Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rudy Rucker, SETI, and the SF convergence

It has been a day of science fiction synchronicity.

First of all, I returned to author Rudy Rucker's website after mentioning him in an earlier post.  I went back because I saw a description of a book of his that I am stunned did not come to my attention much earlier.  It is entitled Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel and its cover is shown above.  The description Rucker provides goes thusly:

"Turing & Burroughs is an SF novel set in style of a 1950s-movie “alien invasion” story. Computer pioneer Alan Turing and the Beat author William Burroughs connect in Tangier and begin a love affair. The novel fuses SF themes with beatnik styles and attitudes, switching between Turing's and Burroughs's points of view.
Turing and Burroughs find a way to shapeshift into telepathic slugs, and society's reaction serves as a symbol of the 1950s horror of artists, intellectuals and political outsiders.
As our heroes flee the feds, the story becomes a road novel. In traditional 1950s SF style, they head for a nuclear test site in Los Alamos, New Mexico. En route, Turing and Burroughs visit Mexico City and have a heavy encounter with Burroughs's murdered wife.
The story comes to a head with a thermonuclear blast and a final transcendence."

How in the name of all that is holy did I manage to miss this book?  I mean, just look at it.  It's got everything.   It's even got a dash of Kerouac in there for good measure.  This goes on the "to-read" list and fast.

After that heartening find, I came across this bit of news from SETI.  The current thinking goes that one out of every six stars has at least one Earth-like planet orbiting it.  By Earth-like, it is meant that the planet is roughly the same size and orbital distance from its star as Earth.  This data comes from NASA's Kepler telescope.  A scientist at SETI then crunched the numbers and asserts that there is so far a total of 58 planets believed to be in a "Goldilocks Zone" around their parent star, meaning that their surface temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, thus allowing for liquid water.  

Personally, I'm more on the side of astronomer Paul Davies, who argues that there could be multiple "Goldlilocks Zones" as we're basing the search for life very much on our own assumptions.  But then it doesn't matter to SETI, does it?  After all, their popular refrain is "can't get there from here."  So, I ask, what's the point?

My mind was still working from an imaginative science fiction premise when I read this last article, what with having come fresh from Rudy Rucker's page and reading the description of his sure-to-be-fabulous book.  So I began to think.  I know, something awful or at the very least weird typically follows that statement.

We tend, I believe, to forget the concept of The Singularity when discussing alien beings.  This is a factor that may well negate the obstacle of distance in interstellar travel.  If we as a species are, allegedly, on the cusp of our own transhuman fusion with technology, then it would stand to reason that an advanced alien civilization would have long undergone their own Singularity.  For the moment, I am willingly ignoring the five reasons of George Dvorsky, namely that a post-singularity intelligence would see nothing of value in our civilization.  I do not do so because I disagree with Dvorsky (I don't disagree with the five reasons, not entirely anyway) but merely because I am riffing in a fictional sense.

I'm working backward from an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type of premise that I have had for a non-traditional alien invasion book.  Additionally, there may be a bit of Andromeda Strain in there as well.  Yes, a virus from space...but a computer virus.  Stay with me on this...

A post-singularity alien civilization sends bits of itself into the cosmos as beams of light, laser, or data transmission.  This alien intelligence arrives on Earth in an utterly unseen form, hidden within the Internet and the deep sea of information that traverses our computer networks on a daily basis.  What do they do there?  Are they a scouting mission?  Probing our systems as opposed to our butts?  Are they determining if they should send more of their kind? 

I'll go you one better.  Say this arrival occurs just as our own Singularity is really coming to reality.  The human brain can now interface with the Internet via direct cybernetic link.  The alien intelligence actually enters a human mind.  What then?  People begin behaving strangely?  More than usual, I mean?  I can just see Area 51 becoming a sort of "Gitmo" used to sequester these infected individuals while Majestic 12 (or their descendent organization) engages in pseudology while deciding what the hell to do.

Pardon me, I need to start writing.   

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents   

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  1. On Facebook, Dr. Rich said: "Dude, I like where you are going with this premise. I, for one, want my own personal black helicopter. Given my background, and the fact that my business division helps customers prevent, detect and remediate malware infections, I'd fit right in with the Area 51 guys."

  2. I'll name a character after you. My biggest apprehension in writing this is I wanted to do it in scientific/DoD report format with interviews, a sort of post mortem once it was all over. I'm just scared too many people will see it as a World War Z ripoff.