Oct 28, 2012

The Languages of Exode

In his novel The Languages of Pao, Jack Vance described the transformation of the people living on the planet Pao by a kind of social engineering project that involved introducing new languages.

When I was first discovering Isaac Asimov I read The Feeling of Power, a story that was written just when the existence of electronic computing devices were starting to have wide impacts of human society. Asimov had fun with the idea that people might stop doing calculations themselves and become totally dependent on calculating devices.

In the same Asimov short story collection where I read The Feeling of Power there was a story called Profession. In this story Asimov created a depiction of the future in which "learning machines" would transfer knowledge and skills directly into human brains. The main character in the story cannot be "programmed" in this way and he feels like a freak and a failure. However, at the end of the story he discovers that he is one of a special minority of humans who, rather than be programmed by machine, can exercise his capacity for original thought and become one of the precious few humans who will discover and create new things.

human genetic engineering
During the past century science fiction authors have had great fun speculating about how human existence might be altered by changes in how we use language. Many science fiction authors are not content to limit their efforts to stories about humans. In the novel Assignment Nor'Dyren, Sydney Van Scyoc imagined an alien species that wanted to change its culture and so modified its language in an attempt to change how people would behave.

I've previously mentioned that while the Buld (a people similar to we Earthlings, but slightly altered genetically) use spoken language like we do, in general they do not make use of a written language.

I enjoy science fiction stories that tackle the issue of how humanity might change following a self-imposed "design change". Sydney Van Scyoc and M. A. Foster are examples of authors who took on the challenge of trying to imagine how we might shape ourselves through genetic engineering.  In Exode, the Prelands are human, but they have been significantly modified through a long process of artificial selection and they no longer use spoken language in the way that we view as characteristic of humans.

The rest of this blog post elaborates on the languages in Exode, a story set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. Exode is under construction and collaborating authors are welcome.

Like other stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, Exode is a story in which we humans are relatively late arrivals upon the stage. About a billion years ago on a planet in a distant galaxy the Huaoshy developed a technologically advanced civilization. Unlike other technology-wielding species, the Huaoshy managed to survive and spread, first between the stars of their home galaxy then outward to thousands of other galaxies. Long ago the Huaoshy transformed themselves into a form of artificial life that is as different from our human form as we humans are from a bacterium.

language lateralization
The spreading Huaoshy influence reached our galaxy about seven million years ago. That influence arrived in the form of the pek; artificial lifeforms that are less radically transformed than the Huaoshy themselves; we might comfortably think of the pek as robots. In the way that we humans might send a robotic submarine to explore the floor of the ocean, the Huaoshy deploy the pek as the means by which the Huaoshy explore and consolidate control over distant galaxies. Soon after reaching Earth, the pek took some great apes off of Earth and "cultured" them on distant planets.

One of the long-debated issues in human evolution is how early the capacity for spoken language arose in the great ape lineage leading to humans. The first human-like apes that used a spoken language lived on a distant planet near the galactic core; such Earth-derived creatures are called Genesauts and in Exode, the most prevalent Genesaunts are known as Prelands. With the help of the pek, some of those language-using apes became the first Interventionists and Overseers. Gradually, almost imperceptively, gene flow began from the Genesaunts back to the planet Earth and in time our human ancestors on Earth attained the ability to use human language. In essence, the human species is an artificial construct arising from the process by which the pek "domesticated" primates on distant planets.

What I've said above about the origin of human language should not be taken to mean that we humans came to use language as the Huaoshy do. The Huaoshy long ago abandoned their biological form and they make use of much more advanced modes of information exchange than any human language. Human language, as we know it, is an extension of naturally-evolved primate abilities, but it is viewed as a hopelessly inefficient means of communication by the pek. The Huaoshy find it very difficult to even pay attention to primitive creatures like we humans and our quaint vocalizations. The Huaoshy rely on the pek to function as an essentially automated system by which primitive creatures like we humans can be transformed into more advance forms of life with communications abilities that are more like those used by the Huaoshy.

The Exode story is set in our time, but the Prelands, subjected to extensive genetic engineering by the pek, have almost completely abandoned the use of spoken language. However, some of the Prelands have been relatively slow in abandoning spoken language; the Preland population of the planet Hemmal provide a good example of this. The pek make use of worlds like Hemmal as training grounds for Interventionists: those Genesaunts who are sent to Earth with the intention that they can gradually shape Earthlings into a biological form that will eventually merge successfully into a galaxy-wide Genesaunt Culture.
Most Genesaunts live in cultures where the people lack the ability to pass their language along to their descendants. With rare exceptions, Genesaunts have been genetically altered so as to be hermaphroditic. There are no males or females in the conventional sense and all individuals produce two kinds of gametes and have a uterus. Genesaunts have been engineered so as to give birth when the embryo is very small, like marsupials do. In general, Genesaunts never become aware that they are pregnant. When a pregnant genesaunt comes to term, a pek will manage the birth while the mother sleeps and take the newborn Genesaunt to a pek-managed facility where the children are raised by pek. The pek who function as surrogate parents are in complete control over which languages are learned by young Genesaunts. Upon passing through adolescence the young Genesaunts gradually merge into mainstream adult Genesaunt Culture. Since the pek adopt the conventional Preland body form, most Prelands do not make a significant distinction between the period of their pre-adult years under the guidance of the pek and their adult years.

For Prelands, language learning is a very different matter than for we Earthlings. Juvenile Prelands have some capacity for speech, but most adults are nearly mute. There is no physical impediment to speech, but Preland culture usually imposes no opportunity or benefit for Prelands to speak. Prelands communicate efficiently by what they think of as telepathy. Large regions of a Preland's brain can "resonate" to match the activity of a fellow Preland's brain. In practice, this allows Preland members of a cultural group to essentially share conscious states. This neural resonance is made possible by the fact that Preland brains are host to swarms of nanoscopic devices (nanites) that can communicate using hierion technology. Prelands take for granted the existence of their pek servants and they never give a thought to the nanite technology that has been provided to them by the pek.

Prelands have some distinctive physical features. For example, in Prelands the typical human adult teeth never develop; Preland adults retain the "baby teeth" and have small mouths and a child-like jaw morphology.

Juvenile Prelands are spoken to by their pek caregivers, and Preland adults retain a fairly sophisticated ability to process and understand spoken language, however, they have essentially no capacity to read, write or communicate their own ideas using spoken words.

As mentioned above, the pek control which languages are heard by juvenile Prelands. In general, each planet with a Preland population uses one language that is spoken on Earth. For example, American English is spoken on the planet Hemmal. This choice of language is made systematically so as to assure that every human language spoken on Earth is used on at least one Preland world. Earthly languages that are spoken by large numbers of Earthlings are used on multiple Preland worlds, essentially assuring that every major dialect is familiar to a population of Prelands. What is of more importance to most Prelands is that these populations of Prelands are also made familiar with aspects of the Earthly cultures that share their language. This process of familiarization generally begins with pek caretakers of the juvenile Prelands telling their wards stories and heroic epics that reflect actual Earth history.

This extensive passing of Earthly culture to worlds of the galactic core is made possible by the fact that Earth is under constant Observation. The pek are automatically kept informed about events on Earth.

Buld Clan
While Preland brain structure has been significantly altered so as to facilitate nanite-mediated communication, the Bulds are only slightly modified from the form of contemporary humans on Earth. Bulds retain the normal human ability to read and write, although most Buld cultures do not make routine use of these skills. Bulds have a limited amount of capacity for nanite-mediated synchronization of brain activity, with most of the neural synchronization that does occur between the Buld taking place outside of their conscious awareness.

The image to the right shows the major regions of the Buld brain where there are high levels of nanites (yellow, Buld normal, top). The "patient" (bottom) is a "false" Buld who has reverted to the Earth human brain pattern. The Buld populations of worlds like Hemmal are like the Prelands: unaware of the existence of nanites. A subgroup of the Bulds are the "scholars" who are at least aware of the biological difference between typical "true" Buld and the "false" Buld. The major engineered genetic differences between the Buld and Earth humans are all determined by a synthetic chromosome that is unique to the Buld. In each generation, a few "false" Buld lose the extra chromosome and revert to the normal human chromosome set and brain structure.

The "true" Buld can only read with difficulty since they usually suffer from a form of nanite-induced dyslexia. The "false" Buld have no problem reading, but they are often culturally isolated from the small Buld subpopulation that makes use of written language. In general, the Buld "scholars" on worlds like Hemmal try to quickly identify newborn "false" Buld, make sure that they learn to read and write and recruit them into the ranks of the scholarly class.

The Buld Clan originated long ago as those human Genesaunts who were provided with spaceships (generation ships that can travel between stars at nearly the speed of light) by the pek. Many Buld now live on planets such as Hemmal. The on-planet Buld scholars originated many thousands of years ago as part of a Buld effort to understand the origins of humans.

For the story Exode, a particularly important cultural group of Genesaunts are the Interventionists. Interventionists are a Buld Clan subgroup that is not allowed to exist on planets with a Preland population. In general, Prelands reside on worlds that have been more-or-less successfully terraformed over the course of the past seven million years. Interventionists usually make do with less hospitable planets and planetoids. For example, Oib is a large asteroid orbiting about 100 million kilometers from the orbit of Hemmal. There is an Interventionist base inside Oib and this is where Parthney goes to be trained for his mission to Earth.

The interventionists have learned to isolate themselves from the pek. This allows some "true" Buld to live at places like Oib without having their brains colonized by swarms of nanites, thus preventing the nanite-induced dyslexia that inflicts the Buld who live among the pek. However, "true" Buld are dependent on pek for successful reproduction. This makes it a continual struggle for the Interventionists to maintain a stable population: they must continually recruit new members from the mainstream ranks of the Buld. Highly prized among the Interventionists are the "false" Buld who are essentially Earth-normal humans. The pek are careful to make sure that the "false" Buld never have a chance to become to numerous.

So, these are the conditions under which Parthney and Kach grow up on Hemmal as two false Buld. At an early age Kach is recruited by Buld "scholars" and she becomes committed to learning about the Prelands of Hemmal. Kach learns to read and write both English and the "old language" of the Buld Clan.

Growing up on Hemmal, Parthney resists being recruited by the Buld "scholars" and so he reaches adulthood without becoming a skilled user of written language. He can speak and understand English but he never becomes very good at using written English. When he decides to pass the story of his life on to his grandchildren, he leaves them a spoken account of his life. The recording device that Parthney uses is a hierion-based device that functions by means of the type of "telepathic" brain resonance that is used by Genesaunts. This communications method is not a very efficient way to share Parthney's story with the people of Earth. When Parthney's grandson Izhiun decides to leave a copy Parthney's story on Earth, he wants to find a way to make sure that the story can be easily accessed by Earthlings.

As mentioned previously, when Izhiun is on Earth he finds Hana's long-lost husband who is a writer. Izhiun leaves a version of Parthney's story with Hana's husband. Hana's husband translates Parthney's story into written form.

Oct 26, 2012


In the Jack Vance novel Wyst, the protagonist, Jantiff, finds himself blinded and near death. Drifting into a kind of dream state he has visions of the people he has known, and then, "Miracle of Miracles," he seems to hear the mute girl, Glisten, speaking to him. She begs him not to give up: "Jantiff, please lift yourself." Jantiff rouses himself and survives.

In The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov wrote some similar scenes in which his protagonist, Baley, is at the mysterious border between waking consciousness and dreaming. The telepathic robot Giskard has blocked some of Baley's memories, but in the strange brain state between waking and dreaming, Baley is able to imagine a startling idea that Giskard is trying to hide and prevent Baley from deducing.

In Exode, two of the major characters are Kach and Parthney, born on the distant planet Hemmal. They meet under unusual circumstances and as a result of that meeting their lives are kicked out of their previous orbits. Upon meeting Kach, Parthney undergoes a kind of is almost like he wakes up from the first part of his life, from what might later seem like a dreamtime.

The blinded Jantiff
Kach feels that she cannot be honest with Parthney and she forces her friend Muchlo to participate in a delicately deceptive game that allows Kach to perform a trick on Parthney. Muchlo is reluctant to lie to Parthney, so Muchlo must find a way to provide Parthney with some critical information while at the same time protecting Kach's secrets.

In Wyst, Jantiff only later learns that Glisten was actually speaking to him. The mystery surrounding Glisten's voice begins to crumble when Jantiff is told that her apparent inability to speak is actually only a social custom of her people. However, Jantiff still does not allow himself to believe that he heard Glisten speak because he fears that Glisten had been killed....he still thinks that he only dreamed that he was hearing her voice. Vance's approach allows the reader to share Jantiff's doubts and uncertainties. Only on the last page of the novel do we find out the the truth about Glisten's fate.

In the case of Asimov's character, Baley, the reader is being toyed with for several hundred pages. Baley and the reader are not aware of the fact that Giskard is telepathic, but along the way through the story Asimov is dropping hints and every time that Baley starts to realize the truth about Giskard's telepathic ability, Giskard must try to use his telepathy to make Baley forget. Only at the end of the story do Giskard and Asimov finally reveal what has been going on. I guess we are not supposed to resent being kept in the dark about Giskard's telepathy...after all, this is a murder mystery and the solution to that mystery involves Giskard's telepathy. In the end, Giskard allows Baley to solve the case, even though the secret of Giskard's telepathic powers must be revealed to Baley.

In Exode there is no telepathic warping of Parthney's mind by Muchlo, but Muchlo does have a technological means to modify Parthney's memory. At the start of Exode, Muchlo must pretend to be human, but Muchlo is actually pek, a type of artificial lifeform that is similar in many ways to Asimov's robots such as Giskard. The pek are physically composed of nanoscopic components, nanites. These nanorobotic devices are versatile: a large group of them can assemble into a pek and take on human form or a smaller swarm can invade a human body and modify brain function from within.

Muchlo sends some nanites into Pathney's brain and uses them to confuse Parthney. Parthney is tricked into thinking he has had a dream about Kach. The "dream" puzzles and disturbs Parthney, and it is only much later (after 17 years!) that the nanites relax their hold on Parthney's memories and Parthney is able to understand the truth about Kach. Finally, after all that time and after having made his way to Earth, Parthney becomes fully aware of "Muchlo's Secret" and he learns how Kach and Muchlo tricked him, and why. "Muchlo's Secret" actually has two meanings and I allow the reader to think that "Muchlo's Secret" has been revealed by the end of that chapter, but it is only later that the second secret is revealed.

I've previously done some agonizing over the "trick" of letting readers believe that a character has died, only to later say: "No, he's really still alive!". I also feel like a dastardly sneak for making use Muchlo's control over nanites to allow me to trick readers of Exode. I want to allow Muchlo to reveal to Parthney the fact that Muchlo is a pek. Parthney will feel that Muchlo is so honest that Muchlo could not follow orders and hide from Parthney the fact that Muchlo is a pek disguised as a human. Parthney will be so convinced of Muchlo's honesty that he will not allow himself to imagine that Muchlo is keeping another secret.

At the end of The Robots of Dawn, Baley is allowed to know that Giskard is a telepath, but Baley is not allowed to share that fact with others. Similarly, at the end of the Exode chapter called "Muchlo's Secret" Parthney knows that Muchlo is a pek, but Muchlo has placed nanites in Parthney's brain that prevent him from sharing with others on Hemmal what he knows about Muchlo pretending to be human.

Oct 20, 2012

Web Weaving

This is the time of year when houses mysteriously sprout giant spider webs and I can't avoid thoughts of the ghost story Moon Hammer. In Moon Hammer, the normal boundary between life and death receives no respect. Characters from Earth's history who we all know to be dead and buried show up as characters in the story, living out their lives at a secret underground city on the Moon. Moon Hammer was intentionally written as a Halloween story, so it might be possible for readers to relax and have fun with the rather casual way in which some terrorists are at one moment blown up in an explosion on Earth then in the next moment shown to be living on the Moon. As Viole Falushe says in the Jack Vance novel, The Palace of Love, "Life, death; these are imprecise terms."

In other circumstances, I find it a challenge to relax my standards and allow fast-and-loose play with the deaths of fictional characters. I've previously declared it a Dirty Trick when authors first make the reader think that a character died, only to later say, "fooled you, that character did not really die!"

That particular Dirty Trick is part of a larger challenge faced by story tellers. My previous blog post touched on the sometimes irresistible temptation to insert a character into a story who just should not be there. Examples of when I've done this include inserting Isaac Asimov into the story The Start of Eternity and inserting Carl Sagan into a fanfiction Contact television series. It is pure mischief to insert Asimov and Sagan into fanfiction extensions of their works, but as Asimov himself wrote, some authorial pranks are just too much fun to resist.

The Final Problem
I'm currently developing the story Exode and my compulsion to insert a real world figure into the story has been growing. Previously, I agonized over the idea I could advance the story by engineering the death of Hana's husband. With time, I was able to accommodate myself to the introduction of a senseless death into Exode. About a month ago I decided that it would be convenient to construct the story in such a way that Hana would spend considerable time and effort searching for her husband, then finally discover that he had been killed.

I still like the idea of making Parthney agonize over the death of Hana's husband in some way. I also like the idea of there being a period of time during which Hana blames Parthney for the loss of her husband. This is becoming a rather tangled bit of web weaving:
1) On Earth, Hana's husband becomes a security risk for Parthney and so Parthney must send him away. Parthney lies and tells Hana that her husband is dead. Since Parthey won't explain the circumstances of the death, Hana suspects that Parthney is responsible for the death of her husband.
2) Eventually, both Hana and Parthney have left Earth behind. They meet again while Parthney is trying to make contact with the Huaoshy. At this point in Exode, Parthney is desperate for Hana's cooperation with the search for "god" (the creators of the human species). He admits that while on Earth he lied about the death of her husband. As is so often the case, one lie leads to another and so Parthney tells Hana that her husband accompanied some Fru'wu on a trip to the Andromeda galaxy.
3) Hana now wants to find her husband and she works with Parthney in an attempt to find a way to travel to the Andromeda galaxy.
Original artwork by Lee Moyer
4) Eventually, Parthney develops a working relationship the Fru'wu who decide that they must provide a spaceship to Parthney for an all-human mission to the Andromeda galaxy. By this point in the story, a romantic relationship has developed between Hana and Parthney's son, Boswei. Hana's devotion to her husband and her desire to find him has become a distraction by this point in Exode. Parthney, now well practiced in lying to Hana, lies once more, saying that her husband died while on an earlier Fru'wu mission to the Andromeda galaxy, a mission that was destroyed by the Nereids (who have their home world in the Andromeda galaxy).

Of course, once they reach the Andromeda galaxy and make contact with the Nereids, Hana learns that the earlier Fru'wu missions to the Andromeda galaxy were not destroyed. The crews of the ships that previously arrived in the Andromeda galaxy are still alive and living as the guests of the Nereids. The Nereids are able to assure Hana that her husband was not part of one of the Fru'wu missions to the Andromeda galaxy.

By this point in Exode, Hana and Boswei are happy together. Parthney returns to his original lie, telling Hana that her husband died on Earth. Of course, by now Hana cannot believe anything that Parthney says, particularly since he still has never given her a coherent account of her husband's death.

Eventually, Hana's son Izhiun goes to Earth. Hana requests that he try to find out what happened to her husband. While on Earth, Izhiun discovers that Hana's husband is still living on Earth! Long ago he made a deal with Parthney to disappear from Hana's life and Parthney promised to never tell Hana that had been her husband's choice.

Now, here is where my instinctive dislike of the Dirty Trick is aroused. The reader has been told several times that Hana's husband is dead. Suddenly, near the end of Exode Hana's husband finally walks on stage. And, to make things worse, this is where I feel the need to compound my transgressions.

At the end of Exode (which is actually described on the first page), Izhiun decides to provide the people of Earth with a written account of Genesaunt Culture. A Buld spaceship has reached the Solar System from the galactic core, and the Overseer-enforced restrictions on Earthlings having knowledge of Genesaunts have finally been eased. It is a trivial matter for Izhiun to leave behind on Earth a copy of the Exode story when he departs for Mars, but I've been feeling a little strange about the physical form that Exode takes (pages of a blog).

The very first part of Exode that I wrote was an account of a meeting between Parthney and Hana on Earth, just before she decides to leave Earth. In that chapter of Exode, it is revealed that Hana's husband is a writer who she met when they were attending college. I'm tempted to write myself into the story and say that I am Hana's husband...a choice that would explain how the Exode story ended up reaching the internet by way of a blog that I created.

Writing yourself into a story
I've previously mentioned the fact (see the end of this blog post) that Jack Vance found an amusing way to write himself into one of his novels. The Demon Prince novels are full of fictional quotes and blurbs that help sketch for readers some of the cultural background of the fictional universe that Vance created. Vance stuck this in:

"Is it conceivable that he Institute wields more control over the human psyche than we suspect?" - Jan Holberk Vaenz LXII

To me, this looks like a hint from Vance about the dramatic extent to which the mysterious Institute exerts control over the people of the Oikumene. He inserts the hint in such a way that we can imagine it coming, 1,500 years in our future, from a mysterious writer named "Jan Holberk Vaenz".

This kind of trickery reminds me of Isaac Asimov's story Gold. Although the story Gold never mentions either Asimov's name or The Gods Themselves, it is clear that he modeled the "Gregory Laborian" character in Gold after himself.

When I wrote (what was at that time) the first chapter of Exode I originally provided a name for Hana's husband, but it might be possible to simply refer to him as "Hana's husband" through most of the story.

Question for fiction authors: have you ever written yourself into a story?

If so, did you openly use your own name or did you use some trick to disguise the fact that a character in your story was actually you?

Oct 19, 2012

There are no Angels in Science Fiction

"If an angel appears in a science fiction story, its existence must be explained scientifically."

I have a real problem with the boundary between fantasy and science fiction. I find it almost impossible to read fantasy, so I get nervous when I'm reading a science fiction story and I see the boundary between fantasy and science fiction start to blur.

I've never read the science fiction of C. S. Lewis so I don't know if his Eldila are just fantasy angels or  if Lewis actually constructed a fictional universe with interesting aliens that can be fruitfully compared to angels.

I've read the first chapter of Terminal World, but I was not inspired to read on. I have no idea if Reynolds ever provides a coherent science fiction account of his "native zones" and "angels".

I've previously mentioned that the Huaoshy are like gods, having created we humans and even engineered some of the physical features of the universe. Sadly, we humans don't have a very close relationship with the Huaoshy....I've compared that relationship to how a blade of grass in a field interacts with a horse rancher. If this analogy holds and is played out, then we should ask, is there a "horse" that might either eat the blade of grass....or defecate on it?

In most of my stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe the protagonist is a human who becomes aware of the fact that aliens (the Huaoshy) long ago visited Earth....but the alien visitors did not bother to make their presence known to we Earthlings. When Earthlings manage to become aware of the fact that aliens have long been watching over Earth they are given a choice: either leave Earth or have their knowledge of aliens erased.

In Exode, I take a different approach and follow some Interventionists as they make their way from the distant world of their birth (the planet Hemmal) to Earth. The closest I've previously come to describing the origin of Interventionists is the rather whimsical autobiography of Manmahtiti Bebobinmahtiti. Exode is a more serious attempt to sketch the fate of humans who were long ago taken off of Earth and "cultured" on distant planets.

In some ways the Interventionists can be viewed as "angels" acting as intermediaries between god (the Huaoshy) and we Earthlings. However, Genesaunts are not messengers who bring communications to we Earthlings from the Huaoshy. In fact, the Huaoshy prefer that we Earthlings remain ignorant of the Huaoshy....they certainly would not even try to use Genesaunts to send a message to Earth.

However, what if some of our myths and fiction here on Earth have been inspired by interactions between Earthlings and Interventionists? I've played around with this possibility in The Start of Eternity, a fanfiction sequel to Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity. In The Start of Eternity I could not resist placing Asimov at the center of a critical nexus in time where the Huaoshy decide that they must alter the dimensional structure of the universe so as to make time travel impossible. However, Asimov is left with garbled memories of an alternate "Reality" in which time travel was possible for Earth's robots with positronic brains....leading to his "science fiction" stories which actually reflect events in the alternate Reality.

In Exode, it also becomes possible for an Interventionist (Izhiun) to leave behind on Earth a written account of Genesaunt Culture, although Earthlings are likely to view that account as fiction.

Horse or Angel?
Genesaunts are more like a horse than an angel, but I'd like to paint them as a kind of unicorn. In particular, I like the image of two dueling unicorns, the Interventionists and the Overseers. These dueling unicorns are most likely to simply trample a blade of grass while they spar against each other. A horse is an animal that could evolve over the course of millions of years by natural selection and genetic drift. A unicorn is a creature of the imagination...the sort of thing that might arise by intelligent design.

The Huaoshy are restricted by a set of ethical rules that prevent them from interacting directly with primitive creatures like we Earthlings. However, the Huaoshy allow themselves more freedom in dealing with humans who have been taken off of Earth. Exactly what is the relationship between the Huaoshy and human Interventionists such as Parthney?

It is difficult for me to avoid comparing the Huaoshy in the Exodemic Fictional Universe to the Q in the Star Trek Fictional Universe. I've previously mentioned the similarity between the "aliens" in an original Star Trek series episode, The Squire of Gothos, and the Q. It is easy for me to imagine that the "aliens" in The Squire of Gothos might actually have originated as early humanoids 2,000,000 years ago. Imagine that the Q visited Earth 2,000,000 years ago and took away some humanoids and "cultured" them on a distant world. After 2,000,000 years such Earth-derived humanoids might have evolved/developed into the sort of "aliens" depicted in The Squire of Gothos.

The idea that the Q might be advanced beings who would try to help more primitive creatures develop is based on what little of the Q I've seen (I've not seen most of the television shows with the Q). It seems like the Q can't resist interacting with primitives like we humans. Similarly, the Huaoshy feel an obligation to assist primitive species like we humans. In all the vast region of the universe known to the Huaoshy, they only know of one technologically-advanced life form, themselves, that managed to avoid dying off soon after obtaining advanced technology. The Huoashy have found the remnants of thousands of extinct civilizations that self-destructed.

At first, about a billion years ago, when the Huaoshy still had a biological form and when they first moved out into space they had some unsuccessful interactions with primitive biological species that were encountered on various planets. By trial and error the Huaoshy learned to assist primitive species without revealing themselves to the primitives. The "system" by which this assistance is provided takes the form of what I call Genesaunt Culture.

The Huaoshy are responsible for the fact that some humans were long ago taken off of Earth and allowed to form new societies on distant worlds such as Hemmal. However, even the Genesaunts are frustrated by the fact that they do not have direct contacts with the Huaoshy. The Huaoshy interact indirectly with primitive creatures like humans through artificial life forms, what we might call robots and what the Genesaunts know as the pek. So, are pek in the role of angels, acting as intermediaries between Genesuants and the Huaoshy?

Most Genesaunts simply take the pek for granted, making use of them as servants. The Interventionists are aware of the fact that the pek are a great mystery, but they have never been able to penetrate that mystery and learn the origins of the pek. Some Buld speculate that "the creators" (those who created the pek) can take the form of pek and interact directly with humans, but there is good evidence to support the idea that anyone who tries too hard to make contact with the Huaoshy is removed from Genesaunt Culture in much the same way that Earthlings who learn about the existence of Genesaunts are removed from Earth.

So, while "The Squire of Gothos" and "the Q" seem to enjoy interacting with humans, the Huaoshy are really quite distant from primitives like we humans. This might sting our vanity, but I cannot escape the conviction that an authentic conversation between the Huaoshy and a human would be about as one-sided as a conversation between a human and a bacterium. In any case, there is plenty of room for interesting stories about interactions between humans on Earth and Genesaunts who visit Earth or encounters between humans and aliens such as the Fru'wu. Given these options, in Exode there need be no major on-stage role for the Huaoshy. In other stories such as The Start of Eternity there might be a crisis during which the Huaoshy need to step in and have a more direct interaction with primitive creatures, but in general the Huaoshy just are not that concerned with the day-to-day, or century-to-century, affairs of humans.

In The Start of Eternity, by a fluke event, the positronic robots of humans have started disrupting the space-time continuum. For such emergencies the Huaoshy can interact with humans by taking the form of their biological bodies from a billion years ago. Such "instantiated Huaoshy" are actually just a form of pek that is highly linked to the Huaoshy who exist as sedronic artificial lifeforms beyond our restricted 4 dimensional space-time of ordinary matter. Normally the pek operate quite autonomously, rather like an automated irrigation system on a ranch. The Huaoshy have about as much interest in direct interactions with humans as a horse rancher would have in monitoring the growth of individual blades of grass in a pasture.

In The Start of Eternity, positronic robots playing around with time travel threatens to disrupt the entire system of the Huaoshy by which they are spreading their influence through the universe. In such an extraordinary situation, the Huaoshy cannot operate by their usual system and they must carefully determine what has happened on Earth and what can be done about it. Here is an analogy: you might go your entire life allowing automated systems in your body to control the function of your liver, but if your liver is invaded by a hepatitis virus, you would want to step in and make a conscious effort to treat the infection. The Huaoshy can "step in" and have more direct interactions with humans, but this almost never happens.

Carl Sagan was interested in the fact that there is no obvious objective evidence for space aliens, angels, contact with spirits of the dead or hundreds of other odd things that some people believe exist beyond our shared scientific view of reality, however, people seem to have a natural predisposition towards belief in contact with "others", whether space aliens, angels or garden variety fairies.

Sagan was interested in the human brain and the possibility that because of certain evolutionary flukes our brains might tend to naturally make people think they have had certain types of experiences such as seeing witches or space aliens. Of course, from the perspective of fiction writing, a mundane explanation such as "our brains trick us into believing weird things" is not very satisfying.

Where do stories like Exode fit into this broader issue of the human predilection for imagining contact with "others"? For me, it is simply fun to imagine how it might have been possible for a human-like species (call them the "Huaoshy") to evolve on a distant world long ago and result in conditions under which Earth could have been visited long ago by space aliens, but we Earthlings would remain ignorant of that fact. My only motivation is to imagine fun science fiction stories. However, I confess that part of the fun is imagining how certain human myths and beliefs about mysterious "others" might have arisen from contact between Earthlings and visitors such as Interventionists. Every generation of story tellers seems to confront these same issues and so there is an endless process of creation of new stories about "others" who visit and interact with people.
Note: I later decided to change the mode of interaction between the Huaoshy and humans in Exode. See Kac'hin.