Trampled Under Feet VI: Peace in the Stars, Composing, 20/01/2016

Continued from last post . . . But what if we ever really did colonize space? It sounds more unrealistic now than it did in the Golden Age of science-fiction. When we were racing to the moon, the prospect of space colonization felt just around the corner.

Our current cultural moment is dystopian in the extreme. Humanity seems to be circling around its own drain of ecological destruction. Mad Max gives more of a flavour of what we think of our likely future than Star Trek. 

I think I can do a lot with solar sail imagery for flying
between planets in a single solar system.
Images of humanity travelling among the stars used to be an ambition we felt within our reach, at least potentially. Now, it feels just as fantastic as Tolkein’s elves, orcs, and hobbits. 

Even high-profile realistic stories of space exploration in a clear Golden Age tradition, like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, depicts space travel as a desperate gamble to escape our suicidal extinction on Earth. The dream would appear to be dead.

All the more reason to keep that dream close to our hearts.

There are two types of story that I want to tell with my character Alice. For a short run-down of what the character is, see this post. But as I’ve developed her character through one film project I'm slowly working on, other related ideas inform her.

Here's another way for a philosophy nerd* to understand Alice. Her personality has a similar fundamental structure as the type of person that Book Five of Spinoza’s Ethics describes. 

* Which, as you can probably tell by reading any random entry of this blog, I am.

Alice is primarily interested in what will make a person a better living machine. What will let them have more productive effects on the world and fewer to no destructive effects. She seeks harmony, and always does her best to act in a way that will restore harmony to every aspect of existence.

One world where I want to throw Alice is ours. That’s what my current film project about her is. The script is about Alice, this enlightened android, living in a world five minutes into the future of ours. She’s a warrior for peace who becomes horribly frustrated with how much effort it takes to push humanity beyond its stupidity.

But another world where I want to throw Alice is much larger, a distant future where humanity has overcome (and barely survived) the current ecological crisis of Earth and somehow made it to the stars. It's been thousands of years.**

** This is the only timeframe that I think is plausible for our culture to conceive of truly achievable space colonization. Back in the 1950s, and even the 70s, we imagined it plausibly happening in the 1990s, or at least by 2001. Was that always a joke? Or is Stanley somewhere very disappointed in us?

Talking on the internet lately, I saw
the suggestion that Ruth Wilson
would make an excellent successor
to Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who.
For all the same reasons, she'd
also make a fine Alice.
Alice is a wanderer in this world of a dispersed humanity, where civilizations thrive on seven or eight very different worlds, but where interstellar flight and communication still takes weeks and months at a time. Thousands of years old already, she and other androids like her are the only ones for whom this isn’t a long time.

This is the world where humanity has colonized space. And even after several thousand years and multiple ecological, political, and whatever other kinds of crises I can think of, we’re still frustratingly dumb. 

We perpetuate the injustices of capitalism, authoritarianism, communism, fundamentalism, racism, all kinds of sexism and genderism, and whatever other axes of oppression I can think of. 

Alice is the one last enlightened one – the perfect exemplar of Nietzschean and Spinozist virtue – who hasn't given up on us. Or at least the one who consistently never does.

With all the cosmic and alien imagery*** of this story, I think I’d prefer to produce it as a comics series if I can build some more of a publishing profile over the next few years and start work with a more-established comics artist. 

*** I’m thinking of enormous cities that would rival Asimov's Trantor, metal world-ships that dwarf the dreams of Iain Banks, existentially terrifying aliens like 50-tentacled giant squids swimming through an ocean contained in a small planet, metal snakes, ant creatures that can bend spacetime with their minds, and creatures from the heart of gas giants whose flesh is made of diamond and whose thoughts are fibreoptic.

But the Alice stories of this distant future have a common problem, or at least a question. If humanity has learned so little over thousands of years, why wouldn’t Alice lose hope in us? 

The answer would be just as useful to us now as in 5000 years on a planet far, far away. . . . To be continued

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