15 April 2013

The Social Side of Annihilation...

Most science-fiction writers I've read deal with the hardware. You know, the spaceships, the propulsion systems, environmental issues, hydroponic gardens, and so forth. Or they deal with the possibilities of finding and settling inhabitable planets, with or without native inhabitants to deal with. Few, it seems to me, deal with the social issues. In this day and age of social networking, especially, it seems natural to try to understand how people might react when the news hits the fan that Mr. Comet is coming soon and he is not happy.

Excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book III:

Our heroine, Gina, has been appointed to oversee the international project to construct interplanetary vessels, yet not everyone is in agreement with the plan....

 “I’m surprised,” said Gina, brushing her hair out of her face, “you can be so easily bought with a few hours of such a natural activity as standard intercourse.”
“I would vote for your plan no matter how we spent the night,” said Vazak--Buffalo Bob, the ambassador from Erit who wore the big furry hat.
She had called him ‘Buffalo Bob’ a couple times during the night, when in her ecstasy she could no longer hold back speaking English. He had questioned her about the name, thinking she called him a kind of drug, something called bôb. Then he had offered her a mauve-bôb for her amusement, a rare treat that left her unusually energetic on the qala. Vazak, on the other hand, being broad-shouldered and hairy, made the qala swing dangerously from one wall to the opposite wall. In the morning, when he sat on the edge of the qala, the hammock-style bed tipped down to the floor. Gina had rolled down against him and they had laughed together.
“So it’s not a matter of tricking laborers,” she told him as she lay stroking his curly brown back hair, “it’s a matter of persuasion. We are asking them to deny themselves, to give up their own reward, to give away their individuality not out of hatred or bias or a lack of value, but to accept the full knowledge of what their choice, their sacrifice, means for the entire species.”
“You make sex talk enlightening,” said Vazak with a bass rumble. “I agree with you, Kalmonê.”
“No more Kalmonê, I said.”
He grunted, feeling the pain in his head of a night with no sleep, considerations of regret dragging on his heart.
“It is not about you or me, or any one person, or any one country, as you say. I understand it is about saving something of our species to live on somewhere else.”
“Exactly, Vazak. If we can get everyone to understand they are not sacrificing themselves for nothing, they have nothing to lose, then we have a chance to convince laborers to work for the common good. And the common good is not an ark of salvation for kings and queens and their families, nor even the leaders of industry.”
“Yet we must reward those who lead us and those who put forth the money and resources to realize the creation of these ‘arks of salvation’ as you call them. Some of the other people should be selected for their knowledge and skills, whatever is needed for the flight and for the settlement beyond.”
She smiled at him, finding handsomeness in his rough features, thinking of Beauty and the Beast.
“It’s the ultimate job application,” she said, pulling herself back on topic. “It’s like ‘I am valuable enough, useful enough, that I should get a seat on the spacecraft, yet I know even though I am useful, members of my family must stay behind.’ Right? Complete objectivity. Qualifications only. ‘My family cannot join me simply because it pleases me; no, they will need to stay behind.’ That’s how it must be. Everything we do must be only for preservation of our species.”
“And the fertile females?” There was a twinkle in his eye that made her grin. “We must select the fertile ones, surely: the healthiest of both male and female if we hope to extend our species into other generations.”
“Skills, knowledge, healthy enough for a long journey, and fertile enough to prolong our species.”
“A lottery?”
“No, we cannot choose at random. We should let them apply. Let them tell us their skills and knowledge. If they pass that level, they will be tested for health and fertility.”
“Should be young, too, yet not so young they do not know anything and have no life skills however. And old people should not go, even if they are wise. That leaves me off the list.”
“And room for archives of all knowledge gathered from around the world, too.”
“Will these delegates accept such a plan?”
“If we present it this way, they will realize that most of them would not get a seat aboard the vessels and they would vote against the plan.”
“Then you must convince them of the greater good, as you said, Kalmonê. Their action, their choice, their vote is for the future of our species. Nothing less than that will survive. For what is a single person but a bag of cells and a will to keep reproducing itself? It is not our minds or our unique lives that has meaning in the calendar of the universe but the special blob of juice which is the pattern for making us anew. Or returning us to the furnace of creation.”
“You, Vazak, should give the speech. You have the words I cannot pull from my head.”

And so Vazak-Mixerran, ambassador from Nouvê, resident of Erit, half Jêpolissan, one-quarter Zetin, one-quarter Ghoupalle, beefy in a rugged, handsome way, stood on the stage and with thick arms gesturing, gave the speech of his life as Jinetta-d’Elous stood in the front row cheering him on. To the greater good of all humanity, he insisted, though he did not use the word ‘humanity’—ghoumæ was the Ghoupalle word referring to all peoples of a planet. That tactfully smoothed over endless conflicts between the major races and ethnic groups: Ghoupalle, Rouê, Zetin, Danid, Sogoê, Tigu, Jêpolissa, Kobareli, Lapugê, and the Dikondran and Bæro people on the continent of Bæronak. Instead of addressing the congregation as ‘fellow-Ghoupalles’ his word choice had the effect of calling to ‘fellow humans’ and won their attention. He outlined the plan in eloquent words Gina could only imagine being able to speak.
Sebastian could’ve done it, she mused, but he was nowhere in this time zone far into the future from the days of glory and savagery and romantic love and children who grew into heroes and goddesses—no, he was left long ago and far behind. She was on her own and could not leave. Even if she had found the right tangent to escape Kobarêl safely with her children, now there was Vazak, her buffalo-man, her lover.
The vote went as she expected, yet she never considered that she would be elected to oversee the preparations, a kind of Queen of Aerospace Industry, as it were. She would macro-manage and coordinate the various spaceports to be sure maximum efficiency was maintained through conformity to the models approved by the science council. In short, one model for all construction efforts. So everyone agreed—or enough of them to form a solid majority—that the construction of spacecraft was paramount and the resources of the planet would be put forth toward that goal: to have as many vessels ready as possible in the 31 years remaining.
Of course, not all agreed. The main refutations came from the religious legions and the optimistic hordes. The religious believed they should welcome the comet as their punishment; to attempt to avoid it would be an affront to the seven gods and nine goddesses. The F’eng followers were the worst, choosing a masochistic lifestyle full of self-inflicted pain. The most extreme of them would cut their faces to the bone in sympathy with the prophet F’eng who had no face. Their horrible blood was found everywhere they congregated, spotting park benches, street corners, door handles, and trees. They were forbidden on public transportation. All Gina knew was that their leader, a mystic named F’eng, had supposedly gained enlightenment from surviving a severe disease which left him disfigured and in perpetual pain. She thought he might be glad to end the pain as soon as a comet strike could be arranged, but he lingered on. Now his disciples carried forth his message.
The optimistic denizens of the planet believed the comet would miss them, fly right past without so much as a wink. Or, barring that, a few well-aimed rockets with explosives could be launched at the comet to break it up and send the smaller chunks harmless away. Some at the conference had proposed the idea. The scientist who stood and answered their concerns had posed the question What if we miss? If that were the case, they would have no time left to build the fleet of spacecraft in order to evacuate. Go ahead and build them, he said, so we have them if we need them; and if we do not need them then we have them available for interplanetary exploration at leisure.
The degree of error in calculating the comet’s trajectory had been accounted for, leaving the target on track, as feared. A shallow  trajectory could sweep a continent off the globe, one scientist warned. A more straight-on arrival might set in motion destructive forces which would split the planet apart. The odds were not good for buying property thirty-two years in the future.
Gina gazed at the schematics of the proposed vessel, the R-10 Transport Frame and the V-7 Residential Capsule, on easels positioned to the side of the stage. She thought of Buck Rogers, decided the gold surface would be pretty, and the tune “Ticket to Ride” came into her head, causing her to smile. Better safe than sorry. Better a tangent to escape through than a rocket. Or a blue police box.

Therefore, let us say we need 50,000 workers to build 1 spacecraft that would carry 1000 of us to a new world. None of the 50,000 workers have a seat on the spacecraft--although a few may get on it by lottery or an application stating their usefulness to the journey.

How to persuade them to work, yet give up their lives? How many administrators does such a project need? Would you work for the common good, the survival of your species? Will you get a ticket to ride?

 (C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

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