On Sci-Fi: Violence
by Dr. George H. Elder
Sci-Fi has a long history of portraying violence, despite its frequent moralizing. We see entire worlds destroyed on a regular basis, including Earth, and are usually left with a shred of hope that “good” often prevails. The heap of corpses many Sci-Fi stories rest upon reaches Olympian heights—albeit that violence is hardly unique to the Sci-Fi genera! Genesis is no exception from this tendency, and in many respects, it represents the extreme in terms of death and destruction.
The primary reason for this is that the central idea of the text is set during the final stages of the universe’s demise, which science now tells us will be an entropic expansion. The nihilistic aspects of this fate are rich in their potential exploration from a Sci-Fi perspective, but examining them proved difficult. I opted to contemplate how future species might react if it were clear that the reality they knew was on the cusp of ending. This drove me deep into philosophy and metaphysics, which were aspects of my initial doctoral work.
It quickly became apparent that simply delving into a distilled rewrite of the literature would be a terrible way of telling the story. Moreover, an examination of various creation myths and ideas of being quickly reveals that many are also associated with extinction and battles, the examples of which are manifold. So the need became to reduce these themes to their essential elements, and these became based on the desire to perpetuate existence versus the acceptance of its termination. More simply put, we have the desire to live versus the acceptance of total extinction.
There is much inherent conflict that appears when examining these extremes, and arriving at a synthesis is no easy task. After all, this story must address the ending of all that is, and it does. It is easy to understand the perspectives of those who want life to continue. We have all watched people die, and there is a part of them that nearly always struggles to live despite pain, misery, and inevitability. This inveterate and largely instinctual desire for life to persist was morphed into the search for a means to perpetuate existence, as in finding and activating a “Seeker,” a being that is much akin to God in its power.
There is also an acceptance of our finite nature that is at play, however, and when one is afflicted enough by pain and misery, death becomes a welcome relief. The Alcara are the most ancient of all races, and are perhaps the most able and advanced. Ultimately, they were content for desire and suffering to end once and for all when the current universal cycle reached its conclusion. They and the other advanced species still extant agreed that it was inappropriate to interfere with the natural processes in play, with passive acceptance mitigating ideological differences.
One of the species balked, however; the Terrans, and soon the Alcara and their friends, were forced to watch while wonton and desperate activists with unimaginable technology and knowledge worked to reignite another universal cycle. Herein was a philosophical conflict that morphed into acts of incredible violence. This is much like gods going to war, with Kara and the less advanced species being but cannon fodder.
The less advanced people only slowly learn the true nature of the conflict, as does the reader. Kara thinks evil forces are at work when a little girl that she grew to love is destroyed along with her home world. She has no concept that the initial casualty agent is the very species that created her. None of this is revealed until after those who obliterate the penultimate weapon of destruction have completed their task, a victory that is as short-lived as it is futile.
Thousands of worlds are laid waste while the reluctant Alcara attempt to stop the Terrans, with the conflict being ultimately ended by the Seekers, an elite few who have the capacity to turn ideas into realities. Yet they are loath to interfere, and simply give the crew the choice of going on or returning to other fates. In any event, the Seekers will allow the expansion to continue, so there is to be a final breath before that infinite night falls. What does each crew member opt to do, and what are the end results? Needless to say, this was a fun story to write!