Would you go on a Space Journey if you’d End up in the Past?

Today, space colonization is more prevalent than ever before, especially with the Mars One project capturing the imagination of so many people. But the idea of people leaving their home planet and starting over isn’t new and different people have different motivations.

There are those who are primarily interested in the technological challenge, exploring the chances of being able to make the journey and surviving physically. Others have more political reasons: the dream of leaving behind all that is miserable on Earth and starting with a clean slate – to live in peace with like-minded people.

Of course, the two depend on each other. If the technology doesn’t work, the political dream has no chance, but people are emotional beings and they are capable of destroying the technology if things don’t work out the way they like it. And it is often exactly those who are not too familiar with human psychology, who assume all that is needed is to reason with people to keep them behaving well and to ensure progress.

In Of a Note in a Cosmic Song, a science fiction story in five parts, about eight thousand people leave their planet (DJar) on a space ship (SJilai) with the intention of starting a colony on a nearby inhabitable planet (Kun DJar). The technology is well-developed: They will travel with all the luxuries of a cruise ship and the journey only takes four years. The ship itself functions as an inverted planet, with its own “ozone layer”, its own “artificial plants”, to provide in their food supply during the journey, and its own real daylight.

They are well prepared for settling too: they bring fish eggs and bee larvae, hydroponics arrays and crops to restart growing a food supply; they even bring some cattle. During the journey they train the people for the old fashioned trades: making bricks, rope, fires, building with wood and weaving and spinning. They bring generators and wind turbines, solar panels and prefab homes, so as to make living as comfortable as possible the moment they land on their new home.

But when they arrive, the planet’s natural vegetation does not provide wood for building or fires and no fibre for spinning; there are no animals that can be eaten, none with fur to shear for wool, not even rocks that are safe for building with and the water of the only river makes them sick.

The prefab homes are easily erected, but they don’t stand very strong against the storms of this perpetually very windy planet, and the crops are helpless against the subsequent flood waters. And as a people of a society where there was no need for resistance against natural diseases, because everybody used antibacterial medications and supplements, sharing one water well leaves them very vulnerable to diseases of epidemic proportions.

In addition, the arrival of the colonists sets in motion a rapid physical adaptation, both of their own bodies and that of the native flora and fauna. And that is apart from the planet itself being “different”. The laws of physics don’t seem to apply – science doesn’t provide the expected answers and all learned knowledge seems to be useless. Slowly the colonists begin to realize that they may not be the only sentient beings. This delights some and scares others.

And those are only the natural problems.

A much bigger threat comes from all those people having their own ideal vision about what starting over should look like and how a society should be organized. How do you restart justice and politics and please everybody? Who gets to make the decisions? What do you do with those people who refuse to abide by the new rules? How do you create a peaceful society if people are born with different personalities and thus with different dreams and abilities, different ideals and beliefs, different perceptions and expressions and different senses of fair and true? And that is aside from the fact that about half the colonists were convicts, sent on the journey because they were not wanted at home – against their will.

For readers who prefer futuristic space technology and epic battles with one bad guy, this is not the right book, but those interested in the serious possibilities of colonization from the perspective of ecology, metaphysics and the psychology of different people, may find it interesting.

There is a large number of well developed characters and at least seven of them are regular point of view characters – each coming from a different social background, each having a different natural personality and each providing the reader with a specific focus. For example, Kunag, the artist, describes most of the landscapes, while Aryan, the pilot, explains the technology and Daili, who is first a mother, deals with children and relationships. Each reader will find some characters to identify with and others they may have trouble understanding – just like in life.

The book itself questions many of the assumptions most of us take for granted – whether on Earth or on DJar – and the changing circumstances ask of the characters and the reader to think a little harder about these issues. The final resolution may please some readers and perplex others.

During the book, after having come from their technologically advanced and well-organized home planet, the colonists find themselves without the resources needed for repairing broken equipment or for a power source to provide them with the information technology and luxuries they were used to. This forces them to return to a more primitive lifestyle – a journey back in time – and not only with regard their physical existence.

Part one: DJar – introduces the main characters and the social order, history and beliefs that influence the decisions of the characters throughout the rest of the story. It focuses on the actual decision to leave their home planet: Who decides who is allowed to become a colonist and who would choose to embark on such an journey and why?

Part two: SJilai – follows the colonists on their journey, introduces some of the ideological viewpoints and deepens the interpersonal relationships, while describing the quiet luxury and technological sophistication of the space ship during their four year journey, but also the vulnerability of such a ship and the risks involved.

Part three: Kun DJar – describes the first season on the new planet and the initial struggles for survival, because it is never as easy as building everybody a home and giving them a job; somebody has to do the dirty work and nothing is what you expected.

Part four: Treyak – takes two perspectives. It follows the expedition that is looking for a place to start a second settlement, focusing largely on the alien ecology and the descriptions of the environment. And it follows the struggles for power, justice and ideology that divide the colonists and cause problems in town.

Part five: Kelot – brings all the issues together. While daily life itself, though more and more primitive, is giving the villagers a new sense of luxury, they must simultaneously face their own place in the natural ecology and settle their differences once and for all.

So why do I call it science fiction if the story does not focus on advanced technology and super beings? Why, if the characters end up living in the manner of the ancient ‘primitive’ tribes?

Because there is no rule that says that the genre “science fiction” has to play in the future or in space – the science I use to build my fiction from, does not support the idea that a future of highly evolved human beings or a technologically advanced society is guaranteed – evolution, as change through adaptation, does not have a predetermined direction.

The idea that there is no limit to human development, is largely wishful thinking, as is the view that we have overcome being animals because we have rationality and morality. The chance that future generations find themselves without technology, because of a lack of resources, is at least as likely and thus, my fiction is based on the science that takes that into consideration, as it considers the possibility of a totally alien ecology in which humans are not the most dominant species.

Of a Note in a Cosmic Song is largely based on the social sciences, and as such provides the characters with a realistic psychology, which in turn provide the setting for the troubles that can be expected in any future colony, since people’s psychology cannot change as easily as their technology and their physical bodies can.

In short, it takes more than technology to start a colony, and much more to make it last. That is the focus of Of a Note in a Cosmic Song.

The first three books are already available as eBook, the last two will be soon. All are available in print.