Symbiosis

 
by Annie Stein
Welcome to Solaris, traveller! Let me get you up to speed.
Solaris is a soft science fiction webcomic set in our own universe, kind of. Learn more by continuing to read, or click here to be taken to the comic.
Q:Where am I?   You're still in the system known as Sol. Except this time each planet is habitable and developed its own life. The people are humanoid, mostly.
Q:I heard something about a comic?   Oh yes! The main comic is still in development, but you can read the first few pages of Little Blue if you click here.  
Q:What's going on?   Sol is invading. The resentful sun sends its angelic armies: the Scourge. For now, they're being held back at Mercury by Penumbra.
by Annie Stein
Symbiosis is a mutualistic and natural form of body modification. Symbiosis has been practiced with corals, mycellium, barnacles and other sea life in Neptune since ancient times. In the early spacefaring days, spacefarers who travelled to Neptune would get symbionts implanted to mark themselves as travellers. Over time the practice spread, and new symbionts were discovered and cultivated.   Today symbiosis is common in almost all corners of Sol. Traditional symbiosis is preformed with the native species of old Neptune, but it is becoming increasingly common to see people with fungi, plants, lichen and even crystal symbionts. A few rare symbiotes even work as accessiblity aids, prosthetics, or to give their host access to extrasensory abilities.
Illustration of a coral symbiont. Blue coral fans out over the neck, and red coral peeks out on the clavicle and on one shoulder.
Coral Symbiont by Annie Stein

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I get a symbiont?
When you and your provider have selected a suitable symbiont for you, your provider will help the symbiont attach itself to your skin. Sometimes a symbiont will need to be implanted into your skin, usually no deeper than the dermis.
Q: Does it hurt to get a symbiont?
While implantation might hurt (as much as anything that requires breaking skin might), symbionts are generally harmless and should not hurt. It may cause some mild discomfort the first few weeks as your body gets used to your symbiont.
Q: Why is my symbiont so small?
A fully mature symbiont has already adapted to the unique characteristics of their host, and may not thrive on a new host, and may even turn parasitic. Only when a symbiont develops with and on their host is that risk mitigated.
Q: How do I take care of my Symbiont?
Your provider should teach you what your symbiont needs. Some symbionts require watering, others sunlight, and some need to have nutrient pastes applied every now and then.
Q: Can I remove my Symbiont if I get bored?
Your symbiont is a living being, it cannot survive if removed. Symbiosis is supposed to be a lifelong commitment. However, removal is possible. It will cause scarring, and some symbionts are hard to fully remove. Fungi and mycellium in particular tend to grow back.
Q: Why do some symbionts turn parasitic?
It is very rare for a symbiont to turn parasitic. When they do, it is typically because of neglect. If you do not care for your symbiont, it could end up getting the nutrients it needs in a way you don't appreciate, such as leeching it out of your bloodstream.
Illustration of a Crystalline Symbiont. Red crystal shards are growing out of the hosts shoulder.
Crystal Symbiont by Annie Stein

A Crystalline Future

  Over the decades many have theorized how crystal symbiosis may empower the host. Many cultivars have been developed and discarded, but one strain of astrallite has proven itself willing and adaptable. It is still highly experimental.   Reputable cultivators and experts on the topic of symbiosis have yet to verify any claims of supernatural abilites, despite the lofty claims of some providers that their symbionts have enabled flight, telekinesis, astral projection and more. The risks are also poorly understood, and many warn against crystalline symbiosis.
Origin
Engineered
Rarity
Common
This article is a stub . It will be expanded upon later.


Cover image: Symbiosis Banner by Annie Stein

Comments

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1 Dec, 2022 20:32

Oooh very cool! I love all the details you managed to bring into this article. I would love to hear more about the people making symbiosis, are they like doctors, or is it a special profession? Does symbiosis require certain criteria, such as plants needing more moist areas on your body?

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
1 Dec, 2022 20:37

It's a special profession, like how we have tattooists in our age. You could have someone try and sprout their symbiont and gift that to people though. I might add a bit about how they come to be!   Symbionts definitely have different criteria, yeah! Not all of them thrive in all areas, and some might only work with certain species of hosts.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
1 Dec, 2022 20:59

I love all kind of symbiosis, and I love the kinda corporate-ad-page field I get from the QA :D What a great start to WE for Solaris!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
1 Dec, 2022 21:04

Thank you so much! I love making these QA's

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
1 Dec, 2022 21:01

I love how clean and sleek your article layout looks :3

Creator of Lethea and Pekkola

Maker of Maps
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
1 Dec, 2022 21:02

Thank you! I try to keep things clean and readable!

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
1 Dec, 2022 21:20

I love the idea of symbiosis with plants/chorals/crystals etc, it's really very cool! And I love how you've represented that :D   And I'm still in love with your Q&A format and especially love the whiny question " why is my symbiont so small" :p Of course they're not going to advertise it, but what's the percentage of accident with symbiont turning parasitic?   Is there any possibility for people experiencing regret to get rid of their symbiont - or if trend suddenly change and their colour/aspect are not cool and they want to change?

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
1 Dec, 2022 21:29

Thank you so much!   As for parasitism, symbionts want to survive too, so if you don't feed and nuture them they do turn parasitic. If you take proper care of it, the risk is near zero.   Removing a symbiont is mostly straightfoward, but a few can be a bit tricky to make sure you got every last piece of, and scarring is pretty likely. Fungi and mycellium are an example of symbionts who tend to grow back.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
1 Dec, 2022 21:36

This is such a cool concept! I don't think I've seen anything like this before! Amazing job, I'd definitely want to try this out and have a bunch of cool corals on me :D

I hope you have a great day!   My most recent article!
  The New Year is here!
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
1 Dec, 2022 21:40

Thank you so much! I got the idea from some of the amazing special effects makeup/masks created by artists like James Merry, Anastasia Pilepchuk and Juliette Clovis.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
Grandmaster Chrysoula
Chrysoula Tzavelas
1 Dec, 2022 22:10

Oh my goodness, I love the look of this article, and I love how you have to take care of your symbiont, like putting lotion on a tattoo.

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 09:57

Thank you so much! They are very much like living tattoos, aren't they?

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
2 Dec, 2022 00:14

I love the Q&A section - that really helps bring the article to life. Are there people who get more than one symbiont? Can you take it to an extreme and be entirely covered in mushrooms, for example?

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 09:58

Thank you so much! You could definitely get multiple, and I'm sure there's someone who's taken it to that kind of extreme. Just look at how much people have been able to do with their bodies in our world!

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
Master PrincessESH
Aster Blackwell
2 Dec, 2022 01:20

I wanna see what happens when a symbiont becomes parasitic >:)

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 09:58

Pretty much what you expect! Competing for resources, baybee!

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
2 Dec, 2022 10:11

I really like the idea of symbionts, it's a really interesting topic. Also your article just looks amazing and is incredibly nice to read, as always. The FAQ section especially was a really nice addition. Can anyone have any symbiont, or are there specific biological requirements? What happens if a symbiont goes rogue? As that ever happened? Can you seperate the host and the symbiont again, or is this a permanent bond?

Feel free to check out my worlds, characters and original music here: SatriumHub
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 10:16

Thank you! Anyone can have a symbiont, but they're more likely to thrive if they suit you and your lifestyle. For example, plant symbionts tend to do best on Fei, but anyone could get one. Symbionts generally aren't intelligent enough to go rogue. They're usually fairly simple lifeforms.   You can seperate a host and symbiont, though some of the symbionts can be a bit tricky to make sure you got every last piece of, and scarring is pretty likely. Fungi and mycellium are an example of symbionts who tend to grow back. They are supposed to be permanent, but, well, people try to get tattoos removed too.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
2 Dec, 2022 14:03

Cool article with nice layout and good css work! How rare are the symbionts that act as accessibility aids or prosthetics? Does a symbiont turning parasitic leads to death?

Check out the worlds of Solis Empire, Magic Earth, Ithir and Vyraj
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 14:10

Thank you! They're rare in the sense that you don't come across people who need prosthetics all that often, but they're a decently common solution in modern days. It depends on how the disabled person wants to deal with it.   A symbiont turned parasitic could lead to death, but a lot of things have to go wrong for that to happen. It's more likely it'll lead to malnutrition, which, if untreated, could potentially be fatal.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
2 Dec, 2022 14:21

But there is a cure? Or is it just managing symptoms?

Check out the worlds of Solis Empire, Magic Earth, Ithir and Vyraj
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
2 Dec, 2022 14:24

You could start taking care of the symbiont, but in very advanced cases it might have fully adapted to taking nutrients from the host and no longer be willing to accept other sources. In those cases, you'd probably want to remove it.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
6 Dec, 2022 16:16

Wonderfully informative and interesting, well done.~

Creator, artist and writer of the science fantasy world Kingsmaker.   Check out my Worldember page.~
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
6 Dec, 2022 16:28

Thank you!

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
7 Dec, 2022 12:13

This is a great little article and I love the Q&A section too! I love that some symbiotes can works as prosthetics and accessibility aids. Do most view this is generally an aesthetic tradition, or are there any folks who have began to use it as a status of rank or another form of symbolism?

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
7 Dec, 2022 13:47

Thank you! It's mostly seen as an aesthetic thing, it's like a Solaris take on body modifications like piercings or tattoos. I can see there being more traditions involving symbiosis on Neptune, where it would be seen as a more old school and traditional kind of thing than it does offworld, and for some people it might be part of their spiritual practice.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
7 Dec, 2022 14:17

Yeah it did make me think of tattoos! Very cool. Are there any sects who are completely against the idea, or is it generally accepted?

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
14 Dec, 2022 12:30

I have to imagine there's some groups of society who don't approve of symbiosis, but it's pretty generally accepted. I don't think it's like here, where some places will refuse to hire you if you have visible tattoos. Since people from across the system all look so different anyways, it can be hard to tell what is a symbiont and what's just the way that people naturally look.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
14 Dec, 2022 13:07

Yeah, fair enough! I’m really enjoying learning more about your world!

19 Dec, 2022 08:39

The execution of the idea has a comforting effect on my mind. It's probably owing to the fact that it's deeply rooted in the culture, and by taking the role of someone bonding with the symbiont. For a moment I'm becoming one of the characters. The future of symbiosis with the use of crystal symbiotes sets up the mood nicely — but that may be because I'm a crystal nerd. :D

How far is it scalable, i.e., how much surface area can the symbiont take without harming the host? And, suppose you have a coral symbiont, if a part of it breaks off, can you attach it somewhere else to save it?

Construction-wise, while hovering over crystal highlights I was hoping to get a quick chunk of information. The quote, though, disturbed the reading flow a little, for me — it makes for an awesome beginning of the article, but I found it not descriptive enough here.

I had fun reading. Thanks!

Playing around with words and worlds.
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
19 Dec, 2022 11:03

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I don't think there's really a rule of thumb on how much coverage you can handle. It's down to the indivdual and what kind they're getting. Some symbionts can be cultivated to grow new symbionts, kind of like how you can take cuttings from a plant, but exactly how it works would depend on the kind of symbiosis. Just any old piece of coral wouldn't do it.   I don't think I'll be changing the crystal excerpt. It's one of my favourites.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
Starfarertheta
Starfarer Theta
24 Dec, 2022 01:59

I'm going to have to visit Neptune when I get the chance. Apparently they began a trend of committing to a lifelong bonding with what they call symbionts in a process called symbiosis. A kind of body modification and decoration. I've been a witness to some truly striking examples making some people look like living works of abstract art! If I understand corectly, symbiosis is a lifelong and usually mutually beneficial paring with fungi, corals, and maybe even crystals. I'm a little cautious about the the risk of the symbionts going parasitic, but then my whole life has become beholden to the odds in terms of where I go.   Perhaps I wouldn't be quite so lonely at times if I had a lifelong pal of sorts. The rub of course is that I may not always have the means to care for it and so I might be ended slowly and ingloriously by a symbiont turned parasite. This will take some time to consider. - Nemo, World Traveler

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
24 Dec, 2022 08:40

All intimate relationships come with the truth that one of you could destroy the other. Symbiosis asks you to consider the vulnerability of existing, of what it means to be allowed to make an impact on each other. That can never be without risk.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
29 Dec, 2022 10:50

I love this concept so much! If I were able to get a symbiont, I'd probably go for something on my forehead so that I can take care of it properly and make sure it gets the levels of light or moisture that it needs - and to show it off, of course! Do any folks shun or outlaw visible symbionts?


Creator of the dark fantasy world of Melior
Latest Work:
Gauntlet - my shiniest article this year!
Sage nnie
Annie Stein
29 Dec, 2022 11:01

Thank you! I think that'd be a lovely place to have a lil symbiont! I like to think Solaris is a much more open world when it comes to body modifications and other kinds of physical differences.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
9 Jan, 2023 20:41

This is very ominous to me, but in a good way. It gives me ideas of a cover-up operation or a biased view on a condition. Really good stuff.

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
14 Jan, 2023 10:49

Thank you! I've used this format before, and it is interesting that we seem to be primed to read Q&A pamphlet style worldbuilding as a cover-up or like it's hiding something.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
18 Jan, 2023 00:54

Symbiosis is a super cool condition! Is there anything that cannot or should not be grafted under the usual list? Like poisonous mushrooms or something?

Sage nnie
Annie Stein
18 Jan, 2023 11:57

Not everything can be grafted, but what might be a poisonous symbiote to one kind of alien might be totally fine for another. It's part of why consultation is important.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022