Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xeno-no-show

In all the planets humanity has explored in Ghosts of Innocence, there is one notable absence.

An official census at the accession of Julian Flavio Skamensis counted 523 inhabited star systems. This does not include the many tens of thousands of other systems explored but holding no self-supporting permanent population.

Note that I chose my words carefully there. I posted about the difficulties of interstellar censuses here.

OK, there were actually two notable absences.

Firstly, none of these worlds was originally fit to live on. Apart from Earth, which has long since been lost in the mists of legend, everywhere people live has had to be artificially made fit for habitation. Many worlds were terraformed - a slow and expensive process that eventually became the cause for immense conflict. Some, like Jemiyal, were simply converted into immense enclosed bases.

But there were no new Gardens of Eden, no Earthly twins. Just inhospitable balls of rock.

And that brings me to the most significant absence.

No alien life. Not even a microbe.

I chose not to populate my universe with a zoo of alien races. Yes, it's been fashionable for decades to pretend we aren't alone in our corner of the galaxy, but I suspect other intelligent life will turn out to be far spread in both time and space, and may be so removed from anything we have on Earth as to be possibly unrecognizable. This is a far cry from aliens in popular fiction, most of which, for some reason, turn out to be bipedal near-humanoids, or based on some Earthly body plan like insects or reptiles. That always makes me roll my eyes when I read it, so I decided to hold true to my beliefs.

Every person, plant, and animal in Shayla's world is ultimately of terrestrial origin.

Little green men, or large-eyed silvery men, are not part of the landscape.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting. Kind of a bleak discovery for the people of the time, I would think, to find that there is nothing and no one else there.

    I'm also interested to see how others do their X posts.

    --j--

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  2. Any intelligent life will stay as far away from us as possible.

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  3. In a place as expansive - and ever growing - as outer space, so many things are possible that running upon other life forms is NOT always guaranteed.

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  4. Encountering bi-pedal near-humanoids in science fiction doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that most of them happen to speak English.

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  5. J: Probably not a lot different from sailing into uncharted waters and failing to find all the mythological creatures people had imagined might be there. Nothing but us humans. And, yes, X is a difficult letter.

    Delores: That's almost as bleak as not finding anyone out there :)

    Wendy: Exactly. I like to be different.

    Angela: That was my assessment, too. I might expand on that in another post sometime.

    Susan: What about the fact that, with the whole planet to choose from, they invariably land somewhere on the eastern seaboard of the USA?

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  6. Interesting post, Botanist. I think in one of my posts, I wrote about the differences in evolution among the continents--here on earth. So, we can only imagine the differences between Earth and another world, with respect to climate, chemical building blocks, even the size of the planet and its corresponding gravitational pull. We have no idea. I think there is likely microbial life, at the minimum. But, that is a guess :-) I like what you have done...not allowed any questions of origins to seep into your story. And for straight scifi, that certainly works. CJ Cherryh writes some very good straight scifi, but has infused her books with bipedal alien life forms that neither think like humans or speak English. Therein lies quite a difficulty--writing an "alien" tongue so that earthly readers can understand it ;-) And another difficulty that you avoid by taking the "all terra" approach, is that your readers can make a connection--positive or negative, they can empathize with your characters, because they know what it's like to be human too.

    I do write about bipedal, human-like lifeforms, but I don't often write straight scifi. And there again, it does make it easier for the reader to relate to the characters. ;-)

    Your world sounds fascinating. :-)

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  7. Teresa, you're right about relating to the characters. I think I maybe overstated my attitude up there though, it all depends on how "serious" the sci-fi is trying to be. Something that is clearly light-hearted I have no problem with because it adds a fun element, but if the story is trying to project something of a credible future world then I start to have difficulty. In this case I'm trying to be moderately credible, so I chose what I honestly believe to be the most likely scenario and stuck with it.

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  8. I have a very similar approach to my more serious space-faring sci-fi. I have done some microbial species, but save for that I think it will be a long, long, very long time--if ever--humans discover sentient alien life beyond the microbial.

    But, that's also a nice element of wonder to have in storytelling. Great sci-fi authors used to write about our Solar System (and particularly Mars) with such wonder. Now, we know enough about it that it's no longer mysterious and fantastic. At least, for the long foreseeable future we will still have the spellbinding search for intelligent alien life.

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  9. Fairchild, that's an interesting take on it...while we have no evidence for (or against) life elsewhere, it remains a wondrous mystery, full of unimaginable possibility.

    Look at what's happened on Earth over the last few centuries. Once, beyond the horizon was an unexplored world. Now, there is little left to tease the imagination, and we are all the poorer as a result.

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