Inside the Book:
Title: Altered Starscape
Author: Ian Douglas
Author: Ian Douglas
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Galaxies collide in a thrilling new series from bestselling author Ian Douglas, as the last humans in the universe face off against a new threat 2162.
Thirty-eight years after first contact, Lord Commander Grayson St. Clair leads theTellus Ad Astra on an unprecedented expedition to the Galactic Core, carrying more than a million scientists, diplomats, soldiers, and AIs. Despite his reservations about their alien hosts, St. Clair is deeply committed to his people—especially after they're sucked into a black hole and spat out four billion years in the future.Civilizations have risen and fallen. The Andromeda Galaxy is drifting into the Milky Way. And Earth is most certainly a distant memory. All that matters now is survival. But as the ship's Marines search for allies amid ancient ruins and strange new planetary structures, St. Clair must wrap his mind around an enemy capable of harnessing a weapon of incomprehensible power: space itself.
The Technology of Magic
By Ian Douglas
In Altered Starscape, the first entry in my new Andromedan Dark SF series, I’m doing my best to out-do one of my all-time heroes, Arthur C. Clarke.
I prefer my science in science fiction to be hard, and Clarke was about as hard, nuts-and-bolts SF as it’s possible to get. More than that, however, he was also known for evoking the grand sweep of far-future galactic vistas and the awesome depths of deep time. His aliens, generally, were enigmatic technological gods far beyond the understanding of Humankind—viz the unseen extraterrestrials of 2001: A Space Odyssey—and often they were so far ahead of us that their science and technology bordered on the outright magical.
And Clarke, as we all know, was the author of that now legendary aphorism: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
The first novel of Clarke’s I ever read also happened to be his first novel. Its title was Against the Fall of Night, and it first appeared as a novella in the November, 1948 issue of Startling Stories and was published in book form in 1953. Set a billion years in the future, it follows the adventures of Alvin, the first child born in the ancient city of Diaspar in thousands of years, as he tries to leave the high-tech utopia of the city and learn what lies beyond the desert outside. Eventually, he leaves not only Diaspar but Earth itself, and learns something of what happened in the mingled ancient histories of Man and of galactic civilization.
Pure magic—and a sense of wonder not often seen in modern SF.
Against the Fall of Night was extensively revised in 1956 when it was released anew as The City and the Stars. I enjoy both, but somehow I’ve always preferred the original. My sense of awe is more deeply stirred by the first book… though that might well have more to do with the fact that I had never read anything like Against the Fall of Night before.
I naturally began devouring every Clarke book and short story I could lay my hands on, but one non-fiction book of his had an enormous long-term influence on me. Profiles of the Future was first published in 1962 as a collection of science essays. Each chapter is less a set of predictions than it is a series of explorations of the possible—teleportation, invisibility, faster-than-light travel, telepathy, replicators, global communications networks, machine intelligence… What’s possible? What is not? Will any technological possibility forever remain impossible?
In a 1973 revision of Profiles of the Future Clarke gave us Clarke’s Three Laws, which included the aforementioned truism concerning technology and magic which for me became Holy Writ.
But in the years I’ve been writing since, I’ve learned that it’s obscenely hard to stick to the rules of known science while making that science magical.
In my Star Carrier series, I—over the course of nine books—am creeping up on the long-awaited Technological Singularity. This is generally defined as that point in the probably near future when advances in a wide range of human technologies, but especially in the “GRIN technologies” of genetics, robotics, information systems, and nanotechnology, will go asymptotic—snowballing so swiftly and in such an extreme fashion that we denizens of the early 21st century quite literally will no longer recognize what it means to be human… or even what it means to be alive. The story arc hasn’t reached that stage just yet—I’ve only recently turned in the manuscript for Book #7, Dark Mind—but I’m getting there. It’s just taking me some time and thought to explore hard-science concepts that have somehow evolved out of all recognition, but doing so in a way that makes sense.
With Andromedan Dark: Altered Starscape I’m not so much playing with the Singularity as I am looking at various alien cultures far removed from us in the unplumbed vastness of Deep Time. The human characters are members of a large diplomatic mission who managed to get themselves trapped at the event horizon of a large black hole, only to be freed in a relativistic blink of the eye four billion years later. There they find things have… altered. The Milky Way Galaxy is colliding with the Andromedan Galaxy, both brimming over with far-flung alien empires and with gigayears’ worth of ruins and technological detritus. Dyson swarms, Alderson disks, cosmic spaghetti, dark-matter evolution hidden within higher dimensions… and that’s just the first book.
We might even eventually get to find out what’s happened to Earth in four billion years….
Through it all: technologies indistinguishable from magic… but without crossing the line into sheer fantasy. How am I supposed to manage that?
Perhaps I need to inscribe a Circle, recite the proper mystical incantations…
…and invoke the sacred and deep-magical name of Clarke.
Meet the Author:
Ian Douglas is one of the pseudonyms for William H. Keith, New York Times bestselling author of the popular military science fiction series The Heritage Trilogy, The Legacy Trilogy, The Inheritance Trilogy, Star Corpsman, and Star Carrier. A former naval corpsman, he lives in Pennsylvania.