The "Real People", as they call themselves (in contrast with the "Star People"), are a sapient, non-spacefaring race native to an unnamed Earth-like planet.
Members of this species are bipedal and marsupial, their appearance being vaguely reminiscent of a kangaroo. They also have a long prehensile tail which can be used to manipulate objects. The younglings, nurtured in the mother's pouch, are covered in white fur, which becomes silver-grey in mature individuals and darkens progressively as they age, becoming black in the elderly. Their eyes are also grey, with long oblique pupils. Their hands have three fingers and retractable ivory claws. While most of the body is covered in short fur, they have much longer hair on their heads, whereas the tip of the tail is hairless, as are their palms. Both males and females possess pouches.
The most fascinating aspect about this species is their ability to share memories and information directly upon physical contact. Mothers transfer knowledge to their offspring this way, and the adults can use it among themselves by placing their hands inside each other's pouches. They consider this method of communication far more efficient than spoken language, which they use only to convey simple concepts. Upon death, individuals may transfer the entirety of their memories to their friends and thus continue to live through them in a fashion. An individual member of this race may easily carry the "spirits" of several distinct people from generations ago. However, the transferring method is not perfect and some information tends to get lost over time, resulting in the older memories becoming increasingly fragmented.
Culture and society
This species seems to possess very limited knowledge of astronomy, as they believe eclipses result from a night monster which temporarily swallows the moon. They live in tribal clans referred to as kiths and are led by a shaman figure. They believe their spirits live on in the afterlife as they can transfer their mind-essences to each other. They also have the tradition to consume chitta, a drug which induces a dream-like state in the user. When an individual dies, they believe the chitta shows them a vision of their spirits in the afterlife.
At some point in their history, their homeworld was invaded by Humans (known to the natives as "Star People"), which proceeded to decimate the "Real People". However, some Humans instead became friends with the natives and learned to share memories with them. Eventually, the Human colony on this planet became increasingly decadent, with most Humans dreaming their lives away by consuming large quantities of chitta. Most Humans died out, and those who didn't spent most of their lives inside the Crystal Ship orbiting the planet.
Among the "Real People", the descendants of those who had shared memories with Humans and who carried these Humans' spirits within them came to be known as the "Starman kith". Individuals from the "Starman kith" came to be ostracized by the others and slowly died out until a single individual, named Moon Shadow, remained.
- "The Crystal Ship", by Joan D. Vinge (1976)