Hal W Canary 3

Working title: Contact Novel

Explorers and Earthicans

So I've had this setup for a scifi novel kicking around in my head for a while.

The story begins on earth, roughly 30 years from now. Explorers arrive from interstellar space and tell the Earthicans that they need to buy material to refit, refuel, and relaunch their starship. They will trade information and technology for the material, but it will not be cheap. Earthicans must put tonnes into orbit for each small bit of tech. Fortunately, the project bootstraps itself. Once earth acquires fusion power and a skyhook, they will be home free.

Side plot: Earth of the future is pretty bad. Wars over energy are routine. People are starving in the US. NASA is long since de-funded. The explorers are sad, but detached. Their mission is not charity.

The other main plot: We tell the story from the point of view of the interstellar explorers, whom the Earthicans never get to see face-to-face. The explorers are solid-state beings living in the computers of the starship. This is the only way to build starships, there is no room on board for living beings.

But the explorers were once physical beings. They live in a rich virtual world, where they envision themselves as the crew of a scifi starship from television shows from their own past.

Possible ideas for conflict: Maybe the effort to restart a space program that will undoubtedly cause short-term deaths. Maybe the new space race leads to wars on earth, even as the end of war is within grasp. Maybe most Earthicans hate and fear the ETs and do not want to trade with them. Maybe once Earthicans find out that they are not "alive" as they understand it (re: culture of life), Earthicans refuse to trade with them.

Side plot: The explorers mission is---so far---a failure. They have visited half-a-dozen systems in search of more advanced technology. So far they have found nothing. They and other groups of explorers find a lot of empty systems and some dead civilizations (most died off with a nuclear holocaust, others at other stages in civilization). Several declined civilizations (These are tough for the explorers: they must spend a lot of time and become archaeologists in search of tech they don't know exists or not.) And several civilizations like earth, that have become stagnate. As much as they act indifferent to the humans, they are secretly collecting as much information as possible (TV signals, later they tap into the Internet (how?)).

Bibliography:

Note: I list a bibliography to (1) resolve any accusation that I steal ideas from somewhere. Of course I do. (2) list those works that I would like to disassemble. Most of these have underlying assumptions that wish to explore.

Notes

Assumptions:

Starflight is expensive.  So expensive that the highly advanced civ
that the explorers come from is only able to launch a handful of
ships.

The alienciv is partially composed of solid-state beings.  They are
restricted to a handful of systems, whose resources they use most of.
They have a large population, and face Malthusian population
problems.  As a solid state being lives, it's memories grow, and it
needs more prosessing power and computer memory.  So even without
adding much population, resource consumtion-per-capita continues to
grow.  In many ways, the scientists of Alienciv can no longer solve
the basic problems they are 

SSBs must peiodicly erase their own memories to keep from becoming
bloated, insane, or from using too many resources.  This is called
byteloss (compare to weightloss).  SSBs reproduce in several ways,
with copying being the simplest.  The urge to reproduce is powerful.
Evolution happens on a memetic level, too.

Alienciv hopes that its explorers can discover something to allow them
to overcome the limitations on their live.  Or to discover some great
porject they can devote themselves to, other than pure science.  Other
that art.  Other than survival.  So far, little luck.  They havn't
even discovered a compertabe civ.  They feel very alone.

Alienciv has ocationally discovered Very Bad Things.  They won't talk
about them.  Memitic viruses?  Borg?  Space pirates?

The explorers are perfectly capable of mining asteroids and jovians to
relaunch.  They choose not to because they _want_ a peaceful exchange
of ideas with the Earthicans.  If they started strip-mining the Sol
System, Earthicans might get upset.  Therefore they start with the
assumption that Sol "belongs" to Humanity to avoid friction.

The explorers park in High Earth Orbit.  Far enough that they are safe
from ICBMs yet close enough that earth can ship them material.  They
have no landing craft.  (Starships are 97% drive and fuel: no room.)
The explorers have no "magic" techology.  But they are smart.  

The Explorers secretly hide a tiny robot inside a meteor heading for
Earth.  The robot is contained within a sherical heat shield and
survives the crash.  It taps into the internet and allows the
explorers to learn as much as they want to know about humanity. A
reduced copy of one of the Explorers is with the robot.  He
communicates with the Explorers ship with short bursts of encrypted
information.

No magic.  The explorers most reliable encryption scheme is a simple
one-time pad.  They can break public-key encrytion.  So can the most
advanced computers on Earth.

The explorers can make copies of themselves to leave as a colony in
the Sol System.  They choose not to, because they want to give
Humanity a chance to grow.  

The UN tries to put together a coalition to treat with the Explorers.
Funding for shipments would be collected from all nations and tech
would be distributed to all.  This plan fails miserably.  Nations of
the near future are no more likely to work together than they are
today.

The Explorers would rather broadcast to the entire world, rather than
one nation.  All exchanges of information between Earth and the
Explorer's ship are public.  All of this is to keep one nation from
subjucating the rest of the workd.  Yet some nations are in a better
position to use the tech than others.

The explorers don't offer to sell much than can be used for military
purposes.  They don't offer to sell the starship engine.

The starship can travel at a maximum speed of 0.5c.  It can't carry
more fuel and it can't shield from radiation well enough to go
faster.  As it is, the computer systmes are delicate and must be
rebuilt from scratch each voyage or two.

It will take decades to relaunch.  In addition to rebuilding the ship,
they must build a launch platform that is several times larger than
the ship.  After launch is complete, the platform will self-destruct.

The Explorers are Futurama fans.  They start refering to residents of
Earth as Earthicans in jest.  The term "Humans" emphasizes that the
Explorers are alien.  The term "Earthings" is scary to Earthicans
because of conotation.

The "twist" is that Humans aren't capable of being civilized enough to
trade with the aliens.  Their destiny is in their hands and they fail
miserably.  At first.  Here are the protagonists of the story.  The
heroes are those who work to make the trade happen.  There is no glory
in violence.  There is glory in working together for the good of
Earth.

The explorers are funny people.  They crack jokes all the time.  In
Official Communication With The Earthlings, they are serious.  In
thier secret communications among themselves, they crack jokes all the
time.  "What did the Organic Being say to the other OB?"  I still
don't have a punchline for that one.  Maybe every SSB joke will begin
"What did the OB say to the other OB?"  Each one with a different
punchline.

Our heros have secret dealings with the Explorers.  The humor
convences them that they like the explorers.

Earthicans eventually buy plans for a fusion power plant.  It is huge.
Many GWe.  It only has a handful of prerequisite technologies, such as
composites that can handle high temps and a very-high critical
temperature supeconductle.  Most of the construction is big and
idiot-proof.  It uses no computers.  It is made of a lot of steel and
concrete.  It is very self-contained.  It was designed by the alienciv
to be sold to a wide range of civs, so it does not assume a lot
unnessisry prerequisite knowledge.

Humanity uses that design for centuries before they decide to improve
on it.  The first new design was a failure.  The second was a huge
success.

Other tech: efficent, large scale water desalinization/purification
plants. (Often constructed as an add-on to a FPP.)  Superconductors
for use in power transmission.  A design for high speed rail based on
the new superconductors (this design is not too much better than ones
that Earthicans came up with themselves after buying the
superconductors).

Very good thermal insulatorss.  Better pavement.  A few construction
methods.  Most are not too radical, just simpler and more efficent
than what the humans came up with.  All alien infrastructure and
building designs are designed to last for a long time.  They would
never think to build something like a house out of wood.

Space Elevator:  the only space-related technology.  The Explorers
don't want Earthicnas to emigrate from their planet or to begin using
too many space resources until they have learned to live on Earth,
peacefully.  Population will likely jump as a result of nmore energy,
after almost stabalizing.

Science.  With the technology, the Explorers feel that they are
teaching the Earthicans to fish.  And they are not overloading them
with tech that they can't handle.

But science.  Half the fun is in the discovery.  "If we just told them
our latest formulations for the Theory of Everything, what then?  It
would be centuries until they could find experiemntal evidence for or
aginst that theory.  In the meantime they would be too disheartened to
try."  No single piece of tech that the Explorers share is based on a
scientific principle that humans have yuet to master, with the
exception of material science.  It tooks years to understand
supeconductivity after it was first used as a techology.  Similarly,
Earth scientists are left to study "Type III" superconductors on their
own.

Even the fusion reactor.  As soon as they see the design, plasma
physicists bang their heads and think "Why couldn't I have thought of
that!  I see exactly how it works, but I never would have stumbled
onto it."

But what about Xenobiology?  "Why not share our discoveries?" the
Explorers wonder. [???]

The age of the Alienciv is on the order of a hundred thousand years.
The Explorers left around ten thousand years before.  Every few
stops, they construct a massive directional radio array and broadcast
reports back towards home.  Earth has never noticed these directional
brodcasts because they are directional.  Duh.

Alienciv knows that interstellar colonies are not useful for getting
rid of excess population, due to the nature of their civilization and
of interstellar travel.  They found only a handful of colonies,
choosing star systmes carefully, and launching a small fleet of
starships to each one.  The colonies exist in case something very bad
happens to the original system.  No colonies are within four thousand
light-years of Sol.  Alienciv has a Kardashev nmumber of around 1.3.
There is a movement to expand as rapidly as possible.  Another faction
is more conservative.

Every so often, the explorers stop in an uninhabited system and build
great telescopes to scan closeby systems for signs of life and
civilization.  They chose to visit Sol because they detected O2 on
Earth, a sign of _something_ intersting.

file modification time: 2007-03-12 23:43:56

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