Saturday, December 7, 2013

Free stories based on Travis' Big Ideas: DEC 10 - DEC 14. (Plus NO REVOLUTION TOO SMALL!)

I've attempted to expand the purpose of this blog to go beyond talking about story ideas to launching some of my stories based on the ideas I blog about. This particular post will promote the stories, but also will talk about how the ideas from this blog fed into them.

The Unknown Biologic tale actually was a story of mine first, one from maybe five years or so ago which I revised quite a bit recently. I scoured the tale for an idea behind the story to justify creating a blog entry for it. The idea I picked was about aliens having DNA that matches the DNA of planet Earth. There were other points I could have talked about instead. I portray a future medical station in an interstellar war, featuring a main character who is a Hutterite. The Hutterian Brethren are Anabaptists like the Amish, with the same tradition of pacifism, but not the same attitude towards technology. The "Unknown Biologic" is the alien that they pick up, which happens to be very much like an oceanic Earth creature...

In Technically Magical and A Little Problem with the Dilithium Stone I played with variations on what is basically the same idea: What if creatures from fantasy along with their magic were mixed into stories featuring technology and/or science fiction? The two stories are very different from one another otherwise. In Technically Magical my gnome main character is debating whether or not to work for General Magical Services, which I meant to parallel General Electric. The story is serious in tone with some descriptions of magic mixed with technology that were interesting to me. It also portrays what "race" would mean in a world where separate races are practically separate species (elves, gnomes, humans, orcs, and dwarves). In contrast, "A Little Problem" is a light-hearted spoof of Star Trek where I made Vulcans into Dark Elves, Chekhov into a goblin, played with the magic and tech in a way I hope is fun, and made a number of inside Star Trek jokes, all in a way my readers so far have considered pretty amusing.

In Zombie Doc I took a number of the story ideas that I'd played with for this blog about zombies and put them into a story. I also in many ways drew on my own experiences being a medic in the Army. I entered the story into a contest with a strict word limit, so I had to keep it brief. All the characters in the story are based on people I actually knew at one time or another (OH WAIT--an author is not supposed to admit that : ). I hope zombie lovers will enjoy Zombie Doc, but I have to admit it isn't very scary or creepy. The strength of the tale lies more in its characters. Which is ironic, because I wrote it specifically to showcase story ideas, not characters...

All four of the above have been published through Kindle Direct Publishing via my company Bear Publications (yes, it's a real LLC). All four of the above will be available for a free download from December 10th to the 14th, 2013. I hope you download them in abundance and really like them. Though I'm a bit concerned about the fact that each one of the stories are very different from the rest. That may not be the best way for me to build a brand or make a name for myself as a writer...oh well.

In the meantime, please download the for-pay story (only 99 cents : ), No Revolution Too Small. This is my installment in the Mike Lynch series, "No Revolution is Too Big." When Mike asked me if I was interested in writing a tale matching his initial story, I wracked my brain for ideas and wound up using pieces of concepts I developed for the Nanite Infested Aliens blog post. What I've read of the entire series I like, but I hope you find my story especially worthwhile, which features intelligent nanites. (By the way, Mike Lynch and I worked together previously on The Crystal Portal, though in that case I'd done the initial work and sought his help afterward.)

SO four free stories altogether, December 10th-14th! PLUS No Revolution Too Small!
(Sample the fine NRTS artwork below:)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gravitational Lens Communications and Observation

As reported in this Icarus Interstellar link, there's a natural effect of our sun's (or any star's) gravity that should be included in realistic science fiction stories. It turns out that the sun's gravity bends space enough, and thus the light passing though space, to allow a space telescope or a space telecommunications array to get a significant boost in resolution. So every spacefaring race (or nearly every) would naturally build stations at a sufficient distance from their star to make use of this natural gravitational effect, receiving a huge boost in gain essentially for only the cost of putting the arrays or telescopes in place.

You'd probably need multiple stations of this type, at various points around the sun, because the focus would naturally be on things on the other side of the sun relative to the station. And the distance is far, around 700 AUs from the sun, so it wouldn't be easy to shift a station from one side of the focus to another. (For perspective, after continuous travel since the 1970s the Voyager probes have not yet reached 150 AUs).

At a level of interplanetary travel where nuclear or ion rockets become common and interstellar travel doesn't exist or is just beginning, these remote outposts would be very important as a means to see outside the solar system or to enhance communications with interstellar probes or fresh interstellar contacts. These stations would also likely be the first to spot signs of alien civilization or invasion.

A flash fiction story of mine giving my own spin on this science fiction world-building idea lies below:

Three years of continual thrust brought GFOST 1 (Gravity Focused Orbital Space Telescope) into position. It's artificial intelligence cut the thrust as it entered a very slow orbit of the sun. Or at least, Dr. Salma Naman hoped so. It would be 4 days, 1 hour, and just over 13 minutes before the speed of light crawled its way back to Earth with the radio transmission that would bring the definitive news.

Salma celebrated nonetheless. "Pass the champagne, Alin!" She smilled at her Romanian-born colleague as he passed the Dom Perignon with a grin. The two of them had led the Planetary Dynamics design team that won the contract to build GFOST for the World Space Agency.

"What shall we toast?" he said in an accent that always reminded her of vampires.

"To many more geefosts to come!" 

"Hear, hear," he agreed. Their Planetary Dynamics colleagues at the long table in the dim-lit restaurant joined in.

Alin added, "To the funding of numbers three through ten!" She drank to that.

GFOST 2 and had already been funded, of course, and was on its way to a position 180 degrees apart in a great circle around the solar system at seven hundred times the distance between Earth and the sun. It lagged a few weeks behind #1, but soon enough would also be cutting engines and entering orbit for projected decades of service. Assuming, of course, that the system of using the sun's gravity as a gigantic lens to greatly increase the power of a space telescope worked the way it was supposed to. And assuming the GFOSTs operated as designed...

Four days later the post-celebration throbbing had departed from Salma's skull. She reported to the WSA control room in London as a contractor consultant, so she wasn't one of the big names in the room when the first signal verifying all was in order came back. Her console was the second from the left in the rear of the big room. Everyone smiled and some handshaking and a few hugs passed around the room at that moment, but there were no cheers. They'd been hearing from Albert the AI the entire voyage, after all, so they knew he was nearly mission-ready. Less than an hour passed before he began imaging.

The first pictures returned proved spectacular. Albert captured an extra-solar planet orbiting 94 Ceti  as well as ground-based telescopes could picture Saturn or Jupiter. The planet viewed showed a rust-red surface with clouds of dust in the middle, but with poles covered with the blue of what spectroscopy confirmed was H2O, liquid water. And with an atmosphere high in oxygen. That produced some cheers. 94 Ceti wasn't even considered an especially likely place to find conditions compatible with life on Earth--it had been selected for a first view simply because it happened to line up well with GFOST 1's optimum direction of focus at the moment, looking beyond the bright star humans knew as their sun.

Near the end of that exciting first day in the control room, Albert tackled the routine task of examining the position where GFOST 2 was due to enter orbit in twenty-two days. This was to verify no debris of any kind would be in the area as a hazard to the incoming telescope, though Salma suspected Albert in fact cared more about his sister AI than anything else.

"Curious," said Albert in voice that reminded her of a golden-eyed android of her science fiction-watching youth. "It appears Alberta is already in place."

"Impossible," said Salma out loud to no one in particular. "We've received two progress reports from her today. She's exactly where she's supposed to be." She wished Albert could hear her comment, but of course, that wouldn't happen for over 97 hours. With over a week passing before she could receive any reply in return.

Instead, he continued his monologue. "London, I am detecting an object in position where GFOST 2 is due to arrive. It clearly is not debris nor does it match any known Oort Cloud object. In fact, it's configuration appears to be another space telescope. Verifying."

While Albert systematically began to run through a series of steps to verify his finding, she stared at the clearly mechanical image captured on the monitor screen that covered the back wall of the center. She drew in her breath sharply.

Chris Carter, the CIC, snapped his head in her direction. "What is it, Dr. Naman?"

"I'm familiar," she caught her breath, "with all the designs that were proposed for geefost. All of them, all over the world. What I'm seeing is similar to many of them, but is also different from any one of them. Not only is this not geefost two," she caught her breath again, "the model I'm seeing is unlike anything else. It's not one of ours."

Carter frowned. "Doctor, what are you implying?"

"This...this is unlike any system proposed or designed on planet Earth. W-which means, it must come from some other planet." Salma's voice trailed off as her heart pounded in her chest...


Monday, November 4, 2013

Unknown Biologic: Aliens with Earth Genetics

Science fiction likes aliens. I've written a story, Unknown Biologic, that illustrates a twist on the conventional alien tale.

There's a presumption which naturally goes along with believing that evolution produced human intelligence that it would produce many other intelligences in the universe, ones that don't necessarily have much in common with the human race. Respectfully, I happen to believe the universe was created by God, so God produced human intelligence and logically would also have created any aliens. I've talked in a previous post about 7 christian objections to the existence of aliens, dismissing those objections for a Christian writer who wants to write science fiction and include aliens in the story. In my posts four faces around throne of God and alien God of the Christian rapture I offered some distinctly Christian twists on writing about aliens.

Now I'm offering another twist. What if when aliens are discovered in a story universe, it's found that they genetically match up with some creature on Earth? For example, their DNA could match human DNA or be close (this idea was actually on display in the science fiction film Prometheus, which I discussed in a previous post). This would naturally beg the question of how human genetics are found throughout the galaxy. A Christian writer could have a character state the simplest explanation for the phenomenon is a common Creator for us and them, while other characters could ignore this simplest hypothesis and pursue ideas of "parallel genetic development" or panspermia or ancient alien interventions. This could form an unobtrusive way of showing how human intellect at times prefers to explain phenomena by any means but God.

But the aliens don't necessarily have to be like humans to make the point. The aliens could be bearlike or birdlike, for example, with not just outward appearances that match Earth animals, but with DNA that matches them, too. Or is very similar.

Unknown Biologic features an alien that's a near match to an octopus, which happens to have characteristics that would give it distinct advantages in zero gravity over human beings in the future war I hatched up in the story...


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rescue Brokers, Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, and Mercenaries: Gusto for Hire

Some of the most colorful characters in science fiction and fantasy are those whose primary interest is--or seems to be--collecting the money due them. Whether it turns out the hired hand in fact has a hidden heart of gold like Han Solo, or is nothing but surly voice in scarred armor like Boba Fett, characters who enter the plot with apparent or real disdain in the outcome of the story allows them to casually wisecrack when more engaged characters like Luke Skywalker are committed to being sincere, which at times makes them a bit boring.

I must say I'm an earnest kind of guy myself, which is probably why I usually write sincere characters who deeply care. About everything.

So when my friend Mike Lynch invited me to write a story about his "Rescue Broker," a category of character he created himself, I didn't know what to think. A rescue broker is someone who will do pretty much anything a bounty hunter, smuggler, or mercenary would do, but as specifically hired on contract to come to an individual person's or even an entire civilization's rescue.

Mike's rescue broker par excellence is his single-name character Stelfson, featured in Mike's story, "No Revolution is Too Big." (It turns out Stelfson has that on a business card.) Stelfson doesn't like to waste time or put up with silly questions. He's a bit surly, at times dryly funny, and always keeps focused on the business at hand--which ultimately, is business.

Mike's tale has been launched as a separate short story that will eventually be in an anthology of the same name (the picture of the already-designed cover is at the top of this blog post). A number of other authors have contributed short stories about Stelfson and his adventures in the galaxy, including me. My own contribution to the Stelfson saga is called: No Revolution Too Small and it definitely paints Stelfson in the "hidden heart of gold" category. It will the the fourth story released (one is coming out once per week for the next ten weeks--as of 17 OCT 2013) in the group and will eventually be in the anthology when it comes out.

But as a story concept, a rescue broker is in no way limited to Stelfson. There could be as many flavors of "rescue broker" as there are flavors of other types of characters for hire. Check out Mike's story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo and feel free to come up with your own version of the idea...


(For my own 99 cent story in this series, please follow this No Revolution Too Small Kindle link.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Magical Space Opera

In the vast realm of speculative fiction, there exist a number of blends of science fiction and fantasy. "Magical space opera" is term I haven't heard used before, but a relative of mine in the know says isn't original to me. But perhaps what I mean by the term isn't standard and can inspire some stories of a new type.

To get to what I mean, let's define space opera. Wikipedia has it as:  "A subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. The term has no relation to music but is analogous to 'soap opera'."

A lot people think of classic science fiction stories when they think of space opera (an example I'd give is Ray Gun Revival, which deliberately tried to revive the style of Golden Age science fiction space opera). But really, as opposed to hard science fiction (which is scientifically accurate) or other subgenres like planetary romance, sword and planet, or military science fiction, most of the science fiction we see in movies is really space opera. Neither Star Wars nor Star Trek are truly realistic scientifically, are set in space, tend to be melodramatic, and have emphasized conflict between technically advanced foes. This is also true in a different way of movies like Armageddon and Independence Day, which certainly aren't hard science fiction but don't entirely qualify as military or anything else--but they do emphasize romantic and melodramatic elements. It's actually harder to find a sci-fi movie that isn't space opera in one way or other than to find one that is.

What I would do with "magical" space opera is create stories virtually identical to space opera stories, except with the twist of typical fantasy elements, including magic, featured in the story to replace things space opera employs as technological. So a starship powered by warp drive would have a "dilithium stone" instead of "dilithium crystals" as the heart of the energy system. Technology like a video monitor would still exist, but would be powered my magical creatures like pixies. Gnomes, elves, and goblins could be part of outer space crews.

Really my idea relates back to my earlier blog post A World of Magic-Powered Technology, in which I postulated a society that mirrored our in most ways, but magic backed the technology instead of being powered by electrical and chemical motors. If this world so nearly like the twenty-first century in so many ways, but with a base in magic, advanced to the point it developed space travel, that world would have stories that I'd call "magical space opera."

To see better what I mean, check out this for-pay story of mine on Amazon: A Little Problem with the Dilithium Stone.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Nanite Infested Aliens

Inspired by the history of Europeans coming to the New World carrying bacteria to which the native inhabitants had little to no immunity, I thought: "What if aliens visiting Earth carried their own sort of infection or infestation, to which we humans had no immunity?" Sort of a War of the Worlds scenario in reverse...

But I'm sure that sort of thing has already been done by someone, aliens carrying virulent disease(s) humans don't carry. So what if the infestation were of nanites--what  if nanites become a standard part of healthcare for any advanced technological species? (Just as hand washing and sterilization of medical instruments become standard at a certain point of development--once bacteria are discovered and found to be potentially harmful.) So that nanites are literally crawling all over (and inside) the bodies of high-tech aliens (or perhaps time travelers from Earth's distant future). What if these nanites potentially posed a risk to the human race?

There are a lot of good reasons for an alien to have its body swarming with nanites. The microscopic little robots could clean off dead flakes of skin like mites do for us, but they wouldn't bring some of the common allergic reactions and uncommon diseases mites carry. In fact, the nanites would logically be designed to attack biological forms that are not their host--so they would get rid of mites. They'd also get rid of bacteria. It would be harder for them to help get rid of viruses because most are so small (and I'm assuming a nanite can't be as tiny), but they would do what they could do, perhaps destroying virus-infested cells very early on.

They'd eliminate communicable diseases very nearly entirely. And they'd help with tissue repairs and so forth. Perhaps they'd make it so that an alien who suffered major trauma--say, a gunshot wound to the chest--would fully recover in an hour or two (well, even a day or two would be pretty miraculous). They might go so far as to make an alien virtually immortal.

This is hardly what we'd normally call "infested." Usually that's something we'd reserve for something with negative consequences, like some sort of parasite.

But what if the negative consequences were for creatures like us, twenty-first century humans, who have not been deliberately doused with tiny self-reproducing machines that attack anything other than the host they were designed to protect? Then we'd see the aliens as if they were infested with a disease, since normal contact with one of them would cause these nanites to jump over onto a human body and start to reproduce there, attacking us because we do not match the biological signature of the original host.

When these hypothetical aliens contact one another, the nanites on a particular alien's body intended to be there would always outnumber those that would accidentally cross over from contact with someone else. The ones designed to be on a particular body could have a swarm and hive mentality--effectively collaborating to defend the host and keep any outside nanites from making any trouble.

But we humans, our immune systems are not designed to fight machines. We would have no immunity at all. Casual contact--a handshake, such as in the Star Trek movie "First Contact," would at first seem to have no ill effect at all. But eventually, perhaps in a few days, Dr. Cochrane finds the skin on his hand begins to sluff off...and his arm begins to a week, the pain is unbearable and is all over his body. In ten days, he is dead...but everyone he touched and everyone who touched him in the meantime is infested by robots that reproduce wherever they are and which attack whatever does not mach their original host. Leaving everyone totally defenseless...

Actually, nice guy aliens who meet us on purpose would either find a way to shut down their own nanites or would refrain from touching us if they were nanite-infested. But what about alien invaders? Will Smith in Independence Day punches an alien in the face...what if he found that within hours his knuckles began to blister...the virtually impossible uploading-of-a-virus-on-a-completely-unknown-computer-system still works, the shields go down, the aliens get blown up. But pilots first, in droves, then every one they know, then probably the entire human race, find themselves dissolved bit by bit by tiny little machines that don't scrub out or bleach out well enough, that radiation can't entirely eliminate, and which aren't even intended to be a weapon. War of the Worlds, in reverse.

The best scenario for this kind of story might be an accidental encounter. Say a crash landing on our planet. Or an alien space vessel sends a mayday and nearby humans (who've never encountered aliens before) fly a spaceship or starship over to help. Neither the humans nor the aliens would know what the disastrous results to humanity will be. The humans because they don't know the aliens carry nanites--and the aliens because they don't realize we humans don't...


(For a 99 cent short story related to this story idea, please follow this No Revolution Too Small Kindle link.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A review of Demon: A Memoir--Sympathy for the Devil?

I just finished reading Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir. Regular readers of my blog know I’m keenly interested in a variety of science fiction and fantasy topics and as Christian writer I’ve taken a particular interest in some aspects of the supernatural. Specifically, I’ve written numerous posts that relate to the topic of angels (my last was Angels and Aliens).

So I was keenly interested in how Demon would portray fallen angles, a.k.a. demons. By the way, in talking about this book, I’m naturally going to commit some spoilers…

Overall, in spite of a few ticks that are other than human, such as the demon in the story being fascinated with watching people eat and drink, this work does quite a lot to humanize the demonic, though I don’t think that was the author’s intent. In fact, I’d say the demon Lucian is really every bit as much an empathetic figure as the narrating protagonist, Clay. Again, I don’t believe Tosca Lee intended that, but I think that’s the case.

I found the story well-written, rich in details of sights, smells, and sounds—too rich for me, in fact. I was interested in what the demon Lucian had to say, not the latest human guise the demon appeared in or the latest bistro or whatever fashionable place they go where Clay eats and drinks and Lucian pretends to, watching him. And gives his story, one little bit at a time. Inevitably, Lucian says something not all that shocking, Clay overreacts to it by being shocked and awed, Lucian complains time is short, after which he disappears for an undetermined time before appearing again who-knows-how-long later in the form of yet another human being. In the meantime, the reader is treated to Clay doing a fair amount of wallowing in self-pity and both dreading and looking forward to his unknown next appointment with the demon who picked him out to tell his tale. I’m over-generalizing a bit—not all of the encounters are exactly the same, but they do tend to follow this pattern.

Lucian’s series of encounters with the human he picked is ostensibly to tell the story of his life, though we never really learn why Lucian finds his story so important to tell, and in fact, he tells next to nothing of his own individual life at all. Almost all of what Lucian relates is about what you could call the “common demonic experience” of first being the object of God’s approval prior to the creation of the human race and then irredeemably falling from His grace after Lucifer’s fall. In idea terms, this is the central theme of the book, both the most interesting concept the story engages and simultaneously one of the most damning facets of the tale.

That is, the book portrays the demons as having a perfectly valid reason to hate God. It unfolds that (following common Christian theology) God cast out the demons, the former angels, from his presence once and for all for the single trespass of following after Lucifer’s desire to make himself greater than God. One sin, as it were, and they were out of God’s plan, never to be allowed to return, forever, permanently. Whereas humans, or people of clay as Lucian likes to call them (note the connection to the protagonist’s name), are given chance after chance after chance to repent and come back to God. So of course the demons hate us human beings—they have a reason to hate us as much as they have a reason to hate God. God has been unfair. He has loved us and not loved them.

Note that the phrase “God has been unfair” is my summation of some things Lucian says. The phrase doesn’t appear in the book in the form I stated above. Note also that I don’t think it was Tosca Lee’s intent to put demons in a good light. In fact, Clay’s overreactions and some of Lucian’s sudden and inappropriate emotions (and a few other details) are clearly intended to creep out the reader and convince us, yes, demons really are bad. Plus, Lucian casually brings about the death of a bystander in the story.

But here’s the thing—if this portrayal of demons is true, if they and the devil himself have been abandoned by God without redemption for a minimal cause, if they still long for the relationship they had with God before their rebellion, then they have a reason to hate the human race, so in that case having a few inappropriate emotions when talking to a human is probably understandable. As would be some hatred—and even killing a human being. If the demons are at war with God and His favored creation, humanity, such things are really quite human under the circumstances. It’s possible for a human soldier to fight the enemy without any hatred or ill-will, but that’s not normal. Normally, human beings hate their enemies.

Now, to want to do more than kill, to feel more than simple hate, to desire not only to destroy but also to humiliate, not only to defeat but also to degrade and defile in any way possible, that’s something humans are capable of but we correctly call “inhumane.” That’s the heart of the demonic, which C.S. Lewis managed to capture to a degree in The Screwtape Letters but which Tosca Lee almost completely fails to convey in Demon: A Memoir. Demons aren’t shown to be so bad and the degree to which they are bad is for a clear reason.

As a writer, I think I know how Lee walked into the story situation she did. Authors tend to explore the motivations of their villains, wondering why they are so bad. So she found a possible explanation for the “bad” of demons in the Scriptures and wrote a story around it. Or maybe I should say, “The most common Christian interpretations of the Scriptures,” as opposed to the Scriptures themselves.

However, the most fundamental problem I have with this story isn’t that it fails to make demons look demonically evil, but rather that I’ve pondered the issue of what the spiritual realm is like and have come away with my own notions that don’t match Lee’s very well. That is, the demon Lucian does not seem like an actual spiritual being to me...I find it highly unlikely that either angels nor demons are human in their outlook on life. Lee attempts to capture this “other than human” quality at certain moments with some passages that relate sequential events that happen before time begins (which doesn’t quite work for me) and a fascination with eating and drinking and newly-minted time and a few other details. But I’ve imagined more fundamental differences.

For example, what if these spiritual beings are incapable of feeling regret? Regret is a product of a lack of foresight about the future coupled with time passing and the reality of what the future really has become hitting you in the face. What if the angels have much better foresight—so the ones that rebelled knew precisely what following Lucifer (a.k.a. Satan) entailed, but chose it anyway? So they have no regret? Or what if their relationship with time is different, so that their past moments are every bit as real to them as their present (which is not true for a human being—our memories of the past are generally nowhere as vivid as our present experiences)? So that would mean that demons are incapable of regretting the moment of their choice, because they are effectively still living in that moment, wouldn’t it? Or what if out of a sense of stubborn pride they would not allow themselves to even begin to regret a past decision—and they have complete conscious control of their minds? Without a human subconscious and our ability to contradict ourselves, a demon fully determined to never have regrets never would have them, right?

A writer following Tosca Lee’s storyline with a different presumptions on what is true about the spiritual realm would thus show there is a natural reason why it would be that God did not provide a redeemer for demons—they are not capable of wanting one. And this quality would mark them as fundamentally different than the human race, wouldn’t it? Potentially making an interesting speculative fiction story? Though they might be challenging to write as characters if they really truly never changed their minds about anything once their minds were made up…

Alternatively, a story could be written that states that fallen angels really do have a means of redemption, but this is something that has never been revealed to human beings because we don’t have the need to know about it. This also could perhaps form a really interesting story, one I’m sure I could invent details for, but I’d be concerned that someone might take my flight of speculation and either consider me a heretic for writing it or found a new and bizarre religion based on it…so I’ll pass.

All things evaluated, I do recommend Demon: A Memoir to Christian writers of speculative fiction. However, I do not do so because I think the book was highly successful in what it attempted to portray, but rather because I think both what it does well in beautiful description and what it does not do well in incompleteness of concept can provide a source of inspiration for a writer to do the same sort of thing, only better…


Friday, May 31, 2013

Boltzmann brains--randomly self-generating intelligences

A “Boltzmann brain” is the name for an intelligence that would randomly generate itself out of nothing. In some cosmological theories, believe it or not, the number of Boltzmann brains are thought to outnumber every human being who has ever lived or will ever live. By a long shot. Please allow me to explain this odd concept I just learned about a few days ago.

Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist, best known for the development of statistical mechanics, who proposed that the entire universe could have randomly generated itself out of nothing, even though that would be a highly improbable occurrence (to say the least). However, if the universe is thought to have existed forever, sooner or later it would have happened, was his reasoning--because even if the odds against something happening are one in one trillion or lower, given infinite time, even something unbelievably unlikely will eventually happen. Eventually--as in a trillion trillion trillion trillion years perhaps. This idea that the cosmos we know could spontaneously arise from random matter floating around in an eternal universe was based on his statistical understanding of random motion of matter and embraced the concept that matter instantly self-assembling itself in a complex form is not impossible…just highly highly highly improbable (again, to say the least). Modern cosmologists who apply Boltzmann's principle speak of quantum flux--that the vacuum of space randomly produces particles and antiparticles that usually vanish into nothing before they are even perceived to exist...usually. But in a very highly unlikely scenario, such particles could stick around and self assemble into complex forms.

Boltzmann developed this theory before the Big Bang was the commonly-accepted theory of how the universe came to be. Before the development of the Big Bang concept, the simplest way to explain how the universe could have come into existence was to imagine it had always existed in some form. Which lead to Boltzmann’s thought concerning our current cosmos, which has relatively low entropy and thus is highly mathematically improbable, but that given infinite time, this improbability really poses no problem. Sooner or later, our stars, planets, galaxies, and all else that exists would self-create based on random chance only, given enough time, instantly popping into existence in the form everything currently holds.

Or course, the Big Bang theory, after Boltzmann's time, puts a time limit on the universe…and the currently-accepted figure of 14 billion years is not nearly enough for a universe creating itself out of nothing, fully developed, to actually happen (if such a thing could ever happen at all)…

The concept of the Boltzmann brain came about when someone noticed that if we’re talking about things randomly generating themselves, wouldn’t it be easier to imagine a mind would generate itself randomly with a complete set of false memories and this mind would simply imagine there is an entire universe, as opposed to the entire universe self-generating? Because a single mind spontaneously generating itself, even with false memories, is more probable than an entire complete cosmos creating itself out of nothing. Which, in terms of probability, is certainly true.

This thinking, even though based on mathematical probability, crosses quickly into philosophical speculation as I see it. If a mind can be postulated to instantly generate itself with false memories and no prior cause, how can anyone know at this very moment that you are not a Boltzmann brain, floating somewhere in a universe that is otherwise totally empty, simply imagining everything else that exists, including your own five senses, your past history, and your interactions with other people? On a certain level it strikes me that you don’t know and you can’t know…once confronted with an idea like this, if you take Boltzmann’s well-established concept of probability and how it's been applied seriously and what that implies for self-generating minds, then that means that believing there is such a thing as a material world outside of yourself involves at least a little bit of an act of faith.

It turns out Boltzmann’s concept proves to deliver some highly inconvenient mathematics. Because in certain views of the cosmos, ones that see the universe approaching infinity in any way at all in terms of time (and space), it’s actually thought to be likely that there are Boltzmann brains self generating at a rate that eventually would cause them to infinitely outnumber all of humanity. Cosmologists know this sounds rather insane, as the linked NY Times article discusses. They know it sounds insane, but according to what I’ve read on the topic, they also know the math is valid…so they think this is a sign there is something wrong with the math, something they need to fix. (“No duh,” some of my readers are probably saying. For me, the solution to this problem is simple--the universe we inhabit is not infinite in time. It has not always existed and will not always exist in the future).

As a Christian writer deeply interested in both science and the supernatural, I see a lot of potential stories in the Boltzmann brain concept. Why couldn’t a story suggest that God is the original Boltzmann brain? Who instantly came into existence and then through a process not yet understood, brought about everything else? Perhaps by everything we know being a product of His imagination? I don’t believe at all that God is a Boltzmann brain, but it’s an interesting notion that puts a new twist on the idea of God’s existence and would be an interesting backdrop for a science fiction tale with a religious flair. And it’s certainly hard to argue from a materialistic point of view that this isn’t possible. From a strictly materialistic point of view, it most certainly is possible, assuming a universe that exists for an infinitely long time…

I know for many of my Christian friends, the subject of God as a Boltzmann brain would be taboo, but what about other uses? What if angels and demons, whose creation is never explained in the Bible, simply self-generated randomly in a universe that would allow that? God would be responsible for the universe that allowed that spontaneous generation, of course…but wouldn’t that potentially change the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion? If he’d never been directly created by God? Just maybe, anyway?

Or more simply, why shouldn’t interstellar exploration stories include some random intelligences existing in deep space? Instead of assuming non-corporeal intelligences to have evolved to a “higher plane” from planet-bound life forms as Star Trek did a number of times (particularly in the first movie), the minds in the stories I would recommend writing would prove to have come about fully formed, in a mathematically explicable process that had nothing at all to do with evolution…


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Vegetarian Vampires (and other "special" monsters)

Imagine a set of gag monsters, that could be included in stories for outright slapstick, or which in slightly altered versions of what I propose could provide some needed comic relief. Such as a vampire who has the standard hollow fangs—but uses them to impale rinds and drink from citrus…and who turns into a fruit bat instead of a vampire bat. Perhaps this sort of vampire could be blonde and always have a deep rich tan (from sleeping in a tanning booth, of course).

Naturally, such a creature would tend to wear white—or maybe really bright colors, like yellow or orange…and would drive a lime-colored VW beetle or something. And work out a lot…and wear spandex…(or perhaps earth tones? Live in a cabin? And recycle everything?)

Imagine a less-than-successful supervillain trying to create a zombie virus and discovering in clinical trials (‘cause you’d have to try it out first, right?) that nearly everything about the virus works as planned…it does turn people into shuffling idiots, highly pain tolerant and resistant to damage, it is highly communicable and fast-acting—with one relatively minor defect. Instead of craving brains, these zombies crave watermelons…

Which doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a scary moment there, the protagonist stumbling into a room of demented creatures, eyes fixed in maniacal stares, groaning and grunting in the stupor of a single lust for one thing only, their mouths dripping red, their hands covered in red pulpy goo…Er…wait a minute—is that a watermelon?

Or a mummy from an extremely impoverished Egyptian dynasty…yes, the mummy comes back from the dead with a plan to take over the world…but he’s only got three guys working for him, one them with a peg leg, one with no teeth, and one pretty much like the zombies mentioned above (except he craves pomegranates)…And a much reduced ability to perform acts of magical power. So, he could produce a sandstorm with a face like the one from the 1999 mummy movie—except the face this mummy could produce in the storm would not even be as big as his actual face…the storm, an annoying little dust devil…maybe the little face could growl and shout, like a little dog launching itself onto a leather boot…

Werewolves that turn into puppies…or fluffy poodles? Skeletons who love to tickle—or who play the “bones” of a piano? A dragon who works in the basement of an old brick building…not as the maintenance man, but as the furnace…?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Troubles with Transporters

The “transporter” is a widely-known piece of Star Trek technology. For the uninitiated, essentially the device grabs hold of you (stepping on the transporter deck is optional but is somehow helpful, perhaps in reducing the amount of energy required) and converts you into a beam of energy. The beam of energy goes a certain distance (the distance is limited to tens of thousands of kilometers) and spontaneously reassembles the person that underwent the process into his or her original state.

Maybe for another post I’ll talk about how teleportation could perhaps conceivably work…but for now, let’s just assume the system really does work as the shows and movies portray it working…I gotta say though that I would under no circumstances be comfortable with my body being converted into a beam of energy and being reassembled elsewhere…what about signal interference? I don’t know how the beam moves or what form of energy it consists of (Star Trek isn’t clear about that), but whatever it uses has to share frequencies with something else, energy of the same kind in the universe…which means you could get interference of some sort…which would not give a pleasant outcome at reassembly-after-the-beam-reaches-its-target…Star Trek actually plays with this possibility from time to time, but not realistically enough in my humble opinion…

But Star Trek commits larger gaps of logic, failing to bring out points that really should come up in stories featuring transporters. Consider this, if you really can convert a person into a beam of energy…if you really can take every piece of matter and convert it into data (which watching enough Star Trek makes clear is what happens), why couldn’t you just retain a backup copy of the data, in case you lose somebody on the next away mission? Redshirt Martin dies on planet Xray, but when you get back to the ship, you reassemble a new one of him from the stored data of his last transport…or perhaps from his detailed physical last year. Of course, that person would not retain any memories of what had happened between the last backup and his untimely death, but you could always bring him up to speed…in this the transporter could function rather like a saving your game in a realistic 3D game…except the “game” would be reality.

Though if you could bring people back—let’s assume for a minute that whatever a person’s soul consists of can be captured as data—I imagine the soul might be something you could capture, but I’m not sure (and am not inclined to take the chance it wouldn’t be captured—again, I wouldn’t want to take a trip anywhere by transporter)—but if you really could bring back someone 100% the same, wouldn’t people start to treat real life like a game? I mean wouldn’t they begin to take huge risks they otherwise would not take? After all, they’d only be the push of a button away from coming back to life in an earlier version of yourself if something went wrong…

And there are lots of other logical problems with the transporter system. Say your transport distance limit is 50,000 kilometers…why not move the signal by relay? In radio this happens all the time—it’s very common to rebroadcast a signal received from elsewhere. So if you wanted to go from the Earth to the Moon, a series of satellites in orbit and in Lagrangian points could rebroadcast you through repeaters all the way there without you even knowing you’d passed through them (you’d need seven of them). Granted, the number of repeaters would become ridiculous at interstellar distances, but there would be no compelling reason why you wouldn’t be able to get around at least the inner Solar System by transporter alone.

Star Trek talks about a transporter signal degrading after a short time, preventing some of what I’m talking about here, but never logically gives a reason for why it would degrade. In fact, my hunch is that keeping the data secure and unchanging is something we would find a whole lot easier to do than to accurately gather the data in the first place (see Heisenberg compensators under the "capabilities and limitations" section of a Wikipedia article on Transporters). So if you could store the signal at will, why take the entire crew with you in physical form? Why not store some of them as data and assemble them when you need them? You could do that at least with specialized crew members, such as, say, an expert in Romulan genetic studies—or you could pull out of memory an entire battalion of security officers if the ship were being overrun. Or for long duration missions, even the entire crew could go into data storage…the computer could bring them back out when needed. It certainly would save you money on building holodecks to keep the crew entertained…

And if you can store data without error—something our early 21st century technology does quite well—why couldn’t you manipulate the data, something we are also pretty good at now (not to mention what we should be able to do several hundred years in the future)? So you could isolate the part of the data that contains a patient’s arm, say…so if security officer Martin only loses an arm to an alien disrupter, instead of completely rebooting him you could simply beam just his arm from his last transport recording onto the rest of his body…as good as before, no need to perform surgery (though he might need to get his new I LOVE MOM tattoo redone…).

Manipulation of transporter data would in fact logically affect all medicine. Someone is sick with an alien bug? Beam the germs out of her body—or beam her away and back, but don’t beam the germs back. Any kind of injury? Beam in unaffected body parts. In fact, there might be quite an industry in deliberately manipulating the transport data to make you younger…or taller…or to change your gender or race or really any physical thing about you. Say goodbye to weight loss clinics!

And again, if it were actually doable to convert a person into data…hey, digital data is easy to duplicate. A transporter could be used as a personnel copy machine…if James T. Kirk is your best battlefield commander, make enough copies of him to run every warship in the fleet…but don’t let them in the same room together—not that universe would explode in some sort of paradox—but the egos, the egos…Dear Lord!

Star Trek fails to tap into all of these logical outshoots of the technology they propose—so fan fiction in the Star Trek universe straightjackets a writer into these constraints applied without a compelling reason. However, writers inclined to create similar universes with a similar devices, called a “teleporter” or some such, should feel free to make their technology do things Star Trek never imagined…


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Kingdom of Dark Matter

The term "dark matter" refers to a number of hypothetical substances proposed to provide the mass that galaxies and galaxy clusters need to have to spin as rapidly as they spin and to stay in cluster formations with one another--mass which the observable parts of galaxies contain only a tiny fraction of and which by best calculations is too evenly distributed to be hidden in massive objects at given points like black holes.

There currently exists no universally acceptable explanation of dark matter--in fact, some physicists claim instead the nature of gravity is something other than expected at large scales, Tensor-vector-scalar gravity and Modified Newtonian dynamics being two such attempts to explain how observed evidence of galactic astronomy coincides with known laws of physics without evoking matter that has never been observed.

In general, physicists have preferred imagining unobserved matter over changing already-known gravity to solve this problem, inventing "dark matter." Among the hypothetical candidates for what this substance could be are numerous descriptive categories, including "hot," "warm," and "cold" (and combinations of the three). Among these, cold dark matter is generally favored, which itself has three possible explanations that have been proposed (and an unknown number of theories that no one has proposed as of yet)--axions, MACHOs, and WIMPs. Of these three, WIMPs--"Weakly Interacting Massive Particles" seems to be the most popular.

"Weakly interacting massive particles" would mean that you and I and everything we know is being passed through at every moment by a barrage of particles that are so numerous and so large that they actually outweigh normal matter by a factor of something like six to one. So roughly one seventh of all that exists would be the visible things that you and I can see--six sevenths would be this invisible stuff thought to permeate all parts of the galaxy we inhabit in a footprint roughly the same as shape as the galaxy itself.

These particles would not interact with electromagnetism, which means light--which is electromagnetic, would not detect them. They would form no covalent or ionic bonds like atoms do, so it would seem they'd build no complex arrangements of particles--nor would they react to the essentially magnetic fields of bonded atoms, making it possible for them to float right through objects without been seen or felt. (Really, this should be called "invisible" matter rather than "dark matter," but the term is what it is.) They would interact with gravity (this is the whole reason they were invented in the first place) but if they were evenly distributed over, say, the solar system, their greater-gravity-attraction than normal matter (by outnumbering normal matter) would not be detected because their distribution would pull equally from all sides at once on this scale, balancing one another out.

As a source for speculative fiction story ideas, dark matter has a number of possibilities, only a few of which I'll explore in this post. One would be to imagine that dark matter particles do bond with one another in complex arrangements, based on physical principles that have not yet been discovered. So scientist X discovers a means by which dark matter can be visualized (say with a focused neutrino beam or something like that)...and he discovers that we human beings are surrounded not only by invisible matter, but that this matter is linked together into structures of some kind. Perhaps the structures could appear to be natural and uninhabited, or perhaps they could appear that way at first, the scientist later discovering somehow that beings inhabit this invisible world of particles of differing physical reactions than we have. And that we are every bit as invisible to them as they are to us...or perhaps, they would see objects such as our sun because of its massive generation of neutrinos, but just barely...while we would be completely invisible to them.

For the story's sake, this physicist would find a way to interact with these beings of dark matter. Perhaps he or she would even find a way to enter into their kingdom, transforming himself into their substance through some sort of Star Trekish transporter-like analogue, which would be set to convert normal matter into this strange "dark" stuff.

Such beings in complex arrangements completely independent of us, based on physics human scientist have not even imagined, made of dark matter, inspires another story setting for me. What if the situation with dark matter were much more subtle? So the physicist investigating them sees them only as particles...but then later discovers that on a large scale--as in the size of a galaxy--and over lengthy time, limited by light speed and the relative low field strength of gravity--the particles interact with each other in a way that mimics the interactions of human brain cells in a strange slow way. As if the entire galaxy is shadowed by a single intelligence, a single consciousness made of dark matter. Other galaxies would also prove to be individual minds...and normal matter would be for these minds just a strange and unexplained little set of corpuscles inside their massive bodies...


Friday, March 22, 2013

A World of Magic-powered Technology

Magical devices are extremely common in fantasy stories of all stripes. Cloaks of invisibility, magic wands, and crystal ball variations abound (and much more).

Steampunk stories at times blend the magical with a Victorian feel...or make technology that might be imagined to work in the 19th century (but which can't really), actually work, producing an effect that is almost magical. I mean things like airships shaped like sailing ships with levitating balloons that are in fact far too small for the weight lifted, or mechanical men who act in ways more complex than current robotic technology can deliver--but powered by mechanical clockworks.

But I think it would be interesting to feature stories in which devices are built--that is, technology exists--that are based on mechanical devices with magic essentially taking the role that electricity and electrical-powered devices perform in our world. So you'd build an elevator, for example, much like we do in our technological age--it would roll smoothly on lubricated ingrained vertical wheels to reduce friction, while the weight of the lift itself would be carefully counter-balanced against a counterweight connected via a cable, so moving the elevator would be simply a matter of changing the balance of the system, instead of directly lifting the weight of the device. But instead of a powerful electric motor to change the balance, a simple magical spell would do so. Perhaps uttered by an elevator attendant--say a magical apprentice gnome. The gnome, perhaps wearing the red cap of elevator attendants of a bygone era, says, "Balanceatus super" or something and the counterweight ascends, the cable lowering the elevator car down.

Or there could be a camera with a lens that captures light...but the image it captures and focuses on is captured by magic and transported by magic. Which would in effect be much like a WiFi device, but would never have to be plugged in for power; its batteries would never have to be replaced (though spells would have to be recharged, whatever that takes). Or a carriage that moves smoothly on wheels with lubricated axels, the driver turning a steering wheel, but the drive motor is a magically tumbling block of metal or something similar.

In fact, a fantasy story could feature a world that parallels ours in every way, with a magical equivalent of computers--monitors are glass screens dotted with phosphorous which are illuminated by pixies in flight--keyboards don't exist, but the analog is a magical parchment that converts handwriting to images on a screen that can be copied and transported elsewhere. The Internet could exist via series of imps and fairies and/or dimwitted demons routing magical messages from glowing screen to glowing screen (I would make this fantasy Internet operate on "true digital"--that is, the numbers 0-9, not binary code). Air travel could be provided by large lightweight aerodynamic aircraft with lift (as we have them), but with dragons harnessed under the wings to provide thrust.

Fantasy skyscrapers of glass and steel could be connected by roads made smooth by giant rollers pushed by trolls. Rifles hurling projectiles could be fed bullet casings containing water where we would put gunpowder. A spell could transform the water instantly into steam, pushing the bullet down the gun barrel. Submarines and spacecraft could purify their air by words that freeze out atmospheric carbon dioxide. Companies that summon or breed or otherwise provide simple magical helpers would drive industry. Instead of "General Electric Corporation" being important, there would be a demand for "General Gnomic Services." Instead of "Microsoft," there would be "Minifairy."

Note that this sort of story may have already been done--I'm not familiar with such stories, but they may well already exist. Also note that there is an underlying assumption here--that even in a world of magic, principles of science would still apply--leverage would still work the same, lift would still be lift, materials science still materials science. There would just be additional forces to be harnessed in such a world that we do not have access to...which is why we are required to rely on less elegant and interesting solutions to our technical problems...

You can download a story of mine illustrating this concept from Amazon at this Technically Magical link.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

7 Christian Objections to the Existence of Aliens--posed and answered

Caveat--I address this topic as an Evangelical Christian writer who has included aliens in science fiction stories and feel justified in doing so. The objections (and answers) below were written by me, but based on things I've encountered elsewhere:

O1. No aliens (or alien planets) are mentioned anywhere in the Bible, so there must not be any.
A1. A counter-argument could be made based on the fact that the Bible certainly does mention non-human intelligences. The difference between supernatural intelligences and aliens is something I've discussed in previous posts (such as Angels and Aliens), but nonetheless, the point could be made that the Bible clearly envisions intelligences other than that of mankind...However, the best answer to this question would be to point out that the Bible didn't mention the Americas either--yet they existed and furthermore were inhabited by intelligent beings--humans of course, but to people during the Age of Exploration it was a mystery how human beings had already arrived in this newly discovered land. Christians see no contradiction in the Americas not being mentioned in the Bible and existing anyway--they simply embraced the truth that while the Bible is true, it does not contain all truth that exists, that is, it does not contain all the information in the entire universe, nor was it ever intended to do so. For example, I, along with most of the readers of the Bible throughout history, am not specifically mentioned in it by name, yet I'm reasonably certain I exist ;)--so the Bible not mentioning aliens in the way we understand them in modern times is insignificant.

O2. The Bible says mankind is "created in the image of God." So if we are in God's image, anything else that does not look like us would not be in God's image. So no other form of intelligent life can exist.
A2. Er, this one is contradicted by the Bible itself whenever it describes angels differently from humans, such as the seraphim of Isaiah 6 (for a view of the seraphim that relates to this topic, please see my previous post The four faces around the throne of God--faces of aliens?)...they are intelligent, but don't look like us. And why couldn't aliens created by God be intelligent, but not look like us? Why would they necessarily have to be in the image of God? And who's to say that they wouldn't be in His image, even if they looked different from us? Perhaps the "image of God" is taken a bit too literally by some. God is able to see and hear...we have eyes and ears. God is able to move and we have legs, He creates and we have hands. God is aware of himself and plans for the future, and we human beings, in His image, do the same sorts of things...if that's what's meant by the "image of God," this is a trait we human beings could well share with extraterrestrials, if there are any.

O3. The Bible teaches the Earth is the center of the universe and if there are aliens, clearly their existence would show the Earth is not be the center. So nobody who believes the Bible should believe there are aliens.
A3. First off, not all Christians take the Bible literally at all, but among those who do (including me, except for clearly poetical or figurative parts), I don't believe we would agree the Bible teaches the Earth is the physical center of the universe--the Bible does not in fact talk about the universe in terms in which it makes sense to discuss a center. It simply says, "the heavens and the Earth"--the world we live on and the sky that surrounds us. True, Psalm 93:1 says "the Earth cannot be moved"--which doesn't say it's the center of anything--and it doesn't even say that the Earth "does not move," but rather that God has established the world as what it is and no one else can change that i.e. "move it." There are other passages, mostly in poetic sections in the Bible, but also in famously Joshua 10 ("the day the sun stood still"), which talk about the movement of the sun across the sky. First off, these passages are quite few in number. Second, they are from the point of view of the observer on the ground--and yes, I myself see the sun move across the sky. It is true that some theologians in the past used the Bible to justify the geocentric system of the universe devised by certain Greek philosophers...and who ignored certain passages of the Bible that did not line up with that system (including the mention of innumerable stars, which the Greek philosophers did not believe in, because they counted all the ones they could see and were certain there were no more).

My first answer was a little bit unfair in a sense, because even though according to what I understand, the Bible does not actually state the Earth is the physical center of anything, it nonetheless does clearly put our world at the center of a spiritual story. And why shouldn't it be--the Bible is the book for US after all, we human beings. But look at it another way--an implication of the Theory of Relativity is that all points of view of all observers are valid--time and space are variables affected by velocity and mass...which means there does not exist any absolute grid across the universe, nor any completely universal time clock, which means that each and every individual place is a much the center of the universe as any other. So why would Christianity be challenged in any way to find out first hand that perhaps aliens would see their own "center of the universe" as being every bit as important as we see our own?--our "heavens and Earth" without further specification would be just like their own view of their heavens and home world...And Christian theologians have long stated that God is Omnipresent--which means He is the center of every single place, throughout all space and time.

O4. The New Testament says Jesus is the Savior of the world. That would mean that He is not the Savior of any other worlds. Why would God save only human beings and no one else--it would not make sense for God to create aliens if Jesus just died for this world--so there must not be any aliens.
A4. The first two sentences don't follow logically as per what was said in A1. Just because Jesus is the Savior of our world and no others are mentioned, it does not stand to reason He is only the Savior of all the  worlds (if there are more than one). Besides, who says aliens need saving? Perhaps any aliens which exist are themselves not sinful. That is, they could have a sense of conscience they perfectly follow at all times. This is a possibility that C.S. Lewis worked through in his space trilogy, especially the first two books. Or perhaps they are demonically evil, consistently violating their own sense of right and wrong at all times, and like demons, disinterested in repentance (mwaa haa haaa--I feel a story idea coming on!).

By the way, the New Testament Greek word for "world" in John 3:16 (as in "For God so loved the world...") is the word, "Kosmos," which, yes, you guessed it, can mean "universe" as well as "world." So John 3:16 could be read, "God so loved the universe, He gave His only Son..." What if the only Son manifested himself in the form of an alien on alien worlds?

O5. The New Testament makes much of Jesus being of the same sort of being we are--a descendant of Adam, which makes Him suitable to die in our place. Obviously he could not be the same sort of being that aliens are, so He could not be their Savior, so God must not have made any aliens (because that would be cruel).
A5. First off, that assumes aliens would be sinners, which they may not be, as addressed in the question above. What "sinners" means is having a sense of moral conscience, being aware of violating this conscience against your own will at times--that is, a sense of sin and a need for repentance and forgiveness.  If humans encounter aliens and find that they like us are "sinners," I think it can be safely said that Christian missionaries will immediately want to preach the gospel to them. And if these aliens accept Jesus as their Savior, it would stand to reason people will say that Jesus being human was important in spiritual terms, not in the literal physical sense.

Secondly, who is to say that aliens would not have their own story of a Savior who died for the sins of their world? The Christian objection to what I just said would probably center around passages like Hebrews 10:12, which plainly state that Jesus died once for all sins for all time. So clearly He could not have died here and then later (or earlier) died on an alien world...or is that just talking about Jesus dying just once? If so, would an alien equivalent of Him count? And what if the Word made flesh (as Jesus is shown to be in John 1:1-18) were in fact actually the same being for all races of beings, human and alien alike, the same spiritual reality with differing bodies--could it be that all versions of the single Savior would all exist at the same time, live at the same time, and die at the same time, in effect, dying only once, even though simultaneously in many places? (after all, God can be everywhere at once, so why would not the Savior be able to die in more than one place at once? even though that is not what we would normally expect)

O6. Alien encounters described by UFO believers sound much like Medieval encounters with demons. Since we know from the Bible that demons are real, that means UFOs are fake and the so-called aliens involved are fake--these are actually demonic encounters!
A6. Uh, maybe. But even if UFO encounters were generally demonic, it would not necessarily follow that all of them are demonic, would it? And even if UFO encounters were all demonic, it wouldn't necessarily stand to reason that there are no aliens. It would simply mean the UFOs don't represent the real aliens that may actually exist on other worlds, beings we have yet to encounter. This opinion on UFOs actually has nothing to do with whether there are aliens or not...

By the way, I don't know if aliens exist or not--I don't think there is any way I can know without actually meeting one or some other form of direct evidence. It's interesting to me though that some atheist friends of mine are utterly convinced aliens must exist...even though they state they are atheists due to a lack of evidence of the existence of God...

O7. The New Testament has a story of the end of time (mostly in Revelation, but based on Daniel, Isaiah, Zachariah and other passages of Hebrew Scriptures) that is too soon for there to be any time to find aliens. And no aliens are mentioned there. So there are no aliens--or we human beings will never meet them, anyway.
A7. For a previous post on "aliens" in Revelation see my post Alien God of the Christian Rapture. As for the rest, well I believe the Scriptures deliberately put the Christan believer into a state of being that continually expects the return of Jesus at any time...and I don't think that it's been an accident that it's been so long. Yet, if it's been two thousand years, why couldn't it be twenty thousand years before the end? Granted, there are a number of things in these prophetic passages that sound very much like modern conditions to me (especially Israel literally reestablished as a nation, true since only 1948)--or sound like certain interpretations of the passages, I should say. Yet history shows that same sorts of things can happen over and over again in human events...human beings could spread out over time to many worlds, meet many aliens...and then undergo a long slow collapse back to just one world, our own...reproducing a number of conditions familiar to Biblical students of end times, twenty thousand years from now. And then the end could come. In short, we just don't know how much time there is. So in terms of time, human beings may well exist long enough to meet aliens someday...or perhaps we will only meet them in eternity, not mentioned in the Bible, but included among the things that the human eye has not seen nor the human ear heard, but which God has prepared for those who love Him (see I Corinthians 2:9).

So, aliens, which have become a common piece of modern American culture as much as zombies or vampires or superheroes, but which are thought to really exist by some very serious and intelligent people, should pose no real challenge for the Christian writer who wants to represent a worldview consistent with Christian doctrine...yet one that still includes extraterrestrials...