Hello everyone! This is my stop on the Netherspace blog tour hosted by Titan Books. Today I have a guest post written by the authors of Netherspace, a novel set in an alternate reality where humans met aliens over four decades ago. The feature is centred around the problem of communicating with alien life if/and when we ever meet them. I really enjoyed this piece and I can’t wait to read the novel later this month. First I will share some information about the book and the authors, then onto the guest post. There is also a blog poster at the bottom of the page, please go and check out all the other amazing blog that are taking part in the tour!
Aliens came to Earth forty years ago. Their anatomy proved unfathomable and all attempts at communication failed. But through trade, humanity gained technology that allowed them to colonise the stars. The price: live humans for every alien faster-than-light drive.
Kara’s sister was one of hundreds exchanged for this technology, and Kara has little love for aliens. So when she is drafted by GalDiv – the organisation that oversees alien trades – it is under duress. A group of colonists have been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an uncharted planet, and an unusual team is to be sent to negotiate. As an ex-army sniper, Kara’s role is clear. But artist Marc has no combat experience, although the team’s pre-cog Tse is adamant that he has a part to play. All three know that success is unlikely. For how will they negotiate with aliens when communication between the species is impossible?
About Andrew Lane & Nigel Foster
Andrew Lane (born 1963), who also writes as Andy Lane, is a British author and journalist. Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK are currently publishing two series of Young Adult novels by Andrew Lane, while Adaptive Books in the USA are publishing a third Young Adult series. He has also just signed with Hot Key Books to write a series of teenage espionage novels, the first two of which will be published in 2018. (see more at his website www.slowdecay.co.uk/andrewlane/)
Nigel Foster began as an advertising copywriter, first in the UK and then North America. He moved on to television and radio factual programming before co-founding a successful movie magazine. Back in the UK highlights include developing and launching OK! Magazine; an international non-fiction best-seller about the Royal Marines Commandos; and six of the most popular Bluffer’s Guides, world-wide. (This bio was found at: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Netherspace.html?id=lZuPDgAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y)
Now to the guest post!
Aliens and Communication
Netherspace was born when Andy Lane and Nigel Foster discovered they had the same problem with sci-fi: aliens meeting humans. You know the plot: mutual incomprehension; disaster looms; discovery they’re just like us, really; disaster averted; happy ending. Even on those few occasions when aliens look very weird result’s the same. Show ’em Pythagoras’ Theorem and we’ll walk hand in tentacle into a sunrise of joy and hope. For Andy this was crystallised when a friend, writer Stephen Gallagher, pointed out that in most SF on television and in films the aliens spoke without using contractions – “should not” rather than “shouldn’t”. They spoke better English than the English people they were talking to. Almost Shakespearian.
Ah, but there are other forms of mathematics which could evolve from very different axioms. In an infinite universe anything can happen and probably will. Also our understanding of maths, and physics, is based on what we can perceive and are able to perceive.
Aliens might see and understand things in a very different way. And not until we can understand everything within and concerning the universe(s) can we produce a definitive and final science of anything, including maths. How do you show Pythagoras’s Theorem to an alien that communicates using pheromones, or flashing lights? How could you even begin to build a Universal Translator that converts nouns, verbs and adjectives into smells or colours? Science fiction typically assumes that Noam Chomsky’s Universal Grammar can be writ large across the universe, applying to aliens and humans alike.
But okay. Assume the alien seizes on the diagram of Pythagoras’ Theorem with what could be shrill cries of delight. Or anger and disgust. So what? That won’t help you to ask why his/her/its colleagues just killed your friend. And even if you could, the cultural, ethical, philosophical and social drivers would take years, centuries to understand – assuming the aliens gave a damn.
In Netherspace there is only one way that humans and aliens communicate and that’s through trade. The fact that the trade makes no sense – seriously advanced technology, often incomprehensible, for human rubbish – is immaterial. We have something they want. There is an exchange. Each side can choose to slide something across the table, or not, as a swap for something that has just been slid across by the other side, and the other side can choose whether or not to take it. Our side of the trade may or may not be good. The alien knows more than we do. Truth being it’s less communication than a game of chance.
Communication is psychology and understanding. And even though humans have shared drives and needs; understand each other’s languages; and often share the same ethics, misunderstandings happen to all of us, every day.
We have no real idea what a dog thinks, or if it does as we understand the term. The private life of the budgie is mystery to us. We think we understand, but that’s just wishful anthromorphising. Why think that we’d understand an alien any better?
Thank you as always for coming by to check out my posts and support the blog. I will try and keep things as fresh and as entertaining as I can. I appreciate every person who comes by this blog and I will do my best to make it worth your while! Have a good day and I hope to see you back soon! Below is the blog tour poster for Netherspace, please check out the other stops on the tour and support these brilliant blogs.