I heard from a reader the other day that my first book, while not especially terrifying on the first read, had made them think about what it would be like for humanity to encounter an alien culture. And then they came to the conclusion that the book had been pretty realistic about that and that aspect was pretty frightening. Most authors wonder at some point where a particular part of their novel comes from. Writing, in its initial stages, is largely an unconscious effort and little epiphanies like this along the way are part of the journey of self-discovery that is an innate part of writing. My self-discovery was the mental root-source of my models of alien encounters: the 1970 British science fiction TV series by Terry Anderson called “UFO”.
I led a relatively sheltered life as a child and when I saw this series, it was very shocking in its realism. Almost every episode ends in a tragedy. We capture a human looking alien and give it truth serum to get their stoic and powerful mind to open up (this alien was an older teen). The serum was incompatible with their metabolism and they die right there in front of you in horrible agony. The aliens come from a dying planet where everyone is sterile. So they view us like cattle — as a source of transplant organs to keep themselves going. When some random citizen dies at their hands, the forces battling the UFOs keep the death a secret. So the relatives and families of the loved one pine for years hoping that their family member will be found, when actually the relative is simply dead. And then there is the story of the people in the secret SHADOW organization, the ones battling the UFOs. Their family cannot know what they do. So sometimes, family needs are sacrificed as they ignore them to deal with a UFO crisis. A child dies when a dad can’t deliver needed medicine in time because a UFO crisis erupts. As you can see, going from the always happy ending world of childhood TV to this series would be pretty shocking.
This TV series is a wondrous source of ideas in how encountering an alien culture might play-out and the realistic problems that might arise. UFO was a very cynical series because of the fatalistic thought patterns that frequented television during the cold war era. My aliens actually have a great deal of empathy which they learned over the centuries of dealing with humans. Yes, “learned” because empathy is not necessarily required for all life forms as I clearly demonstrate with the lizards in book #4.
But there are a few things that standout about humans that can lead to frightening prospects when we encounter an alien culture. We are a self-repairing, totally autonomous creature that can be very easily molded to fit the needs of aliens. Rather than being solid and unchangeable, like a rock, humans have an editable DNA that controls everything about how they work. We are designed to be changeable. And our mind is very easy to mold too. All one has to do is solve the brain interface problem to where experience and knowledge can be rapidly streamed into our minds, and our brains will rapidly form into a device for the computations presented. In short, we are the perfect tool for advanced aliens. Like UFO, the aliens in the Children of Sophista ruthlessly exploit this. The question becomes, “What alien will control the humans and how will they keep the other aliens out.” When you read the Children of Sophista Series, you learn the frightening yet realistic truth about how this could be accomplished.