Reading “Halo – The fall of Reach” by Eric Nylund, I was a bit disappointed. I read Nylunds “Signal to noise” and “A signal shattered” afew years ago which contained some daring concepts which are part of the new wave of Science Fiction that arised at the end of the 1990’s in which the singularity has already happened and the limitations we knew as society are dropping away fast.
“Halo” misses all the fun parts I would have loved and expected to read form this “new generation writer”.
As the June deadline for the Dutch award for SF & Fantasy short stories approaches (in Dutch and never mind the lack of graphic design and the ghastly photo of the deceased holy saint of all Dutch SF & Fantasy Jean Paul Smit AKA Paul Harland or Paul Holland when you bastardize the pseudonym) it might be fun to turn this into a story.
In Halo, the Covenant destroys Earth colonies one by one to wipe the human race of the face of the universe. The slow down is caused by the fact that the covenant does not have the coordinates of earth and that their first wave is apparently not too intelligent. Special kids have been trained before that moment to become super soldiers in augmented bodies, wearing exoskelatons to kill any resistance in the Earth governance. They become handy in the war against the covenant.
The plot shortcut in “Halo” is that the space faring enemy has approximately the same tech level as we have. (It does make the story easier to write. No brain-cracking effords to match what can not be matched.)
What I would have liked to see:
- True augmentation: supercomputers on quantumlevel based in the bone structure using the softer tissues and salt water based bodily environment for sub-processing and supporting and extending the fairly limited processing capacities of our human brain.
- Solar system spanning intelligent systems / ubiquous computers (as used before by Stross and others)
- The application of open source principles as described in “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” to increase the speed of development of new resources to beat this new invader / enemy.
- the use of a more intelligent system of grasping and projecting current and future processes (Game theory being my personal favorite)
- Using the suns themselves as a huge processor / AI by using and manipulating the incredible capacity of plasma-streams (as we are speaking about post-singularity society)
- Aliens far more superior and capable of destroying anything with a blink of an eye.
As I was pondering, I came across these additional concepts:
- Use any lump of material as huge sub-processors. When you are able to work on quantum levels, it might become possible to re-program matter on deeper levels to form clusters of processing power.
- Re-program reality itself using the same process. One of the practical applications is to duplicate stuff. Start with a bunch of atoms, reprogram them into assamblers that create greater structures based on patterns “wrapped around them”. Teleportation by duplication is possible in the story-reality then. (Nylund kind of used these concepts in “A signal scattered”.)
- Using the seas as huge quantum processors. (As the consistancy of fluids in the human body apparently reflects the sea, it is not far fetched in the story-world to discover ways to utulize the consistancy and processes in the sea. And it is far fetched enough to use just for that reason).
- Anything can be simulated: possible strategies, projections of current events. Using game theory (win/win, win/loose, loose/loose and zero/zero) ongoing projections and filters like “The prisoner dilemma” and “The Salesman dilemma” the most optimal path can be construed.
In this story-world, the old school Space Opera Invaders with large spaceships and impressive cannons simply stand no chance against these new technologies:
- Enter a cloud of matter-reprogramming units in a real time quantum mesh network with close to zero latency and your body and hardware will be simply ripped apart, reprogrammed, re-used, used against itself. (Re: “Blame!“)
- The processing power of even one single individual human is large enough to predict any strategy of the enemy within a blink of the eye by running several simulations and find the weak spots, the convergence points of lines you can cut to create chaos and sabotage any action
As I decided that I will use an invasion and any story becomes more interesting with dilemma, we can not have this. The enemy must be at least equal ore more advanced, but not TOO advanced as humanity itself will be squashed in an instant. UNLESS that is not the goals of the other species it will become part of a larger group. Then a superior species becomes interesting again. (Enter the stories where the war is battled on another level.)
The story will follow the rules of pace opera and pulp literature. Basic structure:
- Clear first layer: clear problem, concrete and clear examples, tangible elements (sentinel, very human characters).
- Cliffhangers: every chapter ends with a new problem and starts resolving the old one.
- A new element every 700 to 900 words (Re: A.E. van Voght)
Perhaps the way the Anime: “Akira” was done: “zooming out”, starting small and enlarging the picture in every next step of the story.
Survival / erasure
As I am triggered by the “Halo” book, the invader just wants to erase us. Kill all humans. Wipe them out. So cancel all the alternative scenarios. It is life or death.
It will represent concepts used for Roomware.
Trigger: sea turns supercomputer
Any story has a trigger point for the action to begin. Not afraid to use something done before: “it will be some or another artifact” (Yay! Artifacts!). The trigger is where the sea turns into a super computer. (The sun is not done yet then, although the first experimental models are there). Using another cliche: “Easter Island!” and “the artifact is a sentinel!”
Bending the cliche’s
A cliche becomes boring when nothing new is added. So this needs some attention later.
Discovering the enemy
We need some time to build up time before hell breaks lose. So the enemy is well discovered before it appears. The Time of Arrival can be predicted. the alternative scenario is: “The same moment the ocean was turened into a quantum supercomputer we were eradicated form the face of the universe. Blam! Without any warning and everything went black. The end.”
No hope, still time
Although for story reasons the enemy takes some time to arrive, they are far superior to us in the story world. As humans are already close to teleportation and reprogramming reality itself there is a contradiction. I need a good excuse to make the enemy both more stupid and more superior.
It is pretty stupid to blow away another society for whatever stupid reason. So is that the motivation of the enemy? For “The covenant” in “Halo” and the more classic similar “Star ship troopers” it is. (Due to some stupid “god wants..” thing). I have some options to choose from. Let’s explore:
- Advanced tech is rediscovered by a “level 0 society”: morally stupid, thinking in terms of “we win/you must lose” scenarios. “So we come with our space ships and blow you away”
- The purge of the human race might be merely a side effect: like the fungus currently killing toads, frogs and bees. (I like this one. There is a time element involved and it is more current. Still: not an invasion).
- A rogue species simply wants to eradicate human species.
Recognizing the enemy
Anything is connected. So when the sentinel is triggered, a chain reaction of events ripples through the fabric of reality. Where a small Earth team (only touched sideways in the story) traces these ripples, the shadows of the invasion fleet / whatever the fuck is unveiled is thoroughly analyzed. At that point the motivation of the other party is still unknown. [Damn: hard to stick to the concept as the enemy might be based on 1950 limited type “slow travelling” aliens – being kind of outdated. Solution: (Sunday april 26, 19:42) maybe to use Van Voght / Keith Laumer approach – make it exiting and don’t tell. Or maybe Ph. Dick approach – make it weird. Just make use of some base and make it plausible enough so that people do not burst bubble].
To travel space is actually kind of silly unless you can cut some corners or believe in Start Trek. To cut corners, you need high tech. When millennia in advantage, super-human species very likely have evolved technologies that make solar system spanning supercomputers acting on quantum level seem like child toys, looking at the speed of possible development here on earth. To think that any invasion would match our tech levels is naive. They very likely have reached the singularity point of singularity.
“Hitchikers guid to the galaxy” solves this dilemma by making the destruction of earth a side effect.
Something self induced problems is the most simple solution. But I want to kick “Halo”
We introduce Neon Genesis/Godzilla: aliens appear on earth using teleportation of some kind and wreak havoc?
Note to myself: I can always pretend I am not smart enough to take eveolution of species into account.
Why invade: old school?
- Human race poses a possible threat
- Resources / planet / rare life containing biospheres
- Overlapping area’s, expansion
- Bridgehead for something else. (War, parallelling stationing soldiers — sentinels — in underdeveloped areas to prevent enemy marching up.)
Why use triggers in stories?
- More plausible when we triggered something than cooincidence that aliens just now pass by.
Plausible enemy agenda’s that do not involve “Hey? What? Ah! Enemy! Blam! You are now all dead”
– Option 2: side effect
- Rogue Quantum super computers could be “forbidden tech”. The very old sentinel (let’s keep that one to keep the story line simple) measures changes on quantum level and starts the process of neutralization. As we need the tech not to be wiped away by earth (Yeah! stuck between rock and hard place) we fight this process. This starts level 2: elimination of secondary elements: humans.
- To stop immediate destruction of solar system there has to be a secondary interest that requires preservation. Looking at “Neon Genesis” we might “borrow” something there. It could be the sentinel itself is the primary item of interest. One of the early “mothers” being lost and found again as the Sea Computer started up. Might introduce some semi gore/horror there as well 🙂
- The sentinel is to be lifted from it’s place. As it is partially organic, it is to be done delicately.
- The side effects that eradicate human kind could be like this:
- The “mother” taking over Sea Computer introduces shit
- Maybe it introduces new types of monsters slowly. Dreaming itself awake with nightmares of destruction. However: This eliminates the “outside threat”. So skip this.
- A “footstep” of the aliens introduces new elements of destruction. Never intended but did happen.
- Constructing something to salvage sentinal out sinks half a continent
- While we are obstructing the process (winning time) leading to liberation of sentinel and destruction of human kind.
Defensive plan A to D
As we simulate possible scenario’s, 4 main strategies are simultaneously developed and executed:
- Fight back
- Backing up humanity into the space around us (Re: Stross)
- Spreading the circle of influence by shooting seeds into space. (Hacking the fabric of space is one of the strategies, but time is running out. Launching tiny specks of pre-programmed matter and quantum links to quantum computers in the asteroid belts is the first one to be developed.)
- Diplomacy: Hacking the point of origin: call back / cancel the invasion
The basis underneath these plans is this:
- Anything and everyone will be connected
- All matter available in the solar system will be turned into quantum processors and reprogrammable matter. (Re: Stross)
- Reprogramming matter is one of the keys to survival. So it is one of the main priorities.
Deeper layers / fabric of the world
- Human interactions: clearly based on different rules and different values. Still recognizable by using and acknowledging primary human needs and preferences:
- Emotions on any scale are still encountered and cherished. The way of -dealing with- is different but still very human.
- People still prefer to meet on personal level. Just because it is fun and soothing needs on more primal levels. Meetings do take place in simulated environments.
- Some basic rules used in the intersocial world
- Intamicy = binding on social and human level
- Mutual sharing = mutual growth
- Sex = fun + intimicy + sharing
- Win/win is most ideal outcome of any encounter and can be reached in most cases when you know where what you have in abundance will help the other greatly
- Helping = collecting karma points. Although this is not official the term nor a system, it is how people will refer to this system of sharing and adding value.
- It is not utopia, as utopia is boring to write about.
- Environment: We and the earth killed many species. Our part as “level 0” “scorched Earth” society (parasitic is another one) is being corrected at the time the story starts, by genetic engeneering / reconstruction / creation of new diversity and eco systems.
- Population: there are bit more than 10 billion people as wealth slowed down the population growth and no real disasters have taken place.
- Rebuilding society: with game-theory / longer term “win/win” simulations as the new driving force behind steps, society is slowly moved to the next phase using a clever mix of capitalist and socialist systems.
- Morale/truth: there is no need to be moralistic and second guess. Simulations show the possible outcome of anything. Nor is there one single truth. Any society on Earth has it’s own path to go to reach the next stage out of the destructive “we can only win/when you loose” and “we have to win at any price” mentality.
- Gaining stability and reducing stress using a very concrete and proven concept is the key.
- Working together to solve a problem is a very organic process. Based on needs and matching qualities the right people are found to get the job done.
- Australia, South America, parts of Asia and Africa have turned into deserts (re: Bruce Sterling)
- Storms and extreme weather have beaten earth like hammers (re: Bruce Sterling)
- Methane gas from the Russian Tundra’s have accelerated the global warming process.
- Many species have died both in sea and on earth. Mankind is responsible.
- Many parts of society are still “level 0” and “level 1”, where “level 2” is a new step emerged from India, China, Europe and USA, but still only 30% of society due to the paradigm shifts they bring on social and personal levels and there is no pressure or policing what so ever, until the invasion that is.
These are the eight “pilars” of the “level 2” society I will use:
- You are responsible for the outcome of your own deeds.
- Learning is key.
- Freedom of will is sacred.
- Everything is fluid.
- There is no single truth.
- We are all connected. (What hurts one, hurts us all in some way)
- No one is left behind.
- Anything has a possible solution. (there are many pathways to reach any possible goal)
- The best outcome is a win/win solution. (second best is neutral, worst is where one or both parties lose).
Put together, societies are not forced to move up the ladder of social evolution, but are given any oppertunity to do so when ready. Where possible, any exchange of value will benefit both parties, as that is the most logical way to move forward in an connected society.
Parasitic: “I win/you lose” and destructive: “I sacrifice myself to damage you so we both lose” behavior lashes back on the user of that strategy. There is no logic to it, so mostly people with a mental disorder will use them. (Excuse me for the short turn I take here.) As anything has a possible solution there are several possible ways to work around this, if the destructive person is willing to cooperate.
These rules can lead to any type of society, including a fascist one, dictated by rigid rules. “Everything is fluid” discribes the part where rigid systems can be avoided. Education is key.