So for a while I’ve been talking about the Fermi Paradox and the different scenarios at play in what may have happened and what may be happening. Thinking about it in depth is a good practice for scifi writers because it makes minor changes to the general scifi space story. There’s a chance we could be the big dogs in the universe, there’s also a chance that there are a lot of alien civilizations out there but the effort of colonization is restrictive. Both of these present interesting concepts to work with, most of them setting up the idea that first contact would have us being the invaders (even if accidentally).
But it would be dishonest to discuss the Fermi Paradox without talking about the elephant in the room. There’s a chance that, not only does the Great Filter exist, but we haven’t run into it yet. I don’t subscribe to the theory much myself, for reasons I’ll list as we go, but the possibility is still quite real. For a lot of people this tends to be doom and gloom, but for me?
Recently I raised the idea of the Fermi Paradox and the possibility that the “Great Filter” might be behind us. In my view, that raises a lot of interesting questions that scifi writers could get a lot of mileage out of. The idea that life is so hard that it needs to have a great deal of luck to get to even our level is something that would greatly change the typical dynamic of most scifi stories to date. We could be a relatively rare form of life, maybe even among the first, that has achieved our level of intelligence.
But that does require that our specific circumstances are unique, which brings us back to the original premise. With a universe so complex and so ancient, you would have to imagine that our pattern of events isn’t completely out of the ordinary. It is entirely likely that most worlds in our universe have experienced at least one major extinction event once life has formed. And, while the easy assumption is that the Great Filter is when one of those extinction events can’t be recovered from (like what may have happened to ancient Mars or the like), we have to assume that surviving those events can’t be too unique either.
(I hate that I have to say this, but this is a fictional account of the history of a fictional world. I do not believe these things, nor should you, as I am making them up. If I receive any comments that I did not do my research into these events, you will be mocked.)
In the Agent of Argyre series of books, there is an organization called the Alter Control Task Force. Though ostensibly an organization for policing activities of the Alter race, an attempt to prevent an eventual race war, they are actually representatives of a city-state on the ocean: The Republic of Argyre.
The Republic of Argyre, an artificial island anchored to an oceanic ridge in the pacific, is a city-state established by Alters for the sake of harboring their kind and establishing a relationship with the mainstream human population. Despite being an artificial island and attached to no primary landmass, the city’s structure is capable of potentially supporting all 12 to 15 million active Alters on the planet.
How did a race of people who’ve lived in hiding for centuries manage to construct such a city? Why would they build their city in the middle of the ocean? Where did they get the resources for such a task? In the Alterpedia Historia, we will answer these questions and discover the history of the Alters. Today we address…
The Fantasy Genre has long been dominated by the religions and customs of countries touched on by the Crusades. While this makes sense, with the familiar image of a knight wandering foreign lands being key to the genre itself, there has been stagnation in recent times. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to look into the cultures of the world and find fascinating details about other mythologies often overlooked by the genre we so love, seeking out Alternative Mythologies.
When we were last in Central Africa, I devoted a bit of time to some of the creation myths of the region. But once the world came into being, the reality of where they lived was sure to set in. As noted a couple times before and only half in jest, nature is the real master of Central Africa and Humans have really only found ways to out-maneuver it.
And, because mythology is often crafted by the things people are afraid of or have to explain to themselves over time, it was inevitable that a place with one of the greatest rain forests on the planet would give rise to stories of cryptids and beasts lurking in the darkness. In a place where you could easily be lost in the wilderness or attacked by creatures in the dead of the night, it is no surprise that one of the gods of death of the region, Tore, is known to take the form of a leopard to personally attack.
World building is a difficult task. Speculative fiction opens up so many possibilities that any other genre wouldn’t offer, but there are challenges that present themselves in the process of doing it. First you have to make your snowflake, forming a complex structure from multiple questions building on top of a base element. Then, as you build it, you have to figure out just how far you can really take it before the audience tunes out. You get both of these right, you should have a pretty solid world to give to people. This groundwork is something you need to figure out before you start writing, because after that point you’re going to find that trying to keep track of it all in the process of moving forward is going to be harder to do. You don’t build your ship as it’s on the water, that’s never going to work in your favor.
Once you get that all constructed, however, there are still some things you’re going to want to keep in mind. Even though the world itself might be everything you want it to be, making people see that world and giving it to them in a way they can process is still a tricky situation. Presentation is, in itself, part of how you make that world come to life for the people who don’t have the advantage of seeing it as clearly as you do. A lot of this comes down to simply writing well, but there are still some things which are unique to speculative fiction because of that challenge of building a world mostly from scratch. You have to find a way to feed them that world, a bit at a time, and make sure it produces exactly the effect you want.
The universe, it’s vast, old, and full of interesting shit. We constantly gaze into the heavens and look for things no human has ever seen before. But with each passing year, more and more people begin to question whether or not we’re alone in the universe. Early on in our development we were fairly certain this was the case. After all, we thought the stars were just pinholes in the heavens, windows to the realm beyond, or even lanterns hung to keep our nights from being total darkness. But as time went on we became aware that we were much smaller in the cosmos than we believed.
It was inevitable that we would start to picture aliens being everywhere, even on planets in our solar system. There are countless stories about Martians from before the time we realized it was a barren wasteland. Even after discovering it was a big ball of rusty dust, we’ve had people who still insist that the world is still populated or was populated until very recently. After all, this clearly looks like a face (before you see the higher resolution pictures that prove it was just a shoddy camera).
But as that search for extra terrestrial life continues, people have started to become more and more concerned about the Fermi Paradox – the idea that we may be alone in the universe and that, somehow, someway, life that should be plentiful just simply isn’t. Combined with our natural obsession with the Apocalypse (which, you’ll recall, also had a lot to do with being unable to see beyond ourselves) and I’ve seen a lot of people declare the great filter is out there and it’s going to get us.
As I write this blog there are a lot of times I reference the work of more successful people (because, let’s face it, I can’t talk about myself like that just yet). Often it’s with a lot of respect and reverence. I absolutely respect the likes of Tolkien, Asimov, Dick, Twain, Verne, Rowling, Fitzgerald… and this list might go on too long if I keep at that. On the other hand, there are some names I have such distaste for that I tend to not even mention them while quietly jabbing their direction.
But there’s one name I reference a lot where I imagine some people would be a little confused about my stance. There’s a guy that I mention both with respect and with some harsh remarks. On the one hand, I mention their work ethic with great reverence and see them as a master of the genre that made them famous (and others). I’m a great fan of their work, especially the work outside of their usual genre. But then I will also point out that they might be out of their god damn mind. I know you’ve seen the title of this post, so we all know who I’m talking about…
And one would have to wonder how I could label the guy a lunatic while following up with “who I respect greatly”. Well, simply put, being a prolific writer and completely bonkers are not mutually exclusive. And, let’s face it, Stephen King proves it… Continue reading The Paradox of Stephen King→
Trolls, bane of the internet! Found in almost every comment section known to man, Trolls are one of the most prevalent scavengers on the savannahs of the information super highway. Feeding on tears, hatred, and a feeling of self satisfaction that distracts them from their underwhelming penis – they are bad vibe omnivores. The only known natural predators of Trolls are facts, common sense, and being ignored.
And, in accordance with that, they’re not the ones I’m going to talk about today.
The far more interesting version of the word is a piece of folklore from our Scandinavian friends to the north. The Troll, a creature that comes in many varieties, is a fearsome figure of folklore known to live in dark places. The stories often depict them in caves or under bridges, asking riddles of those who would try to cross – especially religious figures. They can smell the blood of a Christian man and have been known to eat them should they enter the wrong places or answer those riddles incorrectly. They’re large, incredibly powerful, and nothing like the impotent little weasels we apply the word to today.
So, of course, if humans were to live next to these creatures they would have to have some form of weakness. Like their modern internet cousins, Trolls would just be too dangerous without some fatal flaw to let humanity go on with their day to day lives. And the standard tropes are mostly there: sunlight, lightning, divine wrath, etc. But what has to be the most profound of them all is their complete disdain for… church bells.