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May 14, 2013

Zja'na

Exodemic: the first story set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe
The science fiction story Exode originated with a fairly specific and detailed sketch of the main character, Parthney, an Interventionist agent working on Earth. I wanted to craft a story in which he was particularly aggressive in his dealings with Earthlings. In stories set in the Exodemic Fiction Universe such agents mysteriously arrive on our planet much in the way that gods magically appeared among the people of Earth in the stories told by poets in ancient Greece. I wanted Parthney to easily have his way with Earthlings.

In my previous stories the Interventionists traveled to Earth in spaceships that were technologically advanced and easily able to avoid detection by the primitive Earthlings. For Exode, I decided to adopt the transportation mode that was used by Gene Roddenberry in Assignment: Earth and so I allow Parthney to make use of teleportation technology.

My early decisions about allowing a more active style of Interventionism and providing Parthney with somewhat more advanced technology than in previous stories set in the "Exodemic" Fictional Universe have led me along a chain of subsequent subsidiary modifications and elaborations to the typical relationship between we Earthlings and the god-like alien Huaoshy. Here, "god-like" is in the sense of Clarke's third law.

Dream of Flight
I'm generally pleased with the rich and complex relationship between humans and the Creators that has been emerging from my careful examination of Parthney's life during the past year. For me, the process of discovering the fine points of Genesaunt civilization has been fun and, at times, this process has led to rather startling revelations...most notably my realization that Exode is a sequel to the time travel story, The Start of Eternity.

This surprising twist did not turn Exode into a time travel story, but it did force events in Exode to conform to constraints imposed by how time travel came to an end.


The End of Time Travel
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Time travel is a great danger to science fiction. Science fiction authors can't resist the fun of writing time travel stories, but taken to a logical conclusion, the invention of time travel usually leads to some dreary and tedious time war. Issac Asimov brilliantly constructed his time travel novel, The End of Eternity, so that his story ends with the conniving Noÿs Lambent, a woman from 10,000,000 years in the future, putting Earthlings out of the time travel business.

John's Time travel theorem: a good science fiction story about time travel puts an end to time travel.

Dealing with technological genies...Burn baby, burn.
But how can you ever put a technological genie back in the bottle? In The End of Eternity, time travel caused the extinction of the human species, but Asimov left open the possibility that use of time travel technology might be acceptable as long as its use was delayed until a distant future time, after Humanity had matured and spread itself to millions of worlds throughout the galaxy. So Asimov did not make all future use of time travel impossible, he simply showed Noÿs working to delay further human use of time travel technology until after humans had mastered space travel.

Asimov's time travel theorem: a good science fiction story about time travel does not let time travel technology interfere with space travel.

As much as I enjoy The End of Eternity, for many years I suffered from my personal preference for "John's time travel theorem" over "Asimov's time travel theorem". I worried: what would prevent someone else from the future (maybe a distant descendant of Noÿs) from reinventing time travel and coming back through time and undoing all that Noÿs had done to end Eternity ("Eternity" is the name of the particular time travel device used by Earthlings)? I really wanted there to be a way to put an end to all time wars.

(Full disclosure: I tried to watch Dr. Who back in the previous millennium, but the endless "Exterminate!" sessions with the Daleks put an end to that. For similar reasons, endless wars with the Na'kuhl, Borg, Klingons and Dominions put an end to my ability to watch Star Trek.)

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In addition to my dislike for science fictional warfare, there is also the danger that deep dissatisfaction with the ending of a science fiction story that I enjoy will lead to aggravation of my fanfiction disease. In the case of The End of Eternity, the aggravation of my fanfiction disease really began with Asimov's skill at knitting together many of his novels into what I call the "Foundation Reality". I really enjoy how Asimov found a way to bring positronic robots into the Foundation saga. Intriguingly, Asimov also linked The End of Eternity to his robot stories when he published the suggestion that positronic robots were responsible for time travel ("it was the robots who established Eternity"). That hint set me up to be thinking about time travel as part of the Foundation saga when Foundation and Earth left us wondering about the possibility that aliens might soon arrive from another galaxy intent on disrupting Daneel's plans for humanity. So, because of the way Asimov left open to speculation what should happen after Foundation and Earth, I was "forced" to write a fanfiction sequel to The End of Eternity in which I rudely shifted the Foundation Reality into the Exodemic Fictional Universe. Doing so provided me with a way to really put an end to time travel.
dimensional structure

Long story made short: I realized that the alien Huaoshy, as masters of dimensional engineering, were unwittingly responsible for making time travel possible. After the Huaoshy finally realized that positronic robots had invented time travel, it was possible for them to perform one final act of dimensional engineering that would permanently make time travel impossible, this satisfying "John's time travel theorem" and providing what, at the time, seemed a satisfying conclusion to The Start of Eternity.

It was only after I was already several months into the fun of crafting and designing Exode that I realized I should make this new original science fiction story a sequel to The Start of Eternity. That tardy decision to put Noÿs into the backstory of Exode caused some seismic shifts in the portion of Exode that I had already written. Also, I now realize that within The Start of Eternity, characters like Captain Hooski are Kac'hin, not actual Huaoshy.

family planning
Most significantly, I realized that Parthney is the son of Noÿs Lambent, Asimov's secret agent from the far future in The End of Eternity. Since Noÿs died thousands of years before Parthney's birth, he never gets to meet his biological mother and the name "Noÿs" is never mentioned in Exode. However, I had to do some re-crafting of Exode to take into account the fact that Parthney's genetic endowment is not that of the typical 20th century Earthling. Is Parthney some kind of superman due to his inherited genes from the future? Not at all: I've adopted Asimov's suggestion that although Noÿs was born ten million years in the future her people were still genetically quite similar to us.

Spacevoyagers, Superheroes and Gods
From a young age I was willing to stand with Socrates and question the romantic ancient Greek songs about gods and their perplexing relationship with people. I could never maintain much interest in gods who were depicted as being little different from people and plagued by all the usual human weaknesses.

Humans naturally try to make sense of the world by using innate human cognitive processes to solve perceived mysteries, but that is a failed strategy when applied to biological and cosmological mysteries. We automatically make use of what philosopher Dan Dennett called the "Intentional Stance" and that leads us to imagine human-like gods as "explanations" for natural phenomena.

I also have little patience for assuming that gods are magically immortal and mysteriously endowed with other "super powers". Similarly, to this day I have little capacity to be entertained by comics about fantasy superheros. Now that we are in the age of reason, science and understanding it is fun to write romantic adventure stories as science fiction rather than fantasy.

My original goal in writing Exode was to make a detailed exploration of the life of Parthney and show how he came to be on Earth living among we primitive Earthlings while possessing advanced technology from other worlds. Originally I imagined that Parthney was genetically indistinguishable from we Earthlings, but when that restriction on Parthney's backstory crumbled (his mother, Noÿs, as a time traveler from the far future endowed Parthney with some interesting gene combinations) then I had to think about Interventionist agents in a more flexible way than I had previously in other stories. If you saw Parthney walking down the streets of New Your City you would not notice anything odd, but strip him of his nanite prosthetics and you would be able to see that he has no toe nails and his finger nails are about half the size of those for typical Earthlings of our century.

While in training for his mission to Earth, Parthney learns that it is standard protocol for Interventionist agents to be genetically indistinguishable from Earthlings because Earth is watched over by Observers and Overseers who are constantly on guard for anything out of the ordinary that might indicate an external invader is operating on Earth. However, in Exode the Interventionist agents are not without the power to disguise themselves and their unusual phenotypic traits, so Parthney is allowed to go to Earth as long as he keeps his unusual physical features hidden. With the help of nanites provided by the Fru'wu, it is not to hard for Parthney to hide from the Overseers.

Pillars of creation: the Huaoshy have crafted us from star dust.
Parthney's mother is the main source of power and advantage that the Interventionists of Exode hold over the Overseers of Earth. As told in The Start of Eternity, the Huaoshy were initially taken by surprise when humans developed positronic robots. Most alarming for the Huaoshy was the fact that positronic robots developed time travel technology. However, Noÿs, a time traveler from the far future of Earth, could look into her own future and see the ultimate demise of Humanity, a sad fate that was caused by human use of time travel technology. That realization that the human species was going to become extinct provided Noÿs with strong motivation to worked with the Huaoshy and develop a plan that would put an end to time travel. For her cooperation in that task, we Earthlings were granted a second chance to survive and not be replaced by the Prelands.

Prelands: human v2.0
For the past seven million years the Huaoshy have worked to design a primate that could exist successfully within a technologically advanced civilization. First the Huaoshy designed and brought into existence various proto-human primate species then we humans and most recently also the Prelands, our designated replacements.

As planned by the Huaoshy, the Prelands were to have been the first primates of Earth who would be allowed to develop a technological culture. The hermaphroditic Prelands were nearing the end of their development phase on worlds like Hemmal when the first scientific humans at Observer base on the Moon invented positronic robots. When those robots realized that they could use their telepathic abilities to liberate Humanity from the Huaoshy, the carefully laid plans of the Huaoshy for the Prelands were derailed. 

Vec'te and Na'ma
Zja'na
After I realized that

1) Parthney's biological mother is Noÿs

and

2) Noÿs died thousands of years before Parthney was born

I then turned my attention to the details of Parthney's birth. Motivated by the name of the secret agent in Assignment: Earth (Gary Seven), I've long played around with the idea that Interventionist agents should be clones. I was perfectly comfortable with the idea that the pek can routinely make clones of Thomas. I decided that not only was Parthney a clone, but he was not the first such clone born on Hemmal. But who was Parthney's birth mother?

Parthney's unusual family tree.
I had previously divided Parthney's time on Hemmal into two parts. First was his time as a child during which he lived at a settlement (not shown in Exode) where he learned to speak and read at a young age. After about the age of five, Parthney had no good reason to continue reading and his interests turned to the major preoccupation of the Buld on Hemmal: music.

The second part of Parthney's life on Hemmal was the years after he transitioned through puberty and became sexually active. During these years Parthney traveled, walking across Pelis Kel and staying temporarily at a series of isolated communities where a musician like himself could develop his skills. Ultimately he found his way to Demon Lodge and his wandering across Hemmal came to an end.

When I tried to imagine Parthney's birth mother I never even contemplated a woman in that role. The pek, an artificial lifeform that serves the Huaoshy, are perfectly capable of gestating human embryos. Parthney comes to suspect the truth: Reginal is his birth mother.

While still living on his home planet Hemmal, Parthney assumes that he was born a mutant child of  Buld parents. However, Parthney is a genetic copy of Thomas, the son of Noÿs. Parthney has an ear for music and from an early age one of his favorite ballads is the Song of Nama which celebrates the power of the drug yerney to change the demon Veet into Nama's lover.

Vee'te
Later, upon arriving at Demon Lodge, Parthney is shown a carved relief that depicts the Demon Veet emerging from the underworld through the mouth of a cave. Yandrey tells Parthney an alternative version of the "Nama" legend. Yandrey explains to Parthney that in the ancient language of the Buld Scholars, "Nama" is "Na'ma" and "Veet" is "Vee'te"; Na'ma and Vee'te being the first two humans who were parents of another human being. Yandrey continued, "According to legend, the "plain of zja'na" was the ancient name of the coast plain to the east of Pelis Kel. When Vee'te and Na'ma fell in love and went off together on their Quest they came to the hot springs here and wintered over in the caves. It was humans who carved this relief during that far past age. Later, when the Buld settled Pelis Kel they interpreted the male figure of Vee'te as a demon and called this Demon Lodge."

Plague of Thebes
The story of Zja'na ends up being included near the start of Exode as part of Parthney's attempt to explain to his grandchildren how it came to pass that his first lover was his mother. Hana, who was born on Earth and is trying to provide a "normal" environment for her children, is not enthusiastic about Parthney telling such tales to Izhiun and his young siblings.

While he is active on Earth as an Interventionist agent, Parthney takes pity on Hana and liberates her from Earth. Hana comes to suspect that Parthney killed her husband, so their relationship goes into decline. Parthney gets a second chance to regain Hana's good graces when Hana and Boswei (Parthney's son) fall in love. It is only when Izhiun reaches Earth that the reader of Exode learns the fate of Hana's husband. He is alive and still living on Earth. Unfortunately, Hana is far away, in the Andromeda galaxy. I'm having trouble imagining how she can ever truly forgive Parthney, both for the loss of her husband and her loss of Izhiun.

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