Pale Blue Dot

"Nipple" by AlannaRalph via Flickr

"Nipple" by AlannaRalph via Flickr

For those interested in how a planet becomes infested with terrestrial lifeforms, an amazing series of articles and why we haven’t found Extra Terrestrial Life yet.

Planetary scientists say there are aspects to our planet and its evolution that are remarkably strange. In the first place there is Earth’s strong magnetic field. No one is exactly sure how it works, but it has something to do with the turbulent motion that occurs in the Earth’s liquid outer core and without it, we would be bombarded by harmful radiation from the Sun. Next there’s plate tectonics. We live on a planet that is constantly recycling its crust, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide escaping into the atmosphere — a natural way of controlling the greenhouse effect. Then there’s Jupiter-sized outer planets protecting the Earth from frequent large impacts. But the strangest thing of all is our big Moon. ‘As the Earth rotates, it wobbles on its axis like a child’s spinning top,’ says Professor Monica Grady. ‘What the Moon does is dampen down that wobble and that helps to prevent extreme climate fluctuations’ — which would be detrimental to life. The moon’s tides have also made long swaths of earth’s coastline into areas of that are regularly shifted between dry and wet, providing a proving ground for early sea life to test the land for its suitability as a habitat. The ‘Rare Earth Hypothesis’ is one solution to the Fermi Paradox (PDF) because, if Earth is uniquely special as an abode of life, ETI will necessarily be rare or even non-existent. And in the absence of verifiable alien contact, scientific opinion will forever remain split as to whether the Universe teems with life or we are alone in the inky blackness.

Quoted from /. Article Is the Earth Special?

These are puzzle pieces in the secret of life, evolution, and the technological advance of the human race. Not only is it possible we needed the dry/wet cycle to leave the safety of the water and seek to conquer the land; but this directly parallels the development of societies in tropical, temperate, and extreme climates. A certain amount of hardship is necessary in order to provide the impetus to advance, but if the environment is too harsh only a minimal amount of time is available for invention and experimentation. The inverse is true, paradisaical living gives no reason for growth, the Eloi alone would remain as unchanging as their environment.

When creating an individual, an item, or even an alien life form you must consider the entire history and the forces that acted upon them in their becoming. The most engaging stories are those that allow us to suspend our sense of disbelief and then never jar us out of it, no matter how futuristic, fantastic, or even absurd the setting may be. Pixar gets it exactly right in Monsters, Inc.; which portrays an absurd universe with respect for both the observer and the fiction itself.

However even introducing concepts planned in advance to fit within a consistent universe in the wrong way can make them seem too unbelievable; thus giving the observer the impression that the creator has broken the implied contract required to sustain their basic suspension of disbelief. Equally important is staying within the scope you have defined, if you want to include multiple main themes they need to be present in the creator’s lexicon from the beginning, and the seeds need to be sown early. The world is filled with examples of creators simply adding another element into their universe to extend the series as long as possible, until their fictional universe is a house of cards filled with the Universal Monsters, or at the least vampires, werewolves, and fairies.

This is not to say that amazing work can’t be accomplished with such stock archetypes and creatures, in particular the masterful BBC revival of Sherlock and to a lesser extent both Grimm and The Fades are all great examples. And while I find her work to be excellent but repetitive, the Meredith Gentry series by Laurel K Hamilton is an excellent retread of many old faerie stories while remaining fairly self consistent, while her Anita Blake series has grown so long that she has been forced to expand the universe and it has felt like each book brought a “flavor of the month” race of animal weres or supernatural threat permutation.

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