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Oct 31, 2015

Invasion of the Zeptites

Science Fiction television in the Ekcolir Reality.
Gohrlay has been telling me tales of the origins of the science fiction genre in Deep Time. Today she mentioned an influential story about zeptites that was published in the Ekcolir Reality: 'Invasion of the Zeptites' by Katherine MacLean.

'Invasion of the Zeptites' was published in Masculinena magazine. According to Gohrlay, the story began with what seemed like a fairly conventional alien invasion plot, but then it became highly technical, providing details about the origins of the alien life forms who were not composed of biological cells, but rather, zeptites, so small as to be invisible.

art by Margaret Brundage
In 'Invasion of the Zeptites', the aliens are trying to make Earthlings aware of the aliens' existence. Realizing that humans are highly dependent on vision, the aliens try assembling large numbers of zeptites together so that the people of Earth have visual evidence of the presence of the aliens on Earth.

According to Gohrlay, there are amusing scenes in the story during which the alien zeptites appear to humans in the form a strange living mist, talking snakes and a bizarre floating pumpkin-like head.

Apparently there have been similar experiments in our Reality, attempts to start acclimatizing Earthlings to the idea of sub-microscopic life forms that are composed of hierions and sedrons, so I've been searching the internet for evidence of these Interventions.

When I searched Twitter for "zeptites" my browser suddenly stopped displaying webpages correctly, as shown below.


After about ten minutes of frustration during which I first restarted my browser then my computer, I was finally able to view the search results.

Gohrlay suspects that there was an image on Twitter that was not appropriate for me to see. I have no idea what she means by that, but I don't like he idea that everything I see is edited on the fly by unseen zeptites that watch over me.

Artificial Life
I did discover that there is a user account on Twitter called "ZEPTITE" that was registered back in 2009 when I began using Twitter.

That Twitter account now appears to be harmless, but it raises the possibility that aliens are using Apple, Inc. as a route for introducing advanced nanotechnology to Earth.

Next: artificial life
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Oct 29, 2015

125

my Blogger profile
I started using Blogger on October 29th, 2005. For this blog post, I'm going to pause and reflect on my years in the blogosphere.

I actually started blogging 20 years ago, before the term "blog" even existed. Back then, I used my Mac IIcx to put some webpages on the internet using MacHTTP server software. In the old days, blogging was an activity for computer savvy nerds only.

Carl Sagan
In the previous millennium, I first began blogging about science fiction by blogging about Carl Sagan's Contact. Last year I put a copy of that old commentary on the wikifiction blog. And because I love recursive science fiction, I've recently written Carl Sagan into the Exode Trilogy.

The wikifiction blog (this blog) started in 2009. At that time, I was transitioning from using wiki software to collaboratively write fiction and just beginning to use blogging software as a medium for writing and sharing science fiction stories.

125
This blog post is called "125" because this is the 125th blog post for 2015. In 2014 I set a record by writing 125 blog posts for this blog in a single year. This year I'm already at 125 with two more months remaining in the year.

About The Author
I recently did some "house cleaning" for the wikifiction blog. For example, I updated my "About The Author" blurb to reflect my interest in recursive science fiction.

This blog began right when I started using Twitter, so a big part of my "meeting other life forms who enjoy science fiction" involves use of my Twitter account.

wikifiction wordcloud
The name "wikifiction" has slowly come to take on new meaning for me. For 20 years I've been a fan of the hypertext link. You could say I'm addicted to hypertext. Possibly the most distinguishing feature of this blog is my heavy use of hypertext links, but as much as I like text, I also like images. The format of this blog started with a single image in each blog post, but now I tend to have a steady stream of images running the length of my blog posts.

I attribute my increasing pace of writing science fiction and (blogging about it) to my current writing project, what I call the Exode Trilogy. Actually, this is a major effort in what is commonly called "world building", but I think of it as creating a coherent backstory for the Exodemic Fictional Universe.

Asimov
Since the Exode story starts with my fanfiction sequel to Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity, I find myself constantly twisted through time. The Exodemic Fictional Universe not only needs a backstory for the universe as we know it, but also for all of the previous Realities of Earth.

As seen in the wordcloud for this blog, I often blog about Asimov. My special relationship with Asimov began when I first discovered printed science fiction. Asimov's The Gods Themsleves was the first science fiction story I ever read.

Of course, growing up in the 1960s, I was first introduced to science fiction through television (such as Star Trek) . Soon after my discovery that there was an entire science fiction world of published science fiction, I began writing my own science fiction stories.

Blog images and sidebar links.
At the center of my own science fiction story telling is the Fermi Paradox. It seems possible that space aliens with human-like minds and a technologically advanced civilization could have evolved on a distant Earth-like planet many millions of years in our past. I like science fiction stories that include the idea of aliens who visited Earth long ago.

Over the past few years, I've come close to deciding that this blog should really be viewed as one giant science fiction story, or part of one. My science fiction writing has spilled over to several other blogs including one for the Dead Widower Society.

One of my favorite features of the Blogger interface is that it allows a "slide show" of images from this blog to play in the sidebar along the right side of the page. The image shown to the right is from a writing project of the Dead Widowers called Assassination by Subtraction.

more sidebar links
Also in the sidebar of this blog are some links to other websites.

Some of those links are related to Asimov and other writers who have given me inspiration.

For example, my own direction in science fiction writing was heavily influenced by both Clarke and Vance. Fans of Jack Vance will recognize "Bodwyn Wook" as a character from his Cadwal Chronicles.

Neck and neck with Asimov for "most mentions" in this blog is Jack Vance. I often reflect on the fact that given the vast difference between the writing styles of Vance and Asimov it is amazing that they are my two favorite authors. Given my fascination with the science fiction stories of Vance and Asimov, I've been unable resist writing them into my own science fiction stories.

2016 update: death of the sidebar slideshow.

Next: Invasion of the Zeptites.

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Oct 27, 2015

Running the Show

1959 - Dodkin's Job
When I started writing stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, I first designed a way for residents of Earth to escape from this dingy planet. Sadly, for those who could no longer fit into the primitive civilization on Earth, "escape" only took you as far as a hidden base on the Moon.

Then it occurred to me that there could be a whole series of additional "escapes" to further "levels" of Genesaunt civilization, each even more distant from Earth and closer to the alien Huaoshy.

Who's in Charge?
How many such  levels are there? I don't know, but the idea was that there should be enough of them so that nobody from Earth need worry about actually getting to meet the Huaoshy.

artwork by Bernklau
I've never read the Jack Vance story 'Dodkin's Job'. However, I like to think that Vance's story about the source of a stupid work order, actually encapsulates two guiding principles of business life.

"The Peter Principle" says that "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." Dodkin might be a good example of someone who will never be a manager, since he seems to exist on an endless demotion trajectory. If being promoted is the road to incompetence, then systematic demotion could be the path to greater job competence and true power to make effective decisions.

Institutional Momentum
Another principle of business is that no matter how much top managers can screw things up, there is always someone at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy who can keep things running. For example, if the boss builds a new multi-million dollar facility, there are sure to fundamental defects and problems in the design and construction. Anyone trying to get their job done while working in that new facility will need to work with the custodians to find a way to repair and work around all of the defects that were built into the new facility.

For humor's sake, compare 'Dodkin's Job' to "The Spectre General".

A steady theme in the stories of Jack Vance is competence. He never tired of poking fun at characters who had high social status or highfalutin job titles but who were incompetents. In contrast, the typical Vance protagonist was someone who could persevere and get a job done.

Exode
Foundations of Eternity
In the Exode Trilogy, at the various hierarchical levels of Genesaunt Civilization, there is no shortage of earnest managers who bumble around and screw things up. In fact, the only real source of "evil" in the Exode saga is ignorance and managerial incompetence.

The prototypical "man in charge" who first screws things up is Orbho Anagro. In Foundations of Eternity, Anagro becomes fascinated by humans and bends the rules, allowing a few humans to play around with advanced technology such as positronics. All hell breaks lose when telepathic positronic robots discover time travel.

Leymaygn and Vozgrow
In Exode, the folks who are "in charge" at Lendhalen don't really know what they are doing. Leymaygn and Vozgrow do a whole lot of hand-wringing about how far they can push their Interventionist agenda, but none of their worrying actually matters.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original cover art
by Don Sibley and from Planet Stories.
Later, when Parthney goes off to Earth as the secret agent from Lendhalen, he bumbles around on Earth and eventually gets captured by the equally bumbling Overseers. Eventually readers learn who the true power brokers are on Earth; Parthney is little more than window dressing.

Science Fiction in Deep Time
Gohrlay has been regaling me with an account of the science fiction genre as it existed in the Ekcolir Reality. In the Ekcolir Reality, most science fiction authors were women. According to Gohrlay, the analogue of Lester del Rey in the Ekcolir Reality often published under the name Lori del Rey.

In the Ekcolir Reality.
original art work by Leo Morey
Lori del Rey became an influential publisher of science fiction in the Ekcolir Reality. In the 1980s, Lori helped launch a short-lived television network with Kate MacLean. That network was called CERA, a word with  Etruscan origins and meaning roughly "creation" in the jargon-filled English of New England in the 20th century of the Ekcolir Reality.

The television programs on CERA attempted to tell the secret history of Earth. Eventually, Lori was taken off of Earth and the network collapsed. Television programs on the CERA network included 'Some Were Human' and 'Door Between Worlds' which both depicted Kac'hin, Grendel and Fru'wu agents moving freely between worlds of the Galactic Core and Earth.

Should Human Stem Cells Be Used To Make Partly Human Chimeras?

Next:  a science fiction blogging milestone
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Oct 25, 2015

Sirneste Cluster

David Russell's ebook illustration
Two years ago I blogged about the glorious cover art for Trullion by Jasper Schreurs. Today I was lamenting the disintegration of my copy of The Palace of Love, another Jack Vance novel, so I flipped over to the collection of high resolution ebook cover art at www.jackvance.com.

David Russell has made cover art for the Demon Princes novels. His illustration for The Palace of Love depicts a scene on planet Sogdian, in Sirneste cluster.

Kirth and Alusz
One of the things that I like about The Palace of Love is how long it takes us, as readers, to actually get to the Palace. The first part of the novel shows Kirth Gersen dealing with old business that is left over from The Killing Machine. First, Kirth wraps up his romance with Alusz Iphigenia, former resident of the planet Thamber.

Viole Falushe?
The other item of old business is much more business-related. As told in The Killing Machine, Kirth managed to appropriate 10,000,000,000 SVU worth of cash from Alusz. Then, with the help of his financial adviser, Jehan Addels, Kirth invests the money.

One of the first uses Gersen has for the money is buying a small fleet of spaceships. Kirth and Alusz take his new Pharaon across space to the planet Sarkoy, a world where the residents specialize in creating poisons. There, Kirth gets a clue that puts him on the trail of Demon Prince Viole Falushe. However, their time together on Sarkoy makes it clear to the "honerable, generous and kind" Alusz that she can't make a new life for herself by following Kirth on his adventures while he hunts down and murders the remaining three Demon Princes. Kirth and Alusz part, and he resolves to never again involve a woman in the grim necessities of his life.

The Fortunate Folk
Kirth also makes use of his vast wealth to buy the Radian Publishing company, the publisher of Cosmopolis magazine. This allows him to become a "roving reporter" for Cosmopolis. Posing as an employee of Cosmopolis, Kirth goes to Earth and searches for more clues that might lead to Viole Falushe, who grew up on Earth as Vogel Filschner. As a boy, Vogel fell in love with Jheral Tinzy, and his life when down hill from there. After receiving Jheral's cruel rebuff, he turned to a life of crime, a life that he began by attempting to kidnap Jheral.

Kirth first tracks down the "mad poet" Navarth, who knew Vogel Filschner as a boy and who still has an odd connection to Viole Falushe. Gersen is puzzled by Navarth's young ward, the mysterious Zan Zu, who appears to be physically identical to Jheral Tinzy.

Eventually, 80% of the way through the novel, Kirth, Navarth and Zan Zu finally arrive at Viole Falushe's Palace of Love, on the planet Sogdian. Gersen learns that Zan Zu is a clone of Jheral Tinzy. Having failed to win Zan Zu's heart, Viole Falushe plans to force her to give birth to additional clones, as Jheral did previously.

in the Ekcolir Reality
By the end of the novel, Kirth and Zan Zu have developed romantic feelings for each other, but Kirth sends her back to Earth with Navarth and two other Jehral clones who he rescued from Sogdian and Viole Falushe's evil clutches. At the very end of the story, Kirth meets the remaining Jehral clone (Drusilla I) on the Esplanade at Avante and readers are left to wonder how much time Gersen spends with the "immensely appealing" Drusilla.

Related Reading: the adventures of Kirth and Drusilla.

Next: more science fiction from Deep Time
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Punkgate

New England in the Ekcolir Reality
We humans like to play with words. In the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality there never was a nation called The United States of America, instead there was Beverwijck en Nicotiana, named so because of the importance of beaver pelts and tobacco for the early economy of a fledgling nation that only later became New England.

A sensible place for George Gordon to build (1745) a tobacco inspection house was along the Potomac (the modern name for the river was derived from the native term "Patowmeck") river, south of the fall line, near the site of a native beaver pelt trading village (native name: Nacotchtank). The colonial settlement that grew up there became known as Georgetown.

Postcard From The Future
Case study: how we fail to use technology wisely.
For the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality global warming became a serious problem by the middle of the 20th century. Coal burning drove much of the early rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

George Washington was among those who worked to extend shipping upstream past the Potomac fall line. A goal was to provide a navigable canal all the way to the Ohio river. Eventually, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal extended from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, allowing huge amounts of Allegheny Mountain coal to be shipped to the coast starting in 1831. Later, the railroads made canals obsolete and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was not used after 1924.

Case study: how technology fails us...
the "Rose Mary Stretch"
In 1960, the southern end of the canal and its water gate to the river (on land that was still owned by the collapsed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal company) was purchased and the land slated for development. The area eventually became part of what we know as the Watergate Complex. In 1972, offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel and Office Building, were burglarized by President Nixon's re-election team. Eventually, investigation of the Nixon administration's corrupt practices spread to include Nixon's own role in the "cover-up" of illegal acts committed by all the President's henchmen and within two years Nixon was forced to resign the presidency.

Ever since the mid-1970s, the media have used the suffix -gate to name new and unrelated scandals including, in 2015, even the sports-related "deflate-gate". So, now, Punkgate...

Punkgate
Will computers let us down?
cover art: Murray Tinkelman
In the 1980s, when it became fashionable to publish dystiopian science fiction and label such stories with terms such as "cyberpunk", I gave up trying to read "up and coming" science fiction writers, particularly those who knew nothing about science. I retreated into the safety of science fiction written by older authors who understood science and had never adopted the idea that science fiction should be dark and/or shocking just for the sake of shocking people.

Then there was steampunk. More recently, it has become a habit for additional science fiction subgenres such as nanopunk to play with the -punk suffix. I suppose you could call the Exode Trilogy "nanopunk".

self-proclaimed solarpunk
Interview - Sheryl Kaleo's solarpunk
Five years ago I blogged about my preference for optimistic science fiction (see also). I was impressed during the past few years when some folks within the science fiction genre began speaking out in favor of a shift back towards a culture of wonder and optimism, a movement that led by 2014 to increasing amounts of attention being paid to "solarpunk".

"Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us" -Adam Flynn

Solarpunk
1941: Reason
Original cover art: Stephen Youll
Back to the future. I grew up reading Isaac Asimov's stories about space-based solar energy collectors "beaming" energy to Earth. In the Exode Trilogy, the good people, robots and aliens at Space Energy Missions hatch a plan to beam solar energy to Earth from a vast solar energy collector on Mercury. So you could call the Exode Trilogy both nanopunk and solarpunk.

Our green world
But do we really need to use the terms nanopunk and solarpunk? The problems that currently confront the science fiction genre originated with people who knew little more about science fiction than what some English teacher had to say about Mary Shelly's gothic novel and what they had seen while watching some horrible alien invasion flick they saw on TV.

The end of PUNKGATE?
Such folks saw a chance to make $$$ by writing "science fiction", but all they could write was other stuffTM that got crammed sideways into the science fiction genre under labels like "cyberpunk".

Rather than invent a batch of new -punk names, I'd prefer simply calling the other stuff "dytopian drek" and return to calling science fiction "science fiction".

But what do I know? I don't make my living as a marketer who can get people to buy anything.

Space Queen
Related Reading: climate fiction
The New Utopians

2016 update (12/3/2016). I was amused today by an article in my local newspaper. The writer expressed surprise that people have actually been spending their money in movie theaters to watch movies that make them feel good. What a novel idea!

Next: return to Jack Vance's Sirneste Cluster
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Oct 24, 2015

Mind Control

source: the Ekcolir Reality
I blame Douglas Hofstadter and his book Gödel, Escher, Bach. "Now wait," you say, that's crazy. Books can't take control of our lives. Or can they? There are some books that have never left my physical possession or my thoughts since I first read them. Hofstadter's book helped me fall in love with the idea of self-representation, so it is natural to blame Gödel, Escher, Bach for the fact that I wrote myself into the Exode Trilogy.

Ga-LAX-y!
I've previously blogged about the "alien conspiracy" that first exposed me to published science fiction. I'm continually haunted by the possibility that my entire life was planed, guided and carefully constructed so as to force me to perform a specific function. Just how easy would it be to turn a person into a puppet, to take control of someone's behavior?

Dead Hand
'Dead Hand' - first published in 1945






70 years ago: cover art by William Timmins
I first read Asimov's story "Dead Hand" 40 years ago as part of Foundation and Empire. That story features an intellectual dual between Ducem Barr and Bel Riose. Riose is trying to save the Galactic Empire from collapse, but Barr is certain that the decline and fall of that Empire is inevitable.

The idea that Hari Seldon predicted the future (including the fall of the Empire) by using "Psychohistory" always struck me as absurd. Much later, in Foundation and Earth, Asimov told us that the telepathic robot Daneel had guided the galaxy towards the establishment of the Foundation.

Asimov: a struggle with aliens
I like to think of the Galactic Empire as a kind of socio-temporal buffer that was use by Daneel to put Humanity into stasis while he worked to complete Galaxia. I like the idea that the First Foundation was brought into existence by Daneel in order to allow a few human scientists to begin studying "mentalics". As soon as they discovered the final bit of technology that Daneel needed for Galaxia, then Daneel lost interest in the two Foundations and their goal of creating a Second Galactic Empire.
1945: The Mule

Besides Psychohistory, 'Dead Hand' included another interesting bit of pseudoscience. The First Foundation makes both Riose and the psychopathic Brodrig, Privy Secretary of the Emperor, believe that it has the technological ability to transmutate chemical elements. It is amusing that Asimov's Galactic Empire, some 20,000 years in our future, has advanced so little beyond the science and technology of our time: the Empire struggles to keep its spaceships going and the 25,000,000 inhabited planets of the galaxy are just a short step away from falling back on fossil fuels as an energy source.

The Mule
The Mule - cover art by Darrell Sweet
Shortly before his death, Asimov did a masterful job of showing us the origin of the Second Foundation (see Forward the Foundation). I like to think of The Mule as the tool that Daneel used to accelerate the study of mentalics within the First Foundation.

visi-sonor
It is fun to try to imagine what Asimov imagined that The Mule was doing with his visi-soner. Recently it has been shown that a magnetic field can be used to alter human brain function. In one experiment, altering the activity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and other nearby brain regions seemed to cause an interesting pattern of altered human thought, similar in some ways to what Asimov depicted for The Mule when he used the visi-sonor.

The Exode Trilogy
When I first read The Mule, I was startled by the rapidity with which the First Foundation collapsed. Later, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, I imagined a science fiction story in which a potent chemical substance had been found that could induce anxiety. What if the CIA slipped that chemical into the water supply of cities in the Soviet Union?

In the Exode Trilogy, the perfect tool for controlling human behavior exists, pre-loaded into each and every human on Earth. About 2,000,000,000 years ago the pek arrived and "seeded" Earth with zeptites. Humans evolved as a dual creature, part cellular and part composed of a zeptite endosymbiont.

Mind Control
source
When humans become aware of the existence of zeptite endosymbionts, they are susceptible to experiencing anxiety and asking: am I just a puppet of my zeptite endosymbiont? Worse, it is a trivial matter for some artificial life forms to take control of a person's zeptite endosymbiont and in that way take control of the person's memories and thoughts.

I've long struggled with the challenge of finding the best way to introduce readers of the Exode Trilogy to the issue of mind control.  At the same time, I get to struggle with my own fears that my own thought have been carefully controlled and guided. In a recent discussion of these matters with Gohrlay, she casually mentioned that there was a good example that she could provide of why it is not worth my time to worry about the extent to which my memories and thoughts are controlled by others.

Arguing with Success
original art work by Paul Alexander
According to Gohrlay, in addition to his involvement with the creation of the Atlantis Clones, Peter also did finally manage to have a child without the help of his mother, Lili. I've previously blogged about a strange second-hand memory of Peter's daughter. I'd mistakenly assumed that Peter's daughter had gone on to lead a fairly normal life as an Earth woman, essentially indistinguishable from other humans. Not so.

Image credits:
Edmund EmshwillerGerald Grace
According to Gohrlay, it was not easy for Peter to figure out how to make use of Earthly zeptites to shape his daughter into a morphologically normal girl. He had the help of a developmental biologist and when they finally cracked the problem and she gave birth to their daughter, they named her Radhas. Radhas grew up among the people of Earth, but she did not have a normal pattern of cognitive development. She always had some innate ability to use the Bimanoid Interface, although her parents tried to ignore her special abilities and allow her to live life as a normal Earthling.

Apparently it was impossible for Anney and Angela to not notice Radhas. In some way, the Atlantis Clones and Radhas were "on the same wave length", so when Radhas grew up she had a certain amount of telepathic contact with the clones. Although she was warned not to reveal what she had learned from her use of the Bimanoid Interface, Radhas could not be dissuaded from telling the secret history of Earth.

The Dead Widower Society
According to Gohrlay, Radhas tried to publish a book that described the search for her origins. She explicitly compared herself to Robert Heinlein's character Friday Baldwin. Publication of the book was suppressed and Radhas was taken off of Earth.

See the original (1962) cover
art by Johannes Bruck
According to Gohrlay, before Radhas was taken off of Earth, she had a working relationship with the Dead Widowers and even visited me. Apparently Radhas and I began collaborating, but then a tryp'At Overseer arrived and put an end to that. Radhas opted to depart from Earth while I decided to stay. My choice, my decision to stay here on this rock included the necessity of having all my memories of Radhas removed from my conscious access.

Next: solarpunk
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