Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tales of Ascension

I've been reading Forever Peace, by Joe Haldeman, and I've been continually assaulted by the feeling that I've read something much like this before. No, I'm not thinking of The Forever War, by the same author, though that was an excellent novel, and one I heartily recommend.
I've realized that it reminds me of Technogenesis, by Syne Mitchell

As always, it's entirely possible that I am being far less original that I imagine, and far more derivative, or at least repetitive. However, an idea, new to me, at least, has been developing slowly in the stew of my consciousness. As usual, the idea relates to an unexpected commonality between disparate things. I suppose, as science fiction novels, the subjects of my stewing aren't really terribly disparate... but enough of this. Let me actually get to the point.

The Forever War, Technogenesis, and others (perhaps Childhood's End by Clarke, or Blood Music by Bear, and certainly The Changeling Plague, also by Mitchell) are what I would like to call "tales of ascension". Generally these novels could be considered singularity fiction, but I contend that these examples are something else as well, and something worth keeping in our collective mental libraries.

I call them tales of ascension because they are hopeful but deeply frightening stories of the future of the human race. The mechanisms are different, from disease to gengineering, to AI, to alien races, but the result is the same: a fundamentally changed human race. A changed humanity, and one that is greater than that which we currently experience. Often there is an ascension to a higher or group consciousness. Sometimes humanity becomes one undifferentiated unit. Sometimes we are provided the opportunity to move beyond the current boundaries of our bodies and brains. Regardless, the hopeful tone of this huge accomplishment is always tempered by the sheer scariness of the new. One real problem with ascension is that in order to move up, you must abandon your current position. Most of us experience that fear of change (regardless of its apparent positive impact) in our own lives, and I think it is this personal anxiety about change that informs our visceral emotional reaction to a species-wide change on such a high level.

When expanded to the species, however, the issue takes on philosophical overtones. What, for instance, can we call this post-ascension species? Are they still human? In many cases, the ascension is not presented as a sudden event, but rather as something gradual, affecting some before others, or phasing in through our natural generations. In these cases, how do the unchanged react to the ascended?


Well, I'm not a writer. YOU go write it. Let me know how it goes.


No comments: