Dec 8, 2012

Exode as a Horror Story

Gersen and Alusz
I originally thought of Exode as a kind of Space Opera, but upon completing an outline of the story I realized that there were no battling fleets of spaceships, no exploding planets, and there was not even the death of a single character. I searched for a way to "spice up" the story by killing off one of the characters and I toyed with two possible ways of killing Hana's husband. However, I later realized that it would be fun to write myself into Exode and so Hana's husband was transformed from a disposable redshirt into the author of the story.

The fundamental "problem" that must be confronted while trying to slip death and destruction into Exode is that the Huaoshy are not incompetent. They have advanced technology and have been spreading Genesaunt Civilization through the universe for about a billion years. Exode presents an "inside view" of Genesaunt Civilization and unlike my earlier Exodemic stories, Exode does not center the reader's attention on Earth. Earth, existing as it does beyond the bounds of Genesaunt Civilization, has plenty of death and destruction. In contrast, the planets of Genesaunt Civilization are well-managed and death among the Genesaunts is carefully controlled.

The Killing Machine
The fundamental source of tension and conflict for stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe is the struggle between Interventionists and Overseers. The Overseers want to bring Earth into the safe confines of Genesaunt Civilization, but they must respect the ethical principles of the Huaoshy. In particular, the people of Earth must remain unaware of the existence of the Huaoshy. Working in opposition to the Overseers, Interventionists are rebels who want to liberate the people of Earth from controlling influence of the Huaoshy.

Human Interventionists grow up on distant planets such as Hemmal, peaceful worlds where they take for granted the availability of advanced technologies provided by the Huaoshy. Why should the people of Earth struggle to drag themselves out of the Stone Age when the Interventionists can share with Earth all the advanced technology of Genesaunt Civilization? Why? Because the Overseers stand in the way!

The Horror, the Horror!
I've previously described the personal problem that I have with mindless violence in horror stories. However, not all horror must be built upon violence. Jack Vance wrote several stories about worlds where humans lived under conditions that allowed evil masters to secretly control their lives. For example, in The Killing Machine, the secret planet Thamber is ruled by the Demon Prince Kokor Hekkus. The populace of Thamber lived under cultural conditions where there is only a primitive level of technology while Hekkus could come and go as he pleased in his spaceship.

The 10-billion-SVU-girl, Alusz, was able to steal a spaceship and escape from Thamber. Alusz was able to provide clues to the location Thamber. After the hero of the story, Kirth Gersen, reveals to the people of Thamber that they have long been  puppets for the pleasure of an evil mastermind, one of the henchmen of Hekkus is taken to the gallows. Before being killed, he tells exploited folk of city Carrai, "Fools! Fools! Do you realize how long you have been gulled and milked and bled? Of your gold, of your warriors of your beautiful women? For two hundred years!" Vance's novel Emphyrio has a similar plot in which the protagonist must liberate the people of his own world from their unseen masters.

Space Opera with no deaths? Not even a redshirt?
It is not uncommon for Interventionists to feel that the people of Earth are trapped in a horrific nightmare where the unseen Huaoshy control the fate of Humanity. Millions of Earthlings suffer horrible deaths while the Huaoshy stand by and watch, unable to prevent the suffering on Earth because of the "ethical principles" of the aliens.

At the same time, the Overseers are carefully taught that species like humans on planets like Earth, if left to themselves, inevitably find ways to use advanced technology to destroy themselves. Overseers view suffering on Earth as the lesser of two evils, as a way to buy time until the human species can be crafted into an artificial lifeform that can survive and thrive as a part of Genesaunt Civilization. Overseers view Interventionists as madmen who will foolishly step in and hand Earthlings the tools of their own destruction.

From my perspective as the author editor of Exode, the conflict between Interventionists and Overseers is a wonderful opportunity. No matter which side of this conflict the reader has sympathy for, there is horrifying dread that the other side might win. Exode can be a horror story even if I do not include war and death and destruction. What is ultimately at risk is the very existence of the human species. Will our entire existence as humans be erased by the methodical meddling of the Huaoshy? If Humanity managed to escape from the grip of the Huaoshy, would we simply destroy ourselves?

Horror on Hemmal
Alien beings enslave humanoids
I originally imagined that Parthney's home world, Hemmal, was a peaceful refuge for members of the Buld Clan. However, I've decided that I should not abandon the opportunity to include the fundamental source of conflict in Exode right in the very first chapter of the story. While the Buld population on Hemmal does function as a source of Interventionists, most of the Buld could never be sympathetic with the Interventionist cause. In fact, it is only a very small subset of the Buld who are aware of existence of the Interventionists.

Most Buld are under the powerful influence of the pek and they accept the idea that the Buld must live as guests of the Prelands on Hemmal. If Parthney's music offends the Prelands then it is the responsibility of the Buld to take matters in hand and prevent Parthney from giving further offense to the Prelands. For the religious believers of Hemmal, nobody can afford to mock the Creators and their great plan for Humanity!

For the Interventionist agents on Hemmal, the iron grip of religious believers is a never ending horror. The best that can be hoped for is to convince "false" Buld such as Parthney to abandon their home world. Sadly, many "false" Buld find it possible to exist within Genesaunt Civilization: they sacrifice their chance for freedom and willingly become puppets of the Huaoshy. In Chapter One of Exode, Parthney faces the choice of either continuing his comfortable life on Hemmal or running away to find his fate among the stars.

As a "false" Buld, Parthney's sympathies do not naturally align with the conventional views of the majority of people who live on his home world. In Chapter Three of Exode, Parthney is not too surprised to find himself exiled from Hemmal and among a group of Interventionists on the planet Oib. However, it is on Oib that Parthney learns a startling truth: Overseers and Interventionists are both the creation of the Huaoshy. In fact, even while Parthney trains to become an Interventionist agent on Earth, he is tormented by doubts about why the Huaoshy allow the Interventionists to alter the course of human civilization on Earth. Parthney learns that there are alien Interventionists such as the Fru'wu who provide tools and advanced technology to the human Interventionists. Are the Fru'wu motivated by altruism or do they hope to provide advanced technology to Earthlings and help humans destroy themselves?

Are alien Interventionists such as the Nereids simply able to get a bit "out of control" because of self-imposed Huaoshy ethical restrictions....or are they a true source of danger to Earthlings? Together with Kach, Parthney must travel to the Andromeda galaxy in an attempt to learn if the Nereids are a danger to Humanity or our only true source of hope. In the end, a copy of the story of Parthney's search for answers ends up on Earth and in the hands of readers of Exode. By the end of Exode, all of the chasing around through space winds down and the question remains for each of us here on Earth...what will be the ultimate fate of our there any way to avoid the story of Humanity having a bad ending?

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