Jul 15, 2012

Fanfiction Disease

Where Parthney and Kach first meet.
I've been thinking about free will, determinism and slavery. I'm currently writing about Parthney and Kach and their lives on Hemmal, a distant planet where genetically modified humans live out their lives in complete ignorance of Earth and the origins of the human species. What they do not know is that humans, as a species, were created by the Huaoshy, an ancient artificial lifeform that originated in a distant galaxy about a billion years ago. Parthney is an oddly mutated human, which allows him to become aware of the fact that the humans on Hemmal are part of a complex breeding program. After visiting Earth, Parthney comes to view his former life on Hemmal as a type of slavery. My problem is, I can't think about a story that I am writing without also thinking about the stories of my favorite authors....

Gersen dispatches three henchmen.
Gersen's family. While thinking about slavery in science fiction I began to think deeper into the case of Kirth Gersen, the protagonist of the Demon Princes novels by Jack Vance. This series of novels begins:

"What a paradox, what a fearful reproach, when the distinction of a few hundred miles (nay, as many feet or even inches!) can transform heinous crime to simple unqualified circumstance!"

The fundamentally transformative boundary is the poorly-defined line that separates the lawless "Beyond" from the policed core of civilized worlds at the heart of the Oikumene. Vance's stories are set in a future when humanity is spreading outward into the galaxy and there are many lawless planets beyond the reach of the IPCC (the Interworld Police Coordinating Company).

Mount Pleasant on the planet Providence
In particular, Gersen was born in the Beyond at the community of Mount Pleasant. Among Gersen's earliest memories is the raid on his home village by space pirates. The historic "Mount Pleasant Massacre" which resulted in the death and enslavement of the community and was the evil handiwork of the five Demon Princes.

Although both Gersen and his grandfather witnessed the raid on Mount Pleasant and survived, we learn surprisingly little about what happened to Gersen's parents. The most simple assumption is that neither of Gersen's parents survived the Massacre, but we are never told that by Vance. We are told, in a memory from Gersen of his grandfather, that:

"Many fine things your father had planned for you: learning and useful work and a life of satisfaction and peace."

Why was the community of Mount Pleasant destroyed?

Do the math.  In The Palace of Love, we learn that a skilled slave, who works in a tapestry factory in the city of Sabra on the planet Murchison, sells for 3,000 SVU. By convention, an SVU (Standard Value Unit) is set to the value of an hour of unskilled labor. In The Killing Machine, we learn that the Demon Prince Kokor Hekkus can earn 100,000,000 SVU in ransom by kidnapping just one person of wealth. Does it make sense that the Mount Pleasant Massacre would have been carried out by the Demon Princes in order to protect or advance their financial opportunities?

We have been told that the community of Mount Pleasant refused to pay protection money or taxes to Malagate the Woe. The community had grown to 5,000 residents and perhaps felt that they had accumulated the required resources to defend themselves. Malagate had to take dire action or lose the power to extract money from communities like Mount Pleasant. At stake is perhaps 50,000,000 SVU per year of steady income for Malagate and his fellow Demon Princes.

In The Book of Dreams, set many years after the Mount Pleasant Massacre, we learn that Howard Treesong has risen to become the "Lord of the Overmen", but at the time of the Mount Pleasant raid he was apparently just attaining his "full criminal stature" and participated as one of the pirate ship captains who could function as "enforcers", sent to raid Mount Pleasant and paid off in booty- what ever they could steal from the raided community.

Dwyddion's house at Athmore Violet
The Institute.
"Who are our basic enemies? This is a secret, unknown even to those basic enemies." -Xavier Skolcamp, Fellow of the Institute

 "We have agents everywhere. We know a thousand tricks to discourage research, sabotage experiments, distort data. We therefor control the dissemination of knowledge." -Madian Carbuke, Fellow of the Institute

During the course of the Demon Princes saga, Vance provides readers with some insight into The Institute. The Institute constantly acts to limit technology and keep humanity in a cultural state that is as close as possible to the conditions of ancient man on Earth.

In The Killing Machine,  Kokor Hekkus kidnaps the children of Duschane Audmar. Audmar is a high ranking member of the Institute. While discussing Hekkus, he tells Gersen, "The Institute finds him remarkable and regards certain by-products of his evil rewarding." Gersen believes that the powerful Institute could easily eliminate the Demon Princes, if it only bothered to try.

In The Book of Dreams, Gersen is told by Leta Goynes, another high ranking member of the Institute, "The Institute tends to ignore ordinary social problems, even criminals as egregious as Howard Treesong."

Alice Wroke
Gersen learns that Treesong has tried to take control of the Institute, killing the top leadership except for Dwyddion, who becomes the new head of the Institute. Gersen learns that Dwyddion is the only remaining person who knows a great secret that was kept by the small leadership group of the Institute. Dwyddion must now decide if there is to be a major change in strategy and a new direction for the Institute.

Alice Wroke. In The Book of Dreams, Gersen meets and befriends the miraculous Alice Wroke, the daughter of one of the high ranking Institute leaders who was killed by Treesong. Alice tells Gersen that her father worked at Wild Isle, a kind of resort for wealthy gamblers. Does it make sense that a high ranking member of the Institute would work at Wild Isle? As Alice describes the situation, her father was a "consultant", making sure that the gambling machines fleece the gamblers. Gersen expresses the view that criminals control the gambling casinos, but Alice insists that her father was no criminal.

Fanfiction disease. Sometimes science fiction stories work themselves into a corner. In The X-Files we were introduced to the idea of an on-going alien invasion, but it seemed like the main objective for Chris Carter was to avoid actually having the invasion because allowing aliens to exterminate humanity would be bad for buSine$$ in Hollywood. Since the alien invasion never materialized, I could not resist creating some X-Files fanfiction stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. I imagined Scully being subjected to an "alien abduction" and taken to the Moon where she learns that the aliens have no intention of invading Earth. While on the Moon, some Interventionists recruit her to help solve the global warming problem.

When Isaac Asimov returned to work on his Foundation saga in 1982 he quickly painted himself into a corner. He could see no good way to move the plot past Foundation and Earth. Rather than write a sequel to Foundation and Earth, Asimov went back and wrote two prequels to the original Foundation stories. Asimov seemed reluctant to introduce aliens into his Foundation stories. I had no such reluctance and so I went ahead and created The Start of Eternity, a fanfiction sequel for both Asimov's time travel novel The End of Eternity and Foundation and Earth. The Start of Eternity makes use of the Huaoshy in the role of the aliens who come to our galaxy from "far, far away".

Dr. Wye
When Carl Sagan died I was left wishing that he had been able to bring us a sequel to Contact. After waiting and wishing for years, I finally went ahead and started a fanfiction television series that continues on from the end of the Contact film. The television series is set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, so the space aliens are shown as being much more intimately involved with Earth than was suggested in Sagan's original story.

But not too intimately. In fact, it is against the rules for aliens to visit Earth. However, rules are made to be broken and there are other interesting visitors to Earth even if they are not aliens. In the Contact movie we never get to meet any of the scientists and engineers who build The Machine. In the Contact television series, Ellie Arroway gets to work with Dr. Wye while they try to understand the advanced technology of The Machine. Dr. Wye is the Exodemic equivalent of Dr. Who. She looks like a human, but where does she come from? Somewhere beyond Earth.

I've also sketched out how to construct an Exodemic sequel to Assignment Nor'Dyren, a Sci Fi adventure story by Sydney Van Scyoc.

After creating fanfiction stories that are set in the fictional universes of Asimov, Sagan and Chris Carter, I've come to the conclusion that I can "rescue" any science fiction story that has worked itself into a corner or come to a dead end...or simply ended before I want it to end. How? By embedding the plot in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. This blatant pattern of hubris is a particularly virulent type of Fanfiction Disease.

Fanfiction sequel to The Book of Dreams. I wish Vance had written a sequel to The Book of Dreams. He left me wanting to how Alice had met Treesong and what would happen to the Institute under the guidance of Dwyddion. Is it true that none of Gersen's family survived the raid on Mount Pleasant?

Stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe generally involve ongoing tension between Overseers and Interventionisists. It is easy for me to imagine that the Institute functions as a front for Overseers who want to limit the pace of human technological development. I imagine that Overseers make routine use of criminals like the Demon Princes. In the case of Treesong, things get a bit out of control when he decides he is going to become the first emperor of the Oikumene.

Standing in opposition to both the Institute and criminals like Treesong are the Interventionists, a small cadre of humans who want to liberate humanity from the restrictions that are imposed by the Overseers.

I imagine that the parents of both Alice and Gersen were/are Interventionist agents. After the death of Treesong and leaving Bethune Preserve Alice and Gersen go to Wild Isle in search of Alice's mother, who, after the death of her husband and the disappearance of Alice, has gone into hiding.

Wild Isle Inn
Gersen and Alice visit Cletus Parsival at Wild Isle Inn. They learn that Cletus knew Ervin Umps as well as Ervin's brother and his wife. It is easy for Gersen to confirm that "Stanley Sparkhammer" previously rented rooms at the Inn and hosted a banquet at the Rainflower Room. However, both Cletus and the local police are baffled by the news that "Sparkhammer" murdered all his guests at the banquet. Gersen begins to draw upon his vast wealth and commissions the IPCC to investigate what Ervin Umps had been doing on Cytherea Tempestre and to help find Eileen Wroke, Alice's mother.

Eventually, Eileen is traced to Terranova, Denebola V. Gersen and Alice visit Terranova and she shows him her childhood home. After some detective work they finally find Eileen. She is happy to see that Alice is safe, but fears that her husband was tortured before he died and might have revealed Interventionist secrets to Treesong.  Eileen is pleased to meet Gersen and she tells him that his parents were Interventionists and that Gersen's mother is still alive.

Alice and Gersen are surprised to learn that their parents were secret members of an organization that struggles against the Institute. Eileen is intrigued by the fact that Gersen saved the life of the new head of the Institute and she wants to contact Dwyddion. Gersen wants to find his mother and Alice is intent on finding out if it was Ervin Umps who killed her father or some as yet unidentified member of Treesong's gang.

Gersen learns that following the Mount Pleasant Massacre his mother was sold into slavery by Viole Falushe. She was eventually rescued by Interventionists and continued her work at the new Interventionist training base that was established to replace the one lost at Mount Pleasant. After a sly trick, Gersen penetrates the concealed Interventionist base and meets his mother. She is intrigued by Gersen's description of Treesong's odd behavior and insists that they return to Bethune Preserve to examine Treesong's body. She explains to Gersen the existence of nanites, a powerful tool used by Overseers. The Interventionists have a secret research program aimed at learning how to program and control nanites.

The story unfolds from there with Gersen and Alice trying to decide if they agree with their parents' Interventionist philosophy. Perhaps they can be used by the Interventionists as bait in an effort to draw out the Overseers and allow the Interventionists to capture the needed technology that allows for control of nanites. If you want to help write a fanfiction sequel to The Book of Dreams, let me know!
possible titles:
Tail of the Lion
Tale of the Lion
________________________ an alternative universe....

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