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.

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