Dec 9, 2018

Quickly Beyond

click image to enlarge (source)
Two years ago I tried to write a short account of the Exode Saga. At that time, there was still much to learn about the role that the Phari played in making possible the Trysta-Grean Pact and the Final Reality.

Here in 2018, there has been significant progress towards understanding the hierion-based technologies that the Phari provided to R. Gohrlay.

Waiting for Azynov
Many Sails
Yōd informed me (see this) that Azynov would reach Earth in 2017. The hope was that Azynov could access the information resources hidden inside Eternity.

While waiting for Azynov's arrival, I tried to learn about the First Reality. Sadly, progress has been very slow on that front. Alpha Gohrlay was taken from me and it seems that Zeta and Yōd know very little about the First Reality.

Yōd's mission to Earth.
Back at the end of 2016, I knew that Many Sails would be a major part of A Search Beyond. Yōd had quickly set up a website for the story, but the tryp'At Overseers were still actively blocking me from learning about Observer Base in general and the AR Simulator in particular. By making use of her replicoid (who was inside Observer Base) Yōd was a great source of information about alien visitors to Earth, including the mysterious hermaphrodite Resh^Ki, but I would have to wait two more years before the tryp'At Overseers were cleared away and the exact roles of interventionists like Resh^Ki could be revealed.

When Yōd was teleported to Earth, I was rather shocked. I had previously constructed a false dichotomy in my thinking: 1) the Huaoshy could travel rapidly between galaxies by means of spacecraft like Many Sails and, in contrast, 2) lesser Genesaunts such as the Fru'wu might be forced to make use of short-range teleportation for travel that would be restricted to the confines of their home galaxy. The idea that Many Sails would teleport Yōd to Earth surprised me.

Phari Base in the Slave Craton
During the past two years, I have come to realize the importance of teleportation and I now understand that an effort had been made to keep me from realizing just how accessible teleportation technology might be and what it might reveal about the Hidden History of Earth. In particular, it is possible to teleport into a hidden Phari base that is located deep under the surface of Earth.

The AR Simulator
the AR Simulator
Early in 2017, when I began receiving relayed reports about Asimov's replicoid's findings in the Asimov Reality Simulator of Eternity, I allowed myself to imagine that the secret origins of the Ek'col and the tryp'At would soon be revealed. However, those reports from Azynov soon dried up and it appeared that the tryp'At Overseers were cracking down. Rather than deal with the tryp'At, did Azynov simply remain in the AR Simulator?

Might telepathy provide a way to send reports from inside the AR Simulator to the world outside? Until the arrival of the Bimanoid Interface version 2.0, there was no way to seriously explore this possibility. Immediately after the Bimanoid Interface was altered, Yōd went to join Azynov in AR Simulator. Who might have the required telepathic ability to communicate with Yōd? I've sometimes imagined that with a chemical boost I might be able to more effectively use the Bimanoid Interface, but finally in 2018 I discovered that there is someone on Earth who can communicate telepathically with Yōd.

At the end of 2017 I was struggling to find an optimal narrative system for A Search Beyond. I knew that both Azynov and Yōd had important roles to play in telling the secrets hidden inside the AR Simulator, but another key element was missing.

However, thanks to Jack Vance, I did have the embryo of an idea for how physical evidence of ancient alien visitors to Earth might be revealed See the image to the right).

the mysterious origins of Yōd
Early in 2018, I was exploring the idea that there might be the need to explicitly include some sort of "Search for the Editor" in the Exode Saga. I had grown comfortable with the idea that I am the Editor, so the idea of me giving way to "the real Editor" was hard to latch on to. In any case, it was fun imagining that Yōd could be annoyed by me hesitating to write A Search Beyond. I had some intuition that Yōd was hiding an important truth from me, so Yōd and I had a bit of a standoff, which gave me time to think rather than write.

Think about what? I've long been comfortable with the idea that the Huaoshy altered the Dimensional Structure of the universe during my lifetime. What if that change to the universe also made it impossible for any further replicoids to be created? What if Azynov is the last replicoid?

Writing A Search Beyond
And what about the other folks who were present at Observer Base when Azynov was created? How was I going to learn their backstories and find the true starting point for A Search Beyond? In April of 2018 I was searching for a critical Rule Change that seemed to be missing, something that would allow me to make rapid progress in writing my account of the Exode Saga. I was searching for a new way to get information out of the AR Simulator, some way to side-step my own replicoid, Irhit.

"Exoditions on Cynk"
A way around Irhit and the tryp'At Overseers was finally discovered this year when I learned about The Exoditions on Cynk and the fate of R. Gohrlay. Apparently Alpha Gohrlay and R. Gohrlay were somehow merged in a way which may have been what Asimov was trying to hint at in the mysterious ending of Foundation and Empire.

Bimanoid Interface 2.0
When the Bimanoid Interface was altered, the entire landscape for human technology-assisted telepathy shifted. I had not previously appreciated the role of R. Nyrtia in obtaining and applying ancient Phari technologies, including the Bimanoid Interface. Yōd was forced to depart from Earth and she followed Azynov into the AR Simulator. However, she gave me a going away gift: a set of infites.

With those infites in my mind, I realized that Yōd had played a trick on me when she came to Earth. Her mission here on this world had been to prepare for a transition, a shift of direction from me to my grand-daughter Rylla. She had tricked me by taking on the physical form of Sally. In reality, the human body that she was using during her mission on Earth belonged to Rylla's mother. Yōd refrained from allowing me to know about her telepathic connections to my mind while she carefully helped Rylla develop her special telepathic abilities.

Another big surprise passed on to me by Yōd's infites was that a positronic robot, R. Nyrtia was operating on Earth and preparing Rylla as someone with a type of technology-assisted telepathy that was created specifically for use by humans living under the terms of the Trysta-Grean Pact. Rylla is able to function as an antenna, receiving information from Yōd in the AR Simulator. How? Zeta has provided me with hints about possible involvement of "a clone of Asimov" who resides at Observer Base, but that avenue of investigation needs to explored.

Two other important characters in A Search Beyond were revealed to me by Yōd's infites: Maria Green and Georgy White. They were the mechanism by which Rylla was first made aware of alien visitors to Earth. Georgy was able to obtain evidence for negative-mass hierions. While scrubbing Earth clean of that evidence for alien visitors to Earth, Maria left Rylla with subjective evidence that alien forces were at work on Earth, keeping most humans in the dark and unaware of alien visitors.

Here at the end of 2018, I am left wondering about the apparent ability of Qaz Nivsaham to guide and control events on Earth. As a human being who grew up on Earth, I am comfortable crafting the Exode Saga around characters such as Kach the Kac'hin. However, it might be important to find a way to re-conceptualize the main players in the Exode Saga in terms of alien-crafted states of matter.

If so, then by what means can readers be quickly taken beyond our conventional expectation that a science fiction story be about specific characters? The Exode Saga might fundamentally concern a technological issue such as quantum computation. If so, how can such a story best be told? And is finding the answer to that question my concern or has that job been handed off to Rylla?

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Dec 5, 2018

Book Review

cover art by
Edward Valigursky
I'm a fan of science fiction stories, particularly loooong and complex tales such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation Saga. However, for the past three years I have engaged in small attempts to experiment with other types of writing. In 2015, I tried to write a science fantasy story. I prefer long format stories, but in 2016, I tried to write a short summary of the Exode Saga and in 2017, I tried to write a short mystery story. What about my writing "change challenge" for 2018?

Foundation Trilogy
I don't hesitate to give advice to fellow Sci Fi fans concerning good books to read. For example, I recently decided that Trullion is a great place for readers to obtain an introduction to the writing of Jack Vance. Here in this blog, I've written many thousands of words about my favorite science fiction novels such as Trullion and The End of Eternity, but I have never tried to write a real book review for a novel. Why not? Firstly, I would only want to write a review for a book that I like. However, the books that I enjoy are complex and I doubt if I can adequately express what makes them great in a few words during the course of a book review.

Cover art by
Darrell Sweet
Also, I've read what Isaac Asimov once wrote about how a book review should be written and his criteria for a good book review are rather daunting. And I agree with his rules for writing a book review. Therefore, I am seriously inhibited from trying to write a book review because I do not think I could rise to Asimov's high standards. And besides, writing a serious book review is hard work. This blog is my playground, not a place for me to work hard!

Foundation and Earth
cover art by
Michael Whelan
Here in this blog, I've repeatedly commented on Isaac Asimov's novel, Foundation and Earth. Below, I'll attempt to actually write a review of this novel by Asimov.
****book review start****
Mystery story
The setting for Foundation and Earth is Isaac Asimov's imagined galaxy of the future, the home of 25 million worlds that have been colonized by humans. It took about 10 thousand years for humans to spread outward from Earth and fill up the habitable worlds of the galaxy. Mysteriously, the location of Earth was forgotten, but a few scholars of the far future still puzzle over the location of Humanity's home world.

cover art by Stephen Youll
Adventure story
One such historically-oriented scholar of the future is Janov Pelorat. He is one of the three main characters in Foundation and Earth. A threesome consisting of Janov, Bliss (short for Blissenobiarella) and Golan Trevize search for the hidden location of long-lost Earth. These three characters were introduced to readers in Foundation's Edge, the preceding novel in the Foundation Saga. However, in his introduction to Foundation and Earth, Asimov assured readers that it is not necessary to have read Foundation's Edge since Foundation and Earth stands on its own. This is a slightly misleading claim because Foundation and Earth is not simply a romp through the universe in search of a lost planet.

Bliss, Pelorat and
a robot (defunct) see
For one thing, Foundation and Earth is built on top of a strange kind of love triangle. Pelorat is an older man with a very loving and very much younger Bliss at his side and in his bed. Trevize is protective of his friend Pelorat and suspicious of Bliss. Why? For one thing, Bliss is not human in the conventional sense. She is from the mysterious planet Gaia where the residents have been genetically engineered to function as part of a planet-wide group mind.

Mystery within a Mystery
cover art by William Timmins
The larger mystery in Foundation and Earth, beyond the location of Earth, is the issue of who would intentionally hide the location of Humanity's home planet? And why? Foundation and Earth is told from the perspective of Trevize, a First Foundationer who is suffering from a strange psychic compulsion to discover who has recently swept through all the archives and libraries of the galaxy, removing information about the lost planet Earth.

Telepathic robots!
cover art by Stephen Youll
Back in the 1940s, when Asimov began the Foundation Saga, he was under the influence of John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine which published all the early Foundation stories. Campbell had a particular soft spot in his head heart for stories about telepathy. In 1945, Asimov introduced a character called "The Mule" into the Foundation Saga. The Mule was a "mutant" human with telepathic powers. The First Foundation is devoted to physical science, but lurking in the background is a Second Foundation, populated by a telepathic minority of Humanity.

cover art by Michael Whelan
Throughout Foundation and Earth, Trevize is guided on his search for Earth by a mysterious telepathic force. Readers might guess that it is agents of the Second Foundation who are playing with Trevize's mind, but the mysterious source of Trevize's compulsion to find Earth remains a mystery until page 475 of this 494 page novel.

cover art by
Michael Whelan
Positonic Robots
Although the Foundation Saga is famous among science fiction fans, Asimov believed that he would be remembered for his stories about positronic robots. Until Foundation and Earth, Asimov had not made robots a prominent element of his Foundation stories. In the years just before publishing Foundation and Earth, Asimov had published two long novels about telepathic robots: The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire. Although these two robot novels are set 20,000 years before the events of Foundation and Earth, readers should probably make an effort to read at least one of them before reading Foundation and Earth. Doing so will allow readers to appreciate what is happening when robots show up and play a major role in Foundation and Earth.

- Hari Seldon -
Creator of the
two Foundations.
cover art by Stephen Youll
Foundation and Earth could be called "The Forced Re-Education of Golan Trevize". Poor Golan is like a puppet, held in an uncomfortable position between competing galactic forces: the two Foundations, Gaia and another party lurking off stage through most of the story. His education comes during his travels through the galaxy in search of Earth. The quest to find Earth begins on Gaia, a world that does not appeal to Golan. Upon meeting Bliss and learning about the existence of Gaia, Golan hates the idea that all of Humanity might become merged into a galaxy-spanning group mind if Gaia expands (as planned) so as to encompass all 25,000,000 inhabited worlds. Through all of Foundation and Earth, Bliss is a constant reminder of this horrific possibility, although 200 pages into the story Bliss and Golan declare a truce in their feud and they actually shake hands. Only after working together to face and survive a life-and-death crisis are they driven towards this fragile truce.

Elijah Baley
cover art by Stephen Youll
From Gaia, the three travelers go to Comporellon (originally known as "Baleyworld"), with Golan piloting the Far Star, their spaceship, a modern "gravitic" ship with a sophisticated computer interface for controlling its movements through space. The people of Comporellon have ancient myths about a legendary figure, "Benbally", a name that will be familiar to readers of Robots and Empire. Comporellon is a planet where the residents cling to legends of Earth while they are also deeply superstitious and fearful of the past.

Cover art by Stephen Youll
Mere mention of the word "Earth" sends some residents of Comporellon into a ritual act of crossing their fingers in order to ward off evil influences. What evil? Well, the evil of radioactivity, for one thing. Readers cannot avoid jumping to the (incorrect) conclusion that the location of Earth was lost and forgotten after it was destroyed in a nuclear war. Miraculously, Golan stumbles upon an historical researcher on Comporellon who has recently made a startling discovery, including the coordinates of two nearby "forbidden worlds", planets of the ancient "Spacer" civilization.

cover art by Stephen Youll
The Settlers of Baleyworld and the 50 "Spacer" worlds are described in Asimov's novels The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire. Ideally, readers of Foundation and Earth should read those novels first. Of course, readers who first read Foundation and Earth might become curious enough to then read Asimov's robot stories, but I fear the more common path will be one of confusion and surrender. It takes Asimov 150 pages in Foundation and Earth before mention is made of the Spacer Worlds and modern readers with short attention spans might not make it even that far. The thought of this happening saddens me, because the way that Asimov merges his robot stories with the Foundation Saga in Foundation and Earth is masterful. I simply wish there were a sure-fire way for all readers to appreciate what is going on.

Ancient Robots
cover art by Stephen Youll
The travels of Golan, Pel and Bliss aboard the Far Star continue to the Spacer planets Aurora and Solaria, which, again, in order to be appreciated, the reader should have previously read The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire. Asimov gives readers a look at two more worlds during the Far Star's journey to Earth: Melpomenia and "New Earth". On each of these planets, Golan learns more about the origins of Humanity. In proper high adventure fashion, our three heroes meet with danger on each world that they visit. Readers slowly begin to realize that the team of Golan, Pel and Bliss was carefully selected: perhaps only they, working as a team, can survive the dangerous journey to Earth.

Hari Seldon
...known through the galaxy
as the creator of Psychohistory
cover art by Michael Whelan
Finally, Golan, Pel and Bliss reach Earth and the hidden mysteries of Earth's past are revealed to them. However, Asimov leaves readers wondering what will happen next. Sadly, he never got around to writing another book that would continue the story of his imagined galaxy past the events depicted in Foundation and Earth. Asimov's next two books in the Foundation Saga were prequels. Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation are intimately linked to the "hidden robots" theme that Asimov developed in Foundation and Earth. Asimov connects the origins of Hari Seldon, Psychohistory and the Foundations to positronic robots. Thus, an alternative to reading The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire prior to reading Foundation and Earth is to read the the other books of the Foundation Saga first, particularly the two prequel novels.

original robot art by
Michael Whelan
Foundation and Earth presents readers with a long (almost 500 pages) and twisty journey to the hidden planet Earth. The journey is worthwhile: culminating in one of the great reveals of science fiction literature. Similarly, Asimov's many positronic robot and Foundation stories provide a decades long journey to Foundation and Earth. Foundation and Earth is not a place for readers to begin exploring Asimov's Foundation Saga, but this novel is a worthy destination to keep in mind for readers who might just be starting to read Asimov's fiction.
****book review end****
Looking for an entry point for Asimov's science fiction? Try his short story "Cal".
Make me one with Gaia
Always leave the reader wanting more. There are several elements that Asimov included in Foundation and Earth that seem like dangling threads, twisty tendrils that may point towards a needed continuation of the Foundation Saga. If you have not read Foundation and Earth then you should probably stop reading here; spoilers follow, below...

A strange character named Fallom becomes central to the solution of the major technological challenge in Foundation and Earth.

Is that you, Jemby?
Readers must wonder: was the entire interstellar journey of Golan, Pel and Bliss to Earth designed to make it possible for them to "kidnap" Fallom and deliver this odd child to a mysterious mastermind who for deeply personal reasons could not simply go out and capture Fallom without help? Golan seems to reach that conclusion, but he does not appear to resent having been used by the hidden mastermind as part of a plot to kill Fallom's parent and cart Fallom away from the beloved care-taker Jemby.
Golan the Never Wrong

The Mysterious Mastermind of Earth intends to convert all of Humanity into a vast galaxy-spanning group mind called Galaxia, and Fallom is needed in order to complete that 20,000-year-long project. When Golan begins his journey of discovery in Foundation and Earth he is profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of Gaia as a planetary group mind, but in the end he endorses the creation of a Galaxia that will span all the 25 million human-colonized worlds. Why? As a defense against aliens.

Fail: Psychohistory
Golan concludes that Hari Seldon's science of Psychohistory was worthless and can never be used successfully to create a viable future of Humanity because its fundamental postulates assumed that the galaxy would only be populated by human beings. Seldon's Plan never took into account the existence of non-human intelligences, so Golan concludes that Galaxia (and not a second Galactic Empire built upon the Foundations) must be the best future path for Humanity.

Alien Invaders
the odd couple
Asimov wrote openly about why his early Foundation stories did not include any aliens. The absence of aliens was due to the heavy-handed meddling of his editor, John Campbell. Campbell had specific and inflexible views on how depictions of alien beings should be constructed and included in stories. Finding it difficult to write about aliens in a way that would satisfy Campbell, Asimov decided to simply not include any aliens in the Foundation stories that he sold to Campbell for publication in Astounding.

worlds in collision
This choice led to Asimov inventing a contorted explanation (involving Earth's large moon) for the uniqueness of Earth as the only planet in the galaxy that could give rise to higher forms of life. Asimov was writing in the primitive era, before astronomers had data concerning the existence of exomoons. With the arrival of more sensitive observation techniques, such data are now becoming available to us. Asimov's in-story "explanation" for a "humans only galaxy" and no aliens remains in danger of being tossed on the trash heap of science fiction history along with networks of canals on Mars and jungles on Venus.

The Dead Hand of Hari Seldon
there are no aliens...
or are there?
Of particular interest to readers of Foundation and Earth is that after decades of telling readers "there are no aliens", at the end of Foundation and Earth Asimov raises the specter of there actually being space aliens who are a danger to Humanity's future. Sadly, Asimov never showed us where this new thread might lead before he died.

human variants
Might genetic engineering be used to convert humans into a new alien-seeming species or would Asimov have chosen to depict actual space aliens arriving from beyond our galaxy as part of a sequel to Foundation and Earth? Sadly, with Asimov's early demise, we will never know how he might have continued the Foundation Saga.

Related Reading: the path not taken, Asimov's aliens
Next: Quickly Beyond
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