Back in my teenage years— 8th grade up through my first year or two in college— I wrote an astonishing pile of science fiction stories. Short stories, novellas, sketches, fragments, background pieces, and half an unfinished novel. They were all set in the same fictional universe, a future history where Man (this was back before "inclusive" language) went forth to conquer and colonize the galaxy. Tons of material, much of it never got written down, and to this day I could lay it forth for you out of my head in mindnumbing detail.
Let's see if I can briefly sketch out this future history...
Man (this was back before "inclusive" language) spread out and began to explore the Solar System by the late 20th & early 21st century. The Moon and Mars were colonized, space-based industry grew up in earth orbit, lunar orbit, at the L5 points, etc. At first freedom flourished on this new frontier. But eventually the economic leverage of space-based industry grew until Earth and its colonies were ruled by an authoritarian military-industrial complex.
Eventually the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Mercury were terraformed. The young heir to a major terraforming corporation led an unsuccessful revolt on Mars; this was the last open rebellion against the regime which ruled over the Solar System.
The moons of the outer planets were settled, but were never economically very profitable. The joker was the Asteroid Belt: vast, widely dispersed, resource-rich, and far too large to be effectively controlled or policed. Earth tried to maintain a grip on the asteroids; but much went on in the Asteroid Belt which was beyond any central control.
At long last, a rebel enclave among the asteroids constructed and dispatched a ship to the Alpha Centauri system. It took the ship many years to travel the four light-years to Alpha Centauri. There Man's first interstellar colony grew in freedom on the habitable planets of Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.
Several centuries thereafter, ships from Earth arrived in the Alpha Centauri system, leading to the outbreak of the First Interstellar War, which continued fitfully for a couple of centuries. Not much you can do when it takes years to reach your enemy's territory. A peace was concluded, but it didn't hold, and the Second Interstellar War continued for another several hundred years. Then a hyperlight drive was discovered, cutting travel time between Earth and Alpha Centauri from years to mere days: in short order, the two star systems bombed each other back to the stone age.
Several thousand years later, Alpha Centauri climbed back up from barbarism to civilization, and back to the stars. They were equipped with the old hyperlight drive, which they had retrieved from the ancient wreckage of war: they learned how to duplicate and use the hyperlight tesseracts, but understood their inner workings no better than a headhunter understands an airplane engine. So Man went forth to his second and greater colonization of the stars.
Humans spread out across hundreds of light-years, colonizing thousands of worlds. The Hermetics grew up as interstellar traders, something like the Free Traders in Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy
, and my Hermetic language became a lingua franca among the stars. For some reason, the interstellar economic system in my stories was neither capitalism nor socialism, but mercantilism. Many of the little craft items I turned out in those years were marked in Hermetic "Zinir
," "For Export."
More than 100 light-years from home Men encountered the Camels, a race of intelligent creatures from the Gamma Geminorum system which had themselves been colonizing the stars for several millennia. Imagine
talking deer standing upright on their hind legs. Men and Camels were vastly different physically, and they also had certain psychological differences, but overall they had far more in commmon than most alien races, and they hit it off well together. Men and Camels, for all their differences, eventually became culturally one race.
There were other alien races that appeared in my stories. The Esloniki
were a more or less humanoid race, much engrossed with board games and card games. (!!!) The Esloniki (Slaun Ki
, "People of the Game") were also masters of a surreal martial art known as the feng cra
, pirouetting through the air, balancing on the edge of a knife blade, punching through stone without effort, walking through walls— something like in The Matrix
, you know. The Uranai
, inhabitants of smaller and colder gas giants like Uranus and Neptune, had been around in the galaxy far longer than we had; they had five sexes, and lived for tens of thousands of years. The Proyng
, a silver-based life form from the intensely hot planet of a blue supergiant star, were (as in C.S. Lewis's Perelandra
Human and Camel settlement came eventually to extend out to stars more than 6000 light years from Earth. Then a vast war broke out, between two human interstellar empires, the Cliton Confederation and Wolf 851. The Clitonian-Wolfite War continued for 3000 years, until finally a Clitonian physicist, Robert Ansel, unraveled the how
and the why
of the hyperlight tesseract, which yielded not only an improved hyperlight drive, but also weapons along the lines of the Star Wars
Imperial Death Star.
In fact, Ansel had discovered far more than this: his "Unified Grid Theory" was something like a cross between a Unified Field Theory and the Kabbalah. He was called in to be examined before a session of the Clitonian High Council. The session dissolved in confusion when Ansel testified: "I am not saying that there are less than a dozen persons in the galaxy who understand my theory. I am saying that there are less than a dozen persons in the galaxy who are capable
of understanding my theory. You cannot teach the calculus to a chimpanzee
It later came out that Ansel had metaphysically "sealed" some of the more deadly portions of his Grid Theory, and had rendered himself metaphysically immune to having these portions of the theory extracted from him, even under torture. Meanwhile, the Clitonian military took those portions of Ansel's new technology which they already had in their possession, and reduced the Wolfite homeworlds to pea gravel. As an afterthought, they also slaughtered the Esloniki, for no apparent reason. The handful of surviving Esloniki were consigned to a reservation, where they played games, went into a moping decline, and went extinct within a few generations.
(These stories reflect the rather acid view of the human race which I had as a teenager... as if you hadn't already guessed?)
And then a future history which stretched on and on... after a long span of millennia, Men and Camels achieved the Zenith of the Sentients (Mna Thijad Pmopaninl
), where they walked among the stars physically like ghosts of light, with vast powers, each individual capable of singlehandedly remaking the face of an entire world in beauty.
But then came an invading alien race, known only as the Enemy— think of intelligent cephalopods, octopuses, devious, nihilistic, and utterly without mercy. And Men and Camels gathered for the Council of Tau Ceti, where they debated and wrung their hands like relativist postmodern university professors, agonizing over whether they had any right to prevent the Enemy from exterminating them. The Council's final decision: We have no right to defend ourselves, we have no right to survive; let the Enemy come and wipe us out, for that is his truth, and we have no right to oppose it.
(My high school English teacher hated this story, because she felt it impugned her sacred relativism. Wonder what she must think in today's post-9/11
Men and Camels were stripped of their powers, and became fugitive, hunted creatures, fleeing among the stars. Such was the Coming of the Darkness. A few, like the Camels of the Blue Nebula, or the Raldic Empire under Catherine the Wise, fought back against the Enemy, or preserved fragments of learning and culture through those Dark Ages. A few, like the giant redskinned human Tlanti, fled thousands of light-years out along our spiral arm of the galaxy, and settled on worlds far remote from the conflict.
But darkness held sway for long ages, until a warrior-king returned from the Galactic Rim, bringing with him a fleet of interstellar battleships. For from among the Tlanti arose a sometime warrior, a sometime interstellar merchant, a ruler among men, who declared war upon the Enemy, a war for the liberation of the Galaxy; and he came proclaiming: "Behold, I am Simon Athelstan, who is Emperor of the Seven Stars, and Lord of the Princes of the Vanmoor; let the record of my victories be set forth among every people in every star system, in Tlantic and in Hermetic and in Alhennan, on plates of violetized steel
Oh, and in these science-fiction stories, people engaged in hand-to-hand combat with swords. Also with "nimbic torches," a handheld device which generated an energy arc that could slice right through solid objects. Rather like an energy-field chainsaw. Or something like a light saber.
I was writing these stories, an endless pile of them, in my teenage years, late 60s through mid 70s. So you can see why I was just blown away when I walked into a movie theater one day in 1977 and saw a movie called Star Wars
Labels: auld_lang_syne, worlds