Solitude was one of only five science fiction audiobooks nominated for the 2017 title. The awards ceremony takes place November 5 at The Lincoln Center in New York, so it looks like Donna and I will be doing some traveling this fall.
For the backstory of my SECTOR 64 series, I put forth an alien first-contact scenario that my readers find very plausible, some even wondering aloud if this could be our current reality.
Let’s imagine that elsewhere in the galaxy a species elevated itself from the primordial soup a million years ahead of us. Making the most of that thousand-millennia head start, they master physics, achieve faster than light (FTL) travel, and populate thousands of star systems.
Always looking for burgeoning technological societies to bring into the galactic government, they populate the galaxy with a network of detectors designed to watch for certain markers thought to be key indicators, i.e.: unnaturally organized radio waves or light waves (laser beams) and unnatural fission reactions (nuclear detonations). Some, like radio waves, would probably just be annotated for future research. Others, like nuclear detonations, would require a more urgent investigation.
While they’ve mastered FTL travel and communications, their sensors are still limited to detecting occurrences at the speed of light. In other words, if a burgeoning society starts blasting radio waves or nuclear electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) across the cosmos, our curious aliens wouldn’t detect it until the wave traveled at the speed of light to the nearest sensor. Then it could use their FTL sub-space communication network to pass on the news.
To comprehend the logistics involved, we must have a full appreciation of the galaxy’s size. It’s a BIG galaxy. If our curious aliens only wanted to deploy ten million sensors, they would have to disperse them throughout the galaxy on a grid with one-hundred light-year spacing. The Milky Way is 100,000 light-years across and one thousand light-years thick. That means if you could travel across the entire width of the galaxy at the speed of light, the Earth would circle the Sun 100,000 times during your trek. (Note: these are external observations. The hypothetical FTL traveler would experience this time quite differently, but that’s a subject for a future blog.) Even if you could travel at an incredible 100,000 times the speed of light, an Earth year would pass in the time it took you to traverse the galaxy.
When it comes to jaunting about the Milky Way, your FTL travel would have to be SIGNIFICANTLY faster than the speed of light to be of any appreciable use. Scientist and sci-fi writers often employ wormholes due to their hypothetical ability to fold space. Joining two points of space-time, like folding a paper in half, brings two remote locations together, rendering interstellar travel as simple as stepping through a door.
Back to our first contact scenario. Because of the aforementioned galactic scale, our fictional aliens have quite a few (read: ten million) sensors spread throughout the Milky Way. One day, they receive a signal indicating that a nuclear device detonated on a planet in the remote portion of the galaxy identified as SECTOR 64. They discover the signal originated from a medium-sized rocky planet in a solar system only two light-years from the sensor. (That would be very fortuitous, remember our one-hundred light-year spacing.)
So our curious aliens fold space-time and dispatch a scout ship to SECTOR 64. Arriving only a few days after their sensor detected the first nuclear blast, they get to the planet the locals (humans) call Earth in a year the humans have designated as one thousand nine hundred and forty-seven or 1947. Because of the sensor’s two light-year distance from the planet, two Earth years have passed since their original nuclear detonations in 1945.
Our curious alien scouts travel to the only place on the planet where they detect nuclear weapons. It happens to be relatively close to where the first nuclear detonation occurred. The humans call the region New Mexico.
In 1947 only one nuclear-armed bomber squadron existed, the 509th Bomber Group based at an Army Air Corp Base known as Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF).
Yep, you guessed it. That’s near an infamous small town named Roswell, New Mexico.
In a tragic accident, the scout ship is knocked down by a surprisingly powerful thunderstorm.
After a series of nearly calamitous events, the aliens do make first-contact with world leaders of the day.
How We’d Integrate Into a Hypothetical Galactic Government.
In Part I, I laid out the plausible alien first contact scenario that forms the backstory of my novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush. As promised at the end of that post, I’m back to postulate how things would pan out post-contact.
People ask why writers often depict reptilian aliens, sometimes referring to it as cliché. While humans seem predisposed to fear reptiles and regularly equate them with evil (see: Garden of Eden), I think there is a fundamental and practical reason for casting reptiles as a viable intelligent alien species.
The vast majority of Earth’s vertebrate animals sport scales.
The one example we have of life’s diversity—the biosphere we call Earth—demonstrates that hair follicles are the anomaly, not scales. Of all the classes of animal that constitute this planet’s vast wealth of life, only mammals have hair follicles. Species falling within the mammalian class only constitute 5400 of Earth’s 60,000 vertebrates. That’s less than 10%. The percentage falls to 00.3% when you include all 1.5 million known animals.
What if no Earth-changing calamity took out the dinosaurs?
If not for a big ass rock knocking down their evolutionary tree 65 million years ago, dinosaurs would likely still rule this biosphere. Considering we mammals managed to progress from rodents to spacefaring homo sapiens in the intervening 65 million years, it’s interesting to imagine what the dinosaurs might have evolved into had said ‘big ass rock’ not ended their reign.
Now for the fun part, the part where I go off into one of my thought experiments, the part where I ask: ‘What if?’ (And, you probably respond: Well, IF my Aunt had testicles, she’d be my Uncle.)
Thousands of millennia ago, Velociraptors were already hunting in organized parties, a level of intelligence far ahead of the tiny mammals scurrying about their feet.
Imagine those Velociraptors continued to develop and evolve. Hell, I’ll even diminish (but not eliminate) their huge head start over mammals. Let’s suppose it takes this advanced dinosaur species 64 million years to do what base mammals did in 65 million years: produce a spacefaring species.
In other words, what if during the first 64 million of the intervening 65 million years, Velociraptors developed into an intelligent earth-conquering species. Through utilization of superior intellect, opposable thumbs, and tools, they render the planet safe; free of the bigger more threatening species like T-Rex. Who knows, maybe they hunted them into extinction (as we likely did to the wooly mammoth). At the end of those 64 million years, they conquered gravity and put the first dino in space; one even famously referring to their astronauts as ‘Spam in a can.’ (A reference to a popular mammalian meat product.)
Now you say: “Dean, you’re missing a million years. The dinosaur’s evolutionary tree toppled 65 million years ago.”
You’re right. In my hypothetical scenario, our slow-to-develop Velociraptors conquered space a MILLION years ago. I think that is a conservative number. If we instead suppose they maintained their massive evolutionary head start, they might have conquered space tens of millions of years ago.
Where will humans be in a million years?
Back to the real world. If we don’t kill ourselves (and somehow survive Ebola), where will humans be in a million years? Perhaps the reptiles populating a nearby solar system will look up and see scale-free aliens descending on their world. After seeing our hairy heads, they will turn to their science fiction writers and apologize for calling their depictions of hairy aliens cliché.
Click the red play button at the top left corner to hear nationally recognized voice artist, Mike Ortego, read scene 1 of my novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush. You’ll recognize his voice from documentaries and commercials for Coke-Zero, Kingsford Charcoal, and more.
He’s currently producing and narrating the audiobook for my new novel. It sounds great; he really brings the dialogue to life. The ebook and paperback versions of SECTOR 64: Ambush are available now. The finished audiobook should be available on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible by Halloween.