Apr 14, 2017

200K Visitors

Early last year this blog reached 100,000 visitors. Over the years, the chances of people stumbling upon this blog has gradually increased, but a few months ago there was a sudden increase in daily "pageviews" as tracked by Google. I suspect that most of these "new visitors" are bots, but as counted by Google, the wikifiction blog has now passed 200,000 pageviews.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original Cover
art by Edmund Emshwiller and ? (Azazel)
I like to honor arbitrary numerical blogging milestones by reflecting on the past and speculating about where this blog might go in the future.

In the March 1991 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Asimov published a short essay called "Suspense I". I read that essay when it was later published in Gold.

In that essay, Asimov described how his science fiction stories (such as his Foundation saga) go beyond a simplistic "balance between good and evil". Asimov was happy to write stories about protagonists in which the reader is never sure if the "hero" is good or evil, never quite sure exactly what the "problem" is that the hero is dealing with and for which the reader never really knows if the hero should "win". Asimov felt that all this uncertainty created suspense and kept readers reading and turning pages.

A Search Beyond
I originally (back in the 1970s) learned about science fiction as a literary genre by reading Asimov's science fiction stories. It should come as no surprise that I also make no attempt to depict the characters in my stories as "good" or "evil". In my current writing obsession, the Exode saga, I bring a "copy" of Asimov "back from the dead" and I make Asimov himself a character in the story.

In A Search Beyond, Asimov's replicoid returns to Earth 25 years after Asimov's death. Asimov's replicoid is being used as a tool by Many Sails. I present the reader with an artificial life copy of Asimov who is being used by an alien sentient spaceship. I make no serious effort to explain to readers the mission that Many Sails is trying to accomplish on Earth and the reader is challenged to figure out exactly what is going on and if Asimov's investigative science fiction mission exploring Earth's past is a good thing or a danger to we Earthlings.

The Exode saga depicts the human species as a kind of cosmic mistake and a sort of ethically questionable experiment. I believe that the human species evolved slowly by natural selection, but within the confines of a science fiction story it is more fun to imagine that we were created by aliens, for a purpose. By making this assumption in the Exode saga, I shift readers away from the conventional "alien invasion" plot in which evil aliens invade Earth.

Asimov wrote a short introduction to Invasions. That essay was also reprinted in Gold. In that essay, Asimov gave an historical account of some past invasions on Earth, such as the Mongol invasion of Europe.

The cover for Invasions includes assorted weird aliens and a futuristic soldier with a (ray?) gun. Through the decades of my life, I've been endlessly bored and dismayed by all of the silly alien invasion stories that have been endlessly written and rehashed. In his introductory essay for Invasions, Asimov makes the point that if alien beings were to arrive on Earth, they might be friendly.

I like to imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality, science fiction was crafted as a literary genre for the purpose of preparing humans for First Contact with the alien Fru'wu. I have fun imagining that we humans would only notice First Contact with some alien creature like the Fru'wu while we could be entirely unaware of the fact that an alien artificial life form like the pek has been here on Earth for the past 2 billion years.

From the perspective of the pek, we humans are a kind of disease. The scheming bumpha have given we humans a chance to leak out from Earth into the surrounding galaxy, but from the perspective of the pek, it is only a matter of when, not if, we humans will destroy ourselves.

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Apr 6, 2017

Continuing Voyages

Kirk's robot dream (left); the original robotic Rayna (right)
Three years ago I commented on the first 3 episodes of Star Trek Continues. The 8th episode was released in April 2017. Last year I celebrated 50 years of Star Trek by looking back at the interesting episodes of the original series. Now it is time to catch up with the Enterprise...

Episode 4
Kirk has memory problems after being struck on the head in episode #4 of Star Trek Continues. This episode dwells on Kirk's lost loves. First we get a glimpse into Kirk's haunting memory of the long-"dead" robot girl Rayna.

Kirk remembers the humanoid alien Miramanee and
Edith from Earth in the 1930s.
As much fun as it is to see Kirk's old flames resurrected, I wish that Star Trek Continues would actually take us to some strange new worlds rather than simply rehash old topics. Hey, they could have even given us a story about some long lost love child of Kirk. But no...

Kirk is feeling guilty over his role in the deaths of Rayna, Miramanee and Edith. In the end we are supposed to believe that Kirk will be fine as long as he has his number 1 girl, the Enterprise.

Episode 5
alien nanites
The Enterprise is "invaded" by alien nanites. At first, the nanites invade the computer system, "feeding" on the available information. When the nanites are going through the historical database, there is an explosion. Kirk and McCoy are standing nearby and so some of the nanites are blasted into their bodies.

"I have an idea!"
Kirk and McCoy collapse, seemingly unconscious, but in their minds they are under the influence of the nanites and they magically share an experience of living through a battle during the American Civil War. They both share closely related "dream" experiences because their two brains are linked by the alien nanites. Are these "dreams" how the aliens try to communicate, or, perhaps, how they try to give a gift to Kirk? In his "dream", Kirk is pleased when he gets to see President Lincoln. He also gets hit by cannon shrapnel and the "dreaming" McCoy has to amputate Kirk's leg while the bodies of Kirk and McCoy lie un-moving in sick bay.

Red-shirt bait
For some magical reason, Kirk's leg that was amputated only in his dream then actually "starts to die". Spock wants to get the alien nanites out of Kirk and McCoy. To do so, he can temporarily stop their brain activity, but they also need some kind of "bait" that will attract the nanites. The nurse suggests using a prosthetic limb as bait.

Luckily, there is an available red-shirted crewman with a prosthetic arm. Once the nanites transfer from Kirk and McCoy into the prosthetic arm, the arm is beamed into space and destroyed by phaser fire.

I'm usually a fan of stories that involve nanites, but these nanites in episode #5 like microscopic Borg. At least we did not have to suffer through a "nanite queen". I can understand a low budget production's limitations, but filming a civil war battle reenactment is not really in the spirit of Star Trek.

Episode 6
scared child
The Enterprise encounters (crashes into) a new life form, a type of creature that supposedly lives in outer space. This creature is running away from home and its angry father is in hot pursuit.

There is an old joke about how the first two cars in Kansas crashed into each other. Even with the incredible vastness of space, the Enterprise can always be counted upon to be traveling through the depths of space and crash into you. Maybe in this case the alien "kid" was looking for a protector and purposefully intercepted the Enterprise.

alpha wave generators
A life form that lives in outer space? Who knows, maybe this creature is the remnant of a lost civilization that made an artificial life form for the purpose of mining comets and asteroids.

Not only is daddy upset, but his red "brain waves" trigger corresponding rage in humans. To protect themselves from this debilitating effect, the crew of the Enterprise must wear their handy dandy alpha wave generators on their arms.

Giant angry daddy alien.
I suppose I should be happy that we got an episode with an alien life form. However, the key to the Enterprise having a successful first contact with this creature is a sympathetic crew member with daddy issues of her own. Because she had a crappy father, she can lecture the alien dad about the importance of being a better father.

Unfortunately, this episode reminds me of the original episode ("Day of the Dove") in which some "energy creature" forces humans and Klingons to fight. Updated for this millennium in Star Trek Continues, we get fist fights with women. This is progress?

Episode 7
The new Captain?
It is the 23rd century and there has never been a female commander of a Constitution class starship. Why not? This episode highlights one of the most annoying features of the entire Star Trek fictional universe: the entire political and social structure of the Federation and Star Fleet is nothing but the 20th century's U.S.A. and the U.S. Navy stretched out into the depths of space. Rather than provide us with stories about strange new worlds and new civilizations, Star Trek has too often given us navel gazing and commentary on contemporary social and political topics.

Episode 8
Kirk, Samara, McCoy
The Enterprise brings a lady physicist to the depths of space to study a black hole. She only needs six hours to complete her studies, which is enough time for Kirk to make his move on her. Then, mysteriously, near the black hole, suddenly there appears the long lost USS Defiant. The Defiant is teetering on the brink of the black hole's event horizon.

Kirk leads an away team to investigate the Defiant, but he is trapped on board as the Defiant spirals into the voracious and green-with-purple-fringed Hawking radiation-spewing black hole. 200 years quickly pass for Kirk, during which time he rebuilds the Defiant's engines. Sailing at warp 15, Kirk and the Defiant triumphantly emerge from the black hole.

A VERY old Kirk returns to the Enterprise and resumes his love affair with the lady physicist and due to the wonders of 23rd century hyperviagra, they both ignore their vast age difference.

Star Trek Continues
That (above) is not really the plot, but it makes more sense than the actual Episode 8 of Star Trek Continues. I read that Star Trek Continues got enough funding to build a set for a new planet, so maybe future episodes will improve.

For a low-budget fan effort, Star Trek Continues is mighty fine, with the look and feel of the original Star Trek. Hopefully the next episode will take us on an adventure to investigate a new civilization on a new world.

Next: unleashing the human species upon the galaxy
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