May 13, 2014

Platinum and its Privilages

Alien Invasion!
It all started innocently enough. Human history is replete with invasions and destructive wars. With time, we Earth folk looked up and contemplated the possibility of life on other worlds.

Inevitably, someone like Herbert Wells would have to provide us with a template for the Alien Invasion story.

1) In a Wellsian invasion of Earth, the aliens are vastly superior to us: "the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us".

2) Blow things up.  Have you ever gone into a forest and seen a monkey? If so, I'm sure that you quickly activated your heat ray and vaporized that region of the forest.

Aliens from planet Metaluna need Earth's uranium
3) Happy ending! Of course, no matter how intelligent and evolutionarily advanced the aliens are, no matter how carefully their invasion was planned, no matter how great their military technologies surpass our own, we lowly and bumbling Earthlings will repulse the evil alien invaders. Hurrah!

In the 20th century you could no longer get readers to believe that evil aliens might soon arrive from Mars. We had graduated from the era of chemical energy and entered the atomic age.

steam punk Cape Canaveral (source)
After the dawn of the atomic age, alien invasion would no longer come by means of projectile-like spacecraft launched by chemical explosions in giant canons, but rather in the form of self-propelled spaceships using far greater energies derived from subatomic forces.

For the Exode Saga, even greater energies are found among the hierions and the sedrons. Who has time for boring space voyages when you can just use a transgalactic teleporter?

Interstellar Invasion
By 1920s the world was ready for Edward Smith to take the alien invasion idea into the interstellar depths. In his Skylark series, Smith used the idea that a mysterious metal (X), once it had been isolated from a batch of "platinum residues", could efficiently act as a kind of nuclear catalyst to liberate all of the energy available in atomic nuclei.

For his story Triplanetary, which would eventually be fit into his Lensman saga, Smith again included the importance of metal and in his new story: his alien Nevians were in need of metal (iron).

Of course, by the time I read the Lensman Saga, Smith had jazzed up Triplanetary with a back story about the ancient Arisians as told in several new introductory chapters. Even Atlantis got thrown into the story!

I've long been amused by the excuses given in science fiction stories for why aliens travel across vast interstellar distances to come torment we Earthlings. One of my favorites is "they came to mine gold".

For Foundations of Eternity, I imagined that platinum is a natural source of valuable sedrons. So, you might say that sedrons are my version of Smith's mysterious substance "X". Maybe we could all just agree to use the name "handwavium" as our imaginary materials that we need as science fiction plot devices. But no, it is too much fun for each generation and each author to imagine and exploit yet another future technology.

In Smith's fictional universe, no matter how biologically and technologically advanced as the Arisians are, they cannot defeat their Evil adversaries, so they must evolve two human lineages leading to Kimball Kinnison and Clarissa MacDougall. Their children will be able to do what the Arisians never could: defeat the Bad Guys. We humans are so special. Ta da!

You could call Thomas my equivalent of the children of the Lens. As the son of an Asterothrope and an Ek'col, Thomas becomes a "proof  of concept" for a new way to efficiently introducing important gene combinations into the human population of Earth. The Exode Trilogy ends with the hope that such genetic engineering might allow Humanity to survive and reach the stars.

While it is true that the pek have mined Earth for sedronic matter, that is not why they came to Earth. Imagine hiking through a wilderness and coming upon some ripe fruit. Just because you might eat some of the fruit, that act of consumption does not imply that you went on the hike in order to get fruit.

Planes of Existence
I was baffled at age 12 when I read about Smith's Evil Alien Eddorians being "forced into the next plane of existence". Smith insisted that the planet Eddore did not originate in "normal space-time". However, through their "visualization of the Cosmic All", the Arisians had been able to foresee the arrival of Eddore in our universe.

As imagined by Smith, the Evil Alien Eddorians were sexless shapeshifters. Relentlessly seeking POWER (not the atomic kind), the Eddorians "were intolerant, domineering, rapacious, insatiable, cold, callous, and brutal".

The Space Opera formula requires a brilliant hero who can battle Evil Aliens...and win the girl.

If  so, then the Exode Trilogy isn't Space Opera, because there are no Evil Aliens. The image to the right is a pulpish reimagining of Thomas Iwedon's novel Miners of Earth. In the fantasy world depicted here, the Hollywood union standards for alien invaders are upheld.

In this fanciful Space Opera version of  Miners of Earth, the only humans shown are the two gold brick-toting slave ladies (1) in the lower panel. Of course, the rest of the human species is busy: they are out mining precious metals for their masters, the pek.

The pek (2) Overseer is performing a test on the gold and determining how many precious sedrons are present. The pek are not interested in the metal itself, only a rare sedronic contaminant.

In the upper panel, a scene that is taking place within the Hierion Domain (see below), an individual of the Huaoshy "species" (3, Thomas' equivalent of the Eddorians), a Sedron Lord, views events on Earth. Also shown is an imagined Kac'hin (4), a humanoid, but somewhat alien in appearance.

The Hierion Domain
E. E. Smith included "hyper-spatial tubes" as one of the imaginary technologies in the Lensman Saga. Of course, Smith lived in the Age of Tubes and his stories are full of an impressive array of tube-based plot devices. Smith used tubes of various types to accomplish many tasks, just as I use trendy plot devices like nanites at every turn of a story that is written from my position here in the Age of the Transistor.

I've previously written the Sedronic Domain into the Exode Trilogy. In honor of Smith's flamboyant imagination, Thomas includes the Hierion Domain in his novel Miners of Earth. When Malin and Mary finally reach their destination in South Africa, they are not loaded into a spacecraft and taken off into space, but rather they cross from our Hadronic Domain into a Hierion Tube!

More magazine and book covers.
Within the Hierion Domain there is a vast network of artificial habitats that can be fruitfully compared to Asimov's Eternity on steroids. Maybe Lendhalen and Klyz are places that exist within the Hierion Domain. Maybe the Kac'hin population of Izhiun's home world could easily conceal itself within the Hierion Domain.

I imagine that the temporal bubble of Eternity is R. Gohrlay's version of a synthetic habitat in the Hierion Domain. The Huaoshy have guided thousands of Genesaunt species through their use of the Hierion Domain as a convenient stepping stone towards the Sedronic Domain.

I've wondered how the Nereid Interventionists could maintain a hidden base of operations on Earth. Maybe that base was in the Hierion Domain, accessible from the headquarters of Space Energy Missions.

Hierion Tube (gif by Abel M'Vada)
Why is the Observer Base located on the Moon never observed by Earthlings? Why are the comings and goings of Observers and Overseers never seen? Observer Base is located inside the Hierion Domain. Travel between the Moon and Earth is accomplished by means of a Hierion Tube.

The Huaoshy allow Genesaunts to use hierion-based technologies, but they reserve sedronic technology for themselves (see the Sedron Monopoly). The Huaoshy eventually create for themselves a new existence as artificial life forms in the Sedronic Domain.

Their control over sedronic technologies and the Sedronic Domain gives the Huaoshy god-like powers. However, they are constrained in their actions by a set of self-imposed ethical rules that govern their interactions with biological organisms in the Hadronic Domain.

The Huaoshy think of themselves as the responsible adults of the universe. They've seen thousands of Earth-like words where human-like species have come and gone, species that destroyed themselves with their self-inflicted technological excesses. They use the pek to guide the evolution of hadronic lifeforms towards forms that can merge into the vast galaxy-spanning Genesaunt Civilization and that can eventually transform their biological existence and  transcend into the Sedronic Domain.

I've previously blogged about Childhood's End, a story that I have still never read. In Childhood's End, Clarke explored the consequences of Humanity being inevitably absorbed into some non-material group mind, this being accomplished in a hundred years or so.

In the Exode Trilogy, I imagine a far slower type of interaction between the alien Huaoshy and we Earthlings in which the human species is first created by the pek and then is slated for replacement. On Earth, we invasion-obsessed humans are quick to imagine that it is our fate to be replaced by the Prelands, a primate species crafted by the pek to be more suitable for transcendence into the Sedronic Domain.

The Huaoshy have about as much interest in primitive creatures like we Earthlings as we might have in a patch of algae on a random rock at the beach. We Earthlings only come to the attention of the Huaoshy because of a strange trick of fate.

It is technically incorrect to say that the pek created the human species. It is more accurate to say that the pek created the conditions under which the human species could come into existence. The "trick of fate" was that some humans, particularly the Neanderthals evolved a capacity for telepathy. That telepathic communications ability was limited to an unconscious brain system that supported social cohesion.

It is also an over-simplification to say that the pek alone were responsible for the existence of our species. The Nereid Interventionists worked long and hard to slip interesting gene combinations into the human gene pool. After R. Gohrlay kicked the pek out of Observer Base on the Moon, the Nereids became aggressive in their support of development of a  technological civilization on Earth. The full extent of their actions to allow the rise of human civilization is uncertain. [but see this late 2014 update]

Before the revolution sparked by R. Gohrlay, the pek had gently suppressed all cohesive advancement towards civilization by the people of Earth. It might be that the Nereids and R. Gohrlay's tribe of telepathic positronic robots collaborated to keep the pek from interfering in events on Earth. That might have been all it took for civilization to arise. Alternatively, did the Nereids actively provide Earthlings with assorted "cultural hints" that significantly accelerated the pace of technological advance?

I am currently cut off from any contact with Angela and Ivory. Without more help from them, I might never be able to sort out these kinds of questions. Even the sensation of telepathic contact with Ivory that I had been imagining is now gone. I do not fear alien invasion. I fear that we have been abandoned by the aliens and even our fellow humans who could escape from this planet.

Dr. Arroway
Life Looks for Life
Carl Sagan's fictional account of first contact (Contact) depicted aliens as largely indifferent to the existence of humans. The aliens who Dr. Arroway communicated with were much more technologically advanced than we primitive humans and they were concerned with their own affairs within a galactic community. This strikes me as more likely than aliens who feel compelled to travel vast distances to Earth just to participate in a Wellsian invasion.

click image to enlarge
Sagan imagined nothing as paltry as the human species having been created by aliens, rather, he had Arroway discover evidence that our universe had been created and intelligently designed. In the Exode Trilogy, I draw the line at having the Huaoshy merely modifying the dimensional structure of the universe. Ah, the power of platinum!

Next: in my next blog post I further explore the Hierion Domain.

More magazine and book covers.
by Earl Norem
Image credits: Check out other online art by Norem, Paul and Youll!
by Stephen Youll

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