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"I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."

— Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

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Monday, August 30th, 2004

Today's entry has of course pushed back the extra entry that I created for this weekend. If you didn't get to see it, check it out before continuing with this entry.

The story idea came to me a few years back as I considered the silliness of most stories about alien invasions. They tend to gloss over manifold problems:

The universe is Pretty Damned Big. How would they even know that we existed, or bother searching for us? If you answer "by detecting our radio transmissions," keep in mind that we've been broadcasting radio for less than a century, so our transmissions form at best a lumpy ovoid that's roughly 100 light years in diameter - less than a speck of sand, cosmically speaking.

Assuming they found us just for the sake of the story, we hit the next question: why are the aliens bothering to come here? It would almost certainly have to be from some altruistic motive, or desperation.

They need fuel/resources/supplies? It would take so much energy and cost so much for them to get here that it would be pointless. As Damon Knight pointed out, an alien coming here to tank up on fuel is like driving from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine to buy a gallon of gas.

They want our women? Whatever for? Would you want to mate with any of the aliens you see in creepy sci-fi movies? No? So why would they want to mate with us? (I think this is mostly a fantasy of closet BDSM folks who have wet saucer dreams and have to tell all the papers about them.)

They want to conquer and enslave us? There's no amount of work that Humanity could do that would justify such an expensive long range operation. What are we going to do for them, make trinkets they can sell back home? Shipping billions of tons of material from Earth to elsewhere is just not practical. And they can't set themselves up as local overlords, since the vast odds are that they can't live here without extensive terraforming, and we can't live elsewhere, for the same reason. They'd be better off staying home and genetically engineering some slaves, or building robots.

My story doesn't really solve any of the above problems (as Charles Hardin pointed out, any beings capable of interstellar flight have probably mastered fusion and left fission behind like a bad dream - they would have no need for the radioactive elements I have them collecting in my story). But there was another problem I decided to focus on. If these invading aliens are really that smart, why do they do so much work to conquer earth? Why not come up with a clever way to screw with our heads so that we conquer ourselves for them?

I combined this idea with a philosophical concept. Suppose that you, as a finite being made of matter, living on earth and subject to all sorts of limitations imposed by physical law, had to determine whether a being standing in front of you was a god. How could you do so?

It seems that not only could you not tell (finite beings have no way to measure unlimited power), but you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between a god and an alien which didn't really have godlike powers, but which was able to fake such powers well enough to fool you. An alien such as this could alter your perceptions and memories, make the sun appear to stand still, raise the dead (with android replicas) and cause manna to fall, and even make you 'feel in your heart' that it was the real deal. In the meantime, it's sniggering behind its antennae and getting ready to sell you the Horsehead Nebula.

So this (in addition to a chunk of political satire) is the reason for my story's existence. I hope that you enjoyed it. More like it are to come...

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