The Foitani were a bellicose space-faring species that created an empire some 4,000 light-years across the known universe. It reached its maximum size more than 30,000 years ago but was destroyed in a series of civil wars, called the Suicide Wars by surviving Foitans.

The wars were fought over gender issues. By nature, Foitani were born either male or female and lived their lives as whichever they had been at birth. However, the Foitani genome was rather susceptible to engineering, and certain Foitani, known as vodranet, reprogrammed themselves and their descendants to be born as females and to transform into males after adolescence. It was found that the vodranet emitted pheromones which drove natural Foitani into an uncontrollable rage, as the natural pheromones did to the vodranet. Given the already-violent nature of their culture, war was inevitable.

In the wars, the vodranet won a Pyrrhic victory. Thirty of their known colonies survived, and of these half a dozen ultimately managed to return to interstellar space. These spacefaring Foitan societies fought among themselves, and each maintained that they were the only pure successor to the Great Ones, i.e., the Foitani who had lived before the wars and built the great empire. On these planets, all knowledge of the causes of the war and of the true nature of Foitani gender was lost. On most of the worlds some Foitani discovered a process of turning themselves back into one-gender animals known as kwopillot. Ignorant of the fact that they were in fact restoring the proper natural life cycle of their species, they were branded as deviants and brutally executed by their fellows, who, again, were incensed to rage by the odor of the kwopils' pheromones.

Around the year 3000, two Foitani expeditions discovered a group of prewar Foitan Great Ones who had been kept in suspended animation through the ages. Originally revered by the Foitani, once the Great Ones were thawed out, they were found to be from the kwopil side and their pheromones incensed the vodranet to attack. Upon discovering the true nature of Foitan physiology and history, some of the modern Foitani were prepared to destroy the Great Ones, themselves, and all other witnesses to preserve the established version of history, but one witness, human Jennifer Logan, instead provided them with Earth science fiction novellas which they used to reach a level of mutual tolerance.

Prior to the Suicide Wars, Foitani visited many worlds and were interested in the study of sapient alien species who had not yet formed complex civilizations. They pursued this scientific curiosity in the cruelest of fashions: they would typically abduct members of those species, kill them, store their physical and neural information digitally, and continually recreate the specimens as needed to conduct cruel experiments. If they deemed the inhabitants of a world to be dangerous, which they often did, they would engineer a virus which would attack the respiratory systems of these aliens and spread throughout the population. These viruses were supposed to be lethal and incurable. They once attempted to destroy the people of Earth in such fashion, but while the virus they created was indeed incurable, it did not prove lethal. It plagued mankind through the millennia as the common cold.

Typical Foitans were taller and bulkier than all but the biggest humans with vaguely bear-, wolf-, or dog-like features. The main racial distinction, as with humans, was skin color but with greater variation. Major races of Foitans had blue, green or red skin color, reflecting their planet of origin; each surviving colony's people had by the modern era been separated from other Foitan populations for so long that they had evolved distinct subspecies characteristics. The original Foitan skin color appears to have been gray.