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Apr 14, 2017

200K Visitors

Early last year this blog reached 100,000 visitors. Over the years, the chances of people stumbling upon this blog has gradually increased, but a few months ago there was a sudden increase in daily "pageviews" as tracked by Google. I suspect that most of these "new visitors" are bots, but as counted by Google, the wikifiction blog has now passed 200,000 pageviews.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original Cover
art by Edmund Emshwiller and ? (Azazel)
I like to honor arbitrary numerical blogging milestones by reflecting on the past and speculating about where this blog might go in the future.

Suspense
In the March 1991 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Asimov published a short essay called "Suspense I". I read that essay when it was later published in Gold.

In that essay, Asimov described how his science fiction stories (such as his Foundation saga) go beyond a simplistic "balance between good and evil". Asimov was happy to write stories about protagonists in which the reader is never sure if the "hero" is good or evil, never quite sure exactly what the "problem" is that the hero is dealing with and for which the reader never really knows if the hero should "win". Asimov felt that all this uncertainty created suspense and kept readers reading and turning pages.

A Search Beyond
I originally (back in the 1970s) learned about science fiction as a literary genre by reading Asimov's science fiction stories. It should come as no surprise that I also make no attempt to depict the characters in my stories as "good" or "evil". In my current writing obsession, the Exode saga, I bring a "copy" of Asimov "back from the dead" and I make Asimov himself a character in the story.

In A Search Beyond, Asimov's replicoid returns to Earth 25 years after Asimov's death. Asimov's replicoid is being used as a tool by Many Sails. I present the reader with an artificial life copy of Asimov who is being used by an alien sentient spaceship. I make no serious effort to explain to readers the mission that Many Sails is trying to accomplish on Earth and the reader is challenged to figure out exactly what is going on and if Asimov's investigative science fiction mission exploring Earth's past is a good thing or a danger to we Earthlings.

source
The Exode saga depicts the human species as a kind of cosmic mistake and a sort of ethically questionable experiment. I believe that the human species evolved slowly by natural selection, but within the confines of a science fiction story it is more fun to imagine that we were created by aliens, for a purpose. By making this assumption in the Exode saga, I shift readers away from the conventional "alien invasion" plot in which evil aliens invade Earth.

Invasion
Invasions
Asimov wrote a short introduction to Invasions. That essay was also reprinted in Gold. In that essay, Asimov gave an historical account of some past invasions on Earth, such as the Mongol invasion of Europe.

The cover for Invasions includes assorted weird aliens and a futuristic soldier with a (ray?) gun. Through the decades of my life, I've been endlessly bored and dismayed by all of the silly alien invasion stories that have been endlessly written and rehashed. In his introductory essay for Invasions, Asimov makes the point that if alien beings were to arrive on Earth, they might be friendly.

source
I like to imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality, science fiction was crafted as a literary genre for the purpose of preparing humans for First Contact with the alien Fru'wu. I have fun imagining that we humans would only notice First Contact with some alien creature like the Fru'wu while we could be entirely unaware of the fact that an alien artificial life form like the pek has been here on Earth for the past 2 billion years.

Exvasion
From the perspective of the pek, we humans are a kind of disease. The scheming bumpha have given we humans a chance to leak out from Earth into the surrounding galaxy, but from the perspective of the pek, it is only a matter of when, not if, we humans will destroy ourselves.



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Apr 6, 2017

Continuing Voyages

Kirk's robot dream (left); the original robotic Rayna (right)
Three years ago I commented on the first 3 episodes of Star Trek Continues. The 8th episode was released in April 2017. Last year I celebrated 50 years of Star Trek by looking back at the interesting episodes of the original series. Now it is time to catch up with the Enterprise...

Episode 4
Kirk has memory problems after being struck on the head in episode #4 of Star Trek Continues. This episode dwells on Kirk's lost loves. First we get a glimpse into Kirk's haunting memory of the long-"dead" robot girl Rayna.

Kirk remembers the humanoid alien Miramanee and
Edith from Earth in the 1930s.
As much fun as it is to see Kirk's old flames resurrected, I wish that Star Trek Continues would actually take us to some strange new worlds rather than simply rehash old topics. Hey, they could have even given us a story about some long lost love child of Kirk. But no...

Kirk is feeling guilty over his role in the deaths of Rayna, Miramanee and Edith. In the end we are supposed to believe that Kirk will be fine as long as he has his number 1 girl, the Enterprise.

Episode 5
alien nanites
The Enterprise is "invaded" by alien nanites. At first, the nanites invade the computer system, "feeding" on the available information. When the nanites are going through the historical database, there is an explosion. Kirk and McCoy are standing nearby and so some of the nanites are blasted into their bodies.

"I have an idea!"
Kirk and McCoy collapse, seemingly unconscious, but in their minds they are under the influence of the nanites and they magically share an experience of living through a battle during the American Civil War. They both share closely related "dream" experiences because their two brains are linked by the alien nanites. Are these "dreams" how the aliens try to communicate, or, perhaps, how they try to give a gift to Kirk? In his "dream", Kirk is pleased when he gets to see President Lincoln. He also gets hit by cannon shrapnel and the "dreaming" McCoy has to amputate Kirk's leg while the bodies of Kirk and McCoy lie un-moving in sick bay.

Red-shirt bait
For some magical reason, Kirk's leg that was amputated only in his dream then actually "starts to die". Spock wants to get the alien nanites out of Kirk and McCoy. To do so, he can temporarily stop their brain activity, but they also need some kind of "bait" that will attract the nanites. The nurse suggests using a prosthetic limb as bait.

Luckily, there is an available red-shirted crewman with a prosthetic arm. Once the nanites transfer from Kirk and McCoy into the prosthetic arm, the arm is beamed into space and destroyed by phaser fire.

I'm usually a fan of stories that involve nanites, but these nanites in episode #5 like microscopic Borg. At least we did not have to suffer through a "nanite queen". I can understand a low budget production's limitations, but filming a civil war battle reenactment is not really in the spirit of Star Trek.

Episode 6
scared child
The Enterprise encounters (crashes into) a new life form, a type of creature that supposedly lives in outer space. This creature is running away from home and its angry father is in hot pursuit.

There is an old joke about how the first two cars in Kansas crashed into each other. Even with the incredible vastness of space, the Enterprise can always be counted upon to be traveling through the depths of space and crash into you. Maybe in this case the alien "kid" was looking for a protector and purposefully intercepted the Enterprise.

alpha wave generators
A life form that lives in outer space? Who knows, maybe this creature is the remnant of a lost civilization that made an artificial life form for the purpose of mining comets and asteroids.

Not only is daddy upset, but his red "brain waves" trigger corresponding rage in humans. To protect themselves from this debilitating effect, the crew of the Enterprise must wear their handy dandy alpha wave generators on their arms.

Giant angry daddy alien.
I suppose I should be happy that we got an episode with an alien life form. However, the key to the Enterprise having a successful first contact with this creature is a sympathetic crew member with daddy issues of her own. Because she had a crappy father, she can lecture the alien dad about the importance of being a better father.

Unfortunately, this episode reminds me of the original episode ("Day of the Dove") in which some "energy creature" forces humans and Klingons to fight. Updated for this millennium in Star Trek Continues, we get fist fights with women. This is progress?

Episode 7
The new Captain?
It is the 23rd century and there has never been a female commander of a Constitution class starship. Why not? This episode highlights one of the most annoying features of the entire Star Trek fictional universe: the entire political and social structure of the Federation and Star Fleet is nothing but the 20th century's U.S.A. and the U.S. Navy stretched out into the depths of space. Rather than provide us with stories about strange new worlds and new civilizations, Star Trek has too often given us navel gazing and commentary on contemporary social and political topics.

Episode 8
Kirk, Samara, McCoy
The Enterprise brings a lady physicist to the depths of space to study a black hole. She only needs six hours to complete her studies, which is enough time for Kirk to make his move on her. Then, mysteriously, near the black hole, suddenly there appears the long lost USS Defiant. The Defiant is teetering on the brink of the black hole's event horizon.

Kirk leads an away team to investigate the Defiant, but he is trapped on board as the Defiant spirals into the voracious and green-with-purple-fringed Hawking radiation-spewing black hole. 200 years quickly pass for Kirk, during which time he rebuilds the Defiant's engines. Sailing at warp 15, Kirk and the Defiant triumphantly emerge from the black hole.

A VERY old Kirk returns to the Enterprise and resumes his love affair with the lady physicist and due to the wonders of 23rd century hyperviagra, they both ignore their vast age difference.

Star Trek Continues
That (above) is not really the plot, but it makes more sense than the actual Episode 8 of Star Trek Continues. I read that Star Trek Continues got enough funding to build a set for a new planet, so maybe future episodes will improve.

For a low-budget fan effort, Star Trek Continues is mighty fine, with the look and feel of the original Star Trek. Hopefully the next episode will take us on an adventure to investigate a new civilization on a new world.

Next: unleashing the human species upon the galaxy
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Apr 5, 2017

25 Years After Asimov

freaky cover by John Gaughan
This blog post marks 25 years since the death of Isaac Asimov. My personal introduction to Asimov came about 45 years ago when I discovered a hardcover copy of his novel The Gods Themselves in my local library. That was a mind-expanding experience for a little kid who was in his personal golden age of science fiction.

I like to imagine that in our previous Reality, Asimov wrote a different book called The Gods Thonselves. In that Reality, science fiction was carefully crafted and hyper-accelerated as a literary genre which functioned to prepare the humans of Earth for First Contact. In The Gods Thonselves, Asimov revealed the existence of the alien Huaoshy, creatures who long ago originated as biological organisms, but who now exist in the Sedronic Domain as artificial lifeforms.

1972 cover by Bob van Blommestein
Almost 65 years ago Asimov began writing the story that would become The End of Eternity, my favorite novel by Asimov.

I think of The End of Eternity as Asimov's time travel novel, although it is not his only story that involves travel through time. In that story, "Eternity" is the name of a time travel device, and at the end of the novel Eternity has been destroyed, seemingly putting an end to the time travel era. This is a good thing, because use of time travel technology was a dead end for Humanity.

Although Asimov wrote an amazing story about putting an end to time travel, I felt the need to tell the story of how time travel was discovered. How did time travel technology come into existence? That story is told in Foundations of Eternity.

interior art by Pagsilang Rey Isip
75 years ago Asimov published the first of his Foundation stories. Just slightly earlier, Asimov had begun publishing his positronic robot stories.

For 4 decades, Asimov's 2 fictional universes for stories about
1) the Foundation and
2) positronic robots
remained distinct. Then Asimov performed alchemical magic, revealing (in his novel Foundation and Earth) that positronic robots had been secretly at work, guiding the creation and development of the First and Second Foundations.

I view Asimov's act of linking his Foundation Saga to his fictional universe of the positronic robots as Asimov's greatest literary accomplishment. Then, after that glorious supernova of science fiction creativity, death.

Foundations of Eternity
Asimov was taken from us before he ever had the chance to write a sequel to Foundation and Earth. I feel that this is the greatest tragedy that has so far been inflicted upon the young literary genre of science fiction.

The All-Human Galaxy
As much fun as there is to be had in Asimov's Foundation and positronic robot stories, they have a frustrating flavor of incompleteness. Right at the end of Foundation and Earth, Asimov teased readers with the idea that aliens would soon arrive in our galaxy, zooming in from some distant galaxy.

For many long years I've agonized over Asimov's struggle with aliens. In my fan fiction sequel to Foundation and Earth, I imagine that in our Reality, Asimov was prevented from sharing what he knew about alien visitors to Earth.

the Trysta-Grean Pact
Tryst-Grean Pact
What had changed for the "Asimov Analogue" who lived here in the Final Reality? Our Reality, the universe as we know it, had been brought into existence as an expression of the Trysta-Grean Pact. In our Reality, Asimov could not be allowed to share with the world what he knew about alien visitors living on Earth among the human population.

In order to end the Time Travel War, Trysta and Grean had to learn to trust each other. Trysta was R. Gohrlay's secret agent on Earth, dedicated to winning for the humans of Earth an opportunity to reach the stars. Grean was a Kac'hin hermaphrodite who operated on Earth during the Time War as a hadronic tool of the Huaoshy.

viewing Realities
Trysta was also not strictly human: as an Asterothrope female from 10 million years in our future, she had been designed and crafted by R. Gohrlay to evade detection by the pek.

"Trysta" is one of the names that was used by Noÿs Lambent, Asimov's Eternity-destroyer from The End of Eternity. The Exode Trilogy was intended to simultaneously be a sequel to both Foundation and Earth and The End of Eternity. Trysta and Grean worked together using advanced Reality Viewing technology that allowed them to find the Final Reality.

During their time on Earth, Trysta and Grean disguised their non-human physical features and blended in with the human population of our world. In the fanciful depiction (above) of the signing of the Trysta-Grean Pact, Trysta and Grean are shown with the features of imaginary non-human Sedronites. Also shown is an artificial life form (pek?) observer of the signing.

Asimov on Stage
Asimov sent through Time to contact Vance. (see)
In the Exode Saga, science fiction is an important part of the plot. Alien visitors to Earth shape science fiction as a literary genre in order to prepare Humanity for the future. Several science fiction authors appear in the Exode Saga as characters including Asimov and Jack Vance.

In the first book of the Exode Saga,  A Search Beyond, Asimov returns to Earth in the form of an artificial life replicoid.

Special thanks to Miranda Hedman for
"Black Cat 9 - stock" that I used to create
the blue "sedronite" who is in the image, above.
Asimov's replicoid is brought to Earth so that he investigate the Asimov Reality, the past Reality that became the inspiration for the many stories by Jack Vance that are set in the Gaean Reach. Since time travel is no longer possible (and did even the Huaoshy ever have the ability to visit past Realities?), study of the Asimov Reality must be accomplished by sending Asimov into the AR simulation that exists within Eternity.

In A Search BeyondYōd's replicoid within the Hierion Domain acts as an information relay so that the Editor can become aware of how the Ek'col and tryp'At were crafted in Deep Time. In turn, the Editor is allowed to pass along some of the secret history of Humanity to the people of Earth.

Next: Star Trek Continues
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Apr 1, 2017

Grendel Time

by Ludovic Celle. See:Green Mars 01. This
 image is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.
I'm struggling to adapt my thinking so as to accommodate the idea that there were humans (or some roughly equivalent humanoid approximation) on Mars a billion years ago. According to Zeta, those Martians originated in the future of a past Reality, after Mars had been provided with water from Europa and carbon dioxide from Venus.

Why were those future Martians sent into the far past? According to Yōd, there were rumors suggesting that the pek or the bumpha long ago transferred some useful gene combinations from Mars to Earth. To investigate those rumors, R. Gohrlay arranged for a team of Martian investigators to visit ancient Mars. Their mission was to determine 1) if the life forms on Mars used DNA and 2) if there was any evidence for biological innovations that first evolved on Mars and then got transferred to Earth's biosphere.

In the Buld Reality
see the original cover
This mission to ancient Mars apparently took place while R. Gohrlay was still trying to understand the Huaoshy and their two major proxy groups in the Hadron Domain: the pek and the bumpha. It was discovered that the bumpha were quite casual about altering the geological and biological conditions of planets while the pek tried to enforce a set of ethical laws that favors leaving planets to develop naturally. Of course, the pek were always willing to alter planetary dynamics as part of their relentless efforts to extract sedrons from planets.

Apparently when the pek arrived in our solar system, about two billion years ago, Mars had primitive life and by their own rules (what are often called the Rules of Intervention) they could not too radically mine sedrons from life-bearing worlds like Mars and Earth.

source
However, after a billion years had passed, conditions on Mars had deteriorated. There was no longer a significant amount of liquid water on Mars and martian life was going extinct. They were able to enter into a more aggressive form of sedron mining that involved extracting sedrons from the core of the planet with incidental release of some greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere of Mars. Since this would prolong the existence of life on Mars, the pek were able to start sucking out the remaining sedrons from the interior of the planet. Several gigantic volcanoes (including Olympus Mons) are all that remain from those pek mining efforts.

Imaginary Book
While investigating the past, R. Gohrlay was careful to not alter the actions of the pek and the bumpha. The long tug of war between those two factions is what had ultimately allowed positronic robots to come into existence. Zeta suspects that after multi-cellular life was firmly established on Earth, life on Mars was allowed to die off and life on Earth was allowed to evolve naturally for another billion years.

Grendel Time
Original cover art by
Boris Vallejo
The next great intervention into the course of events on Earth came when tool-using apes first appeared. Yōd believes that some of those apes were taken to the Galactic Core and eventually, from that beginning, the Nereids were created. The Nereids were eventually "taken" into the Sedronic Domain, but they left behind a type of artificial lifeform now known as the Grendels. According to Yōd, it was the Grendels who helped bring into existence we humans on Earth and, later, the Martians. R. Gohrlay then made use of the Martians to explore the ancient history of Mars.

Next: Remember Asimov
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April 1, 2017
I thought about doing an April 1st joke post to twitter about Martians, but then I realized my imagination is no match for reality in 2017.....
source

Mar 25, 2017

Don Martin

1976
Back in the late 1970's I read The Stochastic Man by Robert Silverberg. As a math and science nerd, I had hoped that this novel might have something interesting to say about mathematics, but it did not. After that experience, I was not in a hurry to read other fiction by Silverberg.

1959, cover art by Wallace Wood
After 40 years, I decided I should try reading some other Silverberg story, so today I read his short story "Mugwump Four" which is available via the Internet Archive (in the August 1959 issue of Galaxy magazine).

One of the great things about downloading old Sci Fi magazines from the Internet Archive is discovering little surprises in those old magazines. In this case, I was surprised to see that Don Martin had drawn the interior artwork for "Mugwump Four".

Growing up in the 1960s, I knew Don Martin for his cartoon illustrations in Mad magazine. Here is one that I remember from my youth:
One of the "signature" features of Don Martin cartoon characters are the flat feet.

click image to enlarge
"Mugwump Four" is a silly time travel story, so silly that the goofy illustrations by Martin do not seem too far out of place.

communications malfunction
The story is "about" short bald mutant humans who, in 1959, are conspiring in secret and trying to take over Earth. A hapless "normal" human (named 'Al') discovers the mutant conspiracy and is sent into the future by the mutants.

In the image to the left, two of the mutants try to figure out how it was possible for Al's phone to tap into the secret communications network that is used by the conspirators.

flat feet in the future
Poor Al ends up in the far future where, in addition to time travel, there is a technology that allows people to jump between parallel universes. In one universe the mutants have taken control of Earth while in the other parallel universe the "normals" long ago defeated the mutants.

bubble Al
As shown to the left, when Al arrives in the future, he is put inside a bubble so that his disease causing germs from the past will not infect anyone.

According to the ISFDB, Martin illustrated just a few speculative fiction stories from 1957 to 1961. In order to see the earliest available Don Martin Sci Fi drawings, I took a look at "Lulu" from the June 1957 Galaxy (download from the Internet Archive).

"Lulu" is another goofy story that seems well suited to Don Martin illustrations. "Lulu" is an artificial life spaceship that is sent out from Earth to explore new planets. Lulu's three human crew members are really only along for the ride, since Lulu can do all of the exploration work without human assistance.

1957: Lulu and her three boys. Click image to enlarge.
After visiting an exoplanet where there are apparently some rather sexually enthusiastic aliens (that sadly, could not be described or illustrated in 1957) were discovered, Lulu decides that she is in love with her three male crew members.

fingers of the future
Lulu sets course for deep space, knowing that she would be scrapped because of her emotional malfunction if she returned to Earth. Lulu's three "boys" will have nothing to do with the amorous Lulu. They "go on strike", doing even less than they usually do. Lulu is pissed off by their sulking and she plans to maroon them on an exoplanet. However, she discovers that her programming includes a safety feature that prevents her from moving through outer space without any humans on board.

The boys encounter an alien artificial lifeform.
The three "boys" soon discover that they are on a planet that was once inhabited by a human-like alien species. That extinct species left behind an artificial lifeform, a kind of robotic tank that moves around on wheels. When the alien robot attacks her "boys", Lulu defends them, but then Lulu and the alien device "fall in love".

Lulu's "face".
In the end, one of the "boys" writes a romantic poem for Lulu and she realizes that she made an error when she turned away from her "boys". She gets rid of the alien artificial lifeform and take her three "boys" back into space.

from "Citizen Jell"
Don Martin was always crossing over into the realm of the bizarre and the disturbing. The sentient spaceship "Lulu" is able to sprout appendages and a face, when needed. Martin's depiction of Lulu's "face" is weird enough to give me nightmares.

Another Surprise
The August 1959 Galaxy also contains a short story called "Citizen Jell" by Michael Shaara, which contains a nice statement of an alien "Prime Directive".

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original artwork by Don Martin (1957).
For my stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, I imagine ancient aliens who are constrained by their Rules of Intervention.

The tryp'At Overseers not only act so as to prevent Interventionist agents from providing Earthlings with dangerous technologies that might harm we primitive humans, they also try to prevent us from developing technologies of our own that we could misuse.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Image credits.
In the Ekcolir Reality, Earthlings were given access to hierion technology when the Fru'wu arrived on Earth. Ariel Davidson wrote stories about hierions in advance of the arrival of the Fru'wu.

Apparently the tryp'At existed in the Ekcolir Reality, but their role was quite different from the role that they have adopted here in the Final Reality. In the Ekcolir Reality, the tryp'At helped Earthlings develop and apply some hierion-based technologies.

Next: to Mars for Grendel Time
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