Mar 17, 2012

Contact: Coda

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I've never been able to get very interested in vampires, but I do feel a bit like a vampire when I can't stop myself from making fan fiction stories set in the fictional universes that were invented by science fiction authors like Asimov, Vance and Sagan. Sorry, Carl!

Background reading about Contact, the book and the movie.

I've long thought about a sequel to the film Contact. When I think "fan fiction" I can't resist pulling stories that were conceived by others into the Exodemic Fictional Universe.

Exodemic Plot Elements
That means that I find it very hard to resist the idea of having aliens visit Earth far back in the past. Also, once aliens reach Earth, they don't just wander off and ignore our little blue dot. Do these plot elements from the Exodemic Fictional Universe mesh with Sagan's fictional universe?

The Machine
The "Machine" where Ellie is infected by nanites.
Golly, gee wiz!
One part of Contact that for many years made me nervous is travel by "worm hole". In "The Search for Kalid" I imagined a type of future science that would allow for technology that could function like a kind of matter transporter. However, why did Sagan include the idea that the transport capsule is gone from Earth for only a very short time? More problematical is the idea that after Ellie experiences her journey to the center of the galaxy, there is no way to repeat the trip and even the radio message from Vega suddenly shuts off.

There are two key elements that I'd like to include in a sequel to Contact, the movie:
1) finding some way to resolve the puzzles that are described in the paragraph, above (Golly, gee wiz!).
2) I feel like the movie version of Contact was leading up to a sequel in which Ellie would search for objective evidence to support her experience of having met the aliens. In the original novel, Contact, Sagan included the idea that humans should look for evidence inside mathematical objects such as trnscendental numbers.

So, how do I propose to mix together my favorite Exodemic plot elements and items 1 and 2, above? I'm willing to try to follow Sagan's suggestion that the only way to travel through space at faster-than-light speeds is by making use of technology that can transport matter as depicted in the movie with the "Machine".

However, I don't think Ellie was transported by the Machine. What was transported were nanites. The artificial gravity and light show at the center of the Machine's rotating rings was all just a show to distract humans from the truth, to sucker people into imagining that the transport pod went through a "worm hole".

"How long was I gone?"
If so, what really did happen inside the Machine? The transport actually takes place when Ellie starts having trouble communicating with the control ship and noticing that the transport pod is becoming transparent. Nanoscopic devices are transported into to the pod and they enter into Ellie's brain (and the electronic video recorder).

When Ellie, riding in the pod, passes through the center of the Machine, artificial gravity rips apart the restraint system (that was not included as part of the construction instructions) and she is knocked unconscious.

False Memories
When she wakes up Ellie starts to "remember" a set of false memories that are constructed in her brain by the nanites. She "remembers" her trip to Vega and on to the center of the galaxy, but she actually never left Earth. The 18 hours of static found in the video recorder is a false trail, also created by the nanites. It makes everyone on Earth imagine that the Machine actually transported Ellie off our planet. Nobody, not even Ellie, suspects that Ellie's story about contact with alien beings is a story built upon a set of false memories planted in her brain by "alien" nanites.

In the movie Contact, Ellie admits that her trip to the center of the galaxy might not have happened.
Ellie: Is it possible that it didn't happen? Yes.
Kitz: You admit that you might have hallucinated this whole thing?
Ellie: Yes.

So how can the alien radio signal from Vega shut off right when humans finally use the Machine? Here I assume that the aliens do have technology that allows faster-than-light communication. There are Observers near Earth and when the Machine countdown starts, they send a FTL "shutdown" message to the space base that has been transmitting the "alien message" to Earth. The Observers were careful to keep that message-transmitting space base lined up with the position of Vega so as to trick people into thinking that the aliens are far away. However, the message is sent from a space station that is only a few light minutes from Earth.

Normally my Exodemic stories depict the Observers as avoiding contact with Earthlings. So why do they make Ellie imagine a trip to the center of the galaxy? In his novel, Sagan imagined that scientists such as Ellie could be induced to search for evidence that the universe had been intelligently designed. Sagan's plot device was that a message is encoded in the value of pi.

In the Exodemic Fictional Universe, the Huaoshy develop a technologically advanced civilization long before there are animals on Earth. I congratulate Sagan for writing a science fiction novel about scientists who search for -and find- objective evidence supporting the idea that the universe was created. However, that part of the novel was not included in the movie, so we are free to decide what to include in the sequel to the movie.

Another movie or a television series or what?
The movie Contact was easy on the eye. For a long time I imagined that there could be a second Contact movie, but it might be better if there were a television series.

In the movie, the aliens tell Ellie that humans have only taken one small step into the cosmos, but in time they will take another step. At the end of the movie there are indications that Ellie has gotten a large research grant from the government. How might Ellie use that financial support to set about trying to obtain more information about the aliens? I assume that there will be nothing further gained from the Machine itself or from more conventional SETI work (listening for radio signals).....but there are other paths forward, other ways to continue Ellie's journey of discovery.

Here is where we can be particularly creative. We can wonder, what would Sagan, Druyan and Zemeckis have done, but we can also ask: what if we explore in a slightly different direction?

Is Ellie given any useful clues about "aliens" by the nanites that invade her brain and provide her with false memories? "This is the way it has been done for millions of years." Here is where I start to diverge from the ideas in Sagan's book. Ellie has to ask herself:
1) have other humans previously been in contact with the aliens?
2) why did the aliens make contact now, with her?

What would Ellie do with big new research grant from the government? Where would she look for clues, for answers to questions 1 and 2, above? In the radio message from the aliens there were four "layers" of information that were previously decoded:
1) the sequence of primes,
2) the video transmission,
3) the "primer" and
4) the instructions for the Machine.
Is there even more information still hidden in the message? Can the technology of the Machine be used to help Ellie find more messages from "aliens"?

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.
Exactly what technological advances were given to Earthlings in order to allow them to build the Machine? In the movie, when the Machine is attaining full power Ellie "sees" the material of the transport pod become translucent. Later, she can "see" through the wall and look at what is outside of the pod. I put "see" in quotes because I assume that as soon as the nanites invade her brain they start sharing information and constructing false memories. I also assume that the nanites can function as receivers that allow the "aliens" to use their advanced FTL communications technology (not electromagnetic) to send information directly into Ellie's mind.

What is the type of energy is generated by the Machine? And what role did Hadden play in allowing Earthlings to build the Machine? Exactly who was Hadden?

"A final gift to the people of Earth, from whom I have taken so much."

Is it possible that Hadden had previously been in contact with Genesaunts, possibly Interventionists? Are the "aliens" systematically providing information to select humans in an effort to guide them towards....what?

Can the technology of the Machine provide a new energy source that can be used to allow humanity to move out into the Solar System? Can Ellie study the electronic equipment that "recorded 18 hours of static" and deduce that nanites created the static as a false trail? Does that lead her to suspect that she was given false memories? Would it be possible for humans to discover the alien nanites and start to develop a useful nanotechnology? What about the FTL communications that within Ellie's reach? And if humans can use the "alien" technology to start colonizing the solar system, when will they find the Observers?

Above, I put "aliens" in quotes because it might be that there is no direct involvement of the Huaoshy or any other aliens. All of the "contact" might only be interaction between Genesaunts and Earthlings. In the Exodemic Fictional Universe the Huaoshy long ago took animals off of Earth and "cultured" them in space bases, creating a population of "Genesaunt" life forms who reside off of Earth.

Ellie asks: "Did you build the transport system?"
Reply: "No. It was built long before we got here."

In the movie, it might be that the presumed "alien contact" has not taken place...maybe Ellie has only been in communication with an advanced civilization that can trace its origin back to a few animals that were once, very long ago, taken off of Earth by the Huaoshy. Maybe the Genesaunts anticipate that some day the Huaoshy might return.

There are many possibilities that can be explored, so I feel most comfortable imagining a television series in which there can be many one hour episodes for exploration of what Ellie does next and how she leads Earthlings towards additional contacts with the Genesaunts.

Contact television series: Pilot Episode
Contact Episode 1: Pull the Plug
Contact Episode 2: Good to Go
Contact Episode 3: Voice from the Sky
Contact Episode 4: Hail to Vega
Contact Episode 5: Look Closer
Contact Episode 6: For Carl

Collaborative fiction. If you would like to help write the scripts for some episodes of the Contact television series, let me know!


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