REVIEW: Freefall (9/10 STARS)

Freefall is about an alien Sqid (not a misspelling) named Sam Starfall who has a robot cohort named Helix, and a wolf who has been uplifted (made sentient) named Florence Ambrose.

Sam’s race is mostly preindustral. Steam power is new to them. He sort of sneaked onboard a human scout ship and was taken by accident. He made it to the human colony Jean and has since bought a ship with a dream of becoming a famous captain. Sam himself is a petty crook who is more interested in the act of stealing and being known for stealing then using or selling what he steals. He gets really annoyed when his police record leaves things out.

Florence is his engineer, and is one of only 14 Bowman’s Wolfs in existence. She wants to be helpful, make the world a better place and make sure that the company that made her sees her people as more then just a test of concept for uplifting.

It is set on and around Jean, a planet that is being terraformed. The air is good but the ecosystem is being expanded and they are dropping comets and putting a new moon in orbit.

The science is very good, they have FTL but it is limited, taking a year to transit from Jean to the closest system.

The story is optimistic in ways you rarely see, it does have people who act selfishly but most people do not and are at least able to learn and grow.

The story deals with the rights of robots and what should be done to fix a problem when you no longer have legal recourse. Despite taking on such heavy themes it stays funny and optimistic and I enjoy reading it.

PS use the speedreader if you want to read the whole comic, it is another reason to love freefall, only comic I know of that has anything like that.

Alien invasions

While not as common as you might think, alien invasions are still a staple of science fiction. One of the reasons they are not done often is that they are really hard to do right.

In large part this is because if the aliens just wanted to kill off the human race it would not be much of a story. All that would happen is the aliens enter the sol system, then toss a few large rocks at earth. Even if we (somehow) manage to divert one or two, it would be very easy for them to toss more rocks down the gravity well and very costly for us to divert them. We would be hit eventually, and one hit with a rock big enough could render the earth uninhabitable for centuries.

Before I go on I will say that one thing they would NOT be here for is raw materials. If you want metals, water or anything else you would find in the earth’s crust it would be easier to get them from the asteroid belt or from a comet. There are a few things that you will only find in large planets (like uranium) but Mars would be a much better place to get them.

And as stated, if you want to kill all of us humans off all you have to do is drop a few asteroids.
So you want to have an invasion anyway, what do you do? As I see it there is one good practical reason; the aliens want to keep our biosphere functional. They would have to lack the ability to make an effective bio-weapon against us of course. There are any number of good reasons they would lack that ability.
If they want to keep our biosphere functional, the aliens would probably want to move in. Note that this would only apply if the aliens were short on time. If they could wait long enough they could just kill us off with asteroid drops then wait a few hundred years for things to clear off.

Say our aliens arrived and had to be on earth in less then thirty years. They are not really the sharing type so they plan to kill us all, and won’t drop rocks because they like the earth as is. And let us also say they got in without being spotted (hard but maybe not impossible). Their technology level is about fifty years ahead of ours.
The first thing they might do, beyond studying us, is to crash our economy. There is something like $1.2 trillion US dollars in circulation. What would happen if the aliens arranged for $10 trillion to find it’s way into the hands of a large number of random people? Ideally people would just start running around spending. If the counterfeits were good enough their would be no way for anyone not at the treasury to tell if they were fake.
After this I see a few options. First you could do a large number of assassinations. You would want enough that you would start to break the chain of command. In the US what would mean the President, VP, Cabinet, and all of both houses. You could do the same with other countries, the goal would be part confusion, part slowing down any reaction to further moves.
The first step of the invasion itself would be to take out all of our satellites as well as any launch facilities. You could then put your own satellite network in place, ideally with some Project Star Wars type lasers to stop ICBM’s.
After that you have the choice of either creating a beachhead and expanding from there or staying unreachable in orbit and taking out one city at a time until the human race can no longer field a military. At this point so long as you keep a presence in space large to recover from if everything on earth is lost you could not lose. The only way to lose would be for humans to get to space which would be between very very hard to impossible.

Wiping out Humanity

A common plot point in science fiction stories is that the human race is on the verge of being wiped out. However really threatening the human race with extinction is much harder then you would think.

When I say humanity being wiped out I mean that the human race would not last another generation, not just that a lot of people died. Wiping out 99.9999% of humanity would not by itself wipe out our viability as a species.

Depending on who you talk to you would only need between 15 (see the island of Tristan da Cuhna) and 200 people to start a large population. That is reproducing with no scientific help (stored eggs, sperm and DNA tests to help with incest).

Contrary to what zombie movies would have you believe diseases won’t do it. The problem is that the faster and more deadly a disease is the easier it is to contain and diagnose. The slower it is the more it is the more time you have to stop and cure it.

Even if you have a disease that hits the happy (or unhappy really) middle there are too many places it would not get to, outposts that are very rarely visited. The arctic or antarctic, ships at sea ect.

Even if you had aliens engineer the perfect disease and drop it over all major cities and towns at once it would not be enough if they wanted to kill us all off, way too many people would be missed.

If they somehow saturated the earth’s atmosphere with it there are people who would live (submerged submarines for example) even with no warning. After that they would have to do it the hard way, use boots on the ground (or robots or whatever) to dig out the humans that were left.

Nuclear war is used sometimes too, although its not the goto it was during the cold war. However it would leave huge swaths of the world unaffected. And remember that after about 110 years the irradiated soil radiation level would be back down to background levels. That is if you don’t replace it or do anything other then wait. Short of placing nuke’s in a grid pattern over the entire earth they would not be enough.

If you really wanted to have humanity being wiped out on the table the threat would need to drastically effect the earth’s biosphere. This is the only thing that could kill everyone everywhere on earth.

The biosphere change would have to huge. If there was any possibility of being able to survive in a dome someone would be able to throw it together.

There are only a few things that come to mind, first would be a comet or asteroid. Contrary to what Hollywood would have you think short of a best case scenario we would probably all die if we were hit if they were big enough.

Worse case is a large comet because we could have as little as a week warning. Comets only gain tails and become easy to find when they get past Jupiter’s orbit. Given they have long orbits (thousands of years for most) we will probably not know about the one that kills us before it’s tail lights up. They move fast enough that we could have as little as one week from seeing it to dying. There would be nothing whatsoever we could do in that situation.

Best case is we its a solid (rather then a collection of small rocks and gravel) asteroid and we have several orbits as it slowly gets closer to hitting us. If that was the case over several years we could divert it at perigee or apogee with minimal effort.

You could also change the sun’s output. It would not take too much in either direction, although remember the supreme efforts that would be put to survival if that were to happen. Raising the average temperature by say 20 degrees would not be enough, or even close. The change would have to be enough that even with the collective efforts of mankind we could not survive.


Neurodiversity is a new term, most of those who it does not apply to do not know what it means or the movement it represents.

Neurotypical is what most people are, it means their thinking processes are basically normal, they are not autistic, dyslexic ect.
Neurodiversity is of course the inverse, one of the large ideas in the community is that people who are autistic or dyslexic or any number of other things are not lesser then ‘normal’ people but different.

All that established one idea that you see in the neurodiversity movement is the idea of a kind of soft genocide. If the genes that cause autism for example were found then they could just stop being born.
After all if a segment of a population is taking a disproportionate amount of public resources why not try?
Realistically I think this will be a thing that will become possible at some point, not in my lifetime maybe, but at some point. Given my book takes place in about five hundred years it is something I have to think about.

How many advances were made by people who were outcasts, or who were different? Does it not make sense that having more then one way of thinking will help solve problems?

We have had neurodiversity since the very start of our species. Its part of the human condition. So what happens if we change that? What effects would it have?

What would it be like to be an illegal autistic? If for example the government has genetic standards for children (and Liang, one of the major powers in my novel does). Assume you are a mistake, or your parents bribed a doctor to not alter your genes.
How would you feel? Would you be resentful of the world, or angry at your parents for not “Fixing” you? Would you run away to somewhere you could fit in the first chance you got?

It could start with trying to cut out the extremes, those who can not live and function on their own and who can’t contribute. Cutting out what the society considers to be flaws that will not allow the person to live a normal life. Over generations the definition of normal gets smaller, peaks and valleys in personalities get smoothed out. What we would consider to be normal differences would be severe psychological conditions to them.
I think that one of the outcomes of this would be that advances would slow down to a crawl. You would see small incremental improvements in science and technology but you would no longer produce the kind of people who radically change things.
How would such people interact with other cultures? Would they see everyone else as maladjusted to the world and slightly insane? Would they be resentful that they will not be able to carve a place in history as big as those before?
Even if humanity wanted to go back to the way things were, how would you convince parents to allow it? A great amount of effort by parents is put into making their children appear normal (often against the best interests of the children). How many parents would be okay with giving their children a harder life because some of the people born randomly might help society?