Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Behind Eden

I thought I'd start my blog with a bit of background on why I wrote the novel(s). I can sum it up in four questions:

1. Why haven't we met alien life yet?
2. When we do, will aliens be friendly or hostile?
3. Will they be smarter than us?
4. Will we survive the experience?

I've always loved Science Fiction, and I'd intended to write another SF novel called The Games, but got caught up in a short story which featured a four man crew landing on Eden, and managing to upset an indigenous alien species they didn't even know was there, and getting killed in the process. I took it to a workshop in Paris, headed by Michael C Curtis (fiction editor of Atlantic Fiction). Some people hated the story, some loved it, but they all liked the characters, and Michael advised keeping the characters and changing the story. That's what I did. And then some!

I read up on Fermi's paradox - why, if there are logically many habitable planets in the galaxy, haven't we encountered serious evidence of extraterrestrial visitors? Several obvious answers - the galaxy is really vast, so nobody's found us yet; they found us but we're not interesting; the galaxy is very old, and civilisations may have come and gone and we might be in a 'dead patch'; etc.

So, I figured, what if there is civilisation, but it is very far away, and we're not that exciting a prospect, except that an alien life form has gotten interested in us. What are the chances they are friendly? And if they're not friendly, could we puny humans do them any damage? Well, yes, I thought, because the laws of physics suggest that nuclear weapons and possibly nanotech invasion would be nasty for most (corporeal) organisms, no matter how far advanced. So how would they avoid these? Inside help, I thought, and there I had the makings of a story which has ended up a trilogy.

As I worked on it, and particularly as I got into the second book, I got more and more interested in alien intelligence, how different and more advanced it could be - not easy to conceptualise, obviously, but worth some effort. Why would it be more advanced? Well, if you think about galactic timescales and travelling distances, and times for any alien society to rise, mature, stagnate and fall, chances are even that there will be species some millions of years ahead of us on the evolutionary scale. So, Star Trek, where humans are pretty much top dog, is a nice idea, but...

The Eden Saga isn't just about aliens and space ships; far from it. It's about humanity, and what could happen if we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a far superior civilisation - would we cope? Could we adapt fast enough? To me these are important questions, because the answers reveal things about ourselves, and because one day, as we see further into the galaxy, we'll find something, or something will find us. Then it won't be fiction anymore. I believe we should think ahead...

So, the answers to the questions, according to the books are:

1. We already have, a long time ago, and they're due back
2. Mainly hostile or at best utilitarian; altruism is not that common an alien value
3. Mostly, some by a long way
4. Well, for this one, you have to read the books...
© Barry Kirwan |
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