Category Archives: Blog
Quoting Nick Land, expat Brit philosopher in Shanghai, “The cosmic reality visible to us is characterized by an intense, efficient aversion to the existence of advanced civilizations.” He calls whatever it is that prevents the existence of advanced civilizations “The Great Filter.” Longtime science fiction readers familiar with Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series or Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker universe will understand what Land means when he dubs the Great Filter “the Exterminators:” Killer robots sent out to destroy advanced civilizations.
But on the bright side, Exterminators probably don’t exist, because if they did, the human race would already be extinct.
You might have heard of Von Neumann probes. A self-replicating interstellar probe journeys to a nearby star, makes copies of itself, and those copies journey to nearby stars. Repeat until you have a probe in every stellar system in the galaxy. Even if the probes’ net velocity is only 1% of the speed of light, they would reach every star system in the galaxy within 10 million years.
Given that the galaxy is about 13.2 billion years old, filling the galaxy with self-replicating probes would take but a moment of astronomical time. Look at it this way: if Earth is typical, and a planet needs to exist for (rounding) 4.2 billion years for intelligent life to develop a civilization capable of launchign a self-replicating probe, then it would take just one alien civilization arising in our galaxy in the last 9 billion years for there to be a probe somewhere in the solar system right now.
Now suppose that one alien civilization built probes with a straightforward mission: destroy other intelligent species while those intelligent species are stuck on their home planet, to ensure that one civilization can exploit all the resources of the galaxy. If true, their killer probes would have destroyed us a long time ago. Maybe even before there was an us.
Since that clearly didn’t happen, we conclude that zero alien civilizations built Exterminators.
Wait, their killer probe might be here, waiting to destroy us
No, because the Exterminator has nothing to gain by waiting. Over three thousand years ago, human beings built plainly artificial objects visible from low earth orbit. A clear signal that a species had evolved tool use and enough social organization to engage in massive engineering projects. Why wait to destroy that species? Maybe it will take four thousand years for that species to build its own Von Neumann probes, but what if it takes them four hundred? Or forty? Don’t take that chance. Destroy them now.
Since ancient Egypt wasn’t wiped out by a hundred-mile-wide asteroid impact, the sun going nova, or a never-ending army of implacable battle robots, “no killer probe” is the safe bet.
What does this mean?
Looks like the Great Filter lies behind us. Whether life is rare, or planets rarely stay habitable for billions of years, or the metabolic expense of intelligence rarely conveys a selective advantage, or tool use is rare, doesn’t matter. We are probably the only intelligent tool-using species in the galaxy. The handful of human beings who will ever get past low earth orbit will be like the Aborigines crossing the Torres Strait or the First Nations pushing south of the Ice Age glaciers, entering a vast, resource-rich realm without competition.
Except with each other, which for science fiction writers is a good thing. Fodder for a million stories….
Speaking of which, I should get back to work. Till next time.
While researching a story I’m currently writing about terraforming, I found The Paul Birch Web Archive. If you’re looking for big, hard science fiction ideas, follow the link now and get your mind expanded. Want to speed up Venus’ rotation to give it a day 24 hours long, at the low low price of $20 trillion? Want to build a bridge across the Pacific Ocean or up to low Earth orbit? Want to sail the solar wind and interstellar medium, and reach Alpha Centauri in 400 years? Want to take a one-way faster-than-light trip into the future?
The link again is The Paul Birch Web Archive. Enjoy!
Pen names are one of the many aspects of the publishing industry in flux these days. Formerly, traditional publishers would typically demand writers change pen names when switching genres. Marketplace confusion was the stated rationale: if “Max Steele” mostly wrote hard-boiled detective stories, then switched to a cozy mystery, where Grandma sets down her knitting to quietly solve a murder, his hard-boiled fans picking up the cozy would be angry at a bait-and-switch. Better for Mr. Steele to publish the cozy under a pen name like “Maxine LaFleur.”
Sensible? Maybe. But by insisting a writer use different pen names for different genres, traditional publishing effectively said readers buy based on writer, but are too dumb to pay attention to genre (cover art and back cover copy). At the same time, traditional publishing said the opposite: readers only buy based on genre, not on writer. In other words, Max Steele’s hard-boiled fans would never read a cozy, even one written by a writer they love.
But in the new world of publishing, where someone can run a world-wide publishing empire from the /home folder of his hard drive, the traditional ways of doing things are being being examined, tested, and if they fail the test, discarded. And those pen name tests? They fail.
I don’t know you, but if you’ve found my blog, I’ll assume you’re pretty darn smart :). Smart enough to notice the cover and deduce the genre before you buy a book. Spaceship? Science fiction. Soldier holding giant laser rifle? Military science fiction. Castle? Fantasy.
And if you flip the book over and read the back cover, or scroll down to the ebook product description, you’ll confirm your deduction. Scattered wormholes, half the settled galaxy, neuroscience: science fiction. Kingdom, magic: fantasy.
So the idea that readers don’t pay attention to genre is an insult to your intelligence. Since I know you’re smart, I won’t do that.
And readers don’t buy only on genre. My own buying habits prove that. You might have seen Larry Niven’s name in my Inspirations sidebar. As a teen, I was a huge fan of his science fiction, and then I discovered the Warlock stories and The Flight of the Horse. The latter is a whimsical dystopian science fantasy; the former are straight up sword & sorcery.
I almost didn’t buy those, until I realized something. They weren’t fantasy; they were fantasy by Larry Niven. His perspective, his voice, the kinds of characters and conflicts he wrote about–all that was going to be the same, whether the cover had a spaceship or a Pegasus, whether the spine had the fine print “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy.”
Maybe another way of putting it is the writer is the genre.
So, if you like my science fiction, not simply because it’s science fiction, but because of my voice, my perspective, and the types of characters and conflicts I like to write about, then I want to make it easy for you to find all my books. Even the ones with castles on the cover, kingdom and magic in the product description, and “Fantasy” in small print on the spine.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce the (re)release of my first fantasy novel, A Prince of the Blood. Previously published as by “Eric H. Munday” (I can anagram with the best of them), it’s now available under my name from better booksellers around the world. Read on to learn more.
A PRINCE OF THE BLOOD
A king inclined contrary to nature.
A foreign-born queen confined to the palace.
A kingdom desperately needing an heir.
Two courtiers ask Keladon, retired battlemage and the king’s bastard half-brother, to impregnate the queen. His sense of duty to the kingdom sends him to her bedchamber. But he must do far more to stop a conspiracy of magic and murder threatening the kingdom’s survival – and the woman he comes to love.
Purchasing information at CV-2 Books
Here’s the official announcement.
Nothing more needs to be said. One of the writers who led me to become a lifelong sf reader is getting a well-deserved accolade. So well-deserved I predicted it three years ago. (I’m also glad to see the recently-erupting political fault lines in the sf community didn’t ding him as I feared they might).
I’ll update my most recent prediction and predict C.J. Cherryh will receive the Grand Master award in 2016.
I decided to start 2015 by rereading the Roger Zelazny books I own. (Here’s why). Wikipedia can tell you about some of Zelazny’s characteristic themes: immortals, riffs on real-world mythologies, and the ‘absent father.’ Thanks to immersing myself in rereading, I noticed a couple of recurring themes I haven’t seen reported anywhere else. (Not even Josh W’s Roger Zelazny Drinking Game page).
1. Transforming landscapes Read the rest of this entry
CARNIVAL IN SORGENBACH, by Raymund Eich
Imagine Mardi Gras on an empty stomach, under the eye of foreign occupiers, with most of your friends maimed or dead….
Imagine Mardi Gras, haunted not only by the horrors of the war just ended, but premonitions of an even more terrible war to come.
A Writers of the Future honorable mention
A billion Third Worlders wanted to work in the United States.
As a lucky holder of a daypass, Chalo had the opportunity to teleport to his job, unless he overstayed his shift.
Or lost his daypass.
My latest short story, an historical dark fantasy entitled “Carnival in Sorgenbach,” is now available in ebook editions from CV-2 Books.
Hans returned from the Great War, haunted. Not only by the horrors of the trenches, but haunted by visions of a more terrifying war to come. Will the parties and parades of Carnival 1919 offer him love and hope? Or doom him and his country to the devastation he foresees?
Best of all, it’s only US$0.99 through December 1! Find out more, including links to ebook stores, at CV-2 Books’ website.
Happy Halloween, everyone. If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with by the fire on a chilly evening, The ALECS Quartet has been out for a month. Join Darren Lee as he reunites with love, death, memory, and betrayal light-years from Earth, in the inhospitable desert of Elard. Scroll down for an excerpt to whet your appetite.
Quick note: this blog post may look familiar to my mailing list subscribers. It was one of those exclusive bonuses my mailing list subscribers received about The ALECS Quartet before anyone else.
You can get similar bonus content about my next books, as well as a free science fiction story, by subscribing now. Go to the orange box to the upper right, or raymundeich.com/mailing-list, follow the instructions, and you’ll be on your way!
Long article about Elon Musk at Aeon. Musk, along with Peter Thiel, is one of the few modern capitalists who resembles the Heinlein hero D.D.Harriman (or one of Ayn Rand’s late-career male lead characters): an innovator who wants to remake the world of possibilities, expand the pie for everyone, and grab a big slice of it for himself. (Jobs at most wanted to do the first and last; Zuckerberg, the last only).