A sentient race of neural parasites is in a civil war between the Symbiotes, who've used their extensive knowledge of genetic engineering to alter themselves into symbiotes, and the Parasites who think the Symbiotes have made a mockery of their way of life and seek to wipe them out. The Parasites outnumber the Symbiotes massively and have driven them into hiding.


  • Both the parasites and the symbiotes are small, squid-like beings similar in size to the larval stage of D&D Illithids, that can infect any species that has a brain roughly similar in size and shape to a human brain. They burrow into the host's neck and then alter the host's DNA, RNA, and body, resulting in radical internal changes. Externally, the only difference is a small lump on the back of the neck. Basically, they're the weird lovechild of a Goa'uld from Stargate and a D&D Illithid.
  • How the control works depends on whether we're dealing with a Symbiote or Parasites. Parasites take over the host's Nervous system, trapping the host in their own body. Symbiotes, on the other hand, have control at the same time the Host does, allowing for multitasking. Conflicting commands cause the body to simply listen to neither command until the issue is resolved. The Symbiont also intimately shares thoughts, feelings, and memories with the host and vice versa, which means that conflicts are rare, and happen at the speed of thought when they do.
  • Some of them grant abilities that both the host and the Symbiont have access to (or just the Parasite, in the case of them), such as gravity manipulation and electromagnetic field manipulation. Don't even ask how they do this, they don't know either, though psionic capabilities may or may not be involved.
  • This is not reversible. The symbiont/parasite can abandon the host, but to do so they must do extensive damage to the nervous system and brain in the process, killing them at best and leaving them with massive brain damage at worst. There are surgical procedures that can separate the symbiont without killing the host, but these are incredibly challenging even for the aliens, and still leave the host with brain damage.
  • Due to the relative irreversibility of a bond, informed consent where the host knows what they're getting into by agreeing to this and agrees without being coerced or on a whim is essential. This presents a slight problem for the Symbiotes undercover among the Parasites, as the Parasites don't give a damn about what the host wants.
  • The symbiotes and parasites hail from an earth-like world, and thus, due to convergent evolution, they have psychology and thought-processes similar to our own, and feel the same emotions. As you can probably tell, this means the divide between them is reflective of modern political divides between Americans: the parasites would lean conservative, while the Symbiotes would lean liberal.


Let's say a symbiote must take a host whilst undercover in Parasite territory. Unfortunately, the host didn't want to host anything, Symbiote or Parasite, in the first place, but the Symbiote had to take the host anyway or risk blowing its cover.

What might be the short-term and long-term psychological consequences, both for the host and the Symbiont, for having to integrate with a host that didn't agree to this?

  • $\begingroup$ We can't answer this as we are humans and not either of these critters. They may have evolved brain structures to deal with this or they might not. The nearest we could come would be to compare with forced marriages, children born of rape, and the wide range of results. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Mar 16 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, fixed your complaint. The aliens, due to the fact that they hail from an earth-like world and were subject to convergent evolution, have psychology roughly similar to our own and feel emotions just like us. Other strains who thought differently were pruned by natural selection. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 16 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ You’ve actually got different questions in the title and at the bottom. Title asks about a consensual agreement that was broken, at the bottom it’s “having to… with a host that didn’t agree to this.” $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 16 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ Check out Octavia E. Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy (aka Lilith's Brood) for a deep psychological portrait of humans being forced into a symbiotic relationship with super-creepy aliens. Just the first book, Dawn, will give you what you need. There's nothing like it. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Mar 17 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Depending on if and how the symbiont can communicate with the host, it kinda seems similar in situation to split-brain patients or Siamese twins who have to cooperate to live in one body. Especially split-brain patients, as they suddenly have to 'share' their body after a lifetime of being alone in it. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Mar 17 at 9:36

6 Answers 6


The feeling of loss of control over ones life is one of the big contributers to depression and/or suicide. Not all people are prone to going to such extremes, but almost all would take actions that would roughly be to assert control. The feeling of loss of control and failure to assert control often leads to depression.

As pretains to your question - both the symbiote and the host would feel a loss of control, seeing as their every move is restricted by a veto by an aggressive party. Both sides, trying to reassert control on their lives would end up in a cycle of depression l. The interesting thing is - if they find a way to agree to die, they likely have worked out thiier differences and won't feel as much of a need to die, but they might see it as a way to end a continued miserable existence.

Additionally, it should be noted that as far as the hosts feelings, this may feel like a very long rape, leaving them either extremely mentally unstable, or just extremely opposed to all forms of symbiosis.

This is not a complete answer, and does not include some of the stranger psychological effects.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, loss of control is going to be an issue. Especially since this posits that the Symbiote in question is in enemy territory and the host will have to relinquish all control in order to maintain the Symbiote's cover. But this will be partially mitigated by the fact that the symbiote wants what's best for the host, and the host knows this because of the sharing of thoughts and feelings. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 14 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Unless the host and the symbiote actually have genuinely different ideas of 'best'. In which case it'll be aggravating. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 9:42

used their extensive knowledge of genetic engineering to alter themselves into symbiotes

In nature, all parasites influence the evolution of their hosts. These would, too, in more explicit ways. Once parasites acquire intelligence and civilization, they would select and breed the most suitable hosts, with highest compatibility and lowest risk of rejection. Then, as we did with cattle, they would select for desirable characteristics like strength, beauty, resistance to disease, etc.

Thus, a market would develop for hosts, with breeders and hunters on the supply side, and parasites on the demand side. We can expect it to have the same characteristics as, say, the car market, with a wide range from cheap and ugly to expensive "designer" high-performance models. Perhaps it would be fashionable (and thus more expensive) to possess a "wild" host, caught by a hunter in the wild, rather than a farm-bred series model. One can imagine plenty of hilarious outcomes like one small tribe of hosts becoming fashionable, and then of course being caught and wiped out.

Likewise, there would of course be a second-hand market. Although the brain damage could be an issue, perhaps a poor parasite who can't afford a new model, or who finds itself in a pinch due to its host dying, could actually use a second-hand host, with some disadvantages of course. Perhaps something about sphincter control...

As parasites discover science, and especially the power of space magic genetic engineering, this business would industrialize, rationalize, and scientif... uh, yeah, scientifize. The Monsantos of this universe would, no doubt, start with suitable host species and modify them to better suit their goals.

Cloned hosts would end up being developed, having only enough brain cells to support basic functions like breathing, and of course hosting a parasite. This should not be a host that has been modified to grow a brain then at some point lose it during its growth, rather most of the DNA that is required to build a brain capable of conscience and free will is removed, so it is never conscious, and does not have the potential to have a conscience.

Then, the ethical implications are much simplified, since these hosts are no longer conscious beings subjected to atrocities, but rather, not much more than potatoes, or cloned spare organs. This would, in fact, be more ethical than pig factory farming.

We shall obviously call this "ethical hosting", or perhaps "fair hosting?" It should have a nice trademark logo to justify the initial increase in cost, and allow buyers to fashionably virtue-signal.

Since the "fair hosting" hosts don't have brains, they will be very easy and cheap to breed, contrary to natural (ie, smart and conscious) hosts who for some reason, object, start revolts, and have a marked tendency to murder their breeders when they understand what's coming for them.

Therefore, in the end, "fair hosting" would win, with natural/wild hosts being made illegal through the standard practice of megacorporations subsidizing bleeding heart liberal protests... and that means, as we all know, they would become a sought-after and expensive commodity reserved to the elite. After all, it's okay when they do it.

At some point, simply transposing current history, someone would come up with a way to convince parasites to change hosts every two years for the shiny new model of iHost (Thinner and shinier! If it dies, you're using it wrong) and make billions out of it.

Then, of course, something would have to be done about this glut of last-gen hosts on the second-hand market cutting into profits, so you would expect FUD campaigns about how "unsafe" it is to "repair it yourself" or "live in someone else's used carcass", followed by manufacturers breaking compatibility or releasing viruses to make other brands of hosts sick, as standard business practice.

In short, I disagree with your premise, but that will give a relevant answer to the question.

The symbiotes in your story do not choose the most practical, economical, and achievable way to solve the problem, which is explained above. Instead, they chose an impractical way that has the side effect of making them appear more virtuous, while at the same time not being virtuous at all, since they are still parasites hijacking fully conscious hosts. And while posing as the defenders of hosts' rights, they consider hosts to be, at best, wayward flock who need to be told what to do by someone who knows better, and must comply. Then they go to war with reality and lose, taking their hosts with them as collateral damage. Therefore, your assessment is correct: they're liberals, and the way they view hosts is exactly the same as liberals view "people of color".

Therefore, the host described in the question would feel exactly the same as any human being does when encountering a liberal. First, the host would wonder why this creature tells him what he should do while having no clue about the matter. Then the host would wonder why the parasite poses as morally superior and rambles about "the common good" while trying to hijack his brain against his will. Perhaps he would think it is misguided, for a while, but ultimately he would understand that it is its nature, and feel what any normal being feels in such situation: disgust, helplessness, then murderous rage.

However, a happy end is still possible: if the parasite was not a liberal, but in fact a closet libertarian geneticist... or better, an anarcho-capitalist, or any other kind of creature who understands that profit has no moral implications, unless you're on the receiving end, in which case it's definitely a good thing... then they could decide to start a business selling modified hosts as described above, and save the universe from parasites while getting filthy rich. At last, a story with a truly moral ending!

  • $\begingroup$ Conservative societies tend to be resistant to change. You're right, they do have the technology to cheaply clone 'fair housing' hosts, but this would cause serious change in their society, and the ruling class would NOT approve of this. Something similar happened on earth with the General Motors EV1. It was an electric car that people LOVED, and one that would probably have been very profitable for them, but General Motors canceled production of them and did a mass recall anyway, EVEN THOUGH owners of the EV1 BEGGED General Motors to let them keep the cars. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 17 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ That being said, this is a very good answer, and one that gives me a lot to think about. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 17 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ XD you did put a very nice bait in the question lol $\endgroup$
    – bobflux
    Mar 17 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Don't let the (decreasing) limitations of electric cars make you think that a 1990s EV had real problems. Conservatives usually support organic social change (one that doesn't is a reactionary, a smaller subset), and/or piecemeal reforms that solve specific reforms. We oppose change for changes sake and attempts to create utopia using flawed tools like government. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @bobflux: Those third to last and second to last paragraphs...beautiful. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 19:15

War is hell.

Sometimes noncombatants get killed. The persons who do the killing might want it otherwise but it is war, and war is violent. Some individuals are haunted by the people they have killed, opposing soldiers and noncombatants alike. Some individuals file those things away and do not let them come out. Some people make peace with the things they had to do in war. Any of these is possible for your Symbiote.

Your Symbiote would need to go the Parasite route and take complete control of the host. Otherwise the host might oppose it or out it at an inopportune moment. Then later the symbiote will leave and the host will die.

If the symbiote can no longer go the parasite full control route it will need to lay low. Maybe the host will forget or not realize it has a symbiote. The symbiote might operate while its host was asleep, or drug the host and operate then when the host cannot oppose it.

  • $\begingroup$ Well thought out, this would be an unfortunate reality, but also a necessary one. However, the way the symbiotes are set up in the story kinda prevents full control like this; it would only be possible if the host agreed to it. The symbiont would first have to explain things to the host, laying out the situation and explaining that allowing the symbiont complete control is necessary to avoid blowing their cover and to keep them both alive. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 17 at 11:44

Give me liberty or give me death

This would be the common path, and their method of choice to end it all would be a horrific end to the thing on their back. An end that sets a precedent. There would be martyrs, sharing torture methods by coded language. This would not work because the host can’t hide from the parasite (it is now a parasite, no matter how you look at it).

Host society rebellion would collectively try to terrorize and torture the former symbiotes. Ritual sacrifices that involve horrifying and publicly displayed disembowelment of symbiotes would go viral.

Some may simply commit suicide, however the norm would be to make their life “matter” for the host society, by creating the largest possible negative consequence for the betrayal.

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

Some factions would side with the parasites to eradicate the two-timing symbiotes. In a simple word, two lives are handcuffed together and trust has been destroyed; survival of the species now dominates the host over survival of self, which forces the symbiote into the same corner.

Unity will come

The only possible outcome is a complete victory to the parasites, because the symbiotes could only survive by doing exactly what the parasites do: complete control. Hosts with any freedom at all are a mortal threat to the lives of their symbiote. Your world now has only parasites, and the war is over.


Frame challenge: An entity that demands complete domination of others for the sake of some perceived aggregate good is a progressive, not a conservative.

  • $\begingroup$ An entity that demands complete domination of others for the sake of some perceived aggregate good is a dictatorship. Modern Progressives don't demand complete domination of others. Quite the opposite, they actually support the expansion of Civil rights and would be strongly opposed to a government denying the autonomy of people for a percieved greater good. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 17 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, that'd be why they support regulation of speech, curtailment of freedom of religion, etc, in order to achieve their policy outcomes? And that's before they take 50% or more of the fruits of your labour. The Symbiote wants what's best for you, but it just had to semi enslave you for life. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 18:56

If the host is pissed off enough at the Symbiote, and wants to live less than the Symbiote, then you could have a blackmail situation where the host threatens exposure. Maybe the host knows a critical Symbiote secret as a result of sharing thoughts and feelings.

And I'm sure some will; being a host to a stupid progressive that self righteously thinks it's so benevolent and nice while forcibly living in your own head would really, really make you hate Symbiotes.


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