Need Ideas for Alien Creatures?

If you need ideas for alien critters, look no further than Antarctica. Well, under Antarctica. Photo courtesy of footage provided by the Australian government, and the video linked above is worth checking out.

These structures are holding up under immense pressure and cold, even though they look lacy and delicate. If that’s possible on Earth, then what might grow on other celestial bodies with oceans under ice? What might grow in thick, soupy atmospheres?

The science on life forms is pretty limited by our current knowledge that limits it to carbon-based units. It’s entirely possible that everything in the Earth’s oceans is carbon-based, but maybe they’ll eventually find something that started from a different elemental unit.

All that aside, check out the colors and structures. Consider how those colors might be affected by the various elements present in atmospheres on other worlds. What structures would plant life need to flourish in a heavy sulphur-based atmosphere? Would they use photosynthesis? Would photosynthesis work if you altered the intake chemical? Instead of carbon dioxide, could plants process sulphur? If so, what would they emit?

I’m contemplating some large tree-like structures like this blue and white one, but I’m trying to fit it into the context of a new world. We’ll see how that goes.

 

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The Numbers

CR-7853

Occator Crater on Ceres, courtesy of NASA

“Glaring at the display isn’t going to change the numbers.”

The surveyor settled back into his seat, struggling not to turn his glare on the pilot of the tiny survey vehicle. She was bringing them down inside Occator Crater, inching down slowly to keep from kicking up any planetary debris.

“This thing has already swallowed us,” he muttered. The jagged walls of the crater already rose up out of view, and they hadn’t landed yet.

“You’re not claustrophobic, are you? Bad time for something like that to come up,” the pilot replied, slowing descent so much that the craft seemed to hover in place. “Don’t worry. The numbers never really give a good idea what something will look like, we’ll touch down in a minute.”

Tel shrugged, but didn’t continue distracting Lyra’s attention. He knew life was circumscribed by numbers. They told him when to wake up, when to sleep, how long to sleep, how much to consume…and they controlled his work of determining whether mineral deposits were worth the expense of mining. They also controlled the pilot’s decisions related to speed, angle of descent, and where to land.

He felt the barest shudder as the survey vessel touched down. A small puff of dust welcomed them to the barren dwarf planet. Idly wondering how many specks of material they’d disturbed, he punched the controls for the survey ‘droid. Its operating ID flashed briefly on the screen, followed by its operating condition. All systems go.

“Okay, we’re good to begin,” Lyra told him as she locked down the board. “Be mindful of the gravity. If you do anything fast with the ‘droid or ramp, we might get knocked around a bit.”

“I know, gravity here’s less than half that of the Moon,” he replied absently, his attention focused on the panel. They were settled down about 300 meters from the shining deposits in the crater, and he was eager to begin his assessment of the material. The chemical analysis showed it was a type of salt, but it was like nothing on Earth.

They felt a stronger shudder as he lowered the aft ramp so the ‘droid could begin its survey. The heavy machine didn’t know it yet, but the numbers dictated that it was on a one-way mission. Gravity meant that heavy machinery would have an easier time staying on the surface, but limited fuel space meant that all extraneous weight had to be left behind if they were to lift off and return to the mining ship.

It’s always about the numbers, Tel thought as he watched the heavy treads of the mining ‘droid raising a haze that obscured the bright patches beyond it. The machine lumbered along, its slow pace geared to its weight and the uneven surface inside the impact crater.

“How much do you think is out there?” Lyra asked as she started laying in the instructions that would return them to the mining ship.

Tel shrugged. “I wasn’t able to get a direct measurement of how deep the deposits are, so it’s impossible to estimate.”

Two alarms went off simultaneously as Tel watched the ‘droid begin to sink into the edges of the white deposits.

Lyra looked over as Tel desperately began recall measures, trying to edge the ‘droid back towards the ship, sardonically asking, “Didn’t you run the numbers on what would happen to a machine that heavy if there wasn’t solid rock below the deposit zone?”.

“There’s no way. This is an ice world, the surface is solid under that…”

The ‘droid disappeared from sight. Lyra and Tel stared at where it had been, then looked at each other. “Are you still reading anything from it?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s fully online, just not…wait. Its descent stopped. According to the sensors, there’s solid metal under it.”

“There’s what?”

“Solid metal.” Perplexed, Tel refreshed the data feeds. “Not ore. A solid surface, seems to be an alloy of some sort. There’s no way manufactured material can be here…” His voice trailed off as he saw Lyra begin to shake her head.

“The survey data showed that this crater has gone undisturbed for about three million years,” she pointed out. “So…it’s not human. Now what?”

“Now this will either make or break my career,” he sighed. “We’ll either go down in history as the surveyors who found the first alien object, or I’ll just be known as the engineer who couldn’t get the numbers right.”

© Copyright 2016 Christine Clukey Reece

 

 

 

 

Variant Reflections – New R.L. Robinson Anthology

If you enjoy science fiction / speculative fiction / fantasy, I strongly encourage you to check out this anthology. Robinson’s newest collection of stories is priced at $0.99 and offers a range of worlds for you to experience. He’s fantastic at expressing the range of emotions (sometimes diffident or conflicted) that drive his characters through the story arcs, which does a wonderful job of pulling the reader further into a given world.

I truly enjoyed every story, but hoping he’ll eventually release separate anthologies based on “Mods and Rockers” and “Unremembered”.  “Mods and Rockers” added some punk flair to a dystopian future, and “Unremembered” was a haunting story of the aftermath of a war with beings and weapons that weren’t fully understood. The final story about the King in Yellow was wonderfully twisted.

Give it a read!

Variant Reflections – Digital Science Fiction Original Collection at Digital Science Fiction’s website

Jump to the Kindle edition on Amazon

Adios, Stainless Steel Rat

One of my favourite science fiction authors passed away on August 15th, 2012.

Goodbye, Harry Harrison. Your series with an atheist protagonist made me reevaluate my beliefs and decide where I stood on issues such as religion, life, death, practical jokes, the military, food, explosions, and humour. I – and many, many others – will miss you and your work.

The Guardian’s obit can be found here. If you’d like to read messages from Harry’s family, friends, and fans, check out the Harry Harrison Official News Blog.

Goodnight, sir.

Inertia

I’m struggling with inertia, but trying to jumpstart my writing by creating and running a space-based RPG. First few sessions have gone reasonably well (we’re all still learning the setting and my PCs are settling into their characters), and tonight brings the first real test of the players’ abilities. Should be interesting to see whether I gauged things right or if I’ll wind up *cough* accidentally *cough* causing a TPK.

It would be poor repayment to those who chose to play the first game I’ve GMed, but it seems as though there’s only a very fine line between the encounter being boring and it being too much right off the bat.

I wound up borrowing heavily from the Babylon 5 as my start point and the plot is finally grabbing my interest. *I* am looking forward to seeing where this story will go, and that’s a very good feeling. Time to go finish off this encounter and we’ll find out how the party does with it tonight.

“Friday” Flash Science Fiction #3 – Dawn

Dawn

Sunrise. Earthrise. I guess it depends on your point of view.

Courtesy of NASA.

From space, the sunrise is spectacular. An arc of glowing light strikes the curve of the planet and rolls along, driving away the darkness in its path. Of course, that’s not how it works – the sun’s light is fixed and the Earth spins through it. But why let facts ruin a lovely image?

I stared out the porthole, dreading the day to come. My class had finally hit a point where we were deemed capable of handling A5 tasks with minimal supervision, and we’d receive our work assignments today.

Along with the other tenthers, I’d spent time working in nearly every section of the station – robotics, astromech, waste management, life support, maintenance, eco support, freight ops, lift ops, medical, and recycling. Contracted techs and their families were never allowed into the command center – WalCorp claimed it was a security problem, but I think it was to keep us from finding out that we’d never go home to Earth.

That’s a funny phrase: “home” to Earth. I was only 2 when my parents signed up for this. They lifted us within months, and I don’t remember anything about the surface. How can I call it home when I don’t remember anything about it?

No control room for us; no radar, no administration, no flight ops, no communication with the surface. We existed in a little bubble and serviced the great machine in which we lived – the hum from the constantly running lift seemed to vibrate through every metal surface. I even thought I could feel it when I curled up in my bunk, but my mother told me I was imagining it.

The grades below us, mostly sevenths and eighths, had to supervise the younger children and clean the living quarters. Sometimes they helped with other things, like harvesting in eco, but they mostly took care of the cleaning. I didn’t miss that; I preferred digging into the mechanics of the servo arms to fix them.

I loved the sight of Earth from my private window, but even that couldn’t soothe me while I waited to find out where I’d be assigned for the next two years. Our classes would continue until we were 20, but we’d have to work an increasing number of hours along with our studies. I don’t mind the studying, but I do mind having to give up any semblance of privacy and free time for something I didn’t agree to. I love my parents…but right now, I hate them for bringing me here.

Anything but recycling; anything but medical. I can’t stand it when they bring in people who got hurt loading or unloading the lift. It takes 22 hours for it to climb or descend, so there’s a two-hour window to unload and then load it with whatever’s going back to the surface. The lift is tethered in the center of the station where there’s no gravity – or maybe I should say the station rotates around the spot where the lift is linked. I guess it depends on your point of view.

I’ll know in five minutes. That was my thought then, and I remember it clearly even though it’s been nearly 10 years since my last few days on Proteus Station.

 

Friday Flash Science Fiction #2 – “Yuri’s World”

“Yuri’s World”

"Yuri's World", courtesy of NASA

I’m surprised this viewport doesn’t have a permanent imprint of my nose on it.

Every spare moment, what few I’m given, I’m here – staring down at lights on a world I don’t know. Our teachers won’t talk about it much, other than to say that the corporation our parents work for is down there. They know no one’s ever been sent Earthside, no matter what WalCom promises.

I know it too – I hacked the system to check. That’ll get me spaced if they find out and they’ll make up some story about me, just like they did for Eran. She’s the one who told me that no one’s ever been sent back to Earth; she told me to check it out for myself, and she was gone the next day. We got a message saying she’d been sent Earthside for further training in chemical and fluid dynamics, but they didn’t cover their tracks very well this time. The shuttles that left around her supposed departure window were strictly cargo or outbound to Luna, and the lift was on its way up.

I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I didn’t know that I could be next.

My family contracted as technicians to help finish WalCom’s perma-link station, with an option to go Earthside once construction was finished. There’s always an excuse, though, for why we can’t go back. Not enough space in the lift, too many paying commercial customers, blah blah blah. But they aren’t going to let us go back – they’ve got us here, why should they pay to lift more techs into space?

The stars in my night sky are the lights of Earth.

I will never reach them.

 

 

©2012 Christine Clukey Reece