I am halfway through Dan Simmons 'Fall of Hyperion' and I was wondering whether there are any expert opinions on how human physicality would change upon living in zero-g.

In the Hyperion novels the Ouster race is described as being 3 meters tall, thin, having some sort of tail, and having feet that can grip like hands.

To me it seems absolutely absurd that humans could evolve so much in the space of 4 or 5 centuries. I would guess that people would naturally grow taller, maybe a couple of foot or so, and that people would be very thin and have very little muscle mass, but the evolution of a tail and gripping feet I think is a step too far!

Does anyone know if any scientists or whatever have ever published any theories on this. Or even point out what I have missed (such as the Ousters genetically modifying a generation of children or something, which would make more sense to me).

  • 4
    I believe the Ousters may have had at least some influence on their own evolution.
    – SaintWacko
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 15:12
  • 1
    It is stated in the book that the tails are prosthetic (page 150).
    – gylaz
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 6:04

2 Answers 2


From what I remember, the Ousters didn't evolve 100% naturally. Unlike the rest of the world, where the TechnoCore focused on the Farcasters technology, they continued to work with genes and DNA manipulation, in order to be able to make themselves more capable of adapting to the various environments in space.

So this is more of a matter of technological advancement and not one of natural evolution. Taking this into account, the outsters physiques don't seem too far-fetched.

From Wikipedia

Rather than altering existing planets to suit humans, the Ousters alter themselves to fit the environment. Thus the Ousters come in a huge variety of appearances and forms.

Besides, compared to the other things from the series, this is actually one of the most plausible theories about the future

  • 3
    What, you don't think the Time Tombs' anti-entropic fields are plausible? ;)
    – SaintWacko
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 20:29
  • To be honest, I believe all the aspects of the book are quite plausible. Dan Simmons tried to give them some believable explanations, kudos to him. It's just that some are more plausible than others :))
    – BBog
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 6:36
  • Ahh I must have missed that, I wasn't aware that the Ousters had genetically modified themselves, although I did think that that would be a plausible explanation for their appearance. And I also wasn't aware they came in a variety of forms. This is probably because where I am up to in the novels so far the only real glimpse of them is where Kassad fights them in the damaged spaceship during his back-story.
    – dormisher
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 9:12
  • There are more informations on the ousters in the last book of the series, "The rise of Endymion". In the first two, yeah, you don't get that much data on the ousters. Btw, I hope I didn't spoil you with my answer
    – BBog
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 9:25

Much can happen, evolution-wise, in just four or five centuries. However, there must be selective pressure: either those without these proto-traits will die before they can reproduce, or prospective mates refuse to reproduce with those who do not have the proto-traits. I have not read this particular book, and some authors do toy around with evolutionary theory variants that are not mainstream science (Lamarckism, etc).

Humans do have a vestigial tail. And some are born with tails (usually parents choose to surgically "correct" that). So the genetic potential is there, supposing something would select for it. And I can say that me, personally, I'm as likely to pick up something with my feet as I am to stoop over for it. I guess I'm a freak.

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