Sep 25, 2016

Scientific Romance

1920s television in the Ekcolir Reality (source).
This year, I've been celebrating several science fiction-related anniversaries (200, 100, 50) and now it is time for 150.

Herbert George Wells
I've previously imagined the analogue of Herbert Wells (a woman named Hafren Wells) as a science fiction story teller in the Ekcolir Reality, a Reality where science fiction was almost exclusively of the "hard" variety, written by authors with training as scientists. In this blog post, I'm going to pretend that much of the life of Herbert Wells was a warped reflection due to Temporal Momentum in the wake of past events in the life of Hafren Wells.

Here in this Reality, I can't remember which movie I saw first, War of the Worlds or The Time Machine. As a budding science nerdling, I despised both those movies.

War of the Worlds
My distaste for alien invasion movies has never waned. In the case of time travel, I eventually read Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity, and thankfully that was able to wash the bad taste of the Eloi and the Morlocks out of my mouth.

No Sale
Here in 2016, our planet Earth must seem a much smaller and less mysterious place than it was for people living in the 1890s. Even as a boy in the early 1970s, knowing the physical basis of genes, mutations and evolution, I found the vision of future human evolution provided to us by Herbert Wells in The Time Machine to be implausible. In many ways, Wells reminds me of Isaac Asimov; his non-fiction (example) reveals him to be scientifically literate, but he was trapped in a pre-modern scientific age and his science fantasies unfortunately leave me cold. Wells is sadly beyond my Sci Fi even horizon.

The Shape of Things to Come
Bitching and Moaning. Why should a man in the 1890s, who had published "seventeen papers upon physical optics" be able to build his Time Machine in a back room of his home, yet nobody else in the future ever replicated his achievement and began traveling through time?

The formula for stories of "scientific romance" was to pretend that there might be some scientific/technical basis for a magic trick, then the author could tell some adventure story that was thus made possible. To this day, people with no training in science probably view technological advances as magic tricks (see Clarke's 3rd law). As a fan of "hard science fiction", if asked to provide a modern accounting of the "scientific romance" stories of H. G. Wells I would suggest that they be categorized as part of the larger domain of "technofantasy".

Global Warming
In his description of the future (as seen by the Time Traveler in The Time Machine), Wells told of the continued expansion of urban civilization in the London area with the construction of large buildings. Then, traveling further into the future, there was an end to winters in southern England. "I saw great and splendid architecture rising about me, more massive than any buildings of our own time, and yet, as it seemed, built of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer green flow up the hill-side, and remain there, without any wintry intermission."

In the imagined future of Wells, why does the Earth get warmer? There is no indication that he had any concept of green house gas-induced warming (see the discussion here). What little science we find in the stories of Wells is pretty thin gruel for a science nerd like me.

A credible human invalid.
Since I find it impossible to take seriously the science elements of stories written by H. G. Wells, I'm going to focus attention on his skill as a fantasy writer. It is through his brand of free-wheeling and fun fantasy that I believe Wells had a profound influence on many science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Jack Vance.

in the Final Reality
"...if she comes to earth at all, she must come among nice people....."

In his story The Sea Lady, Wells told of a strange visitor to the Earth. By "the Earth", Wells was making a distinction between the ocean and the continents, or, more precisely, the coast of England. The only thing strange about this visitor was that she happened to be a mermaid.

In the Ekcolir Reality
Assassination by Subtraction
The timeline of Earth's history was somewhat different in the Ekcolir Reality. Of particular importance for Hafren Wells, the pace of scientific advancement was quicker and there were more opportunities for women in science.

The Dead Widowers previously described for me some of the advanced technologies that were used during the American Civil War in the Ekcolir Reality. By the late 1800s, the ability of methane and carbon dioxide to cause an atmospheric greenhouse effect was already widely recognized by the world's scientific community.

hepatitis B virions
Hafren grew up reading the works of Jade Verne (the analogue of Jules Verne in the Ekcolir Reality). Hafren was terribly discouraged when Jade died in 1892, suffering from the effects of a hepatitis B viral infection. In the early 1900s of the Ekcolir Reality, electron microscopy was used to visualize the hepatitis B virus.

Report from Deep Time
In the Ekcolir Reality. This reconstructed
cover image was made by Zeta using
'Browncoat 38' by Jessica Truscott
Discussions with Zeta and Yōd have helped me understand some of the old information about Deep Time that was collected by Angela and provided to me by way of the infites that I received from Ivory.

According to Zeta, in the year 1902 of the Ekcolir Reality (all dates are transformed to comply with our calendar; our year 1902 was actually in the 23rd century of the Etruscan calendar), Hafren Wells published The C-Laser, which told of the Jade Verne's return from the dead.

As told by Hafren, it was an artificial life replica of Jade Verne (with all of her memories) that came back to Earth. Wells set the story in the year 1917, not long after the discovery of the Hierion Mass Equation. The "C-Laser" was actually a carbon dioxide laser that was used as part of a communications system that allowed the Jade replica to communicate with a group of scientists at the Chantique Becquerel Institute for Nuclear Physics.

In the Ekcolir Reality. This reconstructed
cover image was made by Zeta using
'Browncoat 37' by Jessica Truscott
As told in The C-Laser, the challenge for establishing communications with the Jade replica arose because that replica was composed of hierions. The Jade replica was too small to be seen, but she could communicate with humans by producing tiny engraved messages on metal chips.

According to information left to me by Ivory, since in the Ekcolir Reality the Becquerel Institute for Nuclear Physics had been destroyed in an explosion and fire in 1899, there was a cult following among readers of The C-Laser who believed that the Jade Verne replica was actually from a previous Realty (the one I call the Asimov Reality). Apparently Hafren Wells raised the possibility in The C-Laser that there were alternate Realities and in one of those alternate universes, contact was (or would be) made between humans and nanoscopic life forms in 1917.

In the Asimov Reality. This reconstructed
cover image was made by Zeta using
'Browncoat 27' by Jessica Truscott
Mentioned by name in The C-Laser was a book that Hafren attributed to Jade Verne called Journey to Proxima Centauri. Written in 1864, Journey to Proxima Centauri told of an alien creature that built a teleportation device on Earth. That alien creature seems to have been what I call a 'Grendel'.

As told by Hafren in The C-Laser, after Jade's death in 1892 she (or Jade's replica) was teleported to a distant planet. Only upon returning to Earth in 1917 (in violation of a kind of quarantine) did the Jade replica realize that she was 12 orders of magnitude smaller than the humans of Earth.

In the Asimov Reality
According to Zeta, there was an earlier analogue of The Sea Lady in the Asimov Reality: a book called The Lost Sea. In that story, a population of Neanderthals survived in 'Grenland' until the rapid sea level rise at the end of the last ice age. Yōd believes that there was a special relationship between those Neanderthals and a group of aquatic beings who seem to correspond with what I call the Grendels. The Lost Sea was a time travel story and the main character was apparently a thinly disguised Jade Verne who went back in time 10,000 years to meet the last remaining Neanderthals and Grendels on Earth.

Next: Investigating the origins of telepathic robots
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