burning them and killing many. Any who survived soon found themselves under the attentions of the females of the species, often allowed to marry into the noble caste and start harems of their own. It was at this point that the formalized enslavement of single males would have begun to end, and instead a voluntary system of 'proving oneself' became the norm. After a time, it soon stopped being a feudal system, but a meritocracy where even males of high noble birth could not expect to be given an advantage.
Drugs were often used to induce estrus, to quickly produce more citizens for the constant bloody warfare seen between various tribal and feudal groups using black powder weaponry. Harpies experienced the devastating effects of mass artillery warfare, as was experienced by humans in the United States during their civil war, around the same time they invented the printing press.
This period is where history starts being more commonly kept, and the galaxy at large has a better idea of what was going on in Harpy history. Up until this point, despite the fact that females did the majority of governing, tactical, and more skilled work, they were largely seen as property of their husband. While history is still unclear on this point, it is known that one female harpy in particular lead a feminist revolution, similar to the bolshevik revolution, and had a great deal of the bachelor population on her side during this. While Harpy's are unhappy to explain this period of history to outsiders. Some facts are clear. Something similar to the french revolution went down, with much chaos, chopping off of heads, and similar awfulness, back and forth between ineffectual republic and totalitarian monarchies, until things finally began to settle down once everyone realized that the old systems were simply not going to work anymore.
The current 'patriarchal' system that is still common to Harpy worlds became formalized during this period, with the fast majority of power lying with the female sex. Females would have the ability to 'vote' for their representative, who would also be their mate. All males, regardless of blood line, became eligible during this period, and could potentially have a say in governance (usually their would pass on their own body of votes to a higher level representative, and so on and so forth until it reached a final senate).
It was also during this period that recreational, and medicinal, drug use became not only widely enjoyed, but widely necessary, it is suspected that many of the plagues that covered Harpy society in this time (part of which lead to the philosophical upheaval that possibly the old 'divine right monarchy' system they had been using previously might not be such a good idea) were directly caused by the lack of even drug distribution throughout their population. It was discovered during the end of this period exactly how their systems had begun losing the ability to produce key hormones, and this discovery also jump started their industrial revolution.
The need to quickly and easily mass produce various drugs, for medicinal and recreation use, and was in such high demand that the harpies very quickly discovered methods that on earth would not be invented until the late 19th century. Manufacturing, factories, Ford's assembly lines, all came one ontop of the other. The invention of ground based transport methods, previously never really used due to the vast amount of mobility any one Harpy possessed, became essential to carrying about the enormous amount of materials necessary to produce these things and then get them to where they needed. The concerted efforts also lead to a unification of the Harpy Species, with those who didn't help (either because they had not yet experienced the hormonal failures common to the rest of the species, or simply out of blind, tribal prejudice) were either eradicated or brought into the fold. Sadly, as was discovered during their information and space ages, doing this means that the Harpies no longer have any genetic template left for functioning hormonal systems, as those who did not require the hormonal supplements, were forced to take them anyway 'for their own good', as medical science had not yet advanced enough to understand that not everyone needed them yet, despite some populations not having abused recreational hormonal drugs for the purposes of sex and enjoyment.
Unlike other civilizations, which reached the space age through necessity more so than the will to explore, Harpies did so due to their new systems of government and society. With males needing to prove themselves, and more the things on the planet surface itself seeming to be mundane, young males and females seeking to prove themselves launched themselves into orbit on chemical burn rockets. Further expansion continued, again, not because of the need for additional resources, but out of insane and glory hungry adolescent and young adult Harpies seeking to make their mark on the world. This meant that when full exploitation of resources was made in most colonial efforts, it made the Harpies rich beyond imagining. Further, upon first contact with other civilizations, Harpies were split in their efforts. Some seeking to attain glory through massive diplomatic alliances, others through war and piracy. In the end, it came to the point where most other civilizations in the galaxy treat the Harpies with extreme distrust, as they can only be sure of immediate gains with these drug addicted space pigeons. As most harpies only tend to look at the world in these terms as well, it is only by their insane luck and suicidally brave tactics in combat that the Harpies have managed to survive at all, that and the vast amount of resources they can throw into any given conflict.
Harpy culture is almost entirely focused upon on thing: Glory. All else fails in comparison. A Harpy male earns glory to attract as many females as he can. A female harpy earns glory to prove herself worthy of a better positioned male. Love can, and occasionally does amongst lower castes of Harpy, have an impact on choice. But by and large, Harpies are attracted to mates who prove themselves and do great deeds. Everything in harpy society is based around this. The number of mates a male holds or the prestige of a female's mate, tends to rate how high socially any single harpy climbs in the over all ladder of things. Males would appear to hold all the power in this system, but males tend to be far more insane about gathering glory to themselves than their more level headed female mates. Males tend to be impulsive decision makers, while females become the power behind the thrones, with the ability to divorce or join with other males. In Harpy Culture, while it must be in agreement between both male and female to join a harem, only females possess the power to leave a harem of their own volition, they cannot be kicked out.
Harpies organize by merit in the military much as they do politically. Males swear allegiance to other males they trust. The lowest ranks are almost always made up of males too disenfranchised or too unimaginative to build their reputation except in grueling battles. Slightly higher up are the females and males who have formed combat harems. A harem of females lead by their mate. The further up you go, the more and more you find a separation of males by females. Females relay orders from their mates down to lower ranking males and so on until you reach the bottom of the hierarchy. Female rank and file exist, but are exceedingly uncommon. Single females have a tendency to fill in advisory and tactical roles rather than direct combat ones. Their more level heads giving them the ability to make better judgement calls. Higher up, it tends to be brilliant, if slightly (or incredibly) insane males whose orders are interpreted and assessed by their more level headed and clear thinking consorts.
Note on nonstandard Gender roles in Harpies
While the above summary suggests that females always follow males, this is patently not the case. In rare cases, a harem of males might form around a particularly dominant female. Slightly more common are homosexual pairings, with a female harpy leading a group of other females, or a coterie of males under a male harpy.
Harpy technology has two major facets to it.
- Firstly, that is is able to be operated without having to stand up (leading to sitting bars in front of many consols) or able to be operated single-clawed.
- Secondly, it almost always is aesthetically pleasing. Moats and streams of liquid narcotics flow through bejeweled bridge decks that look more like the most opulent of cathedrals or palaces rather than warships.
Harpies also have a mastery over chemical and biological production and warfare second to no other species, though this very rarely translates into biotechnology so much as a vast knowledge of drugs and recreational chemicals.