An art exhibit displaying a Gw'otesht (a large collection of Gw'oth) with their creator Edward M. Lerner.

The Gw'oth (singular: Gw'o) are sentient creatures resembling starfish that inhabit the ocean under the ice of their home world, the moon Jm'ho.

When linked together -- using a vestigial talent that few Gw'oth retain -- they can form a powerful biological computer. One such instance is named Ol't'ro. Ol't'ro is composed of 16 Gw'oth individuals that link themselves together into a 'meld' or ensemble mind called a Gw'otesht. Ol't'ro is featured prominently throughout the Fleet of Worlds series.[1]

Physiology and AppearanceEdit

A Gw’o loosely resembles a starfish crossed with an octopus. The Gw’o’s five flexible extremities are equally spaced around a disklike central mass. Each tubular tentacle—tubacle—harkens back to the Gwo’s ancestral, free-ranging tube worms. From the mouth inward, arrayed in consecutive rings around the tube’s inner surface, are teeth, eyes, ears, and the myriad chemoreceptors for taste and smell. Shared organs, including most of the central nervous system, reside in the central disk. Flattened and with its tubacles outstretched, a Gw’o spans about two-thirds of a meter.

The Gw'oth look radially symmetric. The internal organs of, and markings upon, the central mass give the Gw’o left/right symmetry.[2]

A Gw’o’s vision, compared to a human’s, is biased toward infrared; it can’t see past blue. Its hearing and speech co-evolved with echolocation. Befitting a carnivore at the apex of a chemosynthetic ecology, a Gw’o has keen senses of taste and smell. Complex communication relies upon modulated sound, but a Gw’o, like an Earthly squid, conveys emotions—sometimes involuntarily—with color patterns on its spiny skin.

Gw’oth both swim and scuttle along the ocean floor. To swim, they draw in water through an orifice in the central mass and expel the water through their tubacles. That is, a Gw’o is jet-propelled. It steers, veers, and spins by aiming and reaiming its tubacles.

Gw’oth have genders—but neither gender roles nor sex. Females deposit egg clusters within breeding chambers in the Jm’ho analogue to coral reefs. Males later fertilize the egg clusters. Some social groupings limit breeding-chamber access to individuals of suitable prestige. At birth, the immature, not-yet-sentient newborns scatter; those few spawn that manage to elude predators and to mature are accepted into Gw’oth society. Gw’oth can eject gametes anywhere, and egg and sperm could manage to meet anywhere. Newly mature Gw’oth return to their spawning ground, at which time they are taken into the social grouping. Unsanctioned spawn that survive are apt to become rogue and feral adults.



With prehensile and opposable tubacles to manipulate objects, Gw’oth are natural tool users. For most of Gw’oth history they’ve had only stone tools. Their communities of stacked-stone buildings hug the serpentine ocean-floor vents. He who controls the life-giving vents holds all power; Gw’oth government tends toward dictatorship. This changed drastically, and quickly during the events surrounding the Fleet of Worlds.

Notable IndividualsEdit


  1. Fleet of Worlds (novel)
  2. Quoth the Gw'oth
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