The world gains a new future by following an old path
I'm an engineer with a life-long interest in books and writing. Originally from England, I've lived near Toronto, Canada, for many years and where I hike, run and take wildlife photos whenever the weather will let me. In my writing, I like to capture the humorous side of life even when the times sometimes don’t seem to warrant it. For this website and my new series of books, The Modest Proposal Institute, I've returned to one of my earliest loves -- science fiction.
In last week’s post, concerning the next series of The Modest Proposal Institute, I mentioned the probability of non-carbon based life being the dominant fife form on Earth, had the conditions been only a little different. And how the traveller using a Probability Drive might encounter such an Earth with a large enough change in probability. Another possibility that has been used in books and movies is that of a dominant species in the past, like dinosaurs, evolving to be capable of what we would call ‘thought’, rather than just reacting to stimuli, had they avoided extinction. Asteroids pass by Earth all the time so the probability of one large enough to wipe out almost all existing life is pretty small but very possible.
Dinosaurs have been used in books and films but other possibilities are the mega-fauna that followed the extinction of the dinosaurs. I’m something of a fan of those giant creatures so an Earth where they still lived would be an interesting place for my probability traveler to visit. Similarly, the time before the age of the dinosaurs has plenty of possibilities too, though many of the creatures there look a lot like dinosaurs to everyone but an actual anatomist. Anyhow, if there are any lifeforms from the Earth’s past you particularly like, leave a comment and if I can make it happen, it will appear in one of the next series books.
While you’re waiting for the next series, be sure you’ve read all the first series, which you can find here.
Last week, in my post about DrWhoOnline, I talked about the advantages of the Tardis, Dr. Who’s spaceship, as a vehicle for writers (and not time or space travellers:-). In particular, how it was faulty and often didn’t arrive where the Doctor had set it to go. Like Douglas Adams’ Improbability Drive, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Tardis allowed the writers a wide range of story possibilities. My thinking in that, and previous posts, suggested that a Probability Drive narrows the field a lot — for writers! I’ve decided now, it doesn’t. After all, at some point in Earth’s past the conditions arose that favored carbon-based lifeforms, like us, and didn’t favor lifeforms based on other elements. But it’s possible there was a level of probability at that time where that wasn’t true and, consequently, one or more of the parallel universes running alongside ours is, for example, silicon-based.
If something as fundamental as that could have been different, then anything can be and my concerns for the number of stories are unfounded — thankfully. My first stories will be of small shifts in probability with small differences in outcomes. Al the obvious ones have been done to death (Nazi Germany winning WW2 seems to go on forever as does the British winning the War of Independence or Revolutionary War depending on which side you look at it from). The problem now is to find something that would have really made a difference. I’ll leave that to next week. While you’re waiting, why not visit my Amazon Author Page and check out all the books there.
Recently, the website, DrWhoOnline, has been featuring a The Modest Proposal Institute banner, which is drawing new readers to my boxset. I enjoyed Dr. Who when I was growing up and my kids did too so it’s neat to partner with a website entirely devoted to the whole history of Dr. Who. For me, there has only ever been one ‘real’ Dr. Who and that was Tom Baker but I’ll (try to) understand if you have another favourite:-)
In keeping with the Tom Baker favourite, I have to say my favourite villains were the Daleks. They still are. Admittedly they were clunky by modern cinematographic standards, not to mention their impracticality as fearsome warriors that couldn’t do stairs, the concept is better than anything else movie or TV science fiction has come up with since. Every villain from then to now has been a man wearing a funny costume and makeup, pretty well — or a CGI creation that looks like a man in a funny costume and makeup.
Similarly, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr. Who’s transporter, the TARDIS, and how it resembles the Infinite Probability Transporter I’m imagining for my follow-up series. Dr. Who sets the Tardis to go places but when he (or now she) arrives, it is never quite where or when s/he expected to be. And no one is ever pleased to see him (or even her) — to quote Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I think my transporter has the same exciting feature. The pilot can say ‘take me to 95% Probability‘ and the Transporter will take him there. However, none of us have any idea what a world that is 95% probable will look like. And you can be sure what or who lives in it will be as pleased to see us arrive as we are to see ghosts and UFOs in our world.
An earlier book of mine is featured on Books Go Social‘s NetGalley right now so I’m taking this opportunity to share it here this week:-) You can find it in the link below the cover.
For those of you who can still, dimly, remember 2001/2 and all the events of that time, here’s a humorous refresher. The events are real but the characters and their stories are not. It was a time of intense news, even real news — with 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, the War on Terror — and all while the Western world’s industries were outsourcing jobs to the rest of the world, which led to massive layoffs — called ‘downsizing’ or ‘rightsizing’ at the time. Euphemisms are wonderful thinks, aren’t they?
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m examine ways in which an ‘Infinite Probability Drive’ (as opposed to Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive) might function — at least from the viewpoint of the driver of the vehicle it’s propelling — for series two of The Modest Proposal Institute. It opens up plenty of possibilities, such as the ghosts and UFO’s that people see but can never quite tie down. Our heroes may appear as ‘ghosts’ in the parallel universes they visit, just as the universes they visit may appear ghostly to them.
That would be likely in the universes they visit that are very close to ours in probability; i.e. almost 100% the same but not quite. But what about the case where our hero sets the probability to a small number, such as one percent? If there are an infinite number of parallel universes and they are separated only by probability levels, then there must be some where this Earth never got life, or life began then died out — as some have suggested might have happened on Mars. Perhaps it did get life but not carbon-based? Many of these ideas have been explored by writers, such as what if the dinosaurs hadn’t been wiped out but continued evolving until they were the dominant species intellectually as well as physically — Dino Sapiens, in fact. Our ghostly heroes might see such a world as thin shadows but no one on that world may ‘see’ them at all. One thing I can be sure of, no matter what parallel universe they enter, the probability of finding any thinking being happy is almost zero. You have to be a non-sentient being for that to happen:-)
My apologies to my loyal readers. Last week I missed posting because my laptop refused to attach itself to the available internet connections. My phone was fine. My laptop not so much. It wouldn’t even accept my phone as a hotspot. I may have the screwed down its Internet Security a little too tightly or maybe the laptop is growing old and cranky. My last MacAir died after four years and maybe this one doesn’t want to make the last one look bad.
The trip up north without the internet did mean I could focus on re-writing my cozy mystery, now titled ‘In the Beginning, There Was a Murder‘. Once the Developmental Editor gets it back and reads it through, I should be ready for those final steps toward publishing. What that means is, I can return to thinking about series two of The Modest Proposal Institute. There’s so much going on in the space world just now, I feel I’m racing against time. Elon Musk’s SpaceX had great success recently in putting Westerners back into space while the Chinese continue developing their space station. They may have caught up with Alexis and co before I’m ready.
For new readers who’ve come here without knowing The Modest Proposal Institute, you can buy the whole series here in Kindle format or at my Amazon Author Page.
Alexis saw from the window of his craft a primitive space city of old-fashioned looking modules. Clearly the moonscape in a ‘99.99+ percent probability’ world was one where someone other than the Institute colonized the moon. Who? He hesitated to set the craft down. If he materialized in this closely parallel world and it was violently hostile, he could be obliterated before moving the Probability Shifter forward.
He watched the settlement modules carefully, looking for signs of life. His scanners didn’t pick up anything but he wasn’t sure if they were working. After all, if he hadn’t actually brought his craft to a stop in this moonscape and it hovered uncertainly at the probability level he’d set could the scanners ‘see’ any living thing? He wondered if they, the settlement’s inhabitants, could see him? Was he appearing to them right now as a ghost or a UFO?
If he was, they weren’t doing anything about it. The moonscape remained eerily still. Surely there should be people moving about, even if it was their night time? They must have security or maintenance staff who worked when everyone else was asleep? There was only one way to find out. He set the craft down and switched off the Infinite Probability Drive. Nothing changed in the eerie stillness. At least, he thought, no missiles have come my way. My next step is to go visit them. Will they be happy to see me?
Meanwhile, back here on Earth, I’d be happy to see you over in my Amazon Author Page where you can buy the books to date. Or, better still, leave me a comment below sharing your thoughts on how Series two should go.
Alexis stepped out of the Infinite Probability Drive and onto the Moon’s surface. It was desolate, untouched by human activity. He’d scanned the surface from the capsule before exiting and knew there was nothing, no living creature as far as the scanners could reach in every direction. He’d stepped out only to emulate that ‘first step for a man’ moment he’d watched so often when he was a child.
It was a sobering thought. He’d set the probability drive to 99.9% recurring, as close to 100% as it was possible to be but in this parallel universe, the Institute had never arrived on the Moon. The probabilities of it happening were that small. Somewhere in the past hundred years, something hadn’t lined up and this alternate eventuality had happened. Did that mean at every other setting from 0 to 99.9 the Institute didn’t reach the Moon or was it just this probability? There was so much to learn but it couldn’t be learned here. He needed to return to the world he was familiar with and figure out his next steps.
While you’re waiting for the second series to begin, visit my Amazon Author Page and pick up any of the books you’re missing.
I’m still thinking of ideas for the second series of The Modest Proposal Institute where the principal characters are exploring parallel universes. One of the dangers here is not to fall into the trap of ‘What If?’. We’ve all read or watched those stories a million times and they have been worked out, for the most part.
The stories need to be more than, what if the Germans had done the second world war, etc. and more than the time travel story where someone goes back in time and changes the future, which is, of course, our present. Most of these stories are little more than wishful thinking on the author’s part. As you can see, I know what I don’t want for series 2, and haven’t yet settled on what I do want. This where I need my readers to contribute some thoughts. That’s you:-)
Meanwhile, you can pick up my existing books at my Amazon Author Page here.
Following my thoughts on an Infinite Probability Drive (IPD) from the past two posts, I think it really can’t move people through space or time. I think it just has to move through the infinite number of parallel universes that exist at the particular place it is standing at the time the drive is turned on. This means the IPD has to be in one of the spaceplanes from the first series. I want to keep the stories in the realm of science fiction and out of the realm of fantasy but this is a serious limitation. It means the next series stays around Earth, Earth 2.0, the Moon, and Mars. Not necessarily a bad thing, just restrictive so far as space goes.
Where the stories won’t be limited, of course, is in the many possible paths history might have taken had probability of even tiny events happening as they did been different. For example, had the spaceplane and its engine not been completed before the Institute was able to take advantage of it, the escape into space would have been hopelessly disadvantaged, if not impossible (with all due respect to SpaceX and Elon Musk whose efforts and products are truly amazing). In the end, however, this is probably not a major limitation. After all, there’s no life anywhere nearby in the Solar System so changes in probability wouldn’t likely lead to any big changes. Activating the IPD on Jupiter wouldn’t likely show the probability traveler much change to the planet.
If you’ve read to here, and you’d like some background to what I’m talking about, visit my Amazon Author Page and pick up your copy of The Modest Proposal Institute series 1.