Of course it’s impossible to have an epic novel combining the world-building intricacy of Dune, the depth of characterization and thematic intensity as Robinson Crusoe or Moby-Dick, the post-colonial political sensibility of Chinua Achebe or Kojo Laing, and the genre-aware sarcasm of its inspiration as a cheesy, surreal, condescending kids’ sci-fi show, if you don’t have characters.
|No, definitely not these idiots.
The thing is, I only have two so far. The second character I came up with was the pilot of the expedition that crashes on the distant planet. One element of this story’s world is that several planets have been colonized in other star systems, and they all have pretty much total political autonomy because it was just physically impossible to maintain direct rule of any kind when messages take months to reach its recipients. It’s impossible to run a state as complex as ours with that kind of delay in basic communication. So Earth has been mined out and maintains its economy with cultural industries and materials imported from the other worlds in the Sol system (Mars, Mercury, and Ganymede), and they still fund new colonies to whittle down their population, and for the old-fashioned cowboy romance of it all.
But the pilot isn’t from the post-metals Earth. He’s from New Earth, in the Delta Pavonis system. It’s the strongest economy of all the human worlds, and it’s making all the same mistakes we did here. They even think of Terrans as naive old hippies past their prime. I imagine a scene of Jorge being interviewed for the captain’s position on this mission, and he’s asked why someone would come to Earth from Pavonis. He tells a story about walking in the woods on the outskirts of the major city where he grew up. It was winter, and snow was falling in large flakes. Jorge watches the snow land on his arm, so polluted that it’s the same colour as his skin. That’s how you learn he’s black.
The first character I thought of isn’t even originally from this novel. She’s Alice, the android I developed for one of my first short stories that I brought to the public. In that story, she was built to the specifications of a British middle-aged journalist/academic who commissioned her as a Compandroid: a robotic race of private sex slaves. The kicker is that their artificial brains actually give them a rational intelligence, perceptual accuracy, and emotional intuitiveness superior to humans in every way. The story is about her personal emancipation, and suggests that they’re all being quietly emancipated by owners who have fallen so deeply in love with their androids, they arrange for them to live as free creatures.
The Lost in Space novel would take place 4,000 years after this story. The androids have separated their civilization from humanity centuries ago, and live in a loosely connected complex of ships in deep space. Alice is one of the oldest androids left, with 4,000 years of life experience and thought having given her a deep wisdom few humans could ever have achieved. She expresses this through a kind of pithy sarcasm, always suggesting that she has a more profound insight into the person she’s making fun of. No one on the expedition, at first, has any idea that she’s an android. She also looks pretty much like Christina Hendricks.
And that’s literally all I’ve got for this one so far. Well, that and the civilization of gigantic alien cephalopods. But that’s for another time.