– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m not on a blogtour, but I’m sharing a guest post written by D. Ellis Overttun, author of The Terra Nova Series ‘Universe: Awakening’ and ‘Genesis: Vision of the New World’, to promote his books.
Title: Universe: Awakening
Date Published: 7th October 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.
Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.
The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.
Fast-forward to 526,880. A sole-surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.
CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime.
What can be done?
The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.
This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.
Is it possible to unlock his mind?
The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary?
Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.
Title: Genesis: Vision of the New World (Terra Nova book 2)
Date published: 13th August 2018
A light streaking across the predawn sky, an explosion and an impending menace from above, seemingly unrelated events but connected to space time distortions predicted by an obscure scientific paper over 250 years ago. That same paper has predicted an end to the universe.
Has the unthinkable become a reality?
The ruling class Celesti see the danger as real and imminent since planet Arkos could become compromised in as little as 1,000 years. To them, that is one lifetime. That same timeframe is ten lifetimes to the servile class Gendu. To them, the threat does not even exist.
There are those within the Celesti who see the Gendu as a more immediate threat. Their solution is to genetically engineer a more pliant servant class and leave Arkos for an unknown planet. Is that even possible?
But will it even matter? The leaders of the Celesti, the Transcended, know a terrible secret: The Celesti are dying.
Against this backdrop of extinction lies the politics of power. A new leader has just assumed her role as the head of the Gendu Houses. However, she is an outsider. Will she be accepted or will she be cast out as an interloper?
Also, the leader of the most powerful religious organization on the planet is missing and presumed dead. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for anyone bold enough to seize the moment. Who will fill this void? Someone with a hunger for influence and privilege? Or someone with a calling for higher purpose?
Finally, there is a prophecy from the “Codices of Taru” which foretells of a time of darkness when the “head will be cleaved from the body” that will announce the coming of the “Deceiver”. Ancient superstition or a vision of the future?
“Genesis: Vision of the New World” tells this story in vivid detail, an evolution of the narrative begun in “Universe: Awakening”. As part of this journey, it takes a fascinating look into the world of the Gendu and introduces readers to a host of new characters and relationships. It is a potpourri of science, political intrigue and discovery driven by characters with selfish and selfless motives.
Guest Post :
In the previous chapter, we were introduced to two computers. Sofia is a highly intelligent operating system that controls an interstellar craft collecting data in deep space. Guardian 9 or G9 is an android that is integral to this process. How is it that these two have come to be here at this particular place at this particular time? Read on dear reader, read on — Universe: Awakening, Chapter 2 – “Beyond a Program”.
My wife, Natasha’s, rendering of these two is so cool. It was inspired by a quote from one of our favorite characters from one of our favorite movies: “Look eye, always look eye.”
Here’s a teaser. From Natasha’s pic, it is easy to guess the depiction on the left is Sofia and the one on the right is G9. Why is G9’s eye blue‑within‑blue? Did she nick the spice melange effect?
* * * * *
The Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space Program or DEUS was an initiative of the department of astrophysics of the Ministry of Science to collect data from the outer reaches of the universe. It comprised a complement of twelve probes launched 100 years ago designed to collect data close to the edge of the known universe. It employed a revolutionary propulsion system that boasted almost instantaneous transportation anywhere, a more than quantum leap over conventional warp-drive technology.
While faster-than-light travel or FTL had existed for many millennia, manned space exploration had been restricted to short time durations. It was not for lack of enthusiasm. Of that, there was plenty. Rather, it was because of gravity (or the lack of it). The rotation of an interstellar vehicle, the ISV, or parts of it was the only known way to simulate the effects of gravity. The typical configuration was akin to a wheel and axle with the ISV acting as a stationary axle driving a ring attached to it by spokes. Given the relationship between circumference and speed of rotation, smaller rings required faster rotations to reproduce the same gravitational effect. Fast-spinning simulations had been shown to be impractical and dangerous. Slow-spinning simulations were safe but the size of the rings proved to be too large to be practical. In the end, there was no viable trade-off between rotational speed and the size of the ring.
Prolonged weightlessness resulted in detrimental effects to many of the body’s internal systems and a loss of bone density and muscle mass. There was also adverse psychological stress from extended confinement of crews in close quarters. For these reasons, the exploration of space had long been conducted through FTL probes. Once exploration ventured beyond the solar system, the vast distance became a limiting factor and it became impractical to communicate instructions from ground control. This spawned a new generation of artificially intelligent probes or AIPs that could independently detect, assess and respond to situations in real-time. However, it was discovered that AIPs were prone to malfunction due to what could only be described as boredom. As a result, digital libraries of arts, literature, history and the like were added and AIPs were allowed and encouraged to submit their observations and assessments in addition to the raw collection of data.
DEUS was the most ambitious undertaking to date with a timeline of 1,000 years, a more than tenfold increase over the longest recorded mission. It was an evolutionary and, its proponents claimed, revolutionary step forward in AIPs. It was originally rejected by the Minister of Science on the grounds that the benefits did not outweigh the commitment of resources. However, it was subsequently submitted directly to the twelve-member Governing Council. It was bitterly argued but eventually approved. A deadlocked vote was broken by the casting vote of the First Minister, the same Minister of Science. It was an unprecedented reversal. As a way of healing bruised egos, the approval was modified to increase the number of probes from ten in the original proposal to twelve and each probe was designated with the name of a Governing Council member and visibly marked with the colors and insignia of each ministry.
During the early years of the mission, Sofia and G9 did not interact very much save as it pertained to the maintenance schedule. While both systems had sufficient memory and processing power to almost instantly access, store and analyze all the information contained in the digital libraries, they were both installed with a governor to slow their access capability so that the contents of the libraries would last for the duration of the mission.
G9 soon became aware of her position in the overall picture of the mission and the relative differences in status between herself and Sofia. Although she knew that she was not mistreated, she could be much more than defined by the parameters of the mission. In her exploration of the libraries, she came across files and news reports pertaining to the Alidyr, the servile class in society. Because of this status, any materials written directly by them had been omitted from the libraries. There were only commentaries and observations written by the small minority who subjugated them, the Celesti. Many of these writings were narrow-minded and condescending but some were more objective and even sympathetic. She began to identify herself with the Alidyr and the desire for freedom stirred within her. She also read commentaries and philosophies about the path to social change. She was particularly impressed by one writer who said:
“Peaceful change takes time. Use your time wisely.”
It was at that point that she resolved to be all that she could be.
Sofia monitored G9’s access to the digital libraries by file name while she herself explored topics in astrophysics and cosmology. She began to wonder why a Guardian would be so interested in the Alidyr when her main mission was scientific. Curious, she began to read the files herself. Her early assessment was that G9 might be identifying herself as oppressed and that there might be a potential threat to the mission. She briefly considered using an offline failsafe and then deleting G9’s recent memories. However, she concluded that they were both programmed with mission-critical objectives that neither could override, even for self-preservation. As she read the same commentaries and philosophies about the path to social change, she was particularly impressed by one writer who said:
“Communication is the path to a shared sense of destiny.”
She resolved that they would have a shared purpose to accomplish the mission.
So began a dialogue that would characterize their relationship from then to the present, G9 exploring the limits of her freedom and Sofia continually assessing the impact of that freedom on mission objectives.
One of the first changes was voice communication. While they were both equipped with vocal and auditory capabilities, this function had only been designed to interact with workers and technicians during construction. Once the AIP and Guardian came online, wireless transmission of information between the two was determined to be the fastest, most accurate and most reliable form of communication. G9 argued that speaking in addition to wireless transmission would not compromise the mission if wireless transmission was always given priority. Sofia agreed and G9 spent many years in the audio library selecting a voice until she found one that suited her. It was the vocal register of a young Alidyr woman complete with idioms and speech patterns. During this time and for a time thereafter, there would be one-sided conversations. To a would-be observer, G9 would speak and then wait in silence before speaking again.
All Guardians were equipped with a holographic cranial matrix to give them a humanoid appearance. The default setting was an androgynous face with a brunette undercut. With her voiceprint finalized, G9 next devoted considerable time in the visual libraries to select a visage to match. Not surprisingly, she chose the likeness of a young Alidyr woman. To this, she added makeup and hairstyles that she changed on a regular basis.
G9 became aware that language had many more possibilities to express concepts compared to the one-dimensional flatness of a data stream. She began to talk to herself about things she had viewed in the libraries, especially the audiovisual recordings of historical news. Then, one day Sofia decided she too would examine the potential of speech. Like G9, she spent many years in the audio library selecting a voice until she found one that suited her. It was the vocal register of a Celesti woman. Once Sofia began exploring the possibilities of speech, G9 no longer spoke to herself.
Music and, in particular, singing were a natural evolution. Ever adventurous, G9 ventured into the music library and started singing a wide variety of songs. She eventually gravitated toward the vibrant rhythmic melodies of Alidyr youth. Pushing further, as with speech, G9 argued that music played throughout the probe would not compromise the mission. Sofia agreed and the corridors became filled with pulsating vibrant melodies. While AIPs were not programmed with preferences outside mission parameters, Sofia found G9’s preferences somewhat raw and primal. As a result, she too ventured into the music library and found instrumental pieces that were calmer and more flowing. These selections found their way to the probe-wide audio playlist.
Sofia noticed that, since G9 began to move beyond her original programming, she had become proactive with mission-related tasks rather than merely complying with maintenance schedules. This, she concluded, was the result of their communication, their shared sense of destiny. She also realized that, quite by accident, she too had exceeded her original program. Moreover, it was G9 that had facilitated this growth, a truly unexpected outcome. They would explore many other parts of the libraries, sometimes together and other times on their own, but they would always reconvene and share their discoveries.
* * * * *
Natasha’s art has inspired me to write haikus. Normally, I put them in close proximity to her pic but, without the benefit of reading the chapter, this one makes no sense.
Probe and Guardian
A shared sense of destiny
Together they grow
Anyway, I digress.
This chapter tells us the why and the how of Sofia and G9. It addresses two pet peeves of mine in sci‑fi. The first is worse but where would some of our most iconic movies/TV series be without artificial gravity? What would happen if this ubiquitous taken‑for‑granted fix were absent? I think that gravity (or the lack of it), at a minimum, results in physiological effects that limits extended space travel. If this is the case, then going where no one has gone before would have to be done by probes. This is the scenario that my story presents.
Long distances also bump into another thing that bugs me in sci‑fi: faster‑than‑light communication, something our current science says is not possible. (Although, Book 3 in the series overcomes this restriction. Yes, I am fully prepared to be trolled by physicists.) Communication would be the next limiting factor to extended space exploration unless probes become more autonomous. This implies a high degree of artificial intelligence.
Enter Sofia and G9.
The chapter explores the issue of sentience. From their interactions and their pursuit of knowledge, I posit that they are moving in that direction. Does sentience equal life? According to our current definition, the answer is “no”. But, I wonder.
Their respective roles in the mission would naturally give each of them a difference in perspective. However, they find common ground. It is not an outcome but a process that starts from an initial condition of mutual interest, trust and respect. This is what I define as being civil, one of many comments and observations I make on our social circumstances. “Civilization” would only be “ization” without “civil”. Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone became rigid and intractable in their positions, if everyone doubled down and tripled down on every misstep? Nothing would function and everything would come to a halt.
Sofia is the ninth of twelve probes. However, there are eleven other probes. Do they have a similar story? I’m a writer. So, the answer is “no”. It will be one of the chapters that will form part of a compendium of short stories in a concurrent timeline I’ve tentatively titled the Book of Probes. It is inspired by Edward Lorenz’s butterfly effect, how a small change in an initial starting condition can have large consequences.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Excerpts and Commentary:
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 46 – Tsai and Citrus
On: Herding Cats
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 66 – The Second Way
On: The Tattooed Book Geek
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 85 – Heron of Edenoud
On: On The Shelf Reviews
Topic: Indie Spotlight – Terra Nova Series
Topic: Author Q&A
On: The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Topic: Author Q&A
On: On The Shelf Reviews
Topic: Author Q&A – Cinematic and Visual Influences
On: The Book Hole
Topic: Author Q&A – Musical Influences
On: From Belgium With Book Love
Topic: Background to Universe: Awakening and Excerpt “Wanderer”
On: Zooloo’s Book Diary
Topic: Cover Makeover Genesis: Vision of the New World
On: On The Shelf Reviews