Category Archives: Speculative Fiction

Exploring the Virtually Infinite Universe of No Man’s Sky


This once highly anticipated game has become a something one either loves or hates. I love it, because there are over 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique planets to explore. Also, you can play it like real life, as in … there’s no actual point to the game. It’s like actual exploration, you do it simply for the joy and wonder of discovery.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s perfect for someone who’s always daydreamed of exploring other worlds.

Here’s my problem: video games like this (and more are coming out this year) completely sate my imagination for exploring other worlds, and thus, I end up not feeling compelled to write space-faring science fiction.

But, really, I’ve been struggling with motivation to continue writing ever since I finished the as-yet-unpublished “Forever and For Always.” All my creative energy is being directed to other things. Like … video. About video games.

Evidence that Life Began Before Earth: Good Fuel for Science Fiction

Now, before you get too excited, there are plenty of arguments that this is wrong — but for the sake of Science Fiction let’s suspend any disbelief and take this paper by Alexei Sharov and Richard Gordon at face value.

Here’s the idea: if you apply Moore’s Law to the demonstrated exponential rise in genetic complexity over time, it suggests that life as we know it formed roughly ten billion years ago. This is significant as the current estimated age of Earth is only 4.5 billion years.

Origin of Life(Graph borrowed from MIT Technology Review)

This suggests all sorts of intriguing possibilities. For one, in this scenario, Panspermia is a foregone conclusion. Life did not form on Earth.

Sure this is not a new idea, but now Science Fiction as a genre has some numbers to play with. One of them is the possibility that in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, we’re not the backwards baby intelligence in a galaxy teeming with far more advanced races. We could very well be the ipso facto advanced intelligent race.

How so?

Consider this: We’ve always assumed that it takes at least 4.5 billion years for an intelligent race to develop. Now there’s evidence it might take as long as 10 billion years. Sure, we are leaving out a lot of factors, such as asteroid strikes and other mass extinction events – that you’d think would throw off the time table – but we’re not looking at that kind of physical history. We’re looking at the uniform rise in complexity of genetic material. Information. The assumption is that it somehow endures through these disasters and continues progress. After all, it somehow migrated through interstellar space through untold and unimaginable disasters – possibly the destruction and reformation of solar systems – to take root on this pretty little blue orb of ours.

And so, this theory argues, thus explains the Fermi Paradox: We’re not hearing from any other intelligent species because they’re either close to, or behind, our own sophistication. That’s why we’re not being invaded by bug-eyed-monsters, or grey hive space aliens, or multi-trunked Pachyderms from Alpha Centari. If anything, we’d be the invaders, a la James Cameron’s Avatar.

But beyond that lies the really intriguing questions:

  • Where, exactly, did life begin roughly 10 billion years ago?
  • Was it localized, as in a star that existed, and then perished, and the material reformed to become our current star and set of planets?
  • Is it spread through our entire galaxy, which means it permeates space and seeds all other hospitable environments such as Earth?
  • Are there other, wholly other alien forms of DNA-like substances which formed in a different time and frame, and that seeds other sections of the galaxy?

The premise leads to endless conjecture – which is fuel for good Science Fiction – but more importantly it gives a more solid jumping off point, as – despite the inconclusive and tenuous evidence – it’s really the best we have right now. It’s something, other than nothing. Because before this paper came out, that what there was: nothing. Wide open nothing.

This gives us something to test. Now, if we do finally find conclusive samples of life beyond planet Earth, we can see if it fits this model.

That’s what science is about.

And that is the best fuel for good Science Fiction.

Sources:

Life Before Earth, Alexei A. Sharov & Richard Gordon

Moore’s Law and the Origin of Life, MIT Technology Review

XKCD Discussion Forum (lots of dissenting views)

Space Aliens Don’t Have to Bother

A society is like an organism. Very much so.

All the various parts and conflicts mirrors exactly the internal cells that make up, say, a human being. Even the negative, destructive ones are in there. There are stupid cells, smart cells, aggressive cells, passive cells, creative cells, and cancerous cells … everything you’d find in society can also be found, microscopically, in a human body.

Now with the Internet, this organism also has a brain.

Just like in the human brain, you’ll find conflicting emotions, warring ideas, randomness, love, anger, bigotry, art, and beauty.

Humanity is a single giant organism that has covered this planet.

And I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that this organism hates itself.

You’d have to think that another intelligent race, which has been around long enough — and has become sophisticated enough — to achieve interstellar travel, would see us in this way … and want to have nothing to do with us.

In fact I’d go so far as to say that if they had any desire to take over our planet, they’d simply leave us alone and wait for us to commit suicide.

They’d let the place settle for a while, then begin landing and settling the new real estate.

Chaos produces order. Randomness begets meaning.

I’m going to post this here because I consider you a smart bunch of people. I’ll keep it as short as possible because we all have shrinking attention spans.

(I blame you, Internet.)

I write, take pictures, and make videos for a living. I write philosophical sci-fi and fantasy as a hobby. I’ve always been fascinated by quantum physics, but now I’m even more fascinated by chaos theory. Before your eyes glaze over, give me a chance to explain why — maybe it will fascinate you too.

I’m writing a series of realistic fantasy books and one of the characters is the god of chaos. Through this character, in studying to write it with some intelligence, I’ve been led to an amazing fact that is filling me with wonder.

We all spring out of complete and total randomness. Everything that is us and our world, and even our thoughts, are the product of complete and total randomness.

If you can wrap your head around this, you begin to understand that we have a general misconception of what “random” truely is. Apple Computers had to come to this conclusion, oddly, because when they first had a “random” setting on their early iPods people complained that it couldn’t possibly be random because it kept grouping songs together. They had to tweak their “random” algorithm to not be truly random so that it actually seemed random.

I promised I would keep this as short as possible, so I’ll end here, and just let you think about this: what we consider a rational, coherent universe is, at its very heart, complete and total random chaos.

Chaos produces order. Randomness begets meaning.

What does that imply to you?

Jack Vance

Maske-Thaery by Jack VanceI’m rediscovering my love for the old novels of Jack Vance. His protagonists drive their stories like none other; his aliens are the most alien; his other-worlds and other-societies are as amazingly immersive as they are completely, freakishly strange.

I was afraid revisiting these stories that I had loved as a teenager would not hold up. I’m happy to report that they do.

This one, Maske: Thaery is my favorite, followed closely by the five books in his epic revenge space opera, The Demon Princes.

Sci-Fi Writers Take Note: There Are Way More Stars Than We Thought

I just read a fascinating news release from JPL about a sounding rocket experiment that measures the light between galaxies. The conclusion: “While we have previously observed cases where stars are flung from galaxies in a tidal stream, our new measurement implies this process is widespread.”

In other words, there are way, way more stars out there than we thought, drifting in-between the galaxies.

From the article: “The light looks too bright and too blue to be coming from the first generation of galaxies,” said James Bock, principal investigator of the CIBER project from Caltech and JPL. “The simplest explanation, which best explains the measurements, is that many stars have been ripped from their galactic birthplace, and that the stripped stars emit on average about as much light as the galaxies themselves.” [My emphasis.]

So for every galaxy of stars out there, there’s another galaxy worth of stars drifting around between the galaxies. To me that means there’s twice as many stars as we thought in the Universe, which also means there’s twice as many chances for habitable worlds.

It also means that in your star trekking speculative fiction, really advanced galactic civilizations could more conceivably make their way to other galaxies, as it’s not a big huge empty stretch between — according to the article, it’s more like a halo of stars between, and perhaps even bridging, the spaces between galaxies.

It’s fascinating to me to think of civilizations developing among these isolated, far flung stars, and now mathematically speaking, the chances of other civilizations existing have essentially doubled.

Okay, I’ve planted the seed in your imaginations. Let them run wild!

Here’s a link to the article: The Universe is Brighter Than We Thought »