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What would life be like for people in an 1800s era setting (give or take a century or specific technologies that should or should not exist if it's convenient), who live on a planet inhabited by the aliens from Pitch Black? Assume it's an earth like planet only into which the aliens from Pitch Black are introduced somehow, rather than a planet on which the aliens evolved naturally.

To be more specific about the aliens:

  • They come out at night, in large numbers, are extremely aggressive and will actively hunt humans
  • To keep things simple, assume they cannot fly, but rather run along the ground, albeit faster than a human. They can climb walls but don't have any real intelligence so for instance they wouldn't attempt to open a door. They might however try to batter down the doors/walls/windows if they smell prey inside.
  • They are extremely sensitive to light, to the point where they will flee from anything moderately bright. Any which are somehow trapped and unable to return to their nest or find some other dark place to hide come daytime will die (kind of like vampires I guess).
  • They leave fields of crops alone for the most part - they'll ignore wheat fields or whatever, though they might pass through them randomly on their wanderings or if they're chasing prey.
  • They will eat animals as well.

I imagine society would look very different. For instance, I imagine towns would probably not be much further than a long day's ride apart, as any further and a trip between the two means something going wrong and you're stuck outside in the dark outside the walls. Which leads me to....

  • All human settlements would be walled, and have large bonfires lit along at regular intervals which are kept on all night. Once electric power and lights begin to become more mainstream, I'd assume this would be moved over to electric spotlights or something, though that seems risky - power outages would mean the potential death of everyone in the town.
  • Towns and cities would be much smaller in population, as everybody's houses would have to be inside the walls. Maybe they can adapt by building the workshops and other industrial things outside the walls assuming them to be empty before nightfall to gain more room inside the walls, as the aliens will ignore the workshops so long as there isn't anything to eat inside. Though that does run the risk of a stray alien deciding to nest up for the day inside your factory and having a nasty surprise for your workers the next morning. . . .
  • Kind of an addition to the previous point, while towns and cites will be limited to the size of the walls able to house their residents, I imagine the density of towns will increase rather than the size of cities - so as people expand, I imagine almost a grid of towns each approx 1 days ride away or less in every direction.
  • Livestock would be rare and much smaller in number, having to be housed inside town walls or having their own set of walls which have to be manned and kept lit, etc, which is expensive. Thus, most animal products would be extremely expensive and thus reserved for the elite as luxury goods, etc
  • exploration of unknown lands would be extremely slow, as most people would only be able to ride half a day out before attempting to come back before dark. I guess occasionally someone could get lucky and manage to explore and stay out in the dark for several nights, but overall this would be extremely difficult and rare. As such, the world outside of known civilization would be very unknown, and people groups not connected by the "day's ride town chain" would be isolated from each other, if they even knew about each other at all.

What do you think? Does this make sense, or do you think society would look differently? If so, what would it look like, and why? Also, What did I miss?

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  • $\begingroup$ How would a full Moon affect these creatures? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 15 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ If caught young, can they be trained and work together for people? $\endgroup$ – A new normal. Jan 15 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest you read The Warded Man, by Peter Brett, there is a similar premise $\endgroup$ – John Jan 15 at 5:15
  • $\begingroup$ This query is about a third party property, and those kinds of questions aren't appropriate for this forum. We're here to help you build your fictional world, not discuss others' works. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 15 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ An important part of the world in Pitch Black, is that it's in a system with multiple suns, and it is therefore always day, with the exception of every 22 years when there is an eclipse and the world is plunged into pitch black (roll credits) $\endgroup$ – Michael Mortensen Jan 15 at 9:25
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To be frank about it, you have already answered your own question...

(kind of like vampires I guess)

The material facts are EXACTLY like vampires for the purposes of your question. They go after animals and humans - whether it is to drink their blood or eat them directly doesn't have any real impact on the threat assessment they represent. The fact that they are animals and not ex-humans or at least creatures with human intelligence gives you some minor advantages in their deterrence but the reality is that the mechanics of societal development sound reasonable, because they would be quite consistent with how I would expect the villages and the like to form when faced with a threat like you describe.

In point of fact, to a certain degree medieval Europe actually DID operate in a similar fashion because there were threats in the forests and countryside that had not been eliminated in the same way they have been in modern times. The roads actually WERE dangerous thanks to wild creatures and the like, and night time just made it worse because you couldn't see as well and you had to sleep. Camp Fires at night have been used for millennia to ward off the wild creatures of the night as well as providing light and warmth, the only complication being that such fires were also a beacon to highwaymen and bandits. Ultimately, it all comes down to what you are trying to protect yourself from the most.

You rightly point out that livestock would be lower in number, but it is also important to point out that this could see an increase in the number of pigs. The one thing that pigs DON'T need that animals like sheep, cows, goats, etc. need is grazing land. You can feed them almost anything you have lying around that a human has discarded (or wouldn't touch) and they can survive on that. You round them up at night and put them in a pen, protecting them as an enclave of your city, and you still have a reasonable meat supply. Same with chickens. This means that your citizens are largely consumers of white meat when it is available.

One other thing I would point out is that your population may not grow as fast because establishing new settlements is much harder. In the real world, pioneers go out and set up their lives knowing there are dangers, but that they are not out there trying to eat them every single night. In your world, how do you set up a homestead even half a day's ride away? You spend the morning getting there, do maybe an hour's work before you have to head back to town to be out of harm's way before evening sets. This is going to put a real dampener on growth of resource availability, which in turn will put a limit on how quickly the population can increase in size. It is far more likely that towns would expand rather than new towns form. This is an expansion on your last point about exploration, but exploration is only part of the equation - once you've found resources, you need to establish outposts to exploit them, and that would be even harder than finding the resources in the first place.

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    $\begingroup$ You suggest that people would just try to cope with the threat. I find that unbelievable. See @Slarty s answer, which is much more plausible. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jan 15 at 10:33
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In the early days these night creatures might well be a deadly menace, but assuming a village society is able to keep them out at night the creatures are ultimately doomed. The story would be vaguely similar to that of the wolf.

Wolves have generally been pushed further and further back by the advance of civilization and these creatures would be no different. In fact they would be at a disadvantage because humans can operate night or day whereas the creatures die in the light.

Snares and traps could be set to catch them, anything that they got stuck in would be deadly and trails could be followed. Hunting parties would be sent out at dawn to find out where their lair was. Once discovered large fires could be build outside their lairs or cave entrances.

With multiple entrances it might take time but eventually they would be exterminated.

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    $\begingroup$ imho this is the correct answer. Humanity has a tendency to mercilessly hunt and extinguish any creature it deems dangerous, as soon as we are physically or technically able to. Wolves and bears were tolerated only as long as we couldn't easily hunt them. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jan 15 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ That's a really good point I didn't really consider....Humans hunting the hunters.....fascinating, thanks! $\endgroup$ – Rick D Jan 15 at 16:32
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The worst impact this creatures would do on the society would not be direct manhunt, but the destruction of normal Earth biosphere.

Night terror would not be the most awfull thing. Wolfs at nights in villages (and even some cities) were not uncommon event in 1800 and people already were consern about keeping their familes and stock safe from wildlife far more dangerous than this creatures (I mean bears). Society were still depending greatly on hunting and gathering. Far less than in medieval times, but it was still very important, especialy in winter. But this creatures will eat all the wild animals quite fast and broke all the food chains and ecology ballance. Settlements and wildness would be ovverun by all kind of insects (no birds to control them) and vermins (the only animals that would be ale hide and survive). This would lead to diseases spread, lost of crops and famine. Since it is very apocalipsis-like it would also lead to panic, disorder, mass suicides, religous wars, etc. even in a local outbrake.

Then development of the situation greatly depends on a scale of alien infestation.

For small scale (single nest), after first shock and almost total loss of a subregion (village/town), goverment would orginse alien extermination and would most probably succed. It is not that hard: they just need to find their nest and flood it. Many people would die in process, but that were not such a big problem at that time. Their might be some suviving aliens and futher outbrakes, but this would become a "standart routine", alongside riots, wars, plagues and so on.

For large scale (from subcontininent to global) civilisation is doomed. Humanity would survive in small communities, but state structure would collapse. Not for the direct human loss to aliens, but for beforementioned biosphere disballance wich would lead to far more deaths than to those aliens.

For average case (from one-two cities to couple of regions) sitiation can have both outcomes depending on a current politic situation. Such an invasion during napoleonic-like wars would have all chances to become large scale. In (relativly) peacefull times with strong alliences between nations aliens would be defeted, but with great losses due to high dammage to food production. That would probably put all the region back in medieval times.

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The scenario is fundamentally flawed in that it suggests a great excess of apex predators. In the film the creatures are extremely efficient and lethal hunters. Once night fell the creatures came out in huge numbers, to the point where they devoured any other creature they found almost instantly. In reality, the population of such a species would be self-limiting: if they were that voracious, they would rapidly exhaust food supplies and experience a population crash.

An equilibrium would establish (actually would have established in ancient history as these creatures evolved as part of an ecosystem, long before humans became civilised) and these creatures would already be considerably rarer than suggested in the film. They might still hunt in packs but essentially they would be like rather more lethal night-wolves, and we know how humanity dealt with the threat of wolves to livestock and children. Even if the creatures only come out at night, they still exist during the day, asleep in their lairs. Humans would have hunted them back to their lairs and controlled their numbers to a tolerable level (which, given they prey on humans, would be zero). Perhaps a few isolated colonies might survive in extreme wilderness locations, zoos and private collections.

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