In which there’s a vague overview.
The character that’s been living in my head for the last decade is an alien.
The premise is that extraterrestrials have always been here; a ship (which happens to be self-aware and is currently hidden from human satellite surveillance at the bottom of the ocean) crashed on earth during the time of the pharaohs. The beings on it were capable of extreme self-directed genetic mutation. Being bilaterally symmetrical, they made themselves look like humans and have been here the whole entire time, a secret subculture among us.
They have their own government and social hierarchy. They have wealth, access to advanced tech they can use but not produce, and lab-like enclaves around the globe. They live among us, worldwide. There are about five million of them.
They had their own version of the Prime Directive, but they certainly didn’t hesitate to direct the shape of human science. After all, they had a freakin’ supraluminal spaceship and we didn’t even have steam engines yet, let alone anything that would help them get their boat back into space, so one could argue that they had to help where they could.
Some of our greatest scientists? Are them. Reinventing the wheel.
Languages around the world contain words we’ve learned from them. Insert a lot of sci-fi genre jokes… Roddenberry would have known one of them, for instance, and many Star Trek words and concepts would actually be out of their culture. They’d be the source of Heinlein’s “grok,” as they’d eat portions of their dead in order to avoid genetic flaws.
Human behavior that makes little sense would have been learned from them. They mate for life. When one of the pair dies, the other dies as well, so it turns out that they actually introduced humans to life-long commitments because they have a biological drive to pair up even though we don’t.
They’re dual-gendered like humans, but for reasons unknown to them they quit having daughters a generation after arriving and have been breeding with us for thousands of years. They breed true because they have incomprehensibly long, complex DNA. I have no idea how to explain that, but humor me here.
They’re called T’Kaa (though it would probably be better if I chose a well-known alien race name out of sci-fi cannon). They even go into kemmer (nod to LeGuin), a hormonal/sexual state during which they achieve, say, adolescence, or mate-bonding, or conception.
The character in my head is one of these aliens. His family has been breeding for beauty and intelligence for well over five thousand years; he is an omnibus prodigy and has multiple unrelated PhDs by the time he’s a teenager, including one in music performance of classical guitar. In his early twenties he blossoms into a phenomenon that even his own species hasn’t seen in three thousand years: massive strings of dormant DNA activate and he becomes a walking miracle… or menace, depending on how you look at him.
He can manufacture anything he wants in his own body and secrete it any way he likes; he can compel all members of his own species at will, and humans too (only with less subtlety), by simply sweating or breathing. He could, if he wished, manufacture a plague and exhale it into the world, wiping the face of the earth of all life. He can heal his own body of any illness or injury. He’s a genius. He’s insanely rich. He’s terrifyingly powerful.
He’s also a pop star, who basically keeps himself famous by filling concert halls with excellent pheromones. Everybody loves him. His orgies are legendary.
He’s called a sh’corne, which is a type of creature that only emerges when there’s a great need for one. Past bearers of the title have stopped plagues, healed millions, and changed the course of T’kaa history.
He has authority among his own kind by virtue of his House (although he’s House Mondavi, not Atreides), what he is genetically, and their own biological imperative to obey him because of both, but most of them think he’s fairly ridiculous. No one knows why a sh’corne has manifested since there doesn’t seem to be a particular threat against the T’kaa.
Then it turns out that the ship – repository and Archive of all things known to both species – needs to be moved; seismic activity indicates that she’s about to fall into a terminally deep fissure in the bottom of the ocean.
So a flurry of activity among the T’Kaa occurs and the upshot is that our hero, the pop icon Jake Mondavi, goes on TV amd says, “Hey, I know y’all think I’m a rock star, which I am, but it turns out I’m also not human. Here’s the documentation of my weird physiology etc etc etc. Oh, and we need help from several earth governments to move our mothership before she falls into a freakin’ chasm where we can’t get to her ever again.”
And hilarity ensues as humanity realizes that it’s been manipulated by aliens for all of recorded history, and that a bunch of us are actually them.