of Entry into Aurora Universe-3
Brantley, with input from Shadar
What is called
the Aurora Universe took shape gradually in the works of “Sharon Best,” now
known as Shadar, beginning at least as early as 1993. It took its name from
Aurora Fairchild, the original heroine, a Velorian who is transported to Earth,
discovers her super powers there, and has a series of adventures. Long after
that incarnation, now known as AU-1, went offline, Shadar put up a link to
There was a
transitional phase, in which Sharon had a site that combined comic book and
Aurora Universe fiction. The earliest Wayback Machine archive I can find for it
dates back to the end of 1998:
This was all
before my time, but the evolution from AU-1 to AU-2 continued with a new web
site that had debuted by the beginning of 2001 and focused on Shara’lynn Beset’yul, the Velorian sent to Earth as a Scribe,
and Kara Zor’el, Earth’s Protector, and introduced the Arions — the dark
superhumans. There were other characters like Aimee of Velor, and a number of
unfinished stories such as “Heart of Darkness” and “A Dark Supergirl Arises.”
Much of the action took place on Earth, but Shadar also got into the history of
the Velorians and Arions going back to the war of the Galen and Elders, and
continuing with the genetic engineering that produced the tset’lars. Here’s a
Wayback Machine archive of that incarnation:
But just as
central to AU-2, in my mind, was the late Douglas Macbeth’s Infinity Bridge,
where his classics like Lillith of Velor appeared. Shadar argues, however, that
as great as Mac’s stories were, they were a side-show of the AU with a fairly
small following. They weren’t a hit with the core readership. Susan a non-AU
story by Toomey Starks, actually did better at that. No matter to me; Mac gave
me the Velorian language – just a few examples, but those I have used all
came from him. And he was the first to introduce true aliens into the AU saga
– the spider-like Tetrites. I can never forget Phil, whose “Invalid
information is never welcome” is a classic line.
on me were two other sites, AK’s Julie of Velor and Tarot Barnes’ Alternate
Histories, both since taken down but archived by the Wayback Machine. (AK’s
stories were extremely popular with hundreds, perhaps thousands of readers,
Shadar tells me; Tarot’s not so much.)
now-deceased site was Lisa Binkley’s Jolie Howard Fiction, devoted mostly to
other kinds of fiction but featuring the saga of Nov’ayul, a troubled Protector
in the early years of the Enlightenment during a lull in the war with the
Nov’ayul story, “Questlings,” is mirrored at The Bright Empire (the full AU
text was taken offline after a non-AU revised version was marketed as an e-book
in 2005), and its uncompleted sequel “Exile” has to be accessed
chapter-by-chapter; the links from one chapter to the next to longer work.
all these sites worked their way into AU-3 after Sharon Best took down the AU-2
site in 2003 and returned as Shadar a few months later, and the basic
mythology, as we developed it at both our sites, came to include stories set on
seeded worlds (worlds settled in centuries and even millennia past by humans
abducted from Earth — first by the Galen and later by their Surrogates
from earlier seeded worlds). The Scalantrans, mentioned in AU-2 stories, became
major players, and there was more about the Vendorians, the suppliers of
Vendorian steel for starships. The founding mythology of the Aurora Universe
remained pretty much the same as in AU-2, but the details were elaborated.
own take on it, adapted from a post at Superwomenmania; as he puts it, “Given
this was quickly and casually written for the SWM audience, I’ve made further
tweaks below that make it a more suitable background. See the refinements
below… by the way, the Viking hook is an open door I might someday take
advantage of. As Josh Whedon is fond of saying, the secret to sequential story
telling is having lots of open
doors. You never know when you want (or need) to exit an old door and do some
roaming around, maybe coming back in through a different door.”
It begins with the Galen, a very advanced alien race who discovered that humans
are both intelligent and resilient, and have a genome that’s easy (for them) to
create "client races" who can populate Earth-like planets across the
galaxy. They’ve secretly been abducting people (and whole villages in ancient
times) from Earth for thousands of years, with their peak activity taking place
a bit over a thousand years ago. The abducted people are tweaked to be able to
live in the various environments on the worlds they want to populate. There are
now thousands of human-populated worlds out there
only people who don’t know any of this are the people of Earth, who the Galen
keep in the dark so as to not corrupt the wild seed source of their
genetically-engineered human races. Basically, we’re a seed bank, and we’re
being mushroomed. You know, kept in the dark and fed sh*t.
The Galen have been fighting with another ancient alien race called the Elders
for millions of years. Somewhere along the way, the Elders managed to render
all Galen females infertile, presumably with some bio-engineered orgasm that
even the Galen couldn’t stop. This dooms the Galen to eventual extinction,
although they live a very, very long time.
The Galen decide to bio-engineer a group of humans into dedicated procreators,
or surrogates, to allow their race to survive. They scoured the Earth for a
robust, homogeneous breeding group to simplify their work, and found a village
of remarkably tall, athletic, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nordics in a region of
what would someday be called Sweden, over near the current Norwegian border.
Glaciers and other inhospitable terrain had isolated this pre-Christian
population in an otherwise fertile valley for many hundreds of years. The
timeframe is the height of the Viking era, and the Vikings are the only
outsiders who know of this village, and they protect it from any travelers.
Unknown to history, a handful of Viking royalty have chosen wives from this
village for many generations to strengthen their line.
that the Galen are very powerful beings, they have to greatly enhance these new
abductees with their own DNA so they are able to survive the act of mating and
also to protect and raise their immensely powerful children, who are powered by
an energy form called Orgone. They enhance these humans by eliminating most of
the human non-coding (junk) genes and replacing them with ones analogous to
their own. They then place their newly engineered humans on a gold-cored planet
named Velor, thus creating the Velorians. The Galen call this new subspecies of
humans, Homo Sapiens Supremis to distinguish it from the other surviving subspecies,
Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
also engineer in a control mechanism so the Velorians can’t escape Galen
control, and they base the control on the presence of gold. The Velorians
themselves don’t know that when someone is taken by the Galen to become a
procreator, she begins to metabolize the intense energy of the Galen, called
Orgone, once out of the planetary gold field. When that happens, the Velorian
women become immensely powerful. These procreators never return to tell the
true story to the people back on Velor.
Galen care nothing for Velorian men. It’s only their finest females, a genetic
class called Prima-1 that they want for procreators. They install a Maternity
Engine on Velor that purifies and tweaks the ova and sperm before in-vitro
fertilization to ensure their needs are met and the race doesn’t mutate or
diverge. This way they crank out both the Primas to be their surrogates, but
also lesser classes of people to support them.
given that the Galen goal was to create Procreators, they amped up Velorian’s
pheromones and hormones to make them extremely sexual beings. After all, they
had only one use planned for them, and they wanted them to be very willing.
A religious group of Velorian Natural Lifers eventually emerge who believe that
old fashioned reproduction is the sacred way of life, and they believe the
Galen plan of using them only for procreation is an abomination. This leads to
a cultural split in Velorian society that threatens to become a civil war.
Fortunately, the Naturals discover an ancient Galen transporter machine and use
it to flee to a planet they name Aria (or Aurea). They all leave, once again
restoring harmony to Velor.
split is so acrimonious in the eyes of the religious zealots, however, that
these new Aureans (Arions) attempt to eliminate any reminder that they were
once Velorians. Since Velorians are 100% blonde and blue-eyed thanks to the
narrow gene pool they brought from Earth, the Aureans decide to release a wild
retrovirus into their population on Aria to insert a dominant gene for hair
color (black) into their population. Something goes drastically wrong, and the
retroviral infection mutates to reduce the physical powers of most of their
people (the Betans) and enhances the physical power (even above Velorian
levels) for a small percentage, the Primes.
Both Aureans and Velorians remain trapped on their own planets. Only the Galen
know they exist, and all they care about is using the Velorians. The rogue
Arions (Aureans) do not exist in the eyes of the Galen.
situation remains until an alien race of traders called the Scalantrans
discover Velor. They find nothing to trade on that backward planet, but find to
their surprise that the small number of humans who work on their trade ships are
very taken with the Velorian women. While Sclalantrans themselves have no
concept of human beauty, the humans working with them report that the Velorians
are all unimaginable beautiful blondes, and sexually willing to the extreme.
One of those humans proposes a basis for commerce that would allow Velor to
become a Scalantran trading partner. Since the Velorians are desperate for
something to trade, they take the Scalantrans up on the radical idea of
offering some of their young women as indentured servants to the Scalantrans.
The plan is for the Scalantrans to transport these women (who they call
Companions) to worlds with wealthy Terrans and sell their contracts for vast
sums of money. In so doing, they discover (in almost disastrous ways) that
these women become incredibly power once they leave Velor. They gain the
strength of a thousand men, the ability to fly, to see through things and even
burn things with their eyes, and they cannot be injured by any known weapon.
The Scalantrans nearly pull the plug on the whole program when they realize
that transporting these superwomen is very dangerous. That is, until they
discover that a band of gold around a Velorian’s neck (think slave collar) will
reduce their strength to a dozen times that of a human, and eliminate all their
other abilities. (Gold interferes with the pituitary gland which controls the
hormones that allow Orgone metabolism).
Velorian Council, which by now has had a taste of real wealth, accelerates the
sale of its daughters into indentured servitude to gain the hard capital they
need to trade with the Scalantrans. They make laws that guarantee that
Companion contracts are inviolate for 100 years, and order Companions to serve
their contract holder in any way he or she wishes.
the wealthy and powerful Terrans on seeded worlds realize that they can buy a
100 year indenture for the most beautiful women they’ve ever seen, they all
want a Companion. Not only to warm their bed, but to protect them from any foe.
These Companions help some of those men crewe dynasties on their worlds, given
that their contracts are handed down from one generation to the next until the
100 year term is completed. (Velorians live for a thousand years or more). Many
Companions become so bound to their new families, and so estranged from Velor,
that they remain after their contract ends.
As this horrific trade in human flesh unfolds, the Aureans develop their own
spaceflight technology and begin a conquest to sweep the Terran worlds into
their Empire. They try to convince the Companions who are in place that they
are slaves of the Terrans. They believe that the Supremis, Velorians and
Aureans, should be the dominant humans. They also believe that only through
shared strength and military alliance can they protect humanity from further
exploitation by as yet undiscovered alien races.
As the Aureans begin conquering worlds, the Companions who reject the Aurean
argument of slavery find themselves having to defend their contract holders.
But they are outclassed by both the ultra-powerful Primes and a new weapon
called a GAR (a weapon that shoots a circular laser beam to evacuate a tunnel
to the target which they shoot a bit of anti-matter down). The
matter/anti-matter reaction at the target is like a micro-nuke. These weapons
can actually harm a Companion, although not with a single shot. Also, while
Companions are educated and skilled at many things, especially the loving arts,
they aren’t trained as warriors.
One Companion decides to break her contract and travel back to Velor with
information about this GAR so a defense can be created. She winds up kicking
off a revolt on Velor that leads to the collapse of the Companion program. Soon
after that, a Galen woman who is horrified at the rise of the Aurean Empire
allies herself with Velor, and begins to further enhance Companions into
warriors that are even more powerful than Aurean Primes. In such a way are the
Velorian Protectors are soon stationed on many Terran worlds to protect them
from the Aureans. On some worlds they are visible, and they form the
Enlightenment, an alliance of worlds which opposes the growing power of the
Aurean Empire. However, on undisclosed worlds, like Earth, they operate
Earth is unique in that the Galen will not allow either Velorians or Aureans to
operate openly for fear of spoiling the seed bank. They don’t want the people
of Earth to realize that there is a vast galactic civilization out there,
populated by abducted and tweaked humans.
a few Terrans become friends with the Velorians on Earth and work with them to
find undercover Aureans who are infiltrating governments and corrupting Earth.
The Aureans are hoping for a total breakdown of our societal and economic
foundations. They believe the subsequent wars will be so disastrous that they
can force the Galen to relent and allow the Aureans to come in and salvage
their wild seed stock by making Earth part of the Empire. Or so goes the yet
unrealized Aurean plan.
underground war is now being fought on Earth between these two forces, but we
ordinary humans usually can’t see it. We see the disintegration of culture, war
and terrorism that results from the Aurean’s attempts to subvert Earth, given
the Aureans are behind most of Earth’s instabilities and chaos.
then, is essentially is the story-space for all AU writing, with the additional
caveat that many stories also take place on the seeded, terraformed worlds out
My own AU-3
fiction, whether original or growing out of scenarios abandoned by Shadar, has
taken its own direction of its, because my background is different from his.
Shadar grew up on superhero comics; I grew up on science fiction. I loved the
idea of the Velorians for the same reason Shadar and his fans loved it, but I
wanted to combine the mythologies and literary tropes of sf with those inspired
by the comic books.
Of course, some
of the borrowings from comic book mythology are absurd, like the use of gold as
a variation on kryptonite — Velor even has a “gold field.” Orgone is
somehow a form of energy, sometimes sourced from another dimension. What is
Vendorian steel? It’s an alloy derived in part from xintanite, but what’s
xintanite? One writer (I forget who) thought it had something to do with technetium,
which is actually an unstable element — any starship using it would come
to pieces when it decayed! Some of the borrowings from genre sf are just
routine, like the wormholes — none of us really try to get into the
“science” of them or, for that matter, the science of sundry weapons like the
GAR. The canonical account of how Velorians came by their superpowers and
invulnerability through DNA manipulation is just double talk (The AU-1 version
even cribbed from DC’s explanation of Kal-El becoming Superman under a yellow
sun as opposed to Krypton’s red sun.). But these elements are so basic to the
Aurora Universe that it would be impossible to get rid of them now — and
any substitutes would have to be just as superficial or absurd. It would be almost
as hard to tamper with the tradition that only one Protector is assigned to
each world, although we’ve cheated on that when it comes to Earth.
of the mythology come from science fiction rather than the comics. Seeded
worlds settled in our historic or prehistoric past (as opposed to those
colonized by our descendants in the historic future) go back at least as far as
Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish novels, based on the premise that Earth and other
planets were seeded eons ago with variations of humankind by the genetic
engineers of a world called Hain. In Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series,
now-vanished aliens carried out seeding from Terran stock in prehistoric times,
so that when Earth finally achieves interstellar travel, our descendants find
their distant cousins in the far reaches of space — where rival empires
vie for dominance. There are any number of other examples of rival interstellar
empires in genre sf, and the idea of empires that pursue quasi-religious
crusades goes back to Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937), an imaginary history of the universe:
time there grew up several great rival empires of the mad worlds, each claiming
to be charged with some sort of divine mission for the unifying and awakening
of the whole galaxy. Between the ideologies of these empires there was little
to choose, yet each was opposed to the others with religious fervour.
Germinating in regions far apart, these empires easily mastered any sub-utopian
worlds that lay within reach. Thus they spread from one planetary system to
another, till at last empire made contact with empire.
followed wars such as had never before occurred in our galaxy. Fleets of
worlds, natural and artificial, manoeuvred among the stars to outwit one
another, and destroyed one another with long-range jets of sub-atomic energy.
As the tides of battle swept hither and thither through space, whole planetary
systems were annihilated. Many a world-spirit found a sudden end. Many a lowly
race that had no part in the strife was slaughtered in the celestial warfare
that raged around it.
engaging in some revisionism with regard to the Velorian-Aurean war, proposing
that the Empire takes up the cause of the “enslaved” Companions. But I think
that, for the most part, this should be taken as a cover story (“Agreed!”
– Shadar). The war began with the First Strike by the Scalantrans against
Aurea, and the Scalantrans are trading partners with the Velorians. It will
have taken a number of years, with the return of the first ships that engaged
in the Companion trade, for Velor to even realize that the Companions have
become super-powered beyond the Gold Field, and still longer for it to
appreciate what that means. It will likewise take the Aureans some time to
realize that it can make an issue of the Companions; its focus has been on
vengeance against the Scalantrans. At some point the Scalantrans agreed on the
First Consensus, conceding seeded worlds already conquered by the Empire and
breaking off contact with them. But there are seeded worlds that profit from
trade with the Scalantrans, and don’t want to lose that trade. Some of those
worlds are home to Companions – who are obligated to defend the holders
of their indentures, therefore their worlds, against the Aureans. There must
also be worlds where Companions have been obligated or felt obligated to
support local tyrants against their opponents, and the Aureans can take
advantage of that in their propaganda. But where the Companions come to defense
of their worlds against the Empire, it’s a different story, and the Aurean
focus shifts from to the Velorians and a pan-Supremis ideology (analogous to
Russia’s pan-Slavism). When the Scalantrans gain access to Vendorian steel,
that gives them a military advantage over the Aureans as well as fostering
increased interstellar trade by reducing travel time between worlds and
wormholes. But it takes the bureaucracy on Velor longer to face up to the
situation, with measures like the Exception (mentioned in Companions) that frees Companions from masters who side with
the Aureans, and the introduction of military training for new Companions.
The version of
revisionism associated with The Bright Empire emerged gradually from works by
Shadar (before and after his 2003 vacation and reboot of his site) and myself
set on seeded worlds, and involving new elements like the Companions and the
Scalantrans (mentioned before, but never described until Velvet Belle Tree
weighed in.). But AU-3 fiction, at the suggestion of Tarot Barnes, replaced
Kara Zor’el with Kira Jahr’ling to break the connection with DC Comics. And I
began calling Arions Aureans because in a work-in-progress set on Earth during
World War II it would be confusing to have both Arions and Aryans (There was
already a problem in The High Cruel Years: a faction on Reigel 5 called Aryans,). As for Aurora, Tarot had given
her an entirely new backstory in the last AU fiction he wrote before setting
out to create a new universe of his own:
Beyond all that
sort of revisionism are the literary influences I have brought to AU-3 fiction.
One of them is Cordwainer Smith (1913-66), whose real name was Paul Myron
Anthony Linebarger. Raised in partly in China, where his father was an advisor
to Sun Yat Sen, he was an authority of Far Eastern affairs and psychological
warfare, but is today best known for his sf. His daughter Rosana maintains a
website devoted to his life and work:
Most of Smith’s
stories are part of a future history in which Earth and, later, many other
worlds, are ruled by an elite called the Instrumentality of Mankind. Two themes
in the later stages of that history, 15,000 years or so hence, are the
Rediscovery of Man – a deconstruction of the bland utopia created by the
Instrumentality itself – and liberation of the Underpeople, human-like
people created from animal stock. But more important to my version of the AU-3
is the manner in which the stories are told.
The opening of Empress
of the Dawn, for example, was
inspired by those of two Smith classics, Norstrilia (1975, from excerpts previously published
separately) and “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960).
story is simple. There was a boy who bought the planet Earth. We know that, to
our cost. It only happened once, and we have taken pains that it will never
happen again. He came to Earth, got what he wanted, and got away alive, in a
series of very remarkable adventures. That's the story.
story ran—how did the story run? Everyone knew the reference to Helen
America and Mr. Grey-no-more, but nobody knew exactly how it happened.
There are all
sorts of cross-references and cross-allusions in his stories. At the end of
“Under Old Earth” (1966), for example, we learn that the woman who has been
introduced to us as Santuna has a future role to play under another name:
later centuries, she brought disease, risk and misery back to increase the
happiness of man. She was one of the principal architects of the Rediscovery of
Man, and at her most famous she was known as the Lady Alice More.
Lady Alice More
had previously been introduced to sf readers in “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”
(1961). Like stories of the Aurora Universe, Smith’s sf stories didn’t appear
in the same order as they take place in his imagined history. I adopted the
same trick of cross-allusion for the epilogues of Homecoming III and “Incident at Madstop.”
Then there is
Smith’s sense of ritual and formality, perhaps inspired by classics of Chinese
literature like Journey to the West
and The Romance of Three Kingdoms
that he acknowledged as influences (I’ll have to read them some time!). In a
scene from “The Burning of the Brain” (1958) for example, there is this
exchange between the Stop Captain (sort of a steward) of a faster-than-light
planoforming ship and the Go Captain (the actual pilot):
and Colleague, is everything ready for the jonasoidal effect?”
ready, Sir and Master.”
locksheets in place?”
in place, Sir and Master.”
passengers and secure, numbered, happy and ready, Sir and Master.”
came the last and the most serious of questions. “Are my pinlighters warmed
with their pin-sets and ready for combat?”
for combat, Sir and Master.”
Now you know
where I got the dual honorific used by Kelsorians. Where Smith got it, even
Alan Elms – who has been working on biography of Linebarger for decades
– hasn’t been able to determine. But there are a number of rituals in
Smith’s stories, most notably that for the induction of a new member of the
you take power to serve, that you serve to take power, that you come with us,
that you look not backward, that you remember to forget, that you forget old
remembering, that within the Instrumentality you are not a person but a part of
I brought that
sense of ritual to Ordinary Velorians in a scene where the presiding Elder of the High Council welcomes
candidates for Protector:
there were of old, Protectors there are today, Protectors there will ever be.
So was it ordained by Skietra."
has ever been so, and ever will be," intoned the Witnesses.
thus do we gather here to fulfill her ordinance. Here come all that be new to
try their vocations before the Great Door. And here today, on the ninth day of
the eleventh month, come --"
induction of Alisa as a citizen of Kelsor 7:
is your true name, and whence come you?"
what name and world of origin shall you be known to us?"
Liddell. Reigel Five."
do you bring to us?"
mind. My hands. My heart."
your come to us without reservation, forswearing allegiance to any other world
Burning of the Brain,” you know that Cordwainer Smith was a man of odd word
coinages – “planoforming” (travel in Space-2), “jonasoidal effect” (the
means of planoforming), “pinlighter” (a warrior who fights the hostile
creatures of Space-2 in telepathic communion with cats). Shadar had already
done much the same with such AU coinages as “tset’lar.” I threw in one of
Smith’s – “menschenjager,” for hunter-killer machines – in The
High Cruel Years, but I’ve generally
stuck to invented words already familiar to AU readers.
influence is C.J. Cherryh, creator of the Alliance-Union future history that
centers on rival interstellar powers that arise on distant space stations and
colonies. In a coincidental parallel with the Maternity Engine, Union has built
up its population by producing specialized humans in birth labs. In Forty
Thousand in Gehenna (1983), Jin
458-9998 is one of these, selected by lot as a colonist on another world as
part of a plot against Alliance. Only he doesn’t know the why, only the what:
had taken him into the white building on the farm and given him deepteach that
told him the farm was no longer important, that he would be given a new and
great purpose when he got where he was going, and that there would be other
tapes to tell him so, very soon.
Deepteach is a
term I adopted beginning with Empress of the Dawn; it seems to be original with Cherryh, but it’s
similar to what Aldous Huxley called hypnopaedia in Brave New World (1932). In Huxley’s novel, sleep-teaching can’t
enable people to learn anything but isolated facts, but in Cherryh’s series
they can learn skills, and even be given false memories. We see that in Downbelow
Station (1981), where Joshua Talley
is believed to be, and believes himself to be, a war refugee. He remembers an
idyllic childhood with a loving family on Cyteen, capital planet of Union.
Only, he is actually a deep cover agent for Union, on a mission to sabotage the
Earth Company station that has given him refuge. It is a fellow agent who
reveals the truth, which devastates him:
killed. That was what he was created to do. That was why the like of himself
and Gabriel existed at all. Joshua and Gabriel. He understood the wry humor in
their names, swallowed at a knot in his throat. Labs. That was the white void
he had lived in, the whiteness in his dreams. Carefully insulated from
humanity. Tape-taught… given skills; given lies to tell — about
there was a flaw in the lies… that they were fed into human flesh, with human
instincts, and he had loved the lies.
And lived them in his dreams.
It is that flaw
which enables him to break free of his conditioning, and side with the
stationers who have sheltered him. For the first time ever, he has a life of
his own – “the only real thing. All that I value.” Yet in Cyteen (1988), we see another side of the birth lab
program, the very program that produced Talley. Ariane Emory is the head of
Reseune, the genetic engineering operation behind the azi, as the lab-born people are known. But in a taped
interview, she invokes a higher purpose for the program:
do not create Thetas because we want cheap labor. We Create Thetas because they
are an essential and important part of human alternatives. The Thr-23 hand-eye
coordination, for instance, is exceptional. Their psychset lets them operate
very well in environments in which CIT geniuses would assuredly fail.
Ideally, only one generation
of each type is needed; in interbreeding with other types, even with born men,
each will contribute its characteristics to the wider gene pool. Azis
themselves can become citizens; their offspring surely will. Emory has also
been working on the problem of sociogenesis, which she considers vital to human survival as a
species. If mankind is not to end in the universe as it began on Earth—‘scattered
tribes of humans across an endless plain, in pointless conflict”—it must be educated, on a fundamental level,
in all the wisdom gained from millennia of racial experience. As she puts it in
one of her secret memos to her daughter to come, “Ultimately, only the
wisdom is important, not the event which produced it.”
The Galen, too, were
specialists, and they created the Velorians and other protos with definite ends
in view – but they couldn’t foresee the future, any more than Emory and
Reseune. In Forty Thousand in Gehenna, the colonists are abandoned to shift for
themselves, their children and grandchildren grow up without tape and have to
learn the old human way – something for which they have no training. Some
of their descendants enter into cultural symbiosis with the Calibans,
dragon-like natives of Gehenna.
In my version of deepteach,
introduced in Empress of the Dawn,
I assume that there has to be a period adjustment – Kalla (and others
like her) can be fed the words and grammar of a new language, but it takes a
while for them to assimilate them and actually think in that new language instead of thinking in Velorian
and searching for the right words and syntax of Romaic or whatever. I imagine
that’s how it might actually be.
In another long-running
series by Cherryh, Foreigner (1994-), a starship gets lost in space and its
humans stumble across a world inhabited by aliens called the atevi, who are at
a medieval level in technological development. The humans build a space station
to live on while the ship they came on searches elsewhere for a place to plant
a colony. But the ill-treated workers manage to bail out and start a colony on
an island the atevi world; when the ruling class follows, war breaks out. The
price of peace is for the humans to gradually introduce their technology to the
atevi – there may be a parallel between that and what the Scalantrans to
on seeded worlds, and more particularly what the Indrans are doing on Andros.
But the complications are more than Machiavellian — because the atevi
have an alien psychology based on a hierarchical loyalty without the kind of
love or friendship humans are used to.
One thing I see in the works
of Smith, Cherryh and my own interpretation of the Aurora Universe is a tension
between high purpose and realpolitik. That comes to the fore in The High
Cruel Years, where the ideological
and ethnic loyalties that lead to civil war have to yield to sheer practicality
at the end: differences aren’t so much resolved as put on the back burner. The
way Shadar had set up Reigel 5, it was an accident waiting to happen, even if
there hadn’t been instigation by the Aureans, and his world building there
influenced my own — although my brand is more systematic.
On an interstellar scale,
one of my influences is Babylon 5,
which compares to literary sf in its complexity. There is a historical
backstory, involving a war more than a thousand years ago that pitted a number
of species, led by the Vorlons, against the evil empire of the Shadows –
who are once again becoming a threat, although they are not known to latecomer
civilizations like Earth’s. Earth has barely survived a war with the another
species, the Minbari, and there are two other races – the Centauri and
the Narn – that have fought one bloody war and are embarking on another.
Babylon 5 itself is a huge space station in neutral space that trying to
maintain the peace, but is drawn into the war with the Shadows and into
rebellion against a corrupt Earth government. There are a number of fascinating
characters, human and alien, ranging from heroic to tragic in the roles they
play, and although the aliens have to be played by humans, they and their
worlds and cultures are remarkably diverse.
When it comes to world-building,
my work in AU-3 is seen by Shadar and others as state-of-the-art. But it’s
actually a far cry from what real
science fiction writers do. As practiced today, that art began with Edgar Rice
Burroughs and Barsoom – his fictional take on Mars. Later romantics like
Leigh Brackett perfected it for romantic versions of Mars and Venus that are
now only fantasy. Frank Herbert took it to epic proportions with Dune (1965), and writers like Jack Vance have created
many distinct human-populated worlds in their imagined futures. Hal Clement
pioneered the truly alien world in Mission of Gravity (1953), and there have been many others since.
Ursula K. Le Guin and other contemporary writers have drawn on the art of
created worlds, making them believable and even compelling.
Me, all I’ve done is try to
avoid the obvious and, to me off-putting absurdities of worlds hundred of
light years away or hundreds of years in the past that somehow have jazz, beach
volleyball and cities with a Lower East Side. But I cheat a lot. Andros, in Empress
of the Dawn, has a language called
Romaic. But there’s no such thing, and never has been. Its people speak Greek,
but if I specified that, it would confuse readers. There’s ancient Greek and
modern Greek, and there was medieval Greek – which is what people spoke
in the Byzantine Empire. Only the Byzantines didn’t call it that; they called
it the Kingdom of Rome, and thought of themselves as inheritors of the
classical Roman Empire. There was a continuous history to justify this, after
the Empire was split between East and West, with the East surviving the fall of
the West. In any case, I don’t know just how medieval Greek differed from
ancient Greek; the most I can do is dig up Byzantine-era names for the
characters, and throw in what is known about Byzantine politics (the system of
themes, “Sebastos” as a formal address for the ruler) and culture (the Suda,
modes of dress, etc.). It’s the sort of thing I can get from Wikipedia.
But even with Wikipedia, I
have to cheat. For Indra, another seeded world that figures in Empress, the origin of the seeded people is the Gupta Empire
in India of 320-550 A.D., which was strong on science – a tradition that
those taken by the Seeders could plausibly be bring to a new world. There
really was a system of guilds as Kumar describes that dominated commerce, and
could likewise be recreated on a new world. India really did create uruku
steel, later known in the West as Damascus steel, and the Kama Sutra was part
of Indian culture by 200 A.D. India also invented chaturanga, the ancestor of chess. On the other hand, I have Kumar and Akash and
other Indrans using technical terms and other words based on Hindi – a
modern language. Whatever language was spoken in the Gupta Empire and later on
Indra would surely be no closer to Hindi than Old English is to modern English.
With Tanzrobi, my world
creation was more arbitrary, since there wasn’t a clue in AU-2 fiction as to
what part of Africa its first inhabitants came from. The very name is an
anachronism, of course – neither Tanzania nor Nairobi existed when the
Galen created the Azizi and other protos. But I figured the herder cultures of
East Africa were the most plausible candidates, so I Googled up a few actual
details, then made up the septs and other invented details, using mostly
Swahili for terms – even though Swahili and other current languages
didn’t exist at the time Tanzrobi was seeded. As in the case of Indra and, for
that matter Andros, I could have done deeper research, but it would have taken
too much time and trouble and even expense. And I could create some local color
off the top of my head, like the greatoxen and brightbears of Andros.
In the case of Encounter
at Westfold, it was simpler, because
Shadar imagined the world as having been seeded by the Aureans only about 200
years ago. It was easy to incorporate elements of what England and Africa were
like then, although Shadar hadn’t done so himself. Turning his aborted version
into my steampunk version allowed me to make use of steampunk imagery as well
as ideas, and to throw in bits like the police being called runners because the
only professional police force in England at the time of the seeding had been
the Bow Street Runners (founded by Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones, and carried on by his brother John).
Besides this sort of world-building,
I like to connect the dots left by Shadar and a few others. One of the reasons
for writing Companions was to
account for the existence of the Christla, a religious sect, generations later,
on Kelsor 7 – which was supposed to be a strictly scientific world. “An
Unsuitable Job for a Messenger” was written, with the approval of Lisa Binkley,
to tie in the story of Belside and Nov’ayul with the AU-3 history; it was
possible to do that, because nothing in her account was incompatible with the
AU-3 continuity, something that wasn’t the case with Mac’s Lillith saga –
I might imagine an alternate version of Lilith’ story, but it would be
practically a sacrilege to try to write it. Emigrants, in which refugees from Belside colonize Kelsor 7,
grew out of the same connection.
There are other connections
I’ve thrown in from the start. “Mundane Secrets of the Yo-Yo Brotherhood” takes
place in one of the locales of Twin Peaks, and I had to justify that later in “Deer Meadow Shuffle” by making a
connection between the Black Lodge in David Lynch’s mythology and renegade
Diaboli. I haven’t done much else with the Diaboli, but in “Finding Sanctuary,”
Ultrasybarite tied them in with AU-3 stories of the same created world by
Shadar and myself. There may be other tie-ins of this sort still to come….