Jan 12, 2014

Let There Be Light

art by Ian Barton
I'm not a fan of short fiction.
I prefer mega fiction sagas, fictional universes that have been intricately crafted and lovingly evolved over the many long decades of an author's life, stories that have been bled out of the veins of an author who was, at a young age, possessed by a demonic muse and forced to imagine an alternate universe that will puzzle, challenge and delight me, a fictional alternate world that I want to visit on the printed page more than I want to exist in our mundane world of reality.

Fictional Universes
The first such fictional universe that I got to explore in the golden science fiction age of my youth was "Doc" Smith's Arisian Universe. The image to the left is a re-imagining of a Lensman cover by William W. Connors.

Then I immersed myself in Heinlein's "future history". His Time Enough for Love includes a character (Lazarus Long) who lives for thousands of years.

Sky with no night.
Those fictional universes were "child's play", for me. I later explored Vance's Oikumenical Universe and Asimov's Galactic Empire and knew that I had arrived "home", I had found my place among the stars.

Sadly, not all of Asimov's science fiction fits into his sweeping saga of the galactic empire...for example, Asimov's story Nightfall, which I was forced to read while in school. If it is the greatest or "best science fiction short story" of the golden age of science fiction then I must lament the quality of the competition. Stories that are constructed as a wordy way to encapsulate a "punch line" and be sold to the editor of a magazine often set my teeth to grinding. To "meet the requirements" for a world where civilization would suddenly collapse, were it ever to become dark, Asimov had to write about an unpleasant place that I would never want to visit. However, the idea of a world with no real night intrigues me.

The bright night of Trullion, by Ian Barton
Alastor Clustor
Jack Vance lovingly invented the world Trullion, a planet nestled in Alastor Clustor, and populated it with a cast of memorable characters.

The folk of Trullion enjoy "sky watches". As imagined by Vance, the night sky of worlds like Trullion are a "flamboyant display of star-streams, luminous webs, sparkling nodes."


"at night the stars of Alastor Cluster blaze in profusion: the sky quivers with beams, glitters and errant flashes."

Galactic Core
In his novel Pebble in the Sky, Asimov wrote about "the unbearable glory of the skies of the Central Worlds, where star elbowed star in such blinding competition that the black of night was nearly lost in a coruscant explosion of light".

Asimov's planet Trantor is morphed into "Tar'tron" in the Exodemic Fictional Universe.

In Sagan's Contact, Ellie has a vision of a "crowded" sky as seen from some point near the center of the galaxy.

The story of Parthney's life begins on the planet Hemmal, a world that is located in the central part of the galaxy. I imagine that the night sky of Hemmal would be quite bright with the combined light of all the nearby stars of the galactic core.

In the night when Parthney leaves his home at Demon Lodge on Hemmal, there is a storm...the clouds are thick and the sky is unusually dark. In order to find their way down the trail, Kach and Parthney need an artificial light source. The fanciful cover to the left depicts the two on a clear night.

Science vs Religion
In Nightfall, Asimov imagined a world where scientists could learn the astronomical truth about their world: once every couple of thousand years an "eclipse" blocks out all sunlight and the stars can finally be seen. However, it is a world full of religious fanatics who feel obligated to argue with the scientists and deny that astronomical truth in favor of belief in their own religious dogma: that blasphemous scientists will bring the wrath of God and cause the destruction of the world.

Such "science vs religion" stories can be tedious and ugly. If I want to contemplate religious bigotry I need only look at our own world...I don't need fictional accounts of ugliness. Sorry, but I don't want to pay young Isaac to waste his time writing about such an ugly subject.

In his novel Contact, Sagan managed to depict a rather tediously long discussion between scientific explorers and religious seekers of Truth. I'm grateful to Robert Zemeckis for bringing to the screen a slim version of Sagan's story in which the religious Palmer and the scientific Ellie are able to "find common ground and bring down the barriers that had kept them apart".

The Darkest Hour
After sweeping readers off to Alastor Cluster, Vance decided to include among its 3,000 human-inhabited worlds a planet (Marune) where night falls only about once a month. During this brief period of "Mirk", the Rhunes experience a kind of temporary madness.

According to Vance, the Rhunes are disgusted by sexuality. However, "about once a month, the land grows dark, and the Rhunes grow restless...sexual activity occurs only as a night-deed."

Both Efraim and his friend Lorcas can't help but be fascinated by Sthelany. During Mirk, both men can't resist the temptation to visit her chamber in Benbuphar castle. Efraim escapes alive, but Lorcas has been lured into a trap by the waspish Sthelany and he is murdered.

Whirling Suns, Dancing Stars
At the dramatic climax of Marune: Alastor 933, Efraim is given back his memory by the Fwai-chi. Efraim experiences the return of his memories as a kind of vision of past events. He suddenly recalls growing up and coming to know Maerio: the sweet discovery that "her company was extraordinarily stimulating" and that she was "remarkably pleasant to look at".

What are we to make of the Fwai-chi "medicine" that restores Efraim's memory? Vance suggests that the alien Fwai-chi are better in tune with a paracosmic medium that lies beyond normal human senses. Has Efraim, with the aid of Fwai-chi nanites, been allowed to tap into a "new" source of knowledge?
Belrod Strang: Efraim comes by aircar to visit the home of Maerio.

Bimanoid Interface
Imagine that the Fwai-chi long ago had a technologically advanced civilization. All that remains are bands of wanderers who cling to the surface of Marune, now a world invaded by humans. The Fwai-chi lead a dual existence: partially in the universe of conventional matter but also with special access to the Sedronic Domain, the part of the universe that is characterized by sedronic mater which can move through additional compact dimensions.

In Exode, Kach is fascinated by the religious faith of the Prelands. The Prelands are hermaphroditic, designed and constructed by the pek to be replacements for we humans. The Prelands know that Hemmal was created for them. In their temples, the Prelands commune with their Creators by a kind of telepathic connection established by femptoscale devices composed of sedronic matter, tiny devices that exist as symbiotic artificial life forms inside the Prelands. Syon refers to this "hotline to the Creators" as a "bimanoid interface".

Kach is a Kac'hin, a human variant that was designed to facilitate the passage of Asterothrope gene combinations into the human gene pool. Because of her genetic background, Kach has some innate ability to use the bimanoid interface. She can sense the existence of the Creators and she is driven to make more complete contact with them.

Parthney also has his fair share of Asterothrope gene combinations. He is a clone of Thomas, the first child of an Asterothrope and an Ek'col to ever be born on Earth. The Ec'kol are another human variant that was crafted by the pek to be inter-fertile with Asterothropes.

Asterothropes are from more than 10,000,000 years in the future of the Malansohn Reality, a time after we humans became extinct. The Asterothropes were designed and constructed by Gohrlay as a tool for spreading people out to the stars from Earth.

When Parthney was young, no attempt was made to adapt his developing brain for efficient interactions with either "pek nanites" or the "bimanoid interface". Parthney views belief in "Creators" as the result of religious indoctrination by the pek. After Parthney has completed his mission to Earth, he is recruited by the Fru'wu to go to the Andromeda galaxy and try to make contact with the Nereids. Parthney returns to the Koly star system where he hopes to recruit helpers for this new mission to Andromeda, but neither Syon or Gwyned want to go with him.

Parthney returns to Hemmal where he finds that Kach is tired of her efforts to understand Preland culture. She has made no progress in her attempts to learn the basis for Preland faith in the existence of Creators. Parthney is surprised to learn that he is the father of Kach's son, Boswei. On the journey to Andromeda Parthney falls in love with Kach and he tries to understand her relentless quest to find the Creators. For a time she explores the hypothesis that the Nereids might be the Creators.
The journey to Andromeda

Planetary art by Geoffroy Thoorens
Now that Kach is older and no longer dresses like a Preland, Parthney is also intrigued by her resemblance to Syon. Long ago, Gohrlay developed a protocol for shaping Asterothropes into human form and that same developmental sculpting program was adopted for the Kac'hin.

After Boswei and Hana decide to settle on Luk'ru, it is eventually discovered that the Kac'hin were designed and created on that world in the Andromeda galaxy. However, by that time Kach has been lost to Parthney. With time, he is able to interest his grandson, Izhiun, in the puzzle of Kach's disappearance.

Izhiun finds the remaining Kac'hin on Luk'ru and learns the secrets of his grandmother's origin and the fact that she has gone to Earth. He agrees to participate in the rescue operation that will try to free Kach from Observer Base on the Moon.

I previously decided that Kach would contact the Nereids on a planet near the core of the Andromeda galaxy.

I'm now thinking that the planet Luk'ru should also be in the crowded central part of the Andromeda galaxy. It is one of the worlds engineered by the pek as a place for crafting special human variants like the Kac'hin during the time when Gohrlay was in control of our galaxy and the pek had to create human variants in another galaxy.
There are more thoughts about the Fwai-chi in my next blog post.

Note: for more about the Bimanoid Interface see my blog post on Cory Corneigh.

Related Reading: more on the role of nanites and artificial life forms in Alastor Clustor.
More book and magazine covers.

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