Friday, September 19, 2014

Define Eden

If there is a central question to the upcoming novel, Chronopticus Rising, it is this: how does one define "Eden"? Is the definition Biblical, secular, or does it vary from person to person? If a group of people come together and propose to build that "Eden", do they realize that sometimes their definitions do not line up with one another? Can they work together to achieve their common goal or will they tear themselves apart in the process?

Numerous times throughout the Chronopticus trilogy the subject of "Eden" comes up and many of the finer details of what it means to build a new "Eden" on another planet will be revealed in the last book of the series. Yet there is also a deeper theme at work here: how far is each side willing to go in order to achieve their utopian goals?

Wikipedia defines a utopia as "a community or society possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities." How does one define "highly desirable" or "near perfect"? Aren't those definitions inherently relative?

Webster's dictionary defines utopia as "a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions." Another definition states, "an impractical scheme for social improvement." For the word "Eden" it states, "paradise" or "the garden where according to the account in Genesis Adam and Eve first lived" or "a place of pristine or abundant natural beauty."

It would be hard to argue, at least initially, that Mars is a place of "abundant natural beauty" or that things would be "near perfect". But what would a new Eden, apart from Earth, look like? Would it involve a society without hate or without crime? Would it be limited to a certain set of belief systems or have comprehensive education and health care for all? If a group of people could start over completely from scratch and build an entire civilization from the ground up would it still end up looking like life back on Earth despite their intentions? Would they ever achieve a coveted utopia?

Let's take a look at how the Bible describes Eden.

The word "Eden" is mentioned fourteen times in the Bible (in reference to the Garden, not a personal name). The most notable references are found in Genesis chapters two and three. In Genesis 2:8-9, it states, "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (KJV)

Man was then directed to tend to the garden and in Genesis 2:17 God gives this command: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." After this, Adam names the animals and Eve is created. Then, along comes the serpent in chapter three: "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"" (Genesis 3:1, KJV)

Although that last verse could generate an entire book unto itself, from that point forward, along with both Adam and Eve giving into temptation, events in Eden go downhill rather quickly. By Genesis 3:23, Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden never to enter again.

What is a scientific view of an ideal utopia or Eden? A casual survey of some prominent modern-day scientists may yield a wide range of results. For instance, would Michio Kaku, Eric Drexler, Ray Kurzweil, and others have a different view of the topic compared to the average population?

I think it is a key question to ask when starting a colony on another planet or even on the Moon. The resulting answers may startle a lot of people.

One last point: there are echoes of Eden imagery scattered throughout the first book in the trilogy, Fractal Standard Time. That Eden is both technological, societal, and physical. It even includes a fall ("The Great War"). Ionotatron traces the outcome of that fall and a general societal and technological descent into chaos. By the end of the third book, chaos turns to persecution and at the last moment, true resurrection.

Concurrently, the subject of envisioning and creating Eden will also take on a spiritual dimension. And that, in the end, is the ultimate theme that underpins everything else.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mars at Midnight

The other day I described Chronopticus Rising as "the clock book". Another way to describe the novel is that it is the most dynamic of the three books, but it also has the brightest moments and the most upbeat ending. The larger theme, though, is that not everyone's definition of Eden (or Utopia) is the same. I'll address the Eden/Utopia issue in a subsequent post, but for now it's enough to say that there are several different visions of an ideal Utopia, depending on who you ask. The question then becomes: how devoted is each side in their attempts to achieve it? What are the consequences? And, in this book, how well do the colonists really know the founders of the settlements they live in?

In addition, like the other two books, there will also be more new technology introduced. This includes monowheels, tunneling dice, electronic bees, and a new generation of Sentinel machines. Oddly enough, there has been a few robot-related stories in the news as of late, with one company's plans to sell robots and another that is developing robots that can run. And here is a video of real-life monowheels, including a company that has built several different models. And here is an article about a burger-flipping robot that can crank out 360 burgers per hour.

Hopefully, one of the other distinctions of this novel will be the characters. Yes, these are many of the same characters that have existed throughout the series, but to some extent, not a lot has been revealed about who they are. Much of that will change because the third book is all about the characters identities and pasts being used against them as a means of exercising power. That said, like all other aspects of the writing craft, things such as character development will always be a "work in progress" for me.

On a side note, writing a series (for the first time) has also taught me a lot of things. I'm quickly realizing what works and what doesn't work, and that I need a better system for tracking characters, places, and events over huge timeframes. It's also difficult to determine whether to make books that can stand alone (but are still part of a series) or to create books that need to be read in a specific order. Factor in giveaways and it gets even more complicated. But I'll save some of those lessons for another post.