Jan 7, 2018


The murder victim: Sessily. Cover art by Boris Vallejo.
In his novel Araminta Station, Jack Vance provided readers with a murder mystery. Published in 1987, Araminta Station was the first novel in a trilogy, The Cadwal Chronicles. The planet Cadwal almost has a modern feel to its fictional human society. While the residents of Araminta Station have access to the local spaceport, owning a personal spaceship is expensive, about like owning a private jet aircraft in our world. When most residents of Araminta Station travel to distant planets, they buy tickets for passage on-board regularly scheduled commercial flights. Sadly, Vance did not include anything like cell phone technology in his imagined future society, but Araminta Station does have a fairly extensive system of cameras for recording events in the community's public spaces.

cover art by Tim White
Vance did not tell us the exact number of residents living in Araminta Station. The small community was originally intended to hold about one hundred staff members who would manage the logistics of keeping the planet Cadwal free of looters and rescuing nerdy members of the Naturalist Society who came from Earth to study the unique and often dangerous life forms of the planet. For example, shown above is a tangle-top, one of the indigenous lifeforms. Cadwal is a nature preserve, and the chief administrator is the Conservator, whose house is located at Araminta Station. That cover art by Boris Vallejo (above) also depicts the young nubile, Sessily Veder, who is the murder victim. Using video evidence recorded by the array of cameras at Araminta Station, the police soon have a suspect in the case of Sessily's mysterious disappearance.

Araminta Station. Cover art
by Luc Desmarchelier.
As is typical for conventional murder mysteries, the first suspect in the case of Sessily's death is not the actual murderer. However, the investigators of the crime, who include Glawen Clattuc, Sessily's boyfriend and the main protagonist of Araminta Station, end their investigation of the case in frustration. They feel that they know the identity of the murderer, but they have insufficient evidence to convict. A major roadblock for the investigation is that Sessily's body is not recovered by the Araminta Station police force.

At the start of the story, Glawen's father is a long-standing member of the Araminta Station police and Glawen becomes a young police cadet in training. Eventually, after Sessily's murderer tries to eliminate Glawen (for the second time), Glawen realizes who actually killed Sessily. You need to read the novel to learn Vance's solution to the murder mystery.


Yōd is bored. She can't understand why I continue to fret over the proper way to tell the Exode Saga. I've had several conversations arguments with Yōd about the idea of trying to interpret science fiction stories such as Araminta Station as garbled accounts of future events in other Realities of Deep Time. We had another of these little arguments today. I had convinced Yōd to read the entire Cadwal trilogy.

Yōd: I still don't agree that Sessily had telepathic abilities. Or Glawen, for that matter.

Me: Well, that's just an interpretation of clues provided by Vance. Remember, my assumption is that Vance's replicoid knew more about telepathy than Vance did.

Yōd: And you think Vance was just a puppet, writing anything that his replicoid wanted to be written?

Me: No matter.

Yōd: Oh, ya, that's your favorite example of science fiction code. You believe that Vance was made to repeatedly put the phrase "no matter" into his stories.

Yōd giggled and shook her head, mocking me.

Me: Well, eventually I realized that another way of interpreting that phrase was as a hidden message meaning "know matter". That led to the discovery of hierions and sedrons, new forms of matter.

Yōd groaned and rolled her eyes.

Yōd: Maybe you should rephrase that as "fictional discovery of hierions".

Me: Yes, of course. Anyhow, I've been forced to start examining my own habits, searching for similar examples from my own fiction writing... looking for clues to how my behavior has been guided and shaped. It occurred to me that maybe Gohrlay's replicoid system was being used to help me in this task.

 Yōd: Wait now. Which is it? Do replicoids obscure the truth with codes or help you break the codes?

Me: Yōd, don't you see that it must be both? For decades I was being prepared for the task of writing the Exode Saga. Then, when the time came, after the Huaoshy had put an end to time travel, new rules were in effect. We were then under the terms of the Trysta-Grean Pact and I could finally write the Exode Saga. At that point, the de-coding process had to be facilitated, but for earlier decades it was all coding, all the time.

Yōd thought about it and took a few minutes to skim through her ebook copy of Araminta Station. When she gave up searching that book, she looked at me again.

Yōd: I don't have your imagination. What coded information do you imagine is present in Vance's novel Araminta Station?

I laughed and tried to decide where to begin.

Me: Lately, I've been thinking about misdirection. Specifically, warning to me about how my attention has been guided and misdirected towards dead ends. A good example is provided by Vance in Araminta Station. For years everyone suspects that Glawen's cousin Arles is the person who murdered Sessily. Only much later is the truth revealed.

Yōd: I see. Glawen only figured out the identity of the murderer after miraculously surviving an attempt to eliminate Glawen at Pogan's Point.

Me: While imprisoned in the cave at Pogan's Point, Glawen had time to think. That's one of the big lessons that I've learned from both Vance and Asimov.

Yōd: You've learned to take your time?

Me: Well, I'd prefer to say that I've learned to think things through, but, ya, that does take time.

Yōd: And have you thought of something or are you just waiting for inspiration to strike? What you've been doing looks an awful lot like procrastination and writers block.

Me: Well, I can tell you where my thoughts have led, so far. I still don't feel like I've reached an endpoint for my cogitations.

The Final Reality
Yōd: Tell me where you are, currently.

Me. Actually, Araminta Station was the starting point, but now I'm back to Asimov. He was a master of misdirection, creating alternative hypotheses, if you will.

Yōd: He was a scientist.

Me: Exactly! And that's why a scientist had to be the Editor. But misdirection was even applied there.

Yōd: What do you mean?

Me: Originally, just before the Final Reality, there was a different Editor. A decoy.

Yōd: What are you talking about?

Me: I'm not sure I should discuss the matter. Actually, it is a side issue for our current discussion.

Yōd: I want to understand your thinking. Tell me about this decoy.

Me: Well, I'm not sure where to begin. Have you ever heard of Philip Kindred Dick?

Yōd: Isn't he a science fiction writer?

I nodded and in a moment Yōd had a Blade Runner 2049 trailer running on her tablet. She waved her device at me.

Yōd: This was written by Dick?

Me. Well, Dick wrote a story back in the 1960s that inspired the Blade Runner movies.

Yōd: And you think that Dick was the original Editor?

Me: It would be interesting to visit the Buld Reality and see just how far Dick's analogue got in describing the aliens who have long been visitors to Earth. Through temporal momentum, here in the Final Reality, he tried to warn humans about aliens watching over Earth, but he ended up being recorded in history as a psychologically unstable drug user who died at age 53.

Yōd: Replicants and robots. Is that the link to Asimov?

Me: What? Oh, I see. No, that was not my line of thought. I've never read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and I've never watched the Blade Runner films, so I have no idea how replicants compare to Asimov's robots like Daneel. Anyhow, the use of Dick as a decoy Editor is not the important idea, although it does make me wonder what could happen to me if I made an error in the telling of the Exode Saga. What happened to Dick, how his life ended at such a young age, serves as a warning. As does the removal of Ivory from this world.

Yōd: So, you heed these warnings and stop writing? Stasis?

Second Foundation
Me: There is no use in writing my way down a blind alley. I need to be sure I'm going down an alleyway that leads towards my goal. Not someone else's goal.

Yōd: What alternative hypotheses did Asimov suggest?

Me: I'm sure that in the Final Reality he was not allowed to publish anything that would be a clear and direct message for the Editor. However, his fictional examples of misdirection make the point. For example, look at how he ended the story of Second Foundation.

Yōd. Ah, I think I know what you are driving at. Everyone in the First Foundation was allowed to believe that they had defeated the Second Foundation.

The End of Eternity
Me. Right. And another good example is found in Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity.

Yōd opened her copy of The End of Eternity on her tablet. She read through the table of contents in order to refresh her memory of the story.

Yōd: Do you mean Asimov's depiction of Harlan taking until the very end of the novel to figure out why he should help put an end to the Eternity time travel device?

Noÿs and Harlan
Me: Sorta. But it is deeper than that. Yes, is some sense, every member of Eternity, including Harlan, was indoctrinated with the belief that Eternity was a necessary part of Earth's history. Then the people of Earth's far future realized that the technology of time travel and the mere existence of Eternity was incompatible with human survival and would prevent any long-term future for human civilization. In the end, Harlan's entire world view was altered and he became a willing accomplice in the act of destroying Eternity... and giving Humanity a chance to have an infinite existence spreading among the stars.

Yōd: And you think you are facing the same kind of choice, that type of dead end vs. infinite future decision point?

Me: No. I don't believe that I've ever been given that kind of freedom. It is not a matter of me making the right choice. It is more about fuzziness, I guess.

Yōd: Fuzziness?

Me: Asimov explained it in his book. No matter how carefully you try to examine Reality, there is always some chance variation, some fuzziness. This is fundamentally an issue of quantum uncertainty. In my case, I've been forced into a particular alleyway of Time, but I still have choices I can make. I have to believe that I can still make some choices. It is that micro-domain of my options that I'm concerned with. And I suspect that I long ago made a poor choice that was just as misguided as Glawen suspecting that Arles had killed Sessily.

Yōd: What is the poor choice that you made?

Changing the dimensional structure of the universe (source).
Me: I accepted the idea that over the course of many many years, the Huaoshy made multiple alterations to the dimensional structure of the universe. Then, they had to undo some of their work after they discovered that they had made time travel possible. I assumed that the Huaoshy could selectively eliminate time travel from the Final Reality while still allowing for the possibility of faster than light space travel.

Yōd: I saw the consequences of that most recent change in the dimensional structure of the universe when I was on Tar'tron. Not only was time travel terminated, but also telastid-mediated telepathy.

Me: And just like Glawen, I have assumed that I could go no further than that in my attempts to understand the physics of the Final Reality. In fact, you played a major role in making me stop thinking about the consequences of dimensional engineering.

Yōd: Me? What did I do?

Me: When you arrived on Earth, I was carefully led to believe that you and Asimov's replicoid were arriving here after a visit to the Andromeda galaxy.

Yōd: We were.

Me: And based on that evidence, I assumed that all was going well with the Trysta-Grean Pact. I assumed that time travel is no longer possible, but within this Final Reality, humans will eventually obtain technology for travel between the stars. I wanted to believe that Humanity has a great future awaiting us, a future in which people will spread to millions of planets in our galaxy.

Yōd: What is the problem? You don't believe that anymore?

Me: One of the lines from Araminta Station is Glawen saying that he had learned never to to jump to conclusions and take things for granted. Well, I assumed that humans would be able to spread through space from Earth to the stars, but where is the evidence? Yes, there was the well-timed arrival of you and the Asimov replicoid, but that does not settle the question.

Yōd: Why not?

Me: I still need evidence that a human can travel to the stars.

Yōd: I'm not human enough for you?

Me: No, that's not the correct way to put it. I almost got tricked by you. It was far to easy for me to forget that Yōd's mind was swapped into your body. You are some kind of hybrid creature: part human and partially the mind of some artificial lifeform that was able to travel between galaxies.

Yōd: What do you mean by that: "the mind of some artificial lifeform"?

Me: It all started with Asimov. An Asimov replicoid was sent to the Galactic Core. That's where you met him, on Tar'tron. However, that replicoid was not a human.

Yōd: Right. As a replicoid, that "copy" of Asimov is an artificial lifeform.

Me: Right. And combine that with Vance's oft' repeated warning: know matter. I only met the Asimov replicoid briefly, so I was fooled. In fact, he and you put on a show, going into the back bedroom for a little romp.

Yōd: Don't remind me. It is frustrating: waiting here and hoping he will return to Earth so we can renew our romping.

Me: Yes, it was easy for me to imagine that you were two star-crossed lovers. For a time, that even made me forget that a replicoid isn't a man. So the fact that he traveled to the Andromeda galaxy and back meant nothing. I still don't know if a human can travel at faster-than-light speeds the way that they did in past Realities such as the Asimov Reality.

Yōd: What about me?
On-board Many Sails

Me: I finally asked myself: if Asimov's example proves nothing, then maybe I was tricked into misinterpreting the significance of his intergalactic travel on-board Many Sails.

Yōd: Who would try to trick you? Why trick you?

The Exode Saga (image credits)
Me: Yes, that is the key question that I had to be led to. You did not want me to ask the correct question. You just keep pushing me to finish up the Exode Saga, including the bogus idea that the Trysta-Grean Pact is being implemented.

Yōd: I truly believe that to be the case.

Me: Yes, I suppose you would never have been allowed to get close to me had you not believed in the truth of the Pact. But I wonder... for some reason, even now you won't admit that I'm right.

Yōd: I understand your hypothesis, but I don't agree that you have proved it. I grew up as a human. And don't forget about your wife; just one of a large number of clones, but also a human.

Me: Yes, and someone went to the trouble of making sure that I married one of Gohrlay's cloned "sisters" and she gave birth to our children. What more evidence could I need to believe that a Gohrlay clone is human. And, in your case, I can't deny that you are now in a human body, one that was born on Earth.

Yōd: So what's the problem? I'm a human who has traveled between the stars. In future times, more humans will do so, once the people of Earth develop the needed technology.

Me: I was ready to believe that. For a time I did believe that. I don't know, maybe you do still believe it.

Yōd: I do.

Me: But can't you understand that I can't accept it. Oh, sure, I want to believe it. However, this is too important to take on faith. I need evidence that humans can still travel to the stars at speeds faster than light. You see, I have no evidence to support the claim that you originated as a biological entity, as a human being.

Yōd: I know I did.

Me: Do you? Do you really? What if you were just a simulated human being? What if you were something else, like a femtobot? Designed to look human, but not composed of hadronic matter.

Yōd laughed.

Yōd: Okay, let's look at your hypothesis. Who would design such a deception? Why bother?

Me: The pek have always wanted to replace humans with the Prelands and eventually convert humans into a type of artificial lifeform, something that can exist within the sedronic domain.

Yōd: But Trysta viewed the future, the Final Reality, a future in which humans will travel to the stars.

Me: Yes, that is the story that I started to tell in the Exode Saga. It is a very feel-good story. But I can't just take it on faith.

Yōd: Okay, let me see if I understand your problem. You suggest that the Huaoshy, in their final act of dimensional engineering, did not only end time travel and telastid-mediated telepathy, but also faster-than-light travel for beings like humans that are composed of hadronic matter.

Me: Yes.

Yōd: Well, if you really believe this nightmare, what are you going to do about it? Is there anything that could be done?

Me: Well, at the very least I don't have to do what I was starting to do: write the Exode Saga as a story about the happy success of the Trysta-Grean Pact.

Yōd: Fine. Tell the story any way you want. I think the important thing is just the basic idea that aliens have long been visiting Earth. It was intrinsically a part of the Pact that Earthlings would not know their future.

Me: That was how Glawen spent a couple of years, telling himself that he could never know who had killed Sessily. But he did not forget about Sessily. Eventually he solved the case.

Yōd: And now you want to resolve this question? Tell me, what if humans could only travel to the stars at the speed of light? Would that be so bad?

Me: I don't know.

Yōd: Okay. So what are you going to do?

Me: What you really are trying to ask is: "will I now get back to writing the Exode Saga and get it done already?", aren't you?

Yōd: I am.

Me: Why is it so important to you that I finish writing the Exode Saga?

Yōd: Many Sails told me that she was sending me to Earth to help you finish your work.

Me: And what if my work... what if our work is finding out the truth about Humanity's future among the stars?

I called this blog post "rebottling" because of the idea that once a technology is deployed, it is very hard to "force it back into the bottle". The Huaoshy first made time travel possible, then they had to put that evil genie back into its bottle. The question is, what other changes were made when the Huaoshy recently altered the dimensional structure of the universe? Can we humans still spread to the stars?

Next: investigating the origin of science fiction
Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.

No comments:

Post a Comment