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Dec 28, 2012

Exode Cover

Ario, Reginal, Parthney and D'hab
With a tip of my hat to the traditions of print books, I finally started making a "book cover" for Exode. At the bottom of the front cover is Parthney's megepi in performance at Demon Lodge (see the image to the right).

From left to right, the kanen are Ario, Reginal, Parthney and D'hab. Except for Parthney, who is human, the kanen are pek: artificial lifeforms that adopt humanoid form. Their instruments are "homemade" by Parthney with the connivance of the pek and Pathney's friend, Yandrey, a member of the Buld Clan. For this performance, Ario and Reginal are shown in the form of typical Bulds, hermaphroditic humanoids who are neither male or female; they typically have the appearance of girls or young women. Reginal, a bothet, has adopted the form of a human female.

For the upper part of the front cover I used an image that I made last summer, but with one modification. In Chapter One of Exode,  a performance by Parthney's megepi is recorded and transmitted to the Prelands. During the performance a globe-shaped holographic recording device floats above the stage. I replaced the "O" in "EXODE" with that artificial globe.

The two different densities of stars in the star fields are meant to suggest different locations in the galaxy such as the position of Earth and the positions of other Earth-like planets located in the galactic core. For example, Hemmal, the planet where Parthney was born, is located much closer to the center of the galaxy than is Earth.

Instruments of the quartet
Ario is shown with an instrument that was designed to appear something like a ringed planet. This is a "wind" instrument, but it is not powered by the breath of the player. These instruments are all composed of nanoscopic components (nanites). Traditionally, the only instrument used in Preland musical performances is a simple drum. By tradition, Preland music is performed by a group of singers who must sing the lines of epic poems. On Hemmal, members of the Buld Clan sing these musical performances for the Prelands who are genetically modified humans who have almost completely lost the use of human speech.

Ario: Human vs. Preland
Reginal and Parthney are shown holding what Yandrey calls "Buld harps" that function similar to stringed instruments.

D'hab's instrument has a spiral array of many color-coded and pressure-sensitive contacts that function to produce sounds that are like those of several Earthly percussion instruments ranging from pianos to xylophone to drum sets. 

I'm still trying to decide if I should show D'hab and Ario with the typical Preland facial features. On Hemmal, most of the pek who live among the Buld adopt the distinctive appearance of the Prelands, particularly a small mouth and small jaw.

D'hab: Human vs. Preland
The pek are composed of nanite components and they can effortlessly morph their features. For this one occasion, with the performance being transmitted to the Prelands, Parthney attempts to be less provocative than usual. Parthney might ask Ario and D'hab to adopt Buld facial features so that the Prelands will not notice that pek are performing music. Ario and D'hab are positioned to the front of the stage so they are right under the stage lights and they stand on small platforms. On Hemmal, males and females are very rare mutants, the "false" Buld, and the Prelands would not be comfortable seeing humans so Parthney and Reginal position themselves to the back of the stage.

Change Your World
The "change your world" catch phrase is used by Parthney when he is living on Earth as an Interventionist agent. One of the Earthlings who he helps "change worlds" is Hana who leaves Earth and then starts to explore the Genesaunt civilization that exists on thousands of planets located in the galactic core. Hana finally ends up living on a distant planet in the Andromeda galaxy, but her son Izhiun later visits Earth.

Parthney's personal "exode" starts with the musical performance depicted on the cover. He begins the performance with the intention that his megepi will provide the audience with an unusual rendition of one of the traditional Preland epic poems, but only unusual because they will be using musical instruments. However, for the first time in his life the nanites in his brain are providing him with the type of interpersonal sensory feedback that "true" Buld continuously experience on Hemmal. Parthney cannot anticipate the consequences of there being another "false" Buld hidden in the audience. By the end of the performance Parthney is back to his usual tricks, improvising and creating his own personal interpretation of The Orchard of Maponus. By the time the megepi walks off stage it is obvious to all present that Parthney has certainly given a performance that will offend the Prelands. The next day, Parthney is invited to depart Hemmal and he starts his journey to the stars.

Dec 26, 2012

New Header

Old header image   -   video teaser
I finally updated the header image for this blog. The old image was a scene from a story called The Nanoepitaxy of Susanne Marie.

The Nanoepitaxy of Susanne Marie is a story set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. The basic idea of The Nanoepitaxy of Susanne Marie is that Earth has long been inhabited both by native life forms and by nanorobotic artificial life forms of extraterrestrial origin. The nanorobotic life forms that are on Earth are here to observe the evolution of life on Earth and they sometimes "extract" Earthly life forms from Earth for transfer to distant locations and further study. One of the preferred "life styles" for the nanorobotic life forms is to live inside multicellular organisms. In the story, Susanne Marie Ganice becomes the first person found to be a host for a nanorobotic life form.

The "nanoepitaxy" part concerns how Earthlings discover the existence of the nanorobotic life forms. Normally, the nanorobotic life forms do not interfere with the course of development of the native life forms on Earth. However, certain "renegade" nanorobotic life forms make use of cloned humans as a tool for passing knowledge from generation to generation. The goal of these renegades is to artificially stimulate human progress, but their methods are illegal. Their program involves producing clones, allowing the clones to remain on Earth and then performing a form of "nanoepitaxy" to connect the brains of the parent and its clone, allowing a form of shared consciousness and "downloading" of thoughts from the parent to its clone. Susanne Marie Ganice is such a clone. The story is about how she discovers what is going on, and then how the people of Earth do also.

The nanorobotic life forms are able to induce parthenogenic cloning of individuals when they find an interesting new genetic variant. In general, this is followed by removal of the clone(s) from Earth for further study.

In mammals, there is so much parental investment in each offspring that imprinting makes sense and prevents spontaneous parthenogenesis. Techniques for reprogramming of nuclei to obtain male and female patterns of imprinting would facilitate cloning of "prized specimines".

In this story, it is imagined that the nanorobots make use of "mitotic synapsis", an artificially induced pairing of chromosomes in a diploid cell that takes place without any genetic recombination. Mitotic synapsis is followed by a modified cell division event producing two haploid daughter cells, one of which has almost no cytoplasm. The smaller of these two daughter cells is enucleated and the nucleus is inserted into a secondary oocyte for genomic programming in the female gamete pattern. The original nucleus of the oocyte is destroyed. The other haploid daughter cell differentiates into a modified prospermatogonium and its nucleus is programmed according to the male gamete pattern.
Mitotic synapsis can be induced in adult females as desired by the nanorobotic life forms. The resulting specialized follicle needs about a year to complete the genomic reprogramming. The secondary oocyte then matures through a near-normal follicle maturation process. The nucleus from the modified prospermatogonium is then used to fertilize the oocyte. The female-programmed pronucleus and the male-programmed pronucleus combine to produce a genetic replica of the woman's original diploid chromosomes. The clone can come to term and be born after normal development in the uterus. In most cases, the clone is taken off Earth, and the child is given special education before being returned to Earth.

In some cases, mitotic synapsis is induced in large numbers of folicles and a large number of clones are produced at the same time and harvested by the nanorobotic life forms prior to their implantation in the uterus. The clones are frozen and taken off Earth for later implantation in surrogate mothers.

Susanne Marie Ganice is a clone who went through the process described above. In the story, Susanne is returned to Earth in order to go through the "nanoepitaxy" process and begin living on Earth. However, during the "nanoepitaxy" process a nanorobotic error occurs triggering the program for "mitotic synapsis", resulting in pregnancy and eventual discovery by the medical community of Earth that Susanne has reproduced parthenogenically.

Susanne is a "courier" who shuttles embryos off Earth and takes them to the planet where she was born. This is what is depicted in the "video teaser". Susanne has a rather unexciting routine of making such trips to Earth. Susanne is one of a group of eight clone sisters. The other seven clones never go to Earth. They are involved with various aspects of working with the embryos that are brought from Earth by Susanne.

While on her home world, Susanne is informed that she has been selected from among her cohort of clones to begin living on Earth. Initially, this comes as a complete shock, because according to law, life forms such as herself, once removed from Earth, are not returned. She learns about the secret program allowing clones such as herself to live on Earth and undergo the "nanoepitaxy" process.

Susanne goes to Earth and meets her biological "mother", who is actually genetically identical to Susanne. Sussanne goes through the "nanoepitaxy" process, receiving a transfer of memories.

Nine months later Sussanne gives birth, assuming that the pregnancy has been totally conventional. However, it is discovered that she and her daughter are genetically identical. This eventually leads to discovery of nanorobotic devices inside Sussanne.

New Header
The new header image shows the two main characters of Exode. Parthney and Kach were both born on the distant planet of Hemmal. Kach lived on Hemmal about twice as long as Parthney. Parthney left Hemmal when he was a young man and went off to spend about 15 years training on Oib and then stationed on Earth as an Interventionist agent. Kach is a little older than Parthney and remained on Hemmal until after Parthney completed his work on Earth. Before Parthney left Hemmal, he briefly met Kach once and she tricked him into thinking that she was a hermaphroditic member of the Buld Clan, not a human female.

After completing his mission to Earth, Parthney has a series of strange dreams about Kach. These dreams seem to depict alternate realities in which Parthney discovers that Koch is a woman, for example: 1) rather than staying for half a day, Kach stayed several days at Demon Lodge, 2) rather than depart from Hemmal by himself, Kach left their home world with Parthney.

The new header image illustrates another of these dreams in which Kach and Parthney travel to Earth together. These dreams inspire Parthney to investigate Kach and he manages to confirm the fact that Kach is, like Parthney, a false Buld, a human female. Finally, Parthney arranges for Kach to leave Hemmal. He then discovers that Kach's son, Boswei, is his son. Kach reveals to Parthney the rest of "Muchlo's Secret", the part that Muchlo was not permitted to reveal.

Dec 25, 2012

Secrecy in Science Fiction

The End of Eternity
I enjoy typing topics into a search engine and seeing what other people have written about matters that are on my mind. I was surprised to find nothing online when I typed in "secrecy in science fiction".

"spaceships in science fiction"        5,120,000*
"biology in science fiction"                233,000 
"the moon in science fiction"               58,800
"telepathy in science fiction"                 1,440
"neuroscience in science fiction"              949
"space elevators in science fiction"             40
"hermaphrodites in science fiction"              6
"secrecy in science fiction"                           0

Secrecy has been on my mind in the context of Exode, a story in which a secret has been kept from the people of Earth for 7,000,000 years. A major element of fun in Exode arises from the fact that the Interventionists have struggled and schemed for millennia to reveal the existence of that secret to we Earthlings, then, just when the veil of secrecy is finally to be withdrawn, the Interventionists get cold feet.

With the exception of the very first story set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe I have typically depicted Interventionist agents as being male. I gravitated towards this choice for several reasons, one being that their bitter rivals, the Overseers, are females. The Overseers play the role of a kind of planetary police force for Earth and it was fun have genetically engineered female Overseers who were stronger, smarter and quicker than the Interventionists. I've had fun depicting Overseers as arrogant and convinced that due to their engineered biological superiority, when push came to shove, they were always going to defeat the hapless male Interventionists. In fact, it is important that the Interventionists always seem to be defeated in any confrontation between Interventionists and Overseers. The over-confidence of the Overseers is always their undoing....the Interventionists always seem to loose, but in fact, they do manage to alter the course of human development on Earth....and most importantly, the Overseers, certain of their success, never even notice that the Interventionist really are able to change the fate of we Earthlings (albeit in subtle ways).

My previous blog post described some of the new twists on the Interventionists that are being included in Exode. Here is one more: the seemingly bumbling yet marvelously effective male Interventionists eventually paint themselves into a corner and onto the stage strides the first female Interventionist since Exodemic, Kach, intent on cleaning up a mess that was made by other Interventionists.

Secret agents
Making Luck
In his time travel novel, The End of Eternity, Asimov imagined a male-dominated group of time lords who, through their relentless control of historical events on Earth, unwittingly caused the extinction of humanity. In order to set things right and give humanity a chance for survival, Asimov called upon the seductive Noÿs Lambent to infiltrate Eternity and bring the time lords to their knees. Job One for the time lords was to keep secret from the people of Earth their power to alter the historical timeline. How does Noÿs penetrate that secret? It suffices to say that Asimov equips Noÿs with the requisite technology, and the rest is becomes history.

In Exode the heroine (Kach) has no wiz-bang technological means of saving humanity. What Kach has going for her is a lifetime devoted to learning about the strange reality she is born into: a reality where humans are an artificial construct, a most unlikely species that has been designed and crafted by space aliens who came to Earth from a distant galaxy. It is by learning as much as possible about human origins and the Creators that Kach can make wise decisions, but, frustratingly, Job One for the alien Huaoshy is making sure that primitive creatures like we Earthlings are completely unaware of the existence of the Huaoshy.

Asimov's tiger woman
Heinlein's spunky heroine Friday Baldwin was given a built-in advantaged. As an artificially engineered person she is genetically superior and, consequently, physically superior to run-of-the-mill humans. In Exode, genetic modification of humans is also a major theme, but Kach is at the bottom of the gene pool...genetically indistinguishable from we Earthlings.

Friday reminds me of another of Asimov's heroines, Dors Venabili. Dors is an artificial person with a positronic brain and other non-biological enhancements that make her a powerful bodyguard for Hari Seldon and earn her the label "tiger woman". In contrast to science fiction heroines like Friday and Dors, Kach is no superwoman.

In addition to high tech gizmos and superhuman physical prowess, another boost that is often given to science fiction heroines is for authors to hand them all of the advantages that can come from being born into a wealthy and powerful family.

Protector
Carolyn Cherry's character Allison Reilly was born into a rich family and her inherited social advantages contrast dramatically with those of Sandor Kreja whose family was destroyed, leaving him with only a rundown spaceship. In contrast to Allison, Kach can never even know who her parents were...and more to the point, she was born on a planet where knowing your parents can have no possible benefit.

So, what is the secret to Kach's success? Well, there is also the Chauncey Gardiner type of heroics where all you need to do is show up, or, as Choire Sicha puts it, "She is the hero because, why not?" Of course, if someone "just happens" to become a hero we must try to look behind the curtain...there might be a hidden reason, right? For example, Larry Niven imagined that you could "breed humans for good luck": such was the explanation given for Teela Brown's ability to be in the right place at the right time. We can imagine all kinds of magical "reasons" for why things come to happy conclusion for an unlikely hero, but I'm personally unhappy when magic creeps into a science fiction story.

In the case of Kach, things seem to go her way because of her relentless persistence...she will not rest...she just keeps pushing. But is her "good luck" really only the product of hard work?

Possession is 0.9 x Thing
I want to raise another possibility in the minds of readers. In Exode, the Huaoshy lurk off stage, but their presence permeates Genesaunt consciousness and the Creators are worshiped and feared because of their god-like powers. Their power is not magical or supernatural, however, for primitives like we Earthlings, it might seem like it. The Huaoshy have had advanced technology for a billion years and they long ago transformed themselves into an artificial lifeform that enjoys an existence that is as far beyond human existence as we are beyond the lives of bacteria. In Chapter One of Exode, Parthney has his paranoid fears confirmed when he learns that the pek can effortlessly monitor human thoughts. Parthney is left wondering to what extent he is a puppet with his behavior subject to control by the pek and the advanced nanite technology at their command. Kach inherits that paranoia and takes it to the next level.

The more Kach learns about the pek the clearer it becomes that the pek have a relationship to the Creators (the Huaoshy) that is similar to the relationship between a plow and a farmer. The pek are a tool that the Huaoshy use to transform wild and dangerous environments (environments such as planet Earth) towards a "sanitized" state of existence that is compatible with conditions that the Huaoshy require within their 100,000 galaxy-wide domain of operations. In this analogy of plows and farmers, the human species can be viewed as wolves...by the time all the plowing is complete, the wolves might very well be extinct.

Irene Kelly
In Exode, is there hope for humanity? Rather than simply exterminate the wolves (humanity) the farmer (the Huaoshy) would prefer to domesticate us. Why? That is not clear...possibly domesticated wolves would make fine pets for the farmer's children. Kach is forced to ask: do the Creators (the Huaoshy) simply use the pek as a fully automated system for domesticating wolves or do the Huaoshy sometimes concern themselves with the day-to-day affairs of primitive creatures like humans?

If the Huaoshy did concern themselves with humans, would they just show up on our doorstep? In The Start of Eternity I included the idea that the Huaoshy can "instantiate" themselves in humanoid form when there is a crisis on Earth. However, these "instantiated" Huaoshy do not just wander around on Earth making a spectacle of themselves. The Huaoshy have learned by long experience that it is best if primitive creatures like we humans are not aware that the Huaoshy exist.

Satisfied?
It is a trivial matter for the Huaoshy to disguise themselves, so they could easily visit Earth and go unnoticed. Another option would be for the Huaoshy to "appropriate" or take possession of a human body and use it to accomplish a task that needed to be completed on Earth. In Exode, Kach cannot avoid wondering if such "appropriations" take place, and in particular, might she herself be a puppet for the Huaoshy? How can she know if she is acting of her own "free will" or if she is simply behaving the way that the Huaoshy make her behave?

What form might human possession by the Huaoshy take? In Star Trek, Spock was able to make goo goo eyes at Irene Kelly and make her activate a communicator, allowing the Enterprise crew to come to the rescue. The Huaoshy are technologically masters of the very small and they could easily slip their probes into a human brain and take control. How do any of us know that we have free will? What if everything went along well in your life, so well that you could not help wondering if you were benefiting from "divine intervention"...would you question your good fortune or just happily accept it? And what if things went well for you personally (and your breed of dog), but all the wolves on some little planet (such as Earth) just happened to get annihilated? Kach worries about such questions.

Izhiun to the rescue!
Kach can never lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds the Huaoshy. In Exode, the Huaoshy remain a theoretical construct devised by hapless humans (like Kach) who want to know their Creators. But, propelled by her dogged persistence, Kach arrives on Earth and tries to save the day...and here is where I risk provoking the ire of the science fiction heroine police. Nothing seems to upset the heroine police as much as a failed heroine who stumbles in the last mile of the marathon and must be helped across the finish line by, ew, a guy.

In the case of Kach, the guy who comes to her rescue is Izhiun, her grandson. What does Izhiun have that Kach does not have? First of all, it might seem very unlikely that Izhiun should ever find his way to Earth. Izhiun is born on an obscure little planet in the Andromeda galaxy. However, the Nereid Interventionists have a long history of making the trip from Andromeda to Earth (and, most recently, it is they who send Kach to Earth) and they feel an obligation to send reinforcements to Earth when Kach gets into trouble on Earth.

So, Izhiun gets a helping hand from the Nereids and he is provided with the needed technological gizmo that will allow him to rescue Kach. As usual, it was important that Kach appear to be defeated by the Overseers. In this case, the "technological gizmo" is a cloned replica of Kach that the Nereids have carefully manufactured. The replica goes with Izhiun to Earth and is secretly substituted for Kach, allowing Kach to escape and leaving the over-confident Overseers none the wiser.

In addition to rescuing Kach, Izhiun has one more task to complete on Earth. After 7,000,000 years of pek meddling in Earthly affairs, we Earthlings have finally earned to right to start learning the truth about the existence of humans on distant planets like Hemmal. Izhiun finds a way to leave a copy of Parthney's story on Earth. However, at the end of Exode, it is not clear that anyone on Earth will be able to view Parthney's tale as anything more than science fiction. Izhiun is plagued by doubt, the Interventionists having reached the conclusion that the Huaoshy might be right and it might be best if the Interventionists not reveal the secret of our human origins.






* The numbers in the table came from Google. I don't trust the numbers, I just copied them down. As soon as I made public this blog post, the Google search engine said that it suddenly found thousands of hits for "secrecy in science fiction". Related reading.
Follow up: after a week or so Google has cleaned up their search results and only a few of the major scraper sites were still listed.

Dec 24, 2012

Twisted Interventionists

This past summer I started a new novel that would allow me explore the origins of the Interventionists who appear as characters in stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. Previously, I had written stories from the perspective of people like you and I who live on Earth. In those stories, the Interventionists appear on Earth, magically arriving from the stars. Exode takes the magic out of their arrival. The story begins with Parthney on his home world, Hemmal. Eventually Parthney makes his way to Earth where he lives for 15 years as an Interventionist agent. The early chapters of Exode describe "The making of an Interventionist".

In previous stories about Interventionists I have portrayed them as confident adversaries in a kind of "spy vs spy" scenario where Overseers and Interventionists have opposing views about we Earthlings. Overseers fanatically try to make sure that the residents of Earth develop at their own natural pace without any outside interference....and without any true understanding of how it is even possible for the Interventionists to be "outside" (arriving on Earth from some other world). I've typically depicted Interventionist agents on Earth as struggling against the Overseers to find ways to speed the pace of technological advance and cultural development on Earth.

teleportation
The first scene of Exode that I wrote last summer did not end up as the first chapter. When I started writing Exode my goal was to put a specific new twist on the usual roles Interventionists and Overseers. In earlier stories, it had only been the Overseers who would remove Earthlings from Earth if they became aware of the fact that Earth is under constant Observation. For Exode, I started out by writing a new scene that depicted Parthney as having the technological means to send an Earth woman off to a distant world where she would need to struggle to understand the Genesaunt civilization that has spread to many planets in the core region of our galaxy. More important than just the fact that an Interventionist could do such a thing was the fact that he did it because it made life easier for himself.....and doing so had interesting repercussions....in particular, it allows the Exode story to not get stuck on Earth, but rather, to move on to more fully explore the detailed inner workings of the Interventionists as a group.

Thus, my decision to endow Parthney with the power to exile people from Earth quickly led to a second twist in Exode's depiction of Interventionists. I'd long had the important (although vague) idea that the Interventionists are not simply renegade Genesaunts intent on violating the ethical laws of their culture, but rather, they exist because they perform an important function, and they would not exist unless the Huaoshy themselves insisted that Interventionists exist.

If the Interventionists are not just a simple band of renegades then in order to elevate them to equal stature with the Overseers there needs to be a complex inter-galactic Interventionist movement. To start sketching in some details of what this broader coalition of Interventionists consists of, I brought an alien species into Exode, the Fru'wu.

by ReverendStrone
Judged by human esthetic standards, the Fru'wu are the opposite of what we would call "warm and cuddly"...so much so that they go out of their way to not let humans see their true form. The Fru'wu evolved on a world in our galaxy and they had already developed a technologically advanced civilization by 7 million years ago, the point in time when the Huaoshy first arrived in our part of the universe. In fact, the Fru'wu were engaged in the process of slowly spreading outward from their home star system to nearby stars. Unfortunately for them, the budding interstellar civilization of the Fru'wu managed to destroy itself by unleashing a plague of destructive nanoscopic artificial lifeforms.

Left to themselves, the story of the Fru'wu would have ended at that point, but a few members of the Fru'wu species were preserved and successfully "cultured" on another planet of our galaxy. To make a 7 million-year-long story short, some descendants of those rescued Fru'wu eventually came to the attention of the "inter-galactic league of interventionists". Now, there is no such organization, but if there were, a candidate for membership would be the Nereids. The Nereids are a partially artificial lifeform with its biological origin in the Andromeda galaxy. The Nereids long ago became aware of the Huaoshy and rejected the idea of going down the same evolutionary path that the Huaoshy went down about a billion years ago. The Nereids dedicated themselves to proving that, regardless of their biological limitations, they could maintain a healthy civilization over the course of millions of years. Further, they have an interest in helping other species such as the Fru'wu do the same.

by Zapato
With respect to Interventionism, the Nereids are like humanity's grandparents. Based on their vast experience, the Huaoshy view biological lifeforms as the "scum of the universe", much in the way we might view mildew on a shower wall. According to the ethical precepts of the Huaoshy, they are obligated to help primitive species like the Nereids, the Fru'wu and we humans to transcend our biological nature, as the Huaoshy did long ago. The Nereids, acting as Interventionists, long ago helped some of the Fru'wu establish a technological civilization that is free of direct Huaoshy oversight. Some of those "liberated" Fru'wu then took it upon themselves to intervene into the affairs of other species in our galaxy such as we humans. The middle part of Exode is concerned with Parthney's growing understanding of how his work as an Interventionist agent on Earth was made possible by the wider Interventionist movement, particularly the Fru'wu and the Nereid Interventionists.

After Parthney becomes aware of the Fru'wu and the Nereids, he is forced to concern himself with their motivations and he must decide if their interventions into human affairs are actually beneficial. Perhaps what the Huaoshy have in mind for humanity is the wisest course...maybe the Interventionists will only make things worse for Earth! Such nagging questions provide some of the basis for the horror elements in Exode. Finding himself off in the Andromeda galaxy, Parthney eventually reaches the point where all his worrying about Earth and humanity seems futile. Even if he knew what was best for humanity, how could he have any real impact on the course of events on Earth?

self-restraint
Finally, in the final part of Exode, events that were initiated by the Nereids (with the Fru'wu as their henchmen) are reaching a critical culmination on Earth. A fundamental question must be asked: might the wisest course for Interventionists be to act as to slow the pace of technological advance on Earth? Interventionists like Parthney must confront the possibility that if humanity is to survive then the Interventionists must restrain themselves.

Are you a slave if you agree to do your master's bidding? The angst provoked by such questions is why the Huaoshy work so hard to make sure that primitive creatures like we humans remain ignorant of our origins. Exode is the story of how Parthney and Koch push their luck by struggling to learn the truth about human origins. The ending of Exode drops the questions raised by Parthney and Koch into the laps of we Earthlings.

Intervention: the Manual
I'm feeling a bit guilty for having completed a first draft of the first chapter of Exode without including any mention of Interventionists. Worlds such as Hemmal are designed to produce Interventionists, but Parthney departs Hemmal without knowing what he is getting himself into. He has heard talk of Earth, but no detailed information about Earth exists on Hemmal. However, what little he has heard provides Parthney with a tantalizing alternative to creation myth of the Prelands, even if most of the Buld who live on Hemmal view Earth as mythical.

After leaving Hemmal, Parthney quickly finds himself on the planet Oib (so he believes) where he finally realizes that traveling to Earth is actually possible. He learns of the long evolutionary history of humans on Earth and the great puzzle that provokes Interventionists and focuses their efforts: the Overseers act like a police force, watching over Earth and making sure that outsiders don't disrupt the natural course of events on Earth.

Chapter Two of Exode is about Parthney's journey to Oib. Chapter Three describes his time on Oib and I want readers to exercise their skepticism about both the Preland view of reality that Parthney grew up with on Hemmal and the tales of Earth that he hears while on Oib. Hopefully readers will feel a great sense of anticipation...in particular, I want Chapter Three to end without revealing when it is that Exode is taking place. Will Parthney arrive on Earth at some time in our past, in our contemporary world or at some time in our future? What will Parthney be able to accomplish on Earth...how will he change our world? Perhaps most importantly, will the reader have anxiety about the consequences of Parthney's mission to Earth...will he help we Earthlings or just bring us grief?

Dec 20, 2012

Northern Cuisine

I've been crafting the last few characters for inclusion in Chapter One of Exode. Mentioned previously, Yandrey is a 15,000 year old hermaphroditic Buld. In search of an image of Yandrey to hold in my mind, I went online and "googled" away, ultimately finding a young model who looks not at all like we might normally picture as an ancient individual, but I was thinking that almost all Buld look like young adults. Why "almost"?

At first, I entertained the possibility that there would be a fairly conventional way to expand the Buld population, so there would be a way for new Buld to grow through childhood and adolescence. However, the more I think about it, the less I want to make room in Exode for Buld children. Then where do the new Buld come from when the Buld Clan must be increased in number? I've decided that the pek have a special Temple ceremony during which new Buld adult can be "created from scratch" using a Buld conceptus and a nanite-based "template" for the Buld body form. I like the idea that the Buld religion includes the opportunity for such acts of creation. There need be no Buld children in the conventional sense. However, while new Buld individuals will have an adult body, they will have minds that are mostly blank, child-like and ready to learn the ways of their world.

the challenge of growing food on a spaceship
So much for the "true" Buld...but what of the "false" Buld? False Buld, such a the main character of Exode, Parthney, lack the special chromosome that distinguishes the "true" Buld from Earthlings. After being taken from the body of his mother at about 50 days of life*, Parthney was gestated inside a pek surrogate mother and then raised at a special school by a small community of pek. In Chapter One, at the start of Exode, Parthney is a young adult who has been out of school and exploring his world for a few years.

How diverse a biological group is the Buld Clan and what is their evolutionary history? In thinking about this question, I'm reminded of the people in Asimov's imagined Galactic Empire.

synthetic meat
70 years ago the first stories in what was to become Asimov's Foundation Series were published. Asimov imagined a galaxy-spanning Empire of 25,000,000 Earth-like worlds with Trantor as the capitol. That Empire was in collapse and hope for galactic civilization's recovery from collapse rested with Hari Seldon's plan for two Foundations, established at the extreme "opposite" ends of the galaxy as dictated by psychohistorical necessity. 45 years later Asimov finally got around to writing the story of how Hari Seldon came to Trantor and began his efforts to create a useful science of Psychohistory.

eastern
southern
Like many science fiction stories abut the future, the Foundation stories were soon overtaken by the rapid pace of scientific and technological reality, but there are also some interesting gems in the stories, examples of where Asimov's imagination was ahead of its time. In Prelude to Foundation, written long before any of us could "google" the internet and search electronically for information, one of the characters is described as "computering" Hari Seldon in order to learn about his work.

northern Neanderthal
As an example of where Asimov's imagination failed, although Prelude to Foundation was written long after other science fiction stories like Star Trek depicted people in the future as being constantly in communication (by means of electronic communications devices), poor Hari Seldon becomes lost on Trantor, a planet with 40,000,000,000 other people, and the plot depends on Seldon having no means to communicate with anyone or call for help!

Also in Prelude to Foundation, Asimov addressed the issue of there being different types of residents on Trantor: what were known as Easterners, Westerners and Southerners. Seldon lives on Trantor at a time 20,000 years in our future and the telepathic robot Daneel has been careful to make humanity forget about Earth, so Hari must wonder why there are no "Northerners". Asimov wanted to show us that there were distinct populations such as "Easterners" on Trantor. I understad that Asimov needed to show the Galactic Empire in decline, but why did Asimov decide to depict humanity 20,000 years in our future as still being plagued by racial bigotry?

Human Evolution
What has produced the most obvious human phenotypic variations over the course of the past 100,000 years? Current thinking suggests that we are naked apes that spread across the world from an origin in Africa, modern humans have been subject to natural selection for different patterns of pigmentation and other minor genetic changes that set various human populations apart in terms of their superficial appearance.

In contrast to Asimov's vision of a phenotypically diverse future human population, Larry Niven's novel Ringworld suggested that about a thousand years in our future, due to easy travel, all of the original distinctive varieties of humans will have exchanged their genes and the people of Earth will have become a rather homogenous phenotypic mixture resulting from the recombination of all humanity's genes. When I first read the Foundation Trilogy it was in the form of paperback editions of the novels as published by Avon. I found the human figures depicted in the cover art on those editions puzzling and disturbing. For decades, with those Avon Foundation novels on my book shelf, I guessed that maybe the artist imagined an efficient gene mixing process for the people of Asimov's Galactic Empire...with no need for protection from Earth's equatorial sun light, maybe humanity in the future had mostly lost its dark pigmentation. What I found disturbing in those cover illustrations was that the depicted people seemed somehow alien.

I've been imagining that the people of Hemmal are all lightly pigmented. The "false" Buld from Hemmal (such as Parthney) are intended to travel to Earth and function as Interventionist agents in England or English-speaking nations. However, the Buld Clan originated as a group of Genesaunts who traveled between the many human-settled worlds of the galactic core. There needs to be significant diversity in Buld appearance spanning the full range of phenotypic diversity as found among Earthlings. When Parthney leaves Hemmal he travels to the nearby world Oib and meets some Buld who, in contrast to the inhabitants of Hemmal, were not intentionally designed to be genetically similar to the Earthlings who call themselves Englishmen. What should such Buld look like? Surely some of the humans on Oib must be more darkly pigmented than the pale folk of Hemmal.

There is some evidence that darkly pigmented human skin has evolved as an adaptation of "naked apes" to strong sunlight. If proto-human apes with light skin and dark hair were originally taken away from Earth about 7 million years ago and domesticated by the pek on worlds such as Hemmal then what would the first humans have looked like? Would phenotypic traits such as hair and skin pigmentation of the early Buld depend on the specific planetary environment where the first humans were crafted by the pek or would the artificial cultural conditions imposed by the pek be unlikely to constrain phenotypic variable such as skin pigmentation?

Food - another environmental wild card
On Earth, human evolution has been constrained by the need to obtain food from natural sources. What might happen to human evolution under conditions where people had an artificial source of food?

Back when Asimov was dreaming up the first Foundation stories it was hard to imagine how it might be possible to feed a large world population. And what about feeding people in spaceships or space stations where you can't easily grow natural food plants?

Asimov developed the idea that it might become possible (and efficient) to grow large amounts of yeast and process those cultured cells into food for billions of people. In Prelude to Foundation, this idea of manufactured food was developed extensively as an aspect of the strange culture that Hari Seldon finds in the "Mycogen Sector" of Trantor. For the proper development of Psychohistory, it is important that Seldon experience the cultural diversity of the various sectors of Trantor. Asimov depicted the people of Mycogen as being masters of manufacturing palatable synthetic food in their underground factories. Given sufficiently advanced technology, just how exotic might synthetic food become in the future?

Reginal the bothet, Parthney and Muchlo
In Exode, humans have been crafted by the pek under artificial conditions on worlds of the galactic core. For the past 7 million years there has been gene flow from these worlds back to Earth resulting in we Earthlings. On worlds such as Hemmal, the Buld continue to live under artificial conditions. I've decided that the Prelands are fed by artificial means as part of religious rituals in their temples. The pek have at their command swarms of nanoscopic devices. During Preland temple rituals food is shuttled into the bodies of the Prelands in the form of a stream of microscopic particles. Most Prelands believe that eating bulk food is nothing more than the undesirable predicament of primitive creatures. In contrast, Parthney, as a "false" Buld, enjoys eating "real food" and he insists that the temple pek provide him with food that he can eat "the old fashioned way". One consequence of the dietary practices of the Prelands is that they have small jaws and retain their "baby teeth" into adulthood. As mentioned previously, the pek who live among the Buld on Hemmal generally mimic some of the distinctive Preland facial features, particularly their small mouths and jaws.

Another derived Preland phenotype is greatly reduced olfaction and gustatory sensation. The synthetic food that Prelands find a palatable element of their temple rituals cannot be enjoyed by the Buld. However, the pek find it easy to synthesize food that the Buld can tolerate. Most Buld on Hemmal try to emulate the Preland indifference to food, but some Buld partake in the disreputable pastime of seeking out and savoring "bulk food" which the pek will prepare, when asked to do so. Parthney, as a "false" Buld, refuses to participate in temple food rituals and makes no attempt to hide his preference for "bulk food".

the paired planets Hemmal and Oib
Unfortunately for the "true" Buld who enjoy "bulk food", they have very small stomachs and can never consume much "roughage" at one time. This dietary restriction is one of the means by which the pek try to prevent "true" Buld from abandoning the organized Genesaunt culture that is maintained by the pek. However, there are some "true" Buld on worlds like Oib who try to live beyond the reach of the pek. Special liquid diets have been developed for the "true" Buld on Oib where there are no temple feeding ceremonies or pek-directed feeding nanites.

Kach
On worlds such as Hemmal, the "false" Buld are made use of in two distinct ways by the scheming pek. Males, such as Parthney, are recruited for service on Earth as Interventionists agents. Females, such as Kach, are valuable to the Buld scholars because they can live among the Prelands and obtain information about Preland culture. The true Buld carry too many nanites in their brains: their cognitive functions are disrupted when they try to live among the Prelands. In Chapter One of Exode, Kach is established in her career as an observer of Preland culture on Hemmal and Parthney is started on his path towards Earth.

Typically Interventionist agents on Earth remain there until they die, but Parthney is destined to be captured by Overseers and removed from his duty on Earth.

Before Parthney leaves Hemmal, Kach plays a trick on him. After Parthney is removed from Earth and makes his way back to the galactic core he learns how Kach tricked him. By this time, Parthney knows that he has been selected by the alien Fru'wu for a special mission to the Andromeda galaxy.

The Fru'wu initially plan that Parthney and Hana (a woman who was born on Earth) can travel together to the Andromeda galaxy, but Hana believes that Parthney killed her husband. Parthney goes to Hemmal and offers Kach the chance to go with him to the Andromeda galaxy. Kach agrees to give up her work on Hemmal for several reasons: 1) because she views the mission to Andromeda as a way to prevent her son from becoming an Interventionist agent on Earth, and 2) she wants to have a chance to meet the Creators, the alien beings who are venerated in Preland religion as the creators of the human species.

One of the fun parts of the dynamic between Kach and Parthney is that Kach's religious beliefs about the Creators essentially contain the truth about human origins. Parthney is a "skeptic" and believes that humans evolved on Earth.
___________
* - Note: I later decided that Parthney's biological origin was more complex than what I suggested here in this blog post.

Dec 16, 2012

The Undead of Exode

horror trumps science
For me, part of the fun of writing science fiction is trying to break out of my rather restricted comfort zone. Ever since discovering Isaac Asimov and Author Clarke back in the 1970s I've been a fan of what I view as being "hard" science fiction. As a science nerd, I enjoy stories that include science, high tech gadgets and characters who logically solve problems in a futuristic setting.

With my narrow focus of interest on hard science fiction, I don't have much patience with other genres such as fantasy. However, on the distant horizon of my writing "to do" list, I have my ultimate challenge: to write a fantasy story ... but I still really can't imagine how I will bring myself to do that.

magic trumps logic
In the same way that some people can be color blind, I'm "fantasy blind". I recently saw part of one of the Harry Potter movies where two of the characters were able to magically fly across an ocean in a flash, then in the next scene it was a major challenge for them to cross an additional 100 feet of water inside a cave. I've never understood the rules that guide the course of events in fantasy stories. I would not know how to construct a fantasy story...when I write I enjoy working within the constraints of natural laws that limit what is possible.

Through my participation in a collaborative fiction writing project (The Search for Kalid), I discovered how to appreciate the fun of including Space Opera elements in stories. That was a major breakthrough for me because I began writing science fiction with the intention of creating only "serious" stories that would not have room for goofy Space Opera elements. Most recently, I decided that rather than gripe about horror in science fiction, I'd make an attempt to include a horror thread in the story Exode. I'll need to mve gently towards my goal of including an element of horror in Exode: I want the horror element to be part of the suspense and mystery in adventure of the story, not an excuse to splash blood and guts across the pages.

zombies in political commentary
I'm impressed by authors who can effortlessly work in multiple genres, jumping between genres with agility. I've long enjoyed the science fiction of Jack Vance, but I've never been able to follow him into his fantasy or the "thriller" Bad Ronald. As a long-time hard science fiction fan, I'm just not very adventurous in seeking out othrer types of fiction and I frequently suffer when it seems that the science fiction genre is being over-run by types of stories that I do not enjoy reading. I recently came across the blog of David Loeff, another suffering science fiction fan, who wondered if the science fiction genre had become "un-dead" after having been over-run by vampires and zombies. David lamented the fact that writers seem to find it easier to jump on the band wagon some current pop culture theme like zombies rather than write more conventional fiction (pointing towards Vance as an author worthy of emulation).

Higgs-induced zombie eats a physics student.
As an example of where zombies trump science fiction I'll point to the recently released "Decay", an amateur movie built upon one of the great science stories of this year, the observation of Higgs particles at the LHC facility in Europe. In Decay, we are asked to imagine that when the Higgs decays, the resulting radiation magically turns people into cannibalistic zombies. It seems a sad commentary on our time that rather than create an interesting science fiction story about physics, a bunch of Ph.D. students would simply punt and make a silly zombie movie.

Apparently, part of the fun for the makers of Decay when they produce a movie about zombies at the LHC, was using zombies as a way to make commentary about how some people in the world view science. When the LHC was first going online, some people feared that black holes would be generated, leading to the end of the world. I suppose it is just a short step from fantasy black hole production to imagining that the LHC can turn people into zombies. Still, I'd be happier if the makers of Decay had been able to make a creative science-based adventure story.

zombie economics
It might well be the case that for writers trying to put bread on the table, it pay$ to write about zombie$ these days. The entertainment industry is driven by fads and if I was a starving artist I'd be tempted to $pin a few zombie tale$ simply to cash in on the craze. I occasional fantasize about a story in which Hollywood film executives are zombie-like aliens who simply make movies about topics that they are familiar with on their home world.

Immortal Buld
Since deciding on a rather unusual process of linked birth and death for the Buld in Exode, I've been trying to finalize my construction of a particular Buld character who needs to be at least 15,000 years old. When a new Buld arises as a conceptus, it quickly sets about the task of replacing the cells of its mother's body with its own cells. Part of the neural network structure of the mother's brain is retained when the baby's neurons replace those of the mother, so some of the thought patterns and personality of the parent can be passed from generation to generation. The Buld are hermaphroditic and, due to the ubiquitous presence of nanoscopic medical repair robots, they all retain the ability to become pregnant, even those who abstain from sex and live to be thousands of years old.

One of the great religious pillars of Hemmal is the dictum: "live eswer, die eswer". "Eswer" is from an ancient Preland language and in this context it can best be translated as "sword". Although the Prelands and Buld of Hemmal use the English language, there has never been a sword on the planet: the meaning of many words such as "sword" have never found their way from Earth to the culture of Hemmal. However, many of the heroic epics that are popular among the Prelands include the tragic theme of a hero who makes a tool. At first the tool affords magical success to the hero, but ultimately, the tool use backfires and there is a tragic ending. These tools are often called esweri ("swords") but they are depicted as being a magical hand-held device, rather like a basket hilt with no attached sword blade.

Among the Buld of Hemmal, a second interpretation of "live eswer, die eswer" (English translation: "live by the sword, die by the sword") has arisen. For the Huaoshy, the Buld Clan is a means by which new combinations of human genes can be produced, tested, and if found beneficial, transferred to Earth. Buld sexual behavior is shaped by religious ritual in Buld temples and Buld reproduction is carefully guided by the pek. Some of the Buld are aware of the mechanism of Buld reproduction and that when a "true" Buld becomes pregnant the new conceptus will usually develop into a true Buld by means of a process that causes the death of the parent. A Buld individual can live indefinitely...as long as thon does not become pregnant. In Exode, Yandrey is a Buld who has lived on Hemmal for more than 15,000 years as an Interventionist agent who helps make sure that "false" Buld such as Parthney can leave Hemmal and make their way to Earth.

Yandrey
Because of past connections to the Buld Scholars, Yandrey is one of the few people on Hemmal who knows that "eswre" and "suen" were the ancient Preland words for the genitalia of the hermaphroditic Prelands. Among "modern" Prelands, "live eswer, die eswer" means roughly, "if you make use of tools then those tools will kill you". This meaning is known to the Buld, but for a few Buld such as Yandrey the alternate meaning is "preganacy will kill you", although other Buld often mis-translate this as "sexual activity will kill you".

Over the long history of pek-human interactions, a continually reoccurring problem has been a tendency for some Prelands to mistakenly worship the pek as the creators of the human species. The pek actively try to keep the lives of Prelands short so as to facilitate a rapid pace of evolution and it is possible for Prelands to become aware of the fact that the pek are non-biological, what we might call artificial lifeforms...and immortal. Some Prelands come to think that their Creators want humans to become "undead" immortal beings like the pek. Unavoidably, some of these memes from Genesaunt Culture have made their way to Earth and been twisted into forms that can persist among humans who are allowed no contact with pek.

Yandrey is like an immortal seeker of souls who extracts poor unsuspecting humans such as Parthney from Hemmal, sending them off across space to do the bidding of the Interventionists. The pek like Reginal do their best to make Parthney stay on Hemmal. The tension that exits between Yandrey and Reginal spills over into the first chapter of Exode, but Parthney himself is largely unaware the battle for his soul. The reader is left to wonder what is best for Parthney and humanity.

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!
Emphyrio
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 species...is there any way to avoid the story of Humanity having a bad ending?