Problem: How to get to another star

So if you’re going to write a story about traveling to other stars and meeting aliens and all that, you have to decide how you’re going to do that: either accept that you can’t go faster than the speed of light and that you’ll need to take a long time to get there, or come up with a way to defy physics. I decided to defy physics, but to let that be done by wildly advanced aliens. Aliens so far ahead of us, we can’t even communicate with them. We would be like insects to them.

Let’s go with the insect analogy for a minute. Say you’re an engineer working in the defense industry (which I may or may not know something about), and you’re heading off on a business trip to discuss software development with a subcontractor. You pack your bags, drive to the airport, and off you go. But let’s also say there was an insect that just happened to be in your closet, and, unbeknownst to you, was hanging out in your suitcase when you decided to pack it. For the sake of argument let’s also stipulate this isn’t anything harmful, it’s just a bug that minds his own business. When you get to your hotel, it climbs out and wanders off, and you don’t even notice. That insect would find itself in a completely different place, a distant place where it could never have travelled to on its own. And it would have no concept of how you got it there. Could you explain a car or an airplane to it, even if you cared to try? Or your purpose in the trip?

Now put a human in the place of the insect, hitching a ride with an incredibly advanced alien, who is traveling to a distant world for reasons we could never fathom, using methods we couldn’t hope to understand. Cool.

Now think about the insect analogy again, but this time, what if the bug wasn’t benign? What if it was a nasty spider or a bedbug, or something you really didn’t want to share space with, or inflict on your destination? You wouldn’t allow it to go with you, right? You might just kill it, or at least get it out of your suitcase (and house). So how would our aliens do that? One way they could enforce some security would be to stop us from bringing any dangerous technology along. Without that, we could hardly do anything that would hurt such advanced aliens, right? So maybe they just stop us from bringing anything non-organic along.

Where does that leave us in terms of a story about a society of alien worlds? Well, for one, we don’t have spaceships invading or having huge battles, because we can’t bring them with us. Can’t even bring a laser gun. In fact, we’d be completely dependent on the destination world for any equipment we might want to have. Seems like that would tend to promote a lot of cooperation between worlds. And therefore, a boring story. Because good stories demand conflict.

But wait a minute. If you can’t bring ships and guns to another world, what can you bring? Information. The stuff in your head. Stuff you can write down (paper’s organic). And what causes the most conflict in our world today: weapons, or ideas? The pen is mightier than the sword, after all. So we can still have conflict, we just have to do it differently than most stories.

But that’s all for today.

Oh, one more thing: the name of my novel is Star Riders, which is what I call the advanced aliens. Or maybe it refers to the people who hitch rides on them.

Author: RickAAllenSF

Semi-retired engineer, now a SF author

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