Jun. 17th, 2006

oneirophrenia: (r0b0t)
A recent conversation with [livejournal.com profile] greygirlbeast about humanoid aliens got me to thinkin' about really neat-looking humanoid or semi-humanoid "aliens" are how absolutely impossible they are. UNLESS they aren't really alien at all, but (as ST:TNG explained in one episode) all derived from some common biological ancestor placed in different alien environments. The ST:TNG episode explained that almost all intelligences in the Galaxy (including humans) were seeded by some race of Progenitors a la David Brin's most-awesome Uplift Universe novels (my gods, how I love Startide Rising). I got to thinking, though...what if a bunch of "alien" species were all seeded from human origins?

While I was in the lab today waiting to be called in for yet more tests, I read a brief article in Discover concerning panspermia and started wondering. This is what developed in about an hour:

In the late-21th/early-22nd Centuries, the Singularity has happened and has rendered Humanity virtually extinct. The Machine Intelligences out-evolved even the most dedicated Posthumans and converted all the rocky inner worlds, including Earth, into just so much computronium ringed around the sun in an equatorial Dyson cloud of nanocomputers dedicated to running their incomprehensible programmes. Luckily, the Singularity also powered Human and Posthuman expansion into space...for those who made it out of the Inner System before the MI assembler crews got started taking everything apart atom by atom. The Praesidium of *Human Variants, a league of Humans, Parahumans (provolved hominidae and cetaceans), Transhumans, and Posthumans, eventually came together to determine the future of all *Humanity...and they decided that the only way *Human intelligence could be prepared to survive a further expansion of the MI "gods" was to colonize as many habitable worlds as possible.

Fortunately, our Galaxy is full of life-bearing worlds. Probes to almost every star within 15 lightyears of the Home System confirmed the existence of lifebearing terrestrials, moons, and even jovians and superjovians around seven out of every ten stars. Panspermia was proven, too, since all the worlds discovered had lifeforms based on DNA or various isomers of DNA--but the different planetary environments were sometimes incredibly different. Some worlds were gigantic with atmospheres so thick and hot they would suffocate even most primarily-biological Posthumans, not to mention the crushing 2+ gee gravities. Some worlds were icy or almost molten and populated by extremophile organisms that would make even the hardiest archaebacteria of Old Earth look like candyasses. But there were biospheres out there that *Human variants could survive in. The Singularity had taught *Humanity that "humanity" was a flexible concept that could apply to a wide range of disparate forms as long as they could communicate in some way.

So plans were drawn up to seed as many habitable worlds with *Human variants as possible. The nearer stars were being slowly colonized by *Humans from the Home System, and had formed an alliance that eventually became known as the Foundation Worlds. (Yes, a nod to Asimov there--this sucker's stuffed with nods and winks at all the authors who've influenced me over the years.) After approximately fifty standard years getting themselves set up among the Foundation Worlds, the Praesidium finally martialled enough funding to put their plans into effect. They went thus:

A fleet of semi-intelligent seedships, called colonators (colonizers/pollinators), were built from asteroids and small jovian moons. The colonators were designed to last for millions of years, be able to fix and fuel themselves to a great degree, and were tasked with sowing *Human strains on any and every even remotely habitable world they came across (that is, any world with a functional biosphere). The ships' Almost Intelligences were designed to be extremely limited, but flexible and creative (within carefully-chosen constraints) so they could go about their tasks. And their task was simple: find life-bearing worlds, and design *Human species to live on them. The basic *Human genome was finalized, and supplemented with a huge library of additional genes that could be added to the mix, as long as the variants were still provided with the basic genome for *Human sentience. Also added to the base genome was a complete "default" language, Interglac, that would code directly into the linguistic centers of any *Human's brains...which means that no matter how divergent *Humans from two different worlds were, biologically, culturally, and linguistically, they would still eventually be able to communicate via the Interglac vocabulary hardwired into their brains.

The colonators were given one specific rule, though: once they populated a world, they could communicate with the inhabitants they created, but they COULD NOT give them any form of technology whatsoever. The *Humans they created on any world had to be left to figure everything out for themselves. The reasoning for this was thus: 1) it gave them the opportunity to learn to adapt to the environments they were created to live in rather than destroy those environments attempting to adapt the environments to themselves; and 2) it made it possible for the colonators to proceed on to different worlds and do their work without the interference of *Humans from past worlds trying to bug in. Plus, the Praesidium and the Foundation Worlds just wanted to see how *Humans would evolve on different worlds over time. However, the colonators were allowed to leave caches of information in orbit around colonated worlds containing information on *Humanity's origins, the colonators' past activities on other worlds, and information concerning where the colonators were stopping in the future so that if any *Human species was successful enough to survive, thrive, and make it into space, they could seek out their neighbors if they wanted.

And so the colonators went forth. The path that each great seedship followed from star system to star system eventually became known as a Stream: for instance, the series of worlds populated by the colonator Erasmus became known as the Erasmus Stream. The colonators were each given different manufactured "personalities" in order to differently flavor their talents and creativity in order to maximize the potential for biological variance between *Human species. So, on some worlds, there were *Humans who were quadrupedal or literally covered in limbs to help them balance better in heavy gravities, winged *Humans living in thick-aired worlds covered in planetary jungles, balloon *Humans the size of spaceships drifting in the clouds of fecund gas giants, huge slow-moving *Humans living very, very slowly on frigid worlds where biology moves at a snail's creep, and viciously fast, high-powered *Humans on sweltering worlds full of savage predators.

Eventually, after about a hundred thousand years, a species of *Humans called the Xanthians make it into space and have a sort of limited Singularity of their own: basically, they become heavily cyborged and start expanding into space. The Xanthians are hardcore scientists, and of course they are interested in their origins. They have no idea where this legendary "Home System" is (in fact, it's about five hundred lightyears away)...but they have managed to track their colonator Erasmus's path--and so they send an Expedition fleet of starships to go from star to star and try to track down their creator. They proceed to many different worlds, picking up members of several different *Human species who want to join the quest, too...so, eventually, the Expedition becomes a sort-of farrago of all these different *Human species--a very Trekkish collection of humanoid "aliens" who, fortunately, can all communicate via their hardwired Interglax vocabularies, though that doesn't mean that they all get along or can really understand one another, because some of them are very different from the others.

It seems ol' Erasmus had either become full sentient, or had been programmed with some very weird creative traits.

Well...eventually, the Expedition comes to realize that, by following Erasmus's path, the old colonator has been dying for some time. It's self-repair mechanisms were failing, and they came upon a few worlds where Erasmus had attempted to create *Human species, but failed because it just didn't have the equipment anymore to do so. They soon come upon some evidence indicating that Erasmus had headed for one last nearby star system to die, so they hotfoot it there as fast as they can to see if they can find the old boy's corpse to study.

The system the Expedition discovers is a hell of asteroids, rogue moons, comets, and debris constantly pounding into each other. It seems like the last place a colonator would come to, considering there aren't any worlds that seem even remotely habitable. No biospheres evident at all, at first glance--not even extremophilic bacteria. But then the Expedition discovers that Erasmus, before it threw itself into the sun, did create life to inhabit this hellish star system.

But it's not *Human. In fact...it doesn't like *Humans much at all.

So here's where the tension comes in. First of all, we've got members of several different *Human species on the Expedition. The cyborged Xanthians, the fragile and squidlike Octomese, the parasitic Gingans (NOT GUNGANS, got it? Not even vaguely related!), and a host of others....They all have to deal with one another. Then, they all have to face the completely nonHuman "Spiralites" that Erasmus created for some unknown reason. And, of course, there's a Foundation Worlder hidden in their midst. You didn't think the Foundation Worlds had forgotten about the colonator project, right? Nope. They've had representatives travelling among the Homologous Worlds since the very beginning. The Foundation Worlders can change their shape to look like any *Human species, and they've been silently living among the various different species following a sort of "Prime Directive" to watch but not interfere in any species' development. But now...they might have to reveal themselves because the Spiralites might be a worse threat to *Humanity than any Machine Intelligence ever could've even dreamed of being.

Sounds like a fun project. Maybe I'll work it out someday. Any thoughts, suggestions, etc?

I feel like crap. I'm going to collapse now.
oneirophrenia: (r0b0t)
So, I've decided to develop the ideas behind Drift a little more--and to make it easy on myself, I'm basing each *Human variant species on ideas and/or tropes brought up previously in some of my alltime favorite sci-fi novels.

The Xanthians, arguably the most advanced species in the plot, have heavily bioneered themselves into several subspecies each designed and educated to fulfill certain roles in their planetary (and now extraplanetary civilization). The primaries are designed mostly for intellectual tasks, and have vastly-enlarged brains contained inside huge, convoluted, nautilus-shell skulls. The secondaries have smaller brains but are still very swift and keen, and are generally born to fill in managerial and "mid-level" positions. The tertiaries are much less intelligent and used for simpler tasks, though you almost never find these anywhere but on the surface of the homeworld Xanthus anymore. All of the characters in the story are either primaries or secondaries...and there really isn't that much different between the two anymore thanks to the development of nanotech-based and cybernetic enhancements. The model for this species if obviously Huxley's Brave New World, though there's a heavy dose of Gibson's Neuromancer and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End stirred in as well. Incidentally, the Xanthian homeworld is poised on the brink of its own Singularity...a factor which may catch up with them later in the story.

The Pelabi are the Xanthians next-door stellar neighbors, and though their civilization is almost as technically-advanced as the Xanthians, their culture is still stuck at a Renaissance level, politically. The entire planet is divided up not among nations but among quasi-feudal fiefs ruled over by Great Houses and Lesser Houses, all of whom are in constant competition (oftimes bloody) amongst themselves for power within the planetary Council of Houses. The Pelabi have many secret societies and cabals and labor monopolies working within various Houses, but the most powerful of these are the Interplanetary Guild of Transporters, who hold a monopoly on all the technologies involved with interplanetary travel within their star system, and the Selective Priesthood, a bizarre quasi-religion based on evolutionary principles that has been working since their species' Founding to produce postHuman superbeings through breeding and, later, genetic manipulation. Ohyeah, and the planet is home to a psychotropic alkaloid derived from the blood of gigantic "landworms" that acts on human brain chemistry like a super-neurotransmitter and serves to give speed and greater focus to its users' thoughts. The planet and the Pelabi are Frank Herbert's entire Dune series rolled up into one! I really want to name one of the Pelabi characters Quisatz ha-Derak or something like that, but that's just too damned obvious.

In the next solar system down the line, we have twin worlds, Omlaging and Sarlaging. Omlaging was Founded by the colonator Erasmus, but its neighbor world, Sarlaging, was founded by the Omlas--who decided that the best way to live up to their Founder's plans was to continue the colonator's work. On Sarlaging they found a small, lizard-like creature with a great deal of native intelligence. They mixed it's genes with their own to create a provolved, "uplifted" second Human species. The Omlas feel very protective of their "younger brothers," a fact which is beginning to severel chafe on the Sarlas...who aren't even sure whether they want to consider themselves as a *Human species anymore, or as something else. David Brin's Uplift novels, specifically Startide Rising, are the model here.

The Foundation Worlds are, of course, roughly modeled on Asimov's Foundation novels. Their shapeshifting agents work secretly among the various other Human species to give them a nudge here and there when they need it, or to help them survive when problems come about.

The colonator Erasmus is, fundamentally, a limited postHuman Machine Intelligence whose motives, as its work progressed, became stranger and stranger until, nearing its end, it was acting a lot like the Monoliths from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 and 2010. In its final act of creation, it even dove into a superjovian world and fired off its complete antimatter containment system to spark fusion in the planet's depths, creating another small, temporary sun to light its final works.

And the Spiralites, the "aliens" that Erasmus created before dying....Well, they're radially-symmetrical, they live primarily in space and communicate by shining lasers at each others, their planet-bound "mother" forms are gigantic tentacles worms, and the Spiralites themselves look like bundles of tentacles and crab limbs. Oh, and their minds are so bizarre, no one can really understand their motives. I had to literally restrain myself from called them the Nyarlathoteptonians or something like that...but "Spiralites" is not only a nod to HPL, but also a nod to [livejournal.com profile] greygirlbeast for the "subterranean gods" in Threshold, whom some forms of the Spiralites will no doubt resemble.

So...yeah. Complicated universe. You can also expect to find examples stolen blatantly from Dan Simmons' Hyperion novels, the various works of Ian McDonald, Olaf Stapledon, Gregory Benford (ohyes, there will be mechs: you don't think I could write something that doesn't have incredibly superior robots in it, do you?), a planetary intelligence something like Solaris, and plenty of silliness. Don't for one second think that this sucker is going to anything other than a gigantic allegory and a tongue-in-cheek tribute to all the sci-fi novels that I loved growing up.


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