For this week I am going to do something a little different, I am going to talk about books that explore a theme that is almost never covered in science fiction, the afterlife. And I do not mean uploading your mind or something, I mean that your soul is real and it goes somewhere when you die. I have only read a few science fictions that deal with the idea.
The first is the most recent, the Reality Dysfunction trilogy by Peter Hamilton (One of my favorite modern authors).
It’s a space opera in the grandest tradition of the genre, with a large confederation of human worlds with only a few known aliens races. On a new colony world an energy being sees a human die and the path his soul takes, and in so doing accidentally opens a bridge from there to the here and now.
Out come the first souls, all near insane with sensory deprivation and wanting to make a war on the living, wanting to keep their bodies at all costs. They can allow other dead to take their bodies, you get one of them on your planet you could have hundreds the next day, thousand after that.
It handled the idea well and was able to weave all the various plot elements and themes together, much better then I would have thought possible if I was told the basic idea of the book before I read it.
The sign of true art is the ability to make very hard things look very easy, this series does that.
The second is the Riverword series by Farmer.
The basic idea is that everyone who died after the age of five and before 1984 (or somewhere around there) wakes up all at once along the banks of a river all at the same time. This river is bound by mountains and runs in a helix from one pole of a planet to another.
If you die once there your reborn somewhere else along the river.
The book does explain the hows and whys but the series is a good example of what I call exportation scifi.
The series is a classic, with a really unique idea.
The third example that I have read is Traitor to the Living also by Farmer.
This is a much darker book then the Riverworld series. It starts with the idea that someone invented a device that allows you to see into the afterlife, but that its hell and everyone is there. I would like to say it gets happier from that, but it really does not. Still it is thought provoking and takes another look at the idea.
One of the common idea’s in science fiction is that when people leave Earth and go to the stars we will be living mostly on planets, often terraformed ones.
The thing is that there are many other places we could live, terraforming a planet to live on is probably the most inefficient and expensive solution to the problem. It’s like erecting a mountain so you can live in a cave.
It would take much much less resources to build enough habitats for a planet of people then to make a planet able to support them. You also will be putting all your eggs in one basket, you screw up your planet and you could lose billions of people and centuries of work.
Its not like on Earth we are all crowded around a few good spots and ignoring the rest of the planet. People live everyone on earth that can support us.
You might have mining around the asteroid belt. Manufacturing and some mining on the moon (where you can use a rail gun to launch what you make to anywhere else). Hydrogen is not easy to get in the inner solar system, it may turn out to be cheaper to import it from the gas giants. This could mean large bases that turn into colonies on the larger moons.
In the solar system earth’s head start and livability means that it will probably always have more people then the rest of the system but that would not apply to any new systems we go to. I could see the planet being more suburb then city. You don’t really mine or make anything on it because it cost too much to do so. You use it to raise you kids, and to relax.
It would not surprise me if there comes a time when most of the human race has never set foot on a planet and probably never will.
I did some facebook posts on this but I think it deserves a full review. To be clear I am talking about the first two episodes that were shown on Imax in movie theaters.
To be honest I think the people making it made the mistake of assuming that people watching would care about the “good” guys because one of them was the “rightful” king. Given we are talking about a show in the marvel universe I can see why they would make this mistake, knowing who the good guys are is rarely never really an issue for superhero shows and movies. They might have just written if off as a non-issue and moved to other things.
Same could be said for making sure the audience hated the bad guy, or at least wished him to fail. The only real reason they show for this is that he launched a coop to make himself king. I admit this could be my knowledge of history but that is just how monarchies work. If you don’t like how things are run you have two choices. You can either convince the king to change his mind or you can kill him. That is one of the major disadvantages of monarchies after all. In fact the coop looked to be executed with a minimum of bloodshed.
Even in plays written in the renaissance when monarchies ruled in Europe playwrights make it clear that rightful kings were good guys, that they were the kind of people who SHOULD be king. Or that they were good guys BECAUSE they were the rightful king.
Either way it was not done well in inhumans, I can’t think of a single sympathetic character. The closest strangely enough is the brother, because while he did what he did for the worst possible reasons he very well could make his kingdom a much better place in ways his brother never would.
On a more meta level, The powers are also just..boring. None of them really scream “That would be awesome to have” or “Think about how that would change things” The Xmen they are not.
Also, something that is becoming a pet Peeve, they rejected any dealing with earth (at least officially) by saying “They would just kill us all” Lumping every nation and group on earth together. Why not approach a small nation, offer then the cheapest way to space ever in return for help? They are on the moon, how do they think we would kill them?
Humans have shifted how we think on a basic level many times, this is one thing to understand when writing anything set in the far future. If you want to show someone in the year 3,000 AD you need to try and think of how he will be different, not just in body but in how he will think.
To explain what I mean I will detail out a few paradigm shifts we have gone through.
The first is the age of enlightenment in Europe. The short explanation of this is that it’s when we changed from assuming things that we did not understand were supernatural to assuming they were understandable scientific phenomena. This sounds simple but it is not, it changed everything about our civilization.
The second is who people identify with. In a very real sense civilization happens when people decide they belong to more then just their family. At first this might mean their tribe, but then it grew to a city, and the city grew to into a nation.
What shifts do you think will happen in the future? Could we even accept them today if someone came from the future and told us about them?