Jan 9, 2013

When is Exode?

Exactly when does Exode take place? When I began writing Exode last summer I started with a scene that takes place on Earth. I intended that the reader would be able to believe that the scene was taking place in their present: now, today. However, that scene shows advanced technology far beyond our Earthly means. Here is a quote that I have seen attributed to Robert Heinlein (1959):

"Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. To make this definition cover all science fiction (instead of 'almost all') it is necessary only to strike out the word 'future'."

The first story I wrote that was set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe took place mostly in the past, as a kind of alternate history. The basic premiss of all "exodemic" stories is that travelers from a distant galaxy first visited Earth long ago, making it possible for such stories to take place in the past and still be full of "futuristic" technology. If the internet can be trusted, the term "futuristic" was not used in the sense of "pertaining to the future" until 1958. Maybe in some alternate history of science fiction, Heinlein might have altered his definition and started it out this way: "Futuristic, yet realistic, speculation..."

The Challenges of Futuristic Fiction
Quaint technology (video).
Imogen Howson and many other writers have confronted the challenge of creating a futuristic setting for a story, only to have the rapid pace of technological change soon mark their story as a relic of the past. Science fiction fans have to decide if they will be forgiving while they are reading "futuristic fiction" that seems absurdly dated. Some of my favorite stories by Isaac Asimov and Jack Vance are set more than a thousand years in the future, yet they are full of klunky technologies like printed newspapers and news magazines while lacking anything even as advanced as cell phones or personal computers.

For Exode, I've spent the past six months  waffling about the date of Parthney's arrival on Earth. Last summer I wrote a draft chapter of Exode that included in the plot the idea of using a DVD to store some computer files that could then be sent via snail mail, but now, just six months later, I'm thinking that it would be better to upload the files and just send an email to the targeted recipient of the files with instructions for how to access the files online. The main reason for using the DVD was to create a pretext for having a character get out of the house and go to the post office. How quaint.

I've considered trying to write about Parthney's time on Earth without mentioning any form of technology that might date my writing. However, key characters such as Hana are explicitly involved in cutting edge scientific research. How can I write about Hana's life without mentioning high tech gadgets?

I've also been toying with the idea that the imaginary futuristic technology used for Parthney's travel to Earth from the distant Koly star system might be noticed because of the fact that when Interventionists use their advanced alien technology it might interfere with some type of Earthly technology. For Exode, I've decided to imagine that Parthney is sent across the galaxy to Earth by teleportation technology similar to that used in Assignment: Earth. The physical basis of this advanced technology is a type of matter that is unknown to current science, but it is fun to imagine that some Earthly technology might be able to detect teleportation events.

Flyby Anomaly
One way that Earthlings might notice teleportation events is what has been called "flyby anomaly". Some Earth gravitational assist maneuvers of spacecraft such as Galileo, NEAR and Rosetta were reported to result in anomalous velocity changes.

I could write these observations into Exode and say that the velocity anomalies corresponded to times when teleportation was being used by Interventionists. After 1998 the Interventionists realized that their teleporter activity was altering spacecraft orbits, so they started taking precautions to avoid further detection by Earthlings.

The advanced Vela satellites were secretly being used at the right time for me to imagine that the Interventionist teleportation device produced gamma rays that were detected by Earthlings, including one event corresponding to Parthney's arrival on Earth.

Exode Timeline
I've been imagining that Parthney would spend long enough on Oib being trained for his mission to Earth combined with his time on Earth for his son, Boswei, to grow up and be about 12 years old when he leaves Hemmal.

If Parthney spent 4 years in training after leaving Hemmal and before going to Earth (1971) and a lucky 13 years on Earth before being caught by the Overseers (1984) then the original scene that I wrote with Parthney and Hana on Earth could take place in 1984 with a magnetic computer disk being used rather than a DVD. If Parthney was 18 years old when he left Hemmal then he was born in the year 1949.

It might take Parthney about three years to get back to Hemmal (1987) after being booted off Earth. If Boswei is 12 in 1987 when he and Kach leave Hemmal then he would be born in 1975. That chronology initially puzzles Parthney: how can his son have been born in 1975 on Hemmal if Parthney was on Earth from 1971 to 1984? To clear that mystery away, Kach must explain the rest of Muchlo's secret to Parthney.

At that point (1987) in Exode, Parthney, Kach, Hana and Boswei are sent off to the Andromeda galaxy in an effort to make contact with the Nereids.

Hana and Boswei take up residence on a planet located within the Andromeda galaxy and they raise a family. Kach continues her efforts to establish contact with the Creators, but only manages to earn a trip to Earth where she runs afoul of the Overseers. It might work to say that the course of the NEAR spacecraft was altered in January 1998 when Kach was teleported to Earth.

First Buld on Earth - 2012
Izhiun, the son of Boswei and Hana, is sent to Earth in an attempt to rescue Kach. In 2011 Kach is rescued and returned to the galactic core, her teleportation being detected by the GRAIL mission, Kach having been captured by Overseers and taken to the Moon. By this point in time, Earthlings have data for three types of anomalous observations that are actually related to the use of alien technology on Earth and the Moon, but it is not clear to Earthlings what is going on.

At the end of its 15,000 year mission, the Buld generation ship finally arrives in the Solar System in 2012. The Buld only make one visit to Earth and they quickly decide that the primitive Earthlings can't be trusted to respond rationally to "first contact". They offer a ride to Izhiun and he goes with them since they will be hanging around the Solar System and terraforming Mars. A nervous Overseer quickly erases the memories of the few Earthlings who witnessed the Buld visitor on Earth.

Hana's husband is left on Earth to cobble together an account of Buld history that is based on the information provided by Izhiun. However, most people on Earth can only view his story as science fiction. Within that account of Buld history are clues suggesting how we Earthlings can use Buld technology to meet out energy needs and prevent global warming. At the end of Exode is the lingering question: will the bumbling Earthlings be able to figure out the meaning of those clues and save themselves from self-inflicted technological disaster?

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