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Aug 31, 2014

Can a SciFi Story Poke Fun at SciFi?

Williams: The Bicentennial Man
I've previously blogged about humor in science fiction. In particular, one such blog post about humor made mention of the movie Bicentennial Man. With the recent death of Robin Williams, humor has been on my mind.

Another buzz-worthy event during August 2014 has been the continuation of the Doctor Who television show, with yet another new incarnation of the Doctor. I've previously discussed the role of Sydney Newman as a creator of the show and the idea that science fiction stories written by Asimov might have influenced the creators of Doctor Who.

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As a fan of Isaac Asimov's science fiction, I enjoy the Bicentennial Man movie, largely because of Williams' performance and also because that film held true to the good Doctor's style of robot stories in which computers and robots are depicted as useful inventions, not the evil destructive techno-thingies usually portrayed by Hollywood.

Doctor Who was among the first science fiction television shows that I ever saw, probably starting in 1972 along with Star Trek  (WKGB, Boston). That was about the same time that I was discovering published science fiction that had been written by masters of the genre such as Asimov.  Doctor Who was originally conceived as a children's program that would use a time travel gimmick for exploration of educational history topics. However, a funny thing happened after the first 4-episode serial of the television program was "in the can".

A Dalek
Apparently the next (and only) script that was ready to be produced was a SciFi-themed serial called "The Mutants" that ended up airing as the next 7 episodes. "The Mutants" serial is now better known as "The Daleks" and it is credited to the Welsh comedy writer Terry Nation.

Kirk buried in Tribbles
I've previously admitted that the humorous Tribbles episode of Star Trek is on my top ten list of episodes for that television show. I've recently mentioned in passing the great humor elements that Jack Vance included in his science fiction.

I can appreciate humor in a SciFi story, but what happens when a science fiction writer is mocking SciFi tropes and themes? (A slightly different question can also be asked about The Avengers.)

My views on SciFi horror.
Tribbles are funny, but the Daleks (EXTERMINATE!) were just annoying, the robotic equivalent of zombies. If I want mindless horror then I'll go out and delve into that genre; please don't stick it in my science fiction.

MIB alien ambassador
The idea of a mechanical device with a squishy biological organism inside at the controls is a classic science fiction trope. It was probably done best for video in the Men in Black movie (image to the left).

Martian: War of the Worlds
An early science fiction example of this trope is shown to the right. In The War of the Worlds, the invading Martians were multi-tentacular beasts who terrorize Earth by riding around in their armored vehicles mumbling EXTERMINATE!

But why create anything new and interesting for a T.V. audience that does not read and does not care? On a low budget it is far easier to spoof and derivatize the work of others.

War of the Worlds
Terry Nation filled the Dalek episodes with many recycled ideas (or, according to some claims, outright stolen from others). Nation was the Alfred Yankovic of science fiction, but mercifully The Weird Al Show only lasted 4 months. Daleks and similar "bad guys" have blighted Doctor Who for 50 years.

What evil alien of Cold War television could be complete without the involvement of radiation? In the beginning of the series, we were told that the insanely xenophobic Daleks arose by mutation from a species called the Dals, aliens who were originally peaceful and scientifically advanced, but their nature completely changed in the aftermath of a nuclear war. This type of biologically-implausible mega "mutation" is common in the fantasy worlds of comics and Hollywood.
 
terror on nylon castors
For decades I've harbored the hypothesis that the Daleks originated as an attempt to inject some humor into Doctor Who and have some low co$t fun with some science fiction tropes. I've often wondered if anyone actually enjoys watching the Daleks. Certainly the interwebs are awash with jokes about Daleks -typically the jokes deal with issues like their inability to climb stairs. Maybe the popularity of Daleks comes from the fact that they represent an annoying source of danger and episode-ending conflict while all fans know that the Doctor can always defeat them?
Davros

Fandom or Commercialism?
After my search through the interwebs, I suspect that most true fan loyalty to the Daleks exists only since about 1975 and the "Genesis of the Daleks" which provided a re-imagining (or, at least, a fleshing out of their backstory) of the alien Daleks and, perhaps most importantly, a spokesman for the Daleks who could move Doctor Who scripts past their annoyingly limited verbal repertoire. For the 1975 version of the "history of the Daleks", they were depicted as arising through the efforts of an evil scientist (Davros). By the 1970s, a new generation was coming of age, young adults who had grown up with the annoying and frightening (really?) Daleks and who had the shared experience of watching Doctor Who from "behind the sofa".

Dr. Strangelove
Davros reminds me (and others) of the 1964 film character, the "mad scientist" Dr. Strangelove. Strangelove was an ex-Nazi and the Kaleds (the aliens who give rise to the Daleks) were depicted as Nazi-like fascists.

An essay called "The Impact of Genesis of the Daleks", purportedly by a "long-time fan of the Daleks" praises the "Genesis of the Daleks" serial for its "fantastic plot, great performances, brilliant intelligent subject matter and the range of dialogue". The author of the essay says, "...the story is less about the Daleks and more about the affairs and characters on Skaro. However, this works to their benefit, as the Daleks are used sparingly."

Dalek fan club poster
The best thing that can be said about the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks is that they are used sparingly. Is there anyone who would argue with that?

Peter Sellers was able to insert a comic tone into the Strangelove film, but Davros is just a relentlessly fanatical murderer bent on genocide, all apparently in an attempt to make Doctor Who darker and "more adult". Really, the only thing more absurd than the idea of educational television is television that does not attract the highest $pending demographic groups. The Daleks became a merchandizable ca$h cow, to be milked for all they were worth.

Nicola Bryant and her 3 companions.
3 cheers for regeneration augmentation.
Quark in drag
A clear trend in pop culture is a steady escalation in "darkness". Audiences become desensitized to the horrors that get depicted in movies and on television and so ever more horrible deeds must be written into scripts. A sure fire tactic for script writers is to build a story around starkly delineated forces of good and evil.

Leela the cleavage
savage warrior
The basic $trategy is to target the lowe$t common denominator$ in the market. It is far too much work to try to please audiences with intelligent plots and inspirational stories when you can, with less effort, simply recycle the proven tropes - as long as they periodically get spiced up with darker evil-doers, tighter skirts or more cleavage. Pulp science fiction got many light years of mileage out of "planetary romance" and scantily clad warrior queens and princesses. Star Trek had its fair share of characters like Zarabeth and Sirah.

Cover art by Milton Rosenblatt
In the era of pulp science fiction it did not take calculus and rocket science for publishers to figure out what would attract the attention of young (mostly male) fans. These days we have encyclopedia articles on topics such as breasts in science fiction. Star Trek was able to have some fun with the topic of science fictional commercialization of breasts in the context of the avaricious Ferengi.

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I've previously commented on the era of pulp science fiction when authors could describe most plot devices as some sort of tube. For the Exode Trilogy, I poke fun at that era by making use of Hierion Tubes. Actually, my favorite plot devices are currently nanites (or femtobots or zeptites), tiny machines that can do almost anything.

Dalek appendage
For the Daleks, their plunger-like appendage plays a similar role. In Star Trek you play the science fiction game and use a device like a tricorder to scan for Spock's brain activity. In Doctor Who you can $ave on prop co$t$ and fantasize that a sink plunger can scan brain waves. Still, there is a border between laughing with SciFi fans and laughing at them. Personally, I can't escape my feelings that keep telling me Doctor Who and the Daleks are on the wrong side of that border. If fans are having fun and being entertained then all is well. For me, the Daleks have provided only decades of annoyance, but in so doing they seem like the perfect Doctor Who reflection of the endless parade of annoying war-crazed aliens from Klingons to Borg in Star Trek.

I not only blinked, I long
ago stopped watching
I've previously blogged about my preference for thoughtful science fiction stories that avoid mindless horror and parades of evil aliens. After about 1973 I found it impossible to sit through any more movies or television shows about Daleks, Kilingons and all the other absurd war-like aliens that have invaded pop culture SciFi. But, to quote Jack Vance out of context:

The dismayed Glinnes Hulden laments: "The situation is absurd".
Tired reply from a jaded official: "....we deal with many absurdities, this is no more than an ordinary example".

Just say, "No Daleks!"
To improve pop culture science fiction, I advocate a much cleaner separation of the horror and science fiction genres. If script writers want to insert humor, then they should do so in an intellectually stimulating way, not by trying to invent yet another "evil alien" that will annoy viewers for decades. Daleks? Just say no.

A female Time Lord lead character? That should have happened decades ago. Is there anything that could get me to watch Doctor Who? They might bring in some interesting (maybe biologically plausible  hermaphrodites?) aliens, but would it ever be possible wash away the horrors of the past?

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The Stuff of True Terror
I won't be watching Doctor Who "Series 8".....

Deep Breath - Robotic bad guys collecting body parts. Ug. Need I say more? OK: "Man falls from the balloon and is impaled on the spire of Big Ben". Ick.

Into the Dalek - Let's smear the plot of Fantastic Voyage all over the miserable Daleks? No.

Robot of Sherwood - "I am not a Merry Man."  For American audiences, any SciFi television show about Robin Hood will have to compete with memories of Star Trek.

Of course, what could have been a fun episode must become dark and stupid in the Who-verse. First: use one of the all time idiotic SciFi tropes (aliens need gold from Earth). Second: use the evil robot trope. Third: throw in a decapitation scene.

The only good thing is that the decapitation had to be edited out, prompting at least one reviewer to complain that the episode was to "too funny"....the Who-verse and Who-fans in a nutshell.

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The Selfies of Tar'tron

See the original Planet Stories cover art here.
Last year I decided that Trysta would live out her biological life and then transfer her mind into a robotic body that would then "live" its artificial life using the name Syon. At the end of last year I sketched in some of the details of how Syon the "robot"  operates as an Interventionist agent. Trysta's mind transfer is made possible by the fact that Trysta is an Asterothrope from the far future (10,000,000 years in our future), so she has access to advanced technology that makes it easy for her to transfer her mind into an artificial life form and go on "living" as Syon.

What about we humans of the Primitive Era? Is it possible for any of us to transfer our minds into a robotic body? Do we have a shot at that sort of immortality? Foundations of Eternity tells the story of how Gohrlay the Neanderthal got help from the pek that allowed her mind to be instantiated inside a positronic robot. However, Gohrlay was a special case, the only human to ever be "given immortality" by the pek. (update: Ivory is apparently the 2nd)

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The Kac'hin are a human variant that was created tens of thousands of years ago by the pek. The pek designed the Kac'hin to function as a special interface between the Huaoshy and Humanity in the hope that a negotiated end of the Time War might be achieved.

We might wonder if during their long existence the Kac'hin have made progress towards being able to transfer their minds into artificial bodies. However, I've long been committed to the idea that the Kac'hin are restricted to using relatively unsophisticated nanites in their work. Without advanced zeptites or femtobots, is there some means by which a Kac'hin could achieve mind transfer?

Selfies
Ghorlay's assistant, Nan
As depicted in Foundations of Eternity, it was the practice of the pek to provide every human living at Observer Base on the Moon with a robotic assistant. For example, over time, Nan learned to effortlessly anticipate the behavior of Gohrlay. There were zeptites residing in Gohrlay's brain and Nan used that zeptite swarm as the source of a kind of technology-generated telepathic contact with Gohrlay. Through all the days of Gohrlay's life, Nan learned how to correlate her on-going brain activity to her near-term behavior. Plus, Nan was very old and had vast experience from her dealings with a long line of past human "masters". Further, all of the Orbho (as the pek at Observer Base were known), including Nan, functioned as a kind of group mind that had been monitoring and learning from every human that ever existed.

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With the collusion of the pek, the planet Tar'tron became a major site for Kac'hin science and technology development. The pek wanted a way to stabilize and control Kac'hin society, so they allowed nanotechnology and robotics research to bloom on Tar'tron. With time, as a result of technological advances made by the Kac'hin themselves, the residents of Tar'tron were provided with personal robots that could each be trained to mimic and replicate the behavior of their particular owner. These robots, which for lack of a better name I'll refer to as "Selfies", could "live" on after the death of their owner as integral members of Kac'hin society. Some of the Kac'hin were entirely cold to the idea of artificial life form replicas of themselves that would continue to "live" on after the biological original had died. Other biological Kac'hin systematically worked to provide their personal "Selfie" with a mind that was as close as possible to an exact duplicate of their original biological mind.

Grean the Kac'hin
Eventually, Kac'hin society became a mixture of biological and artificial lifeform members. The Selfies eventually took over all Kac'hin scientific research and with time became a tool by which the pek could unobtrusively interact with and control the biological Kac'hin. In their original plan for the Kac'hin, the pek envisioned only needing one Kac'hin individual who could have the appearance of a human and defeat Gohrlay's cadre of positronic robots. That particular Kac'hin turned out to be Grean. After eliminating all the positronic robots, Grean then collaborated with Trysta and brought into existence the Buld Reality.

Clones: Thomas and
Parthney on the Moon
While Grean did most of the heavy lifting, Trysta and Grean came to realize that other Kac'hin (such as Lili and Kach) were needed to play additional important roles in helping create the Buld Reality. Some of the other Kac'hin who play roles in the Exode Trilogy are mentioned here.

I've previously described the role that Lycaun plays in Exode. Biologically, Lycaun is a clone of Kach. Also, I've previously noted roles for multiple clones of Thomas (particularly Parthney) in Exode. The many "Thomas clones" who precede Parthney as Interventionists on Earth were able to channel their experiences to Parthney, better preparing him for his mission on Earth. How was Lycaun prepared for her mission?

Lycaun and Kach
at Observer Base
on the Moon
Mind Transfer
As described above, Selfies do not really provide the Kac'hin with a way to transfer a biological mind into an artificial life form. The minds of Selfies had to be carefully constructed by their "masters" over the course of a lifetime. What about the transfer of a mind from a Selfie back into a clone of the Selfie's original "master"?

The pek cultured a population of Kac'hin on Rain World and from that population they selected the original biological Kac'hin (named Wyzalex Torvaya) from whom Kach was eventually produced as a biological clone. There were many previous generations of Wyzalex clones who lived before Kach and Lycaun. Several of the earliest such clones lived on Tar'tron and produced Selfies. In addition to Wyzalex there were several other such "foundational" Kac'hin who were selected from the Kac'hin population of Rain World, cloned and "copied" into Selfies.

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Techniques were perfected for using the minds of these carefully crafted Selfies as "developmental templates" that could (with the help of specially programmed nanites) optimize the neural development of important Kac'hin such as the "Wyzalex clones". Thus, Kach's remarkable and optimized cognitive abilities are the result of careful selection and engineering. Grean, Lili, Lycaun and the other Kac'hin who pay important roles in the Exode Trilogy were all meticulously crafted for their roles in this way.

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Eventually, when it came time for the "Ivory Clones" to be crafted on Earth, Peter was able to deploy similar nanite-mediated neurodevelopmental programming techniques.

As mentioned in this blog post, I remain interested in the possibility that similar techniques might exist for shaping my adult brain into a configuration that would allow me to gain access to the vast information content of the Sedronic Domain. I've now discovered that Ivory was aware of techniques for returning to adult human brains the type of hyper-plasticity that is characteristic of early human brain development. However, there are risks involved with applying these techniques, particularly if you work without the aid of neurodevelopmental guidance nanites. Ivory believed that such nanites are available to the Observers who still reside at Observer Base on the Moon. I've begun to fantasize that Ivory might have left Earth in order to visit Observer Base and obtain those nanites.

Next: another mission for Ivory;  continuing our search for  R. Gohrlay.

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Aug 30, 2014

Rain World

"Death-by-Rain" in Planet Stories
I recently blogged about the mysterious Marta, the mother of my collaborator, Ivory Fersoni. I'm still trying to sort out the biological details of how it was possible for Ivory's clone sister to access information in the Sedronic Domain and so reveal the various Realities of Earth. Here, I report a new discovery about Marta's mother, Lili the Kac'hin.

In 1950 the pulp science fiction magazine Planet Stories published the Ray Bradbury story "Death-by-Rain". Later, when I was in grade school, we had to read "The Illustrated Man" and that was my opportunity to read Bradbury's story about "rain to drown all rains" on the planet Venus (under the altered title "The Long Rain").

Ray Bradbury: the Fantasy Man
I've never understood the era during which many authors imagined that humans could breath and live on Mars and Venus. Apparently Bradbury was a fan of John Carter of Mars, so I suppose it was natural for him to write stories about humans having adventures on Venus and native inhabitants of Mars. I agree with Bradbury who felt that he wrote mostly fantasy, not science fiction.

As someone who had an early interest in horror, we can't be surprised that Bradbury's one science fiction novel (Fahrenheit 451) was a dystopian story motivated by the repressive era of McCarthyism. The claim that Bradbury was ever the "world's greatest living science fiction writer" (as proclaimed on the book cover shown to the right) strikes me as overblown marketing, but through their popularity with school teachers, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles have long been required reading for millions of school children, thus making Bradbury's work at least widely known. I suppose there are many people who have never read another science fiction novel besides Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury: Immortal short story author
Is it possible that "living" has a special meaning in the case of a great short story writer like Bradbury? Even today, in 2014, The Guardian has an online biography page that says, "Ray Bradbury, now nearly 90....". Maybe Bradbury is truly one of the immortal writers (that's a lame joke; he died in 2012).

1954
Bradbury published "All Summer in a Day" in the March 1954 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In this story, some children on Venus experience a rare and brief pause in the rain. The story was later adapted and retold in video format.

Contrary to Bradbury's fantasies about a rainy Venus, the surface water of Venus was long ago heated, evaporated and blasted off the tops of clouds by solar radiation. Atomic constituents of the broken water molecules that had been generated by photolysis were eventually swept away into space by the solar wind. The clouds of Venus are now mostly sulfur dioxide and contain almost no water. The idea of humans from Earth trudging through rain on Venus or living on its super-heated surface is a true fantasy.

Riverworld
About a decade after it was written, I finally got around to reading the first "Riverworld" novel by Philip José Farmer. An artificial planet with a 20 million mile long river winding its way over the entire surface of the planet provides an imaginative and fun setting for a story based on advanced alien technology that can reincarnate all of the billions of humans who ever lived, placing them together in one time along the banks of a river where they can all interact in a new "second life". Sadly, I quickly became bored with the story and never read the entire series of Riverworld novels and I've never found it possible to sit through the video adaptations that were made.

Jeanne Tripplehorn searches
for an end to Waterworld
Kevin Costner searches Jeanne
I have watched Waterworld. Ug. The setting for Waterworld is an imaginary far future where global warming has melted all of Earth's ice. Is it artistic license to depict post-ice-cap-melt Earth with a sea level that rose 20,000 feet rather than 200?

I've been weaving my own alternate Reality in which Earth must deal with global warming and sea level rise. In the Ekcolir Reality, melting ice caps threaten coastal cities during the mid-20th century. I deal with only 2 feet of sea level rise, not 20,000.

Exode
ancient impact crater
In the Exode Trilogy I imagine that the pek are able to carry out sophisticated planetary engineering. For planet Hemmal, the pek engineered the world so that it can support human life and provide a place for pek experiments in how to design a new human variant that will replace we primitive Earthlings. Hemmal is a relatively young planet, only about 2 billion years old.

Whimsical depiction of the pek
obtaining sedrons on Earth (source)
The pek have been visiting Earth for millions of years. One of their favorite planetary engineering methods is to crash asteroids into a planet like Earth. By fracturing the crust, the pek gain access to Earth's supply of sedronic matter. Thomas provides his fictional version this process in his novel, Miners of Earth.

For about half a billion years the pek have been carrying out their planetary engineering and sedron mining projects in our galaxy. In all that time, what types of unusual worlds might the pek have crafted? Strange artificially arranged worlds in the galactic core, just waiting there for Earthlings to discover them...

Some coastal rivers on Rain World.
Rain World
"Rain World" is a planet in the galactic core that has been extensively engineered by the pek for hundreds of millions of years. The planet's surface is about 80% ocean (with polar ice) and 20% land. The land is mostly configured as small tectonic plates aligned so as to have chains of mountains that collect rain from the onshore flow of prevailing winds.

These words written by Jack Vance describe the situation well, "Great banks of cumulus drift in from the sea and break against the central mountains; hundreds of rivers return down broad valleys where fruit and cereals grow so plentifully as to  command no value."

Map of Rain World
On Rain World, each mini-continent is populated either by humans or by a human-like species that originated on another planet in this galaxy. The pek have used Rain World as a kind of laboratory of social dynamics where they can test how different humanoids interact after being put into contact with eachother.

Sometimes aliens from planets with non-Earth-like atmospheres have been brought to Rain World. For example, Rain World is where the compatibility of Fru'wu and humans was first tested. Not surprisingly, the pek "zoo keepers" of Rain World learned that the less physical contact between these two species the better.

Foundation Reality
source
The second book in the Exode Trilogy, Foundations of Eternity, is built around my fan fiction re-imagining of Isaac Asimov's "all human galaxy", the setting that he used for his Foundation Saga. In the Foundation Reality, Daneel took pains to provide humans with the illusion of an "all human galaxy". In the Buld Reality, when Asimov wrote about the Foundation, he was working from the perspective of Earthlings who had been carefully protected by Daneel from having knowledge of aliens.

How could the ignorant Earthlings of the Foundation Reality fail to understand the implications of an artificial planet like Rain World? In addition to their ability to engineer the tectonic plates and geography of planets, the pek can effortlessly move between the three dimensional universe that we are familiar with and the Hierion Domain. I've previously described Archive Worlds as artificial planets that can hold displaced civilizations. When necessary, the pek can move an entire planet into the Hierion Domain.

Lili was the mother of Marta
In his Demon Princes Saga, Vance depicted the "Rigel Concourse" as an artificial star stem, constructed by an alien race by bringing a swarm of Earth-like planets to a young star. In the Foundation Reality, Rain World was slipped into the Hierion Domain.

Here, in the Buld Reality, the world as we know it, Rain World is waiting in the galactic core for explorers from Earth to find it. I've previously described Lili as a resident of Tar'tron, but she was actually born on Rain World.

2016 update: artificial geology in Alastor Cluster

Aug 26, 2014

Stroma Fiord and Stronsi Ranch

Sessily Veder in her butterfly costume,
part of a theatrical performance at
Araminta Station's annual fall festival.
Stroma Fiord and Stronsi Ranch are two of the settings for events in the novel Throy by Jack Vance. I've previously blogged about both Araminta Station and Ecce and Old Earth, the two novels in the Cadwal Saga that precede Throy.

Stroma Fiord
Stroma Fiord is one of the scenic locals on the continent Throy of the planet Cadwal. The soaring cliff face of the fiord was selected as the one place on Cadwal where members of the Naturalist Society could establish and maintain residences on the planet. It was hoped that the harsh conditions would naturally limit the number of settlers, allowing most of Cadwal to remain an unspoiled nature preserve.

That plan worked well and over the course of centuries the population of Stroma never grew very large. During the time of the events told in Throy, only a few hundred families reside at Stroma. However, other unauthorized residents of Cadwal settled on Lutwen Atoll and grew into a distinct subpopulation (the Yips) with an unacceptably large population of over 100,000.

Stronsi Ranch on the planet Rosalia. The childhood
 home of Flitz, where she meets Chilke and hears
his "drunken tales" of adventures among the stars.
In the most horrific part of Throy, two thirds of the residents of Lutwen Atoll perish, victims of a ghastly act of revenge carried out by  "Peefers", the Stroma faction that seeks greater commercialization and exploitation of Cadwal's riches. The Peefers are crazy for revenge after the settlement at Stroma is blasted into oblivion by the wicked Simonetta. Simonetta Clattuc is a vengeful outcast from Naturalist's administrative depot at Araminta Station. Simonetta has managed to infiltrate and take command of the Yip community with the hope of using their vast numbers to overwhelm the Araminta Station police force and achieve a triumphant and vengeful return to her childhood home.

Stronsi Ranch
Stronsi Ranch is far away from Cadwal on the planet Rosalia. Rosalia is home to native creatures including the elusive wind-waifs, the mysterious tree-waifs, the dangerous water-waifs and a small population of human colonists. The once peaceful Stronsi Ranch becomes caught up in the ongoing struggle between the loyal Conservationists and the "Peefers", the dissident faction that is fighting for control of Cadwal and wishes to allow more commercial development of the planet and greater exploitation of Cadwal's natural resources.

The main character of the Cadwal Saga is Glawen Clattuc and readers follow the story of his coming of age on Cadwal where he trains as a member of the Cadwal police force. In Throy, Glawen ends up pursuing an investigative mission that takes him to several planets including Rosalia. One goal of this investigation is to find his clan member, Namour Clattuc, who is a fugitive from Cadwal justice.

During his mission to Rosalia, Glawen partners with the versatile Eustice Chilke. Chilke, like many of Vance's key characters, is portrayed a resourceful man who seems to often be in the right place at the right time. For example, without even being aware of the fact, in a strange quirk of fate, Chilke inherited title to the world Cadwal. However, without Chilke even knowing what was going on, Glawen relieves Chilke of his inherited responsibility for the planet Cadwal by replacing the old Naturalist Society (that had for centuries controlled Cadwal) with a new Cadwal Conservancy. Is Chilke then left empty handed?  Of course not.

Fortunatus spaceyacht
When Glawen and Chilke return to Cadwal, their commanding officer, Bodwyn Wook, reviews the high points of their mission. In one of the many humorous scenes in Throy, the two operatives try to explain how they managed to appropriate a large amount of money from the bank accounts of their enemies, the Peefers, while they were on the planet Soumi. As part of those financial transactions, Glawen and Chilke also gained title to a luxurious and expensive Fortunatus spaceyacht, a prize that Bodwyn Wook insists is now the property of the Cadwal Conservancy. Bodwyn then has another question for Glawen and Chilke: during their time on Rosalia did they gain some other "advantage or perquisite"? Chilke admits that he has developed a close friendship with Felitzia Stronsi, the owner of Stronsi ranch.

Flitz
Chilke's romance with "Flitz" (as Felitzia prefers to be known) provides an amusing counterpoint to the evil that is visited upon Stronsi Ranch by Namour Clattuc. Namour slyly arranges for Felitzia's guardian and mentor, Lewyn Barduys to be called away from the Stronsi family residence. Barduys is ambushed by Namour, shot and left for dead at the old Bainsey Castle site. Glawen and Chilke heroically rescue Barduys by fighting off a swarm of aggressive water-waifs. Barduys and Glawen are severely injured. During their recuperation at Stronsi Ranch, Chilke, who suffered lesser injuries, is able to pursue a romantic relationship with Flitz.

In the end, Chilke and Flitz take the Fortunatus spaceyacht and go off on their own adventures as vagabonds wandering among the stars. Bodwyn Wook's objections are muted because Barduys makes available to him a Clayhacker spaceyacht that was confiscated from the defeated Peefers. Bodwyn Wook announces his intention to make use of the Clayhacker spaceyacht for a visit to Old Earth.

Paracosmos
Renee Robbins
I've previously commented on the way that Vance weaves mention of "paranormal" abilities into his stories. Is it just by random chance that Chilke and Flitz are brought together? The planet Cadwal, when facing despoilment by the Peefers, reaches out for help to Rosalia in order to attract the attention of Barduys. Rosalia provides a solution to Cadwal's Peefer problem, but does Rosalia get anything in return?

The entire Stronsi clan, with the exception of Flitz, was wiped out by the wind-driven waves of a terrible storm that destroyed Bainsey Castle while the Stronsis were visiting their coastal retreat. Why was Flitz saved? How is it that Barduys, an engineer visiting Rosalia, became the guardian of Flitz?

"Born to Multiply" by Renee Robbins
Vance describes the mysterious establishment of a relationship between Flitz and Barduys at the recently destroyed Bainsey Castle. After the bodies of the Stronsi clan members are flown away by ambulance from the Castle ruins, Barduys becomes aware of a compulsion to return to the site of the disaster:

"I became uneasy. I tried to reason with myself, but in the end I flew back alone. I went close to the ruins and stood looking about. I thought I heard a cry, very weak and thin. It was a little girl who had been trapped beneath the stones." This strange and seemingly paranormal sensitivity displayed by Barduys is what allowed Flitz to survive. With no other family, she is raised by Barduys, firmly linking him from that day onward to both Stronsi Ranch and the planet Rosalia.

Clattuc House, Araminta Station
Was it only by a quirk of fate that Simonetta departed from Araminta Station on Cadwal and ended up on the planet Rosalia, a world where Namour could experiment with the Yips as indentured laborers? Ultimately, Barduys adopts the idea of transporting all the Yips from Cadwal to Rosalia and using them to staff a network of tourist resorts, including one at the site of old Bainsey Castle. In the end, a long series of seemingly lucky and miraculous events save the Cadwal Conservancy and those Yips who survive the horrific Peefer attack on Lutwen Atoll find a new home on Rosalia under the benign guidance of Barduys.

Exode
There are time travel machines and other advanced technologies in the Exode Trilogy that give some of the characters seemingly magical powers. I've previously commented on the power of "memory nanites" to move information from one mind to another. In my previous blog post I commented on the role that memory nanites have played in allowing me to begin telling the secret history of Humanity.

I have fun speculating about mysterious events that Jack Vance described as arising from paranormal processes: maybe they were actually caused by advanced alien technology. And if I can speculate about how and why Chilke and Flitz came to play their roles in saving the Cadwal Conservancy and bringing Yips to Rosalia, then I should also be willing to explore the reasons for my own involvement in the Exode Trilogy.

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Were Adão Fersoni, Hana and I all just random Earthlings who happened to be in the right place at the right time to interact with people like Peter and Marta and become involved, just by chance, in telling the secret history of Humanity? Or,  alternatively, were we selected?

In Hana's case, Peter seemed certain that he could not impregnate Earth girls. Was Hana more than just a typical Earthling? Was Adão more than just a random shipwreck survivor? Was he, perhaps, purposefully brought into the Hierion Domain in order to father Ivory?

Opportunity from Adversity
I'm not happy at the prospect of having been selected to be "the Editor" of the Exode story because I happen to have a brain that can efficiently interact with nanites.  I suspect that this high susceptibility to the influence of nanites has made it possible for Trysta and others to treat me (and Hana and Adão as well?) like a puppet and guide the course of my life. However, what if there is a positive side to this "affliction"? Is it possible that my brain can access information located within the Sedronic Domain?

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Humans have the innate ability to speak, read and write but these skills only develop in a suitable environment. Similarly, Ivory's clone sister Angela was carefully nurtured under conditions that allowed her to develop her innate ability to access the Sedronic Domain. Is it possible that I could discover and create conditions that would allow me to follow in Angela's footsteps?

I've previously speculated that Peter might still be on Earth. Now that I've lost contact with Ivory and access to Angela's understanding of the Sedronic Domain, I'm forced to wonder if it might be possible to contact Peter and obtain his help. Given his role in making it possible for Angela to access information about other Realities, what are the chances that Peter could help me achieve the same sort of access to the Sedronic Domain?

Related Reading: my brain

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Throy, published by Tor, 1992

My copy of Throy has a blurb inside the front cover that includes this: "...a conspiracy of humans and aliens to wrest control of their world away, and open it to full commercial use." Indeed, there is mention of aliens in Throy. As describe above on this webpage, the planet Rosalia is home to indigenous creatures called "waifs" who use their primitive spears to inject poison into the bodies of Glawen and Chilke. Similarly, Cadwal is home to its own humanoid natives, however they seem strangely oblivious to the human colonists who treat places like Mad Mountain on Cadwal as tourist destinations. So, who are the aliens that conspire to open Cadwal to commercial exploitation? My best guess is that Tor's blurb writer was referring to the Yips. However, the Yips are humans. Confusion might have been generated by the fact that the Yips on Cadwal are not inter-fertile with the other human residents of the planet. However, Vance explains that this is due to the diet of the Yips.

Still and yet, I like the idea that unseen alien influences are at work guiding the human events described by Vance in the Cadwal Saga. Why were the Peefers interested in putting an end to the banjee battles at Mad Mountain? The banjees of Cadwal are native humanoid creatures who live in migratory tribes. As sophisticated tool makers, they craft battle implements: lances, axes, spikes and battle armor. If two different tribes meet where their migration routes cross then battle ensues. The Peefers speak of moral outrage over the practice using the bloody battles as a way to attract tourist dollars to Cadwal when they try to justify their plan to intervene and prevent the banjee battles.

Sessily in telepathic contact
with a Muldoon tangle-top
The staunch Naturalists, who strictly enforce a non-interference hands-off policy with respect to the native life of Cadwal, suspect that the Peefers only selected the dramatic battles as their best chance of rousing emotions and setting a precedent for taming the natural environment and unruly biosphere of the planet. It is fun to imagine that the indigenous life of Cadwal can sense the threat posed by meddling humans and act to protect itself.

Early in Amaminta Station, Sessily Veder suggests that the tangle-tops, another native lifeform of Cadwal, have telepathic powers. Vance describes two scenes in which Glawen experiences a telepathic sensation arising and originating from a distant place. I like to imagine that the ancient natives of Cadwal have access to a kind of technology-assisted telepathy that they can share with select humans who want to protect the Cadwal Conservancy and not allow Peefer interference with the Cadwal environment.

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The blurb on the back cover of Throy says, "A new extremist faction seeks to restore Cadwal to a pristine condition, and will allow no concerns for life or property to stop them." Here, I suppose that Tor's blurb writer is referring to Glawen and other members of the Cadwal Conservancy. However, Vance makes clear that the Cadwal Conservancy does NOT aim to return Cadwal to a an absoltely "pristine condition". Yes, they want to remove the Yips from Lutwen Atoll. Yes, so as not to have a refuge on Cadwal for hypocritical Peefers, the Cadwal Conservancy starts an evacuation of Stroma. The residents of Stroma are invited to join the new Cadwal Conservancy and live at Araminta Station, which is expanded in size to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Opal Springs Lodge on Cadwal
Under the Cadwal Conservancy, in addition to Araminta Station, other select sites of Cadwal will continue to be used by humans. Places like Mad Mountain Lodge and Opal Springs Lodge serve as long-developed and lucrative tourist destinations, funds from which are used to support the administrative staff of Araminta Station. The Cadwal Conservancy will continue the centuries-old practice established by the former Naturalist Society to use ecotourism as a source of funding for bureau B, the Cadwal police force that protects Cadwal from interlopers who would otherwise plunder the riches of Cadwal. The fine wines produced at Araminta Station and the tourist trade are important sources of income and represent a necessary limited commercial exploitation of the planet that has long financially supported administration of the planet as a nature conservancy.

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August 28, 2014
Jack Vance was born August 28, 1916. This blog post is a tribute to Vance and a celebration of his 98th year. He still lives on in his amazing writing and the hearts of his readers.