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Jun 29, 2010

Yo, Robot!

Yo, robot!
positronicly endowed with audacity
Daneel Olivaw, super star
guardian of humanity!
Ya, robot, sure you are

poor Hari Seldon
what you put him through!
then just dump the Foundation
First, and the Second, too
Yeesh, robot!

Daneel Olivaw, super star!
Yes, a robot, by three laws bound
yet you took things too far!
one more law you found
your one law to rule them all

Trevize and Janov fashioned as your tools
Blissenobiarella with tastes positively geriatric!
a woman following genetic rules,
programmed for behavior robotic
choose Galaxia, lest we to aliens fall!

Daneel Olivaw, super star!
transformed to human from robotic
take Fallom's brain, you'd go that far
different, transductive, hermaphroditic
become not robot, and so craftily!

Daneel, say it's not true!
but if Isaac Asimov could not say…
could not decide what next to do,
it falls on us to find a way
to the Start of Eternity!



Image. Cover art for Isaac Asimov's Robots and Empire.

Jun 28, 2010

The Moon in Science Fiction

In 2009, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission took place as part of on-going efforts to search the Moon for water. In what some have called the first work of science fiction (Somnium by Johannes Kepler) it was imagined that creatures living on the Moon made use of large bodies of liquid water.

These days, it is hard to imagine natural reservoirs of liquid water near the surface of the Moon, but if there were large deposits of water ice then it would become easier for human colonists to survive on the Moon.

Like many science fiction writers (see this list) I often find it convenient to make use of the Moon as a location for a human outpost. In The Search for Kalid, one of the main characters visits the Moon and explores an outpost where a small group of humans hide their little colony behind tunnels that are flooded with water. The residents of the colony are hiding because they have unusual brains that give them a kind of telepathic ability.

In Foundation and Earth, Isaac Asimov described a secret base, hidden under the lunar surface, where the positronic robot Daneel had worked for 20,000 years to guide humanity towards a safe future. Of course, Daneel is not your typical robot since he has telepathic abilities. Still, Daneel does not want to attract attention, so he works hard to make sure that the location of his lunar base is secret. In The Start of Eternity, Asimov appears as a character who goes to the Moon and learns that alien beings from a distant Galaxy long ago established a hidden base of operations on the Moon.

Predestination Moon
In 2009 I wrote Moon Hammer, a science fiction ghost story. In Moon Hammer, I imagine that Heinrich Kramer, a famous witch hunter, was taken to the Moon and his mind transferred into a robotic body. Kramer lives on and is present on the Moon when the LCROSS rocket booster strikes the surface of the Moon. It is rather chilling to note that Kepler's fanciful story about a trip to the Moon apparently resulted in accusations of witchcraft against Kepler's own mother. That's a rather appalling welcome from our Demon-Haunted World to the newly emerging science fiction genre.

In 2008 I started a novel, Cellular Civilization. Cellular Civilization is a story set in what I call the Exodemic Fictional Universe. There is a secret base on the Moon where hidden Observers collect data about the development of Earth's human civilization. Earthlings go about their affairs, unaware of the fact that some people (the Observers) are living on the Moon. Observer Base is also home for the Overseers, descendants of Neanderthals. The Overseers are a kind of police force who keep the Observers in line and cover up any evidence that might suggest to Earthlings that they are being observed.

X-Phile Moon
Having made a good start on Cellular Civilization back in 2008 and getting some collaborative help, particularly with the 'Thomas' character, I recently returned to the story. The first part of the story (written in 2008) mostly takes place on Earth. Two of the characters (Charlie and Lanora) depart from Earth and begin a new adventure in the outer Solar System. Not only are there humans living on the Moon, there are also other human colonies scattered around the rest of the Solar System. My plan is to show some of those other colonies and then Charlie (an Earthling) and Lanora (by the way, 'Lanora' is not her real name) will get to travel out of the Solar System.

Nicotiana Intervention
In Cellular Civilization there is no space travel at faster-than-light speeds. I'm still thinking about the issue of how to depict the years-long journey of Charlie and Lanora to another star. Maybe they will just treat the cruise as their honeymoon. If you have ideas, feel free to join the fun.

Related Reading: science fiction stories set on the Moon

Jun 27, 2010

Most Gentle Stream

In Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity, the crafty Noÿs Lambent looks into her own future and sees that she will fall in love with Andrew Harlan. Of course, that happy future is only one of an infinity of possible futures, but she makes it her own. Andrew Harlan is helpless to avoid the fate that Noÿs selects for them.

In Cellular Civilization the crafty Dexamene Gregores is not so lucky. Of course, poor Dexamene does not have access to time travel technology and other wonders from 10,000,000 years in the future. But all is not lost! Dexamene does have access to technology from the past, a past in which nanorobotic alien life forms came to Earth and stirred up trouble.

What kind of trouble? Humans.

Ancient myths are sprinkled with stories about god-like beings who have the magical ability to play with human emotions. The star-crossed lover is an age old literary concept. Arthur C. Clarke noted that advanced technology might seem like magic or the work of a god-like being.

I've long wondered what technological tricks were used by Noÿs to manipulate Andrew's behavior. What kinds of chemicals were in the drink she gave to Andrew when she seduced him? Did Noÿs (or, possibly, some lurking positronic robot) use telepathy to put ideas into Andrew's head? Or did that only require a revealing wardrobe from the 482nd Century?

Dexamene does not hesitate to use every weapon in her arsenal to make Charlie fall in love, but Dexamene is a busy Interventionist and does not have time for romance. However, Dexamene does have seven spare clones, her sisters, who can be called upon to do her dirty work.

So Dexamene brings her sister, Yasas, to Earth and arranges that Charlie and Yasas fall in love with each other....all it takes is tight pants, pheromones and some minor brain surgery...well, that and the fact that Yasas can amuse Charlie by casually discussing theoretical physics and spaceship propulsion systems. In the end, both Charlie and Yasas are content to find themselves together, splashing around in love's most gentle stream.

True, we do not usually think of brain surgery as a means of making someone fall in love with us, but Yasas is not limited to bear skins and stone knives, as Bones once described the high technology of our primitive times. Yasas is a product of Genesaunt culture and the beneficiary of cultural artifacts arising from alien life forms that brought advanced nanotechnology to Earth millions of years ago.

In the skilled hands of Yasas, brain surgery means memetic surgery, a technique that allows individually identified synaptic connections to be trimmed and pruned. Charlie's brain is putty in her hands, but shaping someone's emotions it is delicate work and while she's busy making Charlie fall in love the crafty Dexamene is making Yasas fall in love with Charlie.

Charlie and Yasas eventually figure out what happened to them, but they are resigned to their fate and offer few objections. Anyhow, they soon find themselves caught up in a larger mystery and on their way to the stars.

Image. Apologies to Domingo Alvarez Enciso.

Jun 21, 2010

Synthetic biology

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The cloned sheep Dolly
We humans have long depended on pre-existing, naturally-occurring organisms that reproduce and provide us with more "copies" of useful creatures. The great diversity of living organisms on Earth has apparently been generated by processes of biological evolution taking place during the past few billion years.

I say "apparently" because we have very little information about the history of life on Earth. And we are now entering into a new era during which we will have amazing new technologies to facilitate the design and creation of new forms of life.

Humans have used artificial selection to produce many kinds of useful plants and animals and now genetic engineering allows precisely engineered genetic variants of existing organisms to be produced. Animals such a livestock can be artificially reproduced by cloning, using the existing DNA of an individual to take control of an egg cell and produce a new organism.

Craig Venter and his research team recently manufactured an entire bacterial chromosome and made what they call a "synthetic cell" by transplanting the artificial genome into an existing bacterial cell. Their goal is to design useful bacteria "from scratch" that can then be used by humans for many purposes and in ways that are not possible for naturally occurring bacteria.

What are the limits for such "synthetic biology"? In 1959 Richard Feynman gave a lecture in which he explained that "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom". By 1959 it had been recognized that the genetic instructions for making all the proteins of a living organism are stored inside cells as a nanoscopic molecular code (DNA). What about other important parts of our biological selves? Are our memories and thoughts efficiently encoded and stored inside our brains or is there room for a synthetic biology program that might allow us to greatly miniaturize a human brain? Theoretically, how small could a human-like artificial intelligence be made?

The "wires" of a human brain are axons. In modern electrical engineering terms, the axons of neurons are pitifully inefficient devices for transmitting electrical signals. A typical axon is about 1000 nanometers in diameter and can conduct electrical pulses at a rate of about 100 per second. Current semiconductor manufacturing processes create circuit elements that are about 100 nanometers across and that can operate at electrical signal pulse rates in the megahertz range. Additional miniaturization might be possible and take us into the realm of true nanoelectronics.

We humans are taking our first steps into the age of nanotechnology. Who knows what might be possible given a few thousand years of continuing developments in electrical engineering and biology? Will it become possible to make artificial lifeforms that more efficiently accomplish what the human body can do?

It is fun to speculate about the the possible existence of human-like organisms on planets of distant star systems. What if some human-like species evolved millions of years ago and mastered nanotechnology long ago? What if an alien species created artificial life forms with nanoscale components rather than the microscale cellular components that are used in our bodies? It might be that interstellar travel is more conveniently accomplished by such artificial life forms than by biological organisms that are composed of cells.

What if such hypothetical artificial life forms visited Earth millions of years ago? What if such artificial life forms were here on Earth right now, watching us? Would we be able to detect them? How might they communicate with us, if they wanted to communicate? Would such visitors to Earth be content to communicate with us or might they long ago have been tempted to start tinkering with the genes of Earthly lifeforms? Such issues are explored in the collaboratively written story I'm not you. The story is under construction and additional collaborating authors are welcome.

Related reading
: Molecular Communication

Jun 18, 2010

Mysterious Motivations

Carl Sagan
In his novel, Contact, Carl Sagan explored the idea that our universe was created and the Creator tried to communicate with us. Sagan suggested that the Creator might have selected the physical properties of our universe and in some way encoded a message to us in the very structure of space/time. In the story, human scientists discover how to read that message, using the tools of science to discover proof of the Creator's existence.

Sagan further suggested that beings like ourselves, using the tools of science, might be able to create new universes. Similarly, In The Last Question, Asimov imagined that humans will eventually learn how to create a new universe (or, at least, re-start our own).

It was implied in Sagan's story Contact that the Creator could do no more than create our universe. After the creation, events proceeded according to natural processes, with no further intervention from the Creator. Other science fiction stories have explored the idea that we humans were created by a god-like being. In The Last Answer, Isaac Asimov imagined an apparently eternal being who created humans.

Asimov asked: why would an apparently eternal being create humans? The answer, in The Last Answer, is that the apparently eternal being has nothing better to do, and hopes that eventually some thinking creature, human or otherwise, will discover the last answer, the ultimate fate of the apparently eternal being.

Is that all there is to existence for beings such as us? Is it the fate of all thinking beings to simply come into existence (by one means or another) and then have nothing else to do but try to understand their existence? And possibly find a way to put an end to that existence? Or possibly find ways to create new universes where yet more thinking beings will ponder their existence?

Arthur Clarke wrote an amusing story (The Nine Billion Names of God) in which it is imagined that humans were created as a tool for finding all the possible names of God. Eventually humans develop a computer that can complete the task and then, mission accomplished, our universe is terminated.

We live in the Age of Singularianism, where some people, other than fiction writers, anticipate that humans will soon attain god-like "superintelligence" and limitless technological powers. Is it possible for human-like beings to avoid such a "technological singularity"?

In The Start of Eternity it is imagined that a human-like species, the Huaoshy, found a way to exist, relatively unchanged, for hundreds of millions of years. When I say "relatively unchanged" I mean that there is no superintelligence in The Start of Eternity and no god-like beings with apparently eternal existence.

If the Huaoshy are content to remain, through hundreds of millions of years, as a species of individuals living in their human-like bodies, then we must ask: what do they feel is the purpose of their existence? The answer is: they enjoy the process of traveling from galaxy to galaxy, finding worlds like Earth, and making sure that human-like species evolve on such worlds. The Huaoshy are masters of a vast intergalactic civilization where millions of human-like species peacefully coexist.

In The Start of Eternity it is imagined that the Huaoshy came to Earth about 7 million years ago and started shaping the course of primate evolution so as to create -us- a species similar (in form and thought processes) to the Huaoshy.

What is the reaction of humans upon discovering that they have been created by the Huaoshy? Sometimes they are resentful, but, as told in The Start of Eternity, very few humans ever learn the truth about human origins. The Great Law of the Huaoshy says that, "It should APPEAR to every type of sentient being that they have self-determination and are not being controlled by more technologically advanced life forms." To satisfy this law, the Huaoshy prevent humans on Earth from knowing about the existence of the Huaoshy.

The Huaoshy find it useful to take some humans off of Earth. There is a small human colony on the Moon where the Huaoshy perform their experiments and make new human genetic variants. In The Start of Eternity a freak accident occurs and the human residents of the Moon are released from Huaoshy control. Then the fun begins.

The Start of Eternity is being collaboratively written. Additional collaborating authors are welcome.

Update. I'm now (2014) making an alternate version of The Start of Eternity that is called The Foundations of Eternity. In my new version of the story, characters such as Captain Hooski are Kac'hin, but they are often called "Huaoshy". The real Huaoshy remain off stage and due to their advanced technological level they might seem to have god-like power.

Jun 14, 2010

Less on the Social Ramifications of Time Travel

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Time traveler Noÿs Lambent
Yesterday I started reading Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity for the 17th time. In related news, today I came across a blog post called More on the Social Ramifications of Time Travel. Golly. And I sometimes worry that I take science fiction too seriously....

Well, maybe I've only read The End of Eternity 15 times. But who's counting? In any case (15, 17 or 23), I enjoy reading this novel and I agree with Asimov who excused the scientific implausibility of time travel by saying that time travel stories are simply too much fun for writers to avoid dabbling in them.

I've always found it hard to get too serious about Eternity. I think Asimov was joking when he said that humans used time travel to send clover seed through time. He seemed to take more seriously the potential impact of future technology being made available to less technologically advanced eras. There is a rather long section in The End of Eternity about the problems arising from using time travel to make available a cure for cancer. Each person who might be saved by making the cure available to them must be carefully evaluated in order to be sure that saving their life does not cause a Reality Change. Thank goodness for the Momentum of Time! Of course, those who are told that they cannot get the cure are resentful.

The "big social issue" presented by Asimov is the sorry fact that the existence of Eternity causes human extinction and a failure of humans to spread through outer space to other worlds. Time travel is used to make Earth a safe and stable environment for humans. As the story is told by Asimov, humans stop evolving and eventually they simply die off.

One of the interesting aspects of The End of Eternity is that it is an Asimov novel that includes the idea of there being other human-like creatures who evolve on other planets of our Galaxy. A major reason for the extinction of the human species was that while humans played around with time travel technology, those other beings developed space travel technology, moved into outer space and colonized all of the available star systems before humans ever got around to developing interstellar space travel technology. We must ask: did any of those other space travelers also develop time travel? If so, how did they avoid the "trap" that led to human extinction?

More importantly, why is it that, as Noÿs explains:
"There are other stars with other planets, you know. There are even other intelligences. None, in this Galaxy at least, are as ancient as mankind, but in the 125,000 Centuries man remained on Earth, younger minds caught up and passed us, developed the interstellar drive, and colonized the Galaxy."
Why did it take 4,000,000,000 years for humans to evolve on Earth and the "younger minds" 4,012,500,000 years? Providing a reason for this cosmic coincidence was one of my goals for The Start of Eternity, a collaboratively written fan fiction sequel to The End of Eternity.

Image Credits. Noÿs Lambent is currently living in Athens. When contacted, she gave permission for her image to be used and commented, "They won't believe it's me, anyhow."

Jun 11, 2010

Better Blurbs Through Collaboration

Just yesterday I was pondering a strange blurb on the back cover of The Book of Dreams. Today I saw a blog post by Mark_W about Jack Vance's novel Trullion, which brought into question the utility of describing hussade as being played on "water-chessboard gaming fields".

I try to be forgiving of book publishers with respect to the blurbs that they put on book covers because of the difficulty I have in creating good blurbs for covers. It can be challenging to capture the interest of a potential reader with only a few words about a single aspect of a novel. There are a few scenes in Trullion where some of the characters show a tendency to analyze hussade games in the same way that you might analyze a chess match.

The blurb that I was disturbed by is this: "Jack Vance penned the book of Revelations for that pseudo-bible and thereby brought the most suspenseful galactic manhunt series ever written to a smashing conclusion." For those who never read the Jack Vance novel The Book of Dreams, within Vance's story The Book of Dreams is a kind of child's diary written by the young Howard Hardoah. At a young age Howard begins to commit horrible crimes and he grows up to be a master criminal. One of the blurbs on the back cover of my copy of this novel calls Howard's The Book of Dreams a "holy book".

Holy Book? Well, maybe. Vance depicts Howard Hardoah as believing that he is possessed and that he shares his consciousness with the personalities of a group of adventuresome Paladins. In his diary, Howard described these Paladins as the colors of his soul. Writing in his diary, Howard commits himself to a program of "self-improvement" by which he will find ways to express the colors of his soul and live up to the great potential that exists within the Seven Paladins.

Howard's diary is lost and its contents live on in his memory. His fond memories of the diary might mean that it constitutes a "holy book" for Howard, or that might be just a bit of hyperbole designed to market the novel. If we accept that Howard's diary is his "holy book" then it might make sense to call it a "pseudo-bible". So is Vance's novel a "book of Revelations for that pseudo-bible"? Is placing such a blurb on a book cover really an effective way to sell books?

Another question that interests me is: what did Jack Vance think about his novel being described as a "book of Revelations"?

I suppose good marketing is usually a bit over the top. The goal of a cover blurb is to attract a reader's attention. Does it matter if after the story is read that readers feel the "blurb" was not a fair indication of the story's actual content?

For the back cover of The Start of Eternity I've struggled to find a concise way to describe the nature of a rather complex struggle between the alien Huaoshy and a group of positronic robots from Earth. At the heart of that conflict stands the issue of time travel as depicted in Isaac Asimov's novel, The End of Eternity and the positronic robots are inspired (in a fan fiction way) by Asimov's robots.

The Start of Eternity is collaboratively written and can be edited by anyone. When written in an open, collaborative way, readers of a novel can click the edit button and make adjustments. The reader need not suffer with the eternal existence of cover blurbs provided by a publisher.

Image credits
. Image Source.

Jun 7, 2010

Free Will

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What makes us tick?
Nanites are one of the important plot devices and an imagined future technology in The Start of Eternity. The Huaoshy are aliens who wield advanced technology and they make use of nanoscopic devices that can invade a human brain and alter the function of neural networks.

The Huaoshy have long been visitors to Earth. In the distant past they evolved a human-like intelligence on their distant home world. The Huaoshy first visited Earth millions of years ago. They performed artificial selection on primates and designed humanity so that we humans have brains and behaviors that are similar to those of the Huaoshy. In short, the Huaoshy created us in their image.

Dilbert
This might all sound like a recipe for some rather standard alien invasion story with evil aliens using their advanced technology to enslave humanity, but the Huaoshy follow a set of rules that govern how they interact with other life forms. One of those rules says: It should APPEAR to every type of sentient being that they have self-determination and are not being controlled by more technologically advanced life forms. While they do follow this rule, the Huaoshy only feel obliged to make sure that we humans believe that we have free will and self-determination. For example, if a human somehow learned of the existence of the Huaoshy, they would not hesitate to use their nanite technology to erase the human's memories and knowledge of the Huaoshy.

The skeptic might ask, assuming these circumstances, if we humans would actually have free will. Mikel G Roberts pondered the effects of allowing nanites into our bodies. "Would that make us lose our humanity? Lose our soul?"

In The Start of Eternity the Huaoshy are not interested in depriving humans of free will and self-determination. For the most part, the Huaoshy are content to have shaped our species...they are not interested in micro-managing our personal lives. Of course, given the advanced technological powers of the Huaoshy they sometimes can't resist shaping the behavior of individual humans. Such is the plight of Gohrlay, the main character in The Start of Eternity.

Gohrlay before the brain scan
Gohrlay comes dangerously close to discovering the fact that aliens shape and sculpt the course of human evolution. She finds evidence that the course of human evolution on Earth has not been natural, but she assumes that genetic alterations to Earthlings have been carried out by meddling humans who live on the Moon. Along the way, Gohrlay violates one of the central laws of her culture and she becomes a criminal. Having come too close to the truth, nanites are sent into her brain and many of her memories are suppressed. Gohrlay is aware that she has been punished and has lost important parts of her memories. She finds that she is no longer in complete command of her own behavior and that she can no longer discuss with her friends what has happened to her. She hates the fact that she has lost some memories and lost control of some of her thought processes.

Gohrlay's fate might be viewed as a violation of the Huaoshy rule requiring that humans believe they have free will and self-determination. However, she blames fellow humans for her plight, so the meddling Huaoshy get off on a technicality. The fact that Gohrlay has lost precious memories and is no longer in complete control of her own behavior pushes her towards a critical decision. She agrees to participate in a dangerous experiment that will destroy her brain. I've blogged previously about Gohrlay's decision to die. She would rather try to gain a chance at a second life through the experiment than continue living her mind-altered half-life as a punished criminal.

R. Gohrlay the robot
Even though Gohrlay has lost some of her memories and has been isolated from her friends, she still feels like she has free will. However, she wonders if along with her memories she lost some important part of herself that would not have allowed herself to volunteer for the experiment that will destroy her brain. She can't help wondering if she is deluding herself into believing that her mind's physical substrate will be scanned during the experiment and successfully converted into circuits that will produce a new synthetic copy of her mind.

Which is worse, losing your free will or fearing that you lost it?

Image Credits. The image at the top of this blog post was made using copyleft images by John A Beal, Nicolas Genin and Patrick J. Lynch and can be re-used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License

Jun 4, 2010

Passion for Writing

I just saw a blog post that asks, "How do you keep the passion flowing in your life?". For the past two months I have been trapped in the real world, isolated from my current fiction writing passion, a science fiction story that is tentatively called The Start of Eternity. Being kept away from something is a good way to judge your passion for it....the longer you are away, the more desperate your longing to return and the more intense your desire for reunification. I suspect that if you have to work at keeping it "flowing" then it is not really passion.

David G. Hartwell cleverly noted that "The Golden Age of Science Fiction Is Twelve", and that was about my age when I discovered science fiction. I had seen some science fiction on television before that, but I did not really have an appreciation for the fact that there were written science fiction novels.
Then one day in the library I came across a copy of Isaac Asimov's novel, The Gods Themselves. Soon I started writing my own science fiction stories....with a passion...a passion that has never died.

From the first bumbling steps of my earliest science fiction writing I've been intrigued by the challenge of creating science fiction stories that move beyond the conventional boundaries of our ordinary lives. Star Trek took us off of Earth "where no man has gone before" and while Asimov usually contented himself with stories about events in this galaxy, during my "golden age" of discovering science fiction I read E. E. "Doc" Smith's space operas and so I started thinking about travel between galaxies...as Smith quaintly put it: traveling at the speed of thought.

So here I am, 40 years later and still writing about travel between galaxies...in particular, the travels of aliens, the Huaoshy, human-like beings from "a galaxy far far away" who have spent the past billion years spreading their civilization from galaxy to galaxy.

First Contact
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One of the prominent science fiction themes is "first contact", stories about the first time that humans interact with human-like beings from another world.

Most such stories about "first contact" are set in our future. However, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the idea was presented that advanced alien beings might have long ago come to Earth, and such aliens might even have been responsible for the way our species has evolved. Carl Sagan took such thinking to the extreme and suggested that our entire universe might have been created by aliens who, by design, made this universe a hospitable place for creatures like us.

As shown by Clarke and Sagan, it is possible to write science fiction novels that assume "first contact" came long ago. However, they wrote stories in which the aliens had very limited interaction with humans. The X-Files depicted aliens who came to Earth long ago and who continued to interact with humans during our lifetimes.

The Start of Eternity is an example of a science fiction novel that assumes alien beings have long been visiting Earth. For such stories, a key issue is: if aliens are here among us, why don't we know about it? In The X-Files there was some kind of complex conspiracy by which some humans on Earth who knew about the aliens continually worked hard to keep existence of the aliens secret. I think humans are too incompetent to keep such a secret, so for The Start of Eternity it is assumed that there are alien visitors here on Earth who have very advanced technology that makes it easy for them to keep their existence hidden from humans.

These simple assumptions about secretive aliens who have long been visiting Earth create many rich opportunities for science fiction stories. How can we not be passionate about exploring these possibilities? After all, maybe there are such alien beings here already.

The Start of Eternity is being written collaboratively; new collaborating authors are welcome.

Image credits. The image at the top of this blog post is an illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa for the Herbert Wells novel The War of the Worlds. The second image (photo by Donald Schmidt) shows the library where I first discovered the literature of science fiction.
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2013 reboot. I've "re-imagined" The Start of Eternity as The Foundations of Eternity, now part of the Exode Trilogy.