Monday, December 26, 2022

Five books where assuming aliens are just like us might get you killed

Karen Osborne is the author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion from Tor Books. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fireside, Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding.

Osborne lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, two cats and a family.

At the she tagged five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed, including:
Noumenon Infinity by Marina Lostetter

In this delightful sequel, Convoy Seven—a scientific mission from Earth, dispatched centuries earlier and staffed primarily by clones of the original crew—has set off once more to LQ Pyx to study the ancient, unfinished alien structure centered around it—is it a Dyson sphere? A weapon? (Assumption #2!)

This sequel introduces Convoy Twelve, the “lost” mission, which had disappeared while studying dimensional anomalies. They come out the other side of a terrible accident to find themselves face-to-face with a megastructure-creating race of alien beings that have no interest whatsoever in speaking with them. (Assumption #3—of course!)

It’s a common trope in science fiction that alien contact is going to be absolutely consequential when it happens—through wars, or world peace, or a rapid increase in science, for example, so it’s strange that Twelve meets up with the aliens and the aliens are actually hostile to talking with them. But Lostetter’s series is about a larger perspective—it plays out against the scale of the universe itself, over centuries, with entire civilizations as characters, not just individuals. Human beings aren’t very good large-scale thinkers, yet that’s exactly what Lostetter is asking readers to do.

The Convoy Seven side of the narrative continues to be anchored by I.C.C., an AI through which we see how the passing of time affects the mission even as characters are born and die and are born again. Sticking with Convoy Twelve reads as the standard experience of a single crew over days or months. When the timelines merge, nothing about this book is standard. Lostetter wants you to know that assumptions, when placed against a backdrop of the universe and of alien consciousnesses—mean nothing, and can get you in far more trouble than an open mind might. What does it mean to be human? Do you think you really know? Or do you just assume?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue