Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Kings of Ancient Narnia

I've noticed there is room in C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales for more stories.

Those who know the series well might think there couldn't be any more Narnia tales, since C.S. Lewis isn't around anymore and because the series as he wrote it went from the very beginning of Narnia (in The Magician's Nephew) to the very end (in The Last Battle). But there is, in fact, at least one noticeable gap in the stories, something that happened of interest that's never been written into books.

Between the time of the establishment of the first King of Narnia and the situation where the White Witch rules Narnia (that is, in between The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) the actions of these kings have never been documented, nor has the rise of the White Witch to power.

Since the whole series of current Narnia books is called "The Chronicles of Narnia," calling a series of books that covers the time period I'm referencing "The Kings of Ancient Narnia" would play off the contrast between the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Bible--the word "ancient" would point to the early time period of the stories. In these stories, there would be no visitors from the Earth we know, though the books could still form a children's series...focusing on Narnian children, or young talking animals even.

Or perhaps, the "Kings of Ancient Narnia" could have a more serious, adult tone. After all, the last of these books (I'm thinking there could be four or five of them) would end in a pretty dismal state--Jadis, the White Witch, on the throne of Narnia. Such a change in tone might make up for the fact the author couldn't be C.S. Lewis--you wouldn't expect a current writer to write the same way he did anyhow...

Of course, the bigger problem is that Narnia is copyrighted. You'd have to get specific permission to write books that furthered the series...which may be an unlikely occurrence. I must say though, if I were given the chance to write new Narnian stories, I think I'd thoroughly enjoy the opportunity...


Sunday, December 9, 2012

"The Garden's First Sinner": A Story, the Serpent, Satan, and a Strange Take on Evolution

"The Garden's First Sinner" is a short story idea I had years ago but never got around to writing, partly because I'm more interested in the idea than the story. Let me be clear up front that the purpose of this story would not have been to advance any new theological notions (I don't believe what I suggest below myself), but simply to make its readers think about what could be possible...

The story would be based on the observation that there is a difference between Satan, the spiritual adversary of the human race, bits of details about whom are visible throughout Scripture, and a serpent, which is described in Genesis as being the most "subtle" beast of the field (in King James English). That is, the serpent is described as the most intelligent of animals, short in smarts only to mankind. Yet Scripture also portrays Satan as a serpent or serpent-like (most famously as a dragon in the book of Revelation) and specifically links him to the temptation of the human race in the Garden of Eden.

Many Christian interpreters of the text over the ages have decreed the serpent was Satan, period. But, as not everything there is to know about God is known (or can be known) in Genesis, not everything is known about other words, he who is later known as the "prince of demons" was in disguise as an animal in the Garden. And later we find out the real identity of the "serpent."

Many modern interpreters hold the original text has evolved, so that it really was supposed to be an animal at first, but later Scriptures changed that original idea to something else, a spiritual sense. This is not an interpretation I agree with--I prefer the "not everything is revealed yet" school of thought.

Still, just as the gospels mention that Satan entered Judas before he betrayed Jesus and demons entered a herd of swine (with the permission of Jesus), could it be that the serpent was a real animal of great intelligence, but Satan possessed this animal? So it the tempter was both a very clever animal and the greatest of evil spirits at the same time?

In the "what if" sort of story I imagined, that situation would come about because the serpent became jealous of Adam and Eve's privileged position. So in this hypothetical scenario, the serpent actually sinned first, before the man and woman did, just that event happened "off camera." As a result of that sin, Satan was able to enter the beast and lead it to tempt humans to sin--so both of them were responsible.

Satan's judgment actually comes at the end of the world, when he is cast into the Lake of Fire in Revelation. But the living creature, the serpent, my story would conjecture was punished by God by being forced to crawl on its belly and "eat the dust of the Earth"--which would mean more than simply serpents now being lower to the ground than they apparently used to be--it would also be a reference to the animal becoming unintelligent.

I imagined at the end of this story God making this humiliation of the serpent a long process, while He held the garden itself in suspended animation, so time there would not change. The long process would involve generation after generation of reptilian creatures rising and falling, some becoming enormous and powerful, but all basically unintelligent, until a shock came over the Earth that got rid of all the tall reptiles, leaving only those who "crawl on their belly" left alive. In short, the story would imagine God directed the evolution of life to happen over real time that was not experienced in the garden, as a form of punishment, real time that came about after the original creation of life, in Adam's experience of time, thousands of years ago.

The punishment of evolution would not just touch the serpent, because as the backstory of life was rewritten, suddenly the same creatures Adam already knew would have different backstories. Animals would instantly be more at odds with the human race (though that instant would have taken millions of years to produce)--plants would have produced the thorns and thistles associated with a struggle for survival of a sort that had never been originally intended by the Creator. Evolution would be real, occurring over millions and millions of years--but at the same time, in another timeline, the world would be thousands of years old in its original form, evolution being nothing more than a divine form of punishment...


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Multiple Multiverses of Science and Imagination

I haven’t read Brian Greene’s 2011 book, The Hidden Reality, but according to an online post which includes a summary of this work’s explanation of the most current thinking by theoretical physicists on the subject of multiple universes—a.k.a. “multiverses”—a.k.a. parallel universes—there are not only physicists who believe more than one universe is possible, as a collective whole they have proposed nine different types of multiverses. Although naturally they disagree among themselves concerning which of these, if any, has any valid possibility to really exist.

Of course, in the classical understanding of the word it’s a contradiction to speak of anything other than one universe, since the word by definition embraces all of material creation throughout all space and time. But what’s meant by more than one universe is that we human beings may be isolated in one possible reality, in which we would only be able to see a certain amount of the “total universe.” All that we could possibly detect with our senses—or even the best of scientific instruments, even imaginary futuristic ones—is confined to our “local” universe. Theoretically, others could exist.

Science fiction writers like to play with the idea that these differing universes somehow interact, even though by definition they can’t—or else craft a story set in a separate universe entirely, without making any reference back to our own world. I make specific suggestions on how these theories of different universes can apply to science fiction as I mention the different categories, so let’s look at Greene’s identification of nine types of multiverses (note the explanations of these types are my mostly own and any errors are solely mine):

Inflationary Multiverse – According to standard cosmic theory, the big bang caused the universe to expand, or inflate, from a single point. If that inflation exceeded the speed of light (as some physicists think happened), space could approach infinity in size, but we would not be able to see all of it. That’s because the speed of light is only so fast and therefore some parts of the cosmos would have expanded away from us so far that light from that area would never reach us. So each area of what is really one continuous universe would be isolated in separate bubbles and each of these separate bubbles would in effect count as a separate universe. Each of these universes would share the same dimensions and laws of physics we have and if there were some means to travel much faster than the speed of light, in theory we could visit other “inflationary multiverses.” If the number of these multiverses were infinite, it stands to reason that everything that can exist in them, does exist somewhere. Which would indicate there is another world out there “far far away” that mimics everything as it unfolds on Earth as we know it. If the universes are in fact infinite in number, there would actually be an infinite number of everything, including an infinite number of possible planet Earths…a story featuring other universes of this type requires some kind of near-infinite speed drive (perhaps based on the hypothetical particle the tachyon), which perhaps could have an explorer zoom out to the edge of known space and back…but accidentally enter an entirely differently “universe,” in which everything is either blatantly or subtly different than it was before.

Quilted Multiverse – Another view of the big bang says our universe would have expanded into separate pockets, as in the inflationary multiverse theory, but in a way that creates distinctly separated regions of space that occupy separate dimensions. Between these separated universes would be regions with no light between them, though light from all the separate “patches” in the quilt would be able to enter the void between them and would be in fact rushing to meet one another. In theory, a very much faster than light vessel could travel to these other regions, but it’s unknown what effect the interactions between pieces of this separated-by-distance and dimension multiverse would have with pieces of our own. The idea of a quilted universe embraces the infinity as I understand it and therefore also would imply duplicate Earths “far far away” much more than does the idea of an inflationary multiverse, so stories of finding another Earth in a quilted multiverse would seem natural. But also this framework of universes of differing dimensions, in which divergent multiverses can actually impact each other as light from each expands into one another, raises the hypothetical possibility that some sort of extraordinary effect would happen at the boundary between universes. Perhaps even whole universes would explode…

Brane Multiverse – As touched on in my previous post on Angels in Other Dimensions, String theory (which is not embraced by all theoretical physicists) leaves open the possibility that our universe occupies just one 3-dimensional brane, while other branes of other dimensions could have whole other universes contained within them. In this case, other multiverses could well have a differing number of dimensions—there could be less, as in the classic story Flatland, or somehow more. The characteristics of each of these universes might be wildly different from one another and there would seem to be no way for residents of differing branes to interact—though I speculated in my Angels post that perhaps the world of spiritual beings could form an exception to that…

Cyclic Multiverse – For those that embrace the idea that the universe is composed of vibrating strings (String Theory), that some of these strings can occupy three dimensions (String Theory “branes”), and that these branes could be infinitely large—all ideas that can’t be either proven or disproven, at least at present—then the next step is to imagine what happens if two separated branes collide. There’s a theory that such interactions could create a new big bang every time it happens, allowing the possibility that new big bangs occur on a cyclic basis, generating a new universe inside a brane each time. Again, the inhabitants of these universes would seem to be separated from one another forever, in this case more by time than by space. Although in theory something outside the branes could see within them and interact with them. My first thought of creatures that can pass outside of branes would be those inhabiting a supernatural role of some kind, though one could imagine multidimensional aliens who are masters of the cyclic universes…who may in turn, aware or unaware, have a supernatural Maker greater than them...

Landscape Multiverse – If you think of inflationary multiverses occurring within the confines of Brane Multiverse or Cyclic Universe-style branes, String theory makes it possible that many of these separate universes could have fundamentally different physical laws that we have in our universe. For example, the speed of light in another of these universes could be more or less than the speed of light in our own, or the amount of energy contained in matter, instead of being e= mc2, could equal e = m + c, or c (the speed of light) could cubed instead of squared or something. Again, travel between different universes of this sort would seem to be impossible. If you could travel to a universe with a fundamentally different laws of physics, most likely you’d be dead before you knew where you were. Life of any sort we understand depends on a precise balance of physical laws...though it might be interesting to have a story in which creatures from a universe of differing physical laws find a way to thrive in our own universe…creepy monsters are the first sort of thing that comes to mind…

Quantum Multiverse – The Many Worlds Intepretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics: has an interesting way of dealing with the strange nature of the smallest particles of matter and energy (quanta), which by repeated experiments seem to indicate that quanta have the disturbing habit of occupying more than one place at the same time—unless directly observed, in which case they will “pick” one place to be, as if they knew they were being watched. The Many Worlds Interpretation (a.k.a. “Quantum Multiverse”) states that this is because quanta in effect still inhabit all the possible places they could once be observed—only not in our universe. In other words, each possible choice happens, each in a separate universe, each quantum decision generating multiple universes at a shot, uncounted trillions of quantum decisions per second causing the number of universes to continually increase in an unimaginable froth. Where these universes are supposed to physically be located is unanswered by this theory, so it’s impossible to even guess if we could ever travel to another one of them. But note that each of these multiverses would share the same physical laws as our own. Also note that according to the theory, every possible choice that ever could happen, actually has happened in one of these quantum multiverses—every possible choice occurs somewhere—which is why this notion is a darling of science fiction writers (there would be, for example, multiple universes in which Nazi Germany won WWII). Personally I think this is far from the simplest view of quantum mechanics, but some physicists readily embrace it. For a uniquely Christian view of quantum multiverses, see my previous post on Greg Mitchell’s Rift Jump.

Holographic Multiverse – According to the holographic principle, there would be a physically-equivalent parallel universe that exists on a distant surface (i.e. the edge of the universe), in which everything about our universe is precisely duplicated—we are just a holographic projection of the real thing or vice versa. This notion is an odd one and as stated would allow just one other universe, in which physically there is a second copy of everything—yet all the second copies would be just like us in every way. Perhaps a “mad scientist” type would seek a way to enter the second copy of the universe as a way to retrieve a lost loved one, even though this doesn’t make sense according to the theory. Or better yet, someone comes from the second universe to our world seeking a lost love…

Simulated Multiverse It’s been suggested that technology will advance to the point where a fully realistic simulation of the universe could be possible, including each particle of everything. If it’s becomes possible to do that, who’s to say it hasn’t already been done and we aren’t in such a simulation right now? And if you allow that there can be one such full 100% detail simulation of the universe, perhaps there could be more than one, or as many as you like. Travel from one of these other “universes” to the next would simply involve the simulation programmer (whoever that would be) moving you from one simulation to another…a Grace Bridges story I blogged about (in A Vision of the Real and Unreal), could be expanded to embrace a multiverse-engaging tale.

Ultimate Multiverse – The ultimate multiverse would say that all possible variations of the different types of multiverses discussed above, all of them, exist somewhere. So multiverses would come in many different types and flavors, in some sort of infinity times itself infinite times combination. A book series exploring such a setting could perhaps be called something like, “The Infinite Universe of Universes.”

To wrap this up, it’s interesting to note that the majority of the theoretical physicists generating these notions don’t embrace a belief in an infinite God—yet they find it easy to believe in various versions of infinite universes that self-create. They see an infinite intelligent God as unbelievable, in part because He has never been directly observed, but a system that’s equally infinite, but without any purpose or plan, yet still containing the complexities of life, is believable. Even though the ideas of multiverses are in general chaotic, messy, and improbable—and never have been directly observed.

In my view, there is no inherent contradiction between multiple universes and a single God who created them. Yet a simple reading of Scripture implies there is just this one world we inhabit, surrounded by the heavens which the Psalms describe as God having “stretched out.” I personally don’t have a hard time imaging that God could have created more universes than just our own (which we simply haven’t been informed of yet), but my hunch is that the infinite Creator would not have seen any need to make another infinity. My gut instinct on the matter is that even if there really are multiverses, they are finite in quantity…which is why, when I had the chance to create my own version of a gateway between worlds (universes really) of science fiction and fantasy and history in The Crystal Portal, I wrote the story so that there were only a limited number of universes on the map of worlds discovered by my protagonists near the end of the novel…