Tier Zero and Science Fiction in Literature

A Futurist’s Playground?

Science fiction tends to tap into our innate curiosity about how the future might affect our lives. One commentator on science fiction as a genre opined that science fiction is “a telescope to the future.” The post makes the case for a forward-looking deep dive into the inevitability of change, driven by man’s relentless drive to control our environment and (by association) our destiny.

I think there’s a place for that kind of thinking, whether you accept the notion in the post or not. Science fiction by definition seeks to deal with the essential unknowns associated with a future that both interacts with us as it unfolds and on which the discoveries we make ultimately have a hand in shaping our destiny. Any speculative fiction shares that efficacy, if efficacy it is.

But I wonder if it’s worth recalling that whatever advances we make technologically, those advances are made by humans. And does not a lot of science fiction get lost in a jungle of “gadgets,” often at the expense of thoughtful thematic expression? Our fascination with a hypothetical future often focuses on how the world in which we live may be transformed by gadgets. But are not humans the real catalysts of change, irrespective of what those changes are? And how that change, whatever it is affects us is only partially dependent on the technology or the practical utility of the latest i-phone app. (For example).

The Brave New World

In my view, the real focus of science fiction is and must be on how the changes we bring into being technologically affect not simply how we live, but how those changes transform our lives but how we feel about that brave new world (to parrot Aldous Huxley) and how the changes we both bring into being and by which we are affected, shape our view of ourselves. What makes humans fundamentally different, we believe, is our self-awareness.

It is self-awareness and the degree to which we are able to learn, apply and pass on the lessons we’ve learned that make us who/what we are. And while science fiction gives us an opportunity to play “what if” with technology, I’m not sure that the more important value to be found in reading science fiction is the speculative journey into our own psyche’s and how a different external reality might cause us to order our own lives, both individually and collectively.

“How would we be, if...?”

In Tier Zero, Vol I of the Knolan Cycle, the Knolans are clearly technologically way ahead of us. So much so, that first contact between the Knolans and we indigenes of Earth actually took place over 30 years ago and no one is aware of it. Yet. In Tier Zero, the Knolans are a little cirumspect about their motivations for making contact in the first place, even with the few with whom they have chosen to connect. And as the reader becomes aware of their reasons for it, it’s obvious that Knolan ideation about a lot of things is fundamentally different than our own. Paradoxically, the Knolans are in many ways so similar to us, that it’s hard to reconcile the differences between their views of themselves and their relationship with the Universe and our own, given how otherwise similar we are.

And that, to me, is the heart and soul of science fiction. It isn’t gadgets, in the end, it’s still about the human condition and how we (as humans) will be affected by world/universal views that are profoundly different from our own. Given our track record here in the US, the supposed melting pot of the world, it’s fair to wonder if our knee-jerk reaction to contact with others, however similar may not be fear, loathing or aggressive antagonism.

When/if confronted with difference from afar, will we have the kind of tolerance balanced with a healthy curiosity to learn from and share with a culture so foreign that it literally dwarfs the challenges of understanding and tolerance we’ve been obliged to confront before? For most of us paying attention, my guess is the jury’s still out. And if you’re like me, that concerns you.

D.B. Sayers is the author of four books and is currently working on two more. In his previous “incarnation,” Dirk was a Marine officer, then corporate trainer and training manager. He currently lives in Laguna Niguel a couple miles from the Pacific with he wife, two psychotic cats and 12 year old, 5 foot Ball Python named Corona.

The Truth Often Hides in Plain Sight

An alternative view of "Aliens..."

Lysia Knolan Seeker and Waykeeper

In Chapter 1 “The Presence,” the reader immediately senses that Marty’s meeting with Lysia Uupao is important, fateful, even destiny changing. Some unusual is going on, just beneath the surface, but it isn’t necessarily obvious what.

In Chapter 2, “Attáru (Awakening),” the reader learns just how fateful the meeting is. Lysia Uupao, her representations notwithstanding, is not Indonesian, or Polynesian or anything else Marty has ever met. From another world, Lysia is here on Earth (or Kurrithaal as the Knolans call it) for a reason. And it’s not obvious just what that reason might be.

While there are notable exceptions, the majority of tales involving “first contact” between Earth and hypothetical aliens postulate that alien motives will necessarily be hostile, not simply different. Is it possible that we’re wrong about that? As chapter 2 makes clear, the Knolans are not hostile, as nearly as we can tell. That said, chapter 2 doesn’t rule that out, either. What is “the Way,” and how does it relate the Knolan’s motives? For that matter, why are Knolans reproducing (clandestinely, apparently) with Earth humans? And what does it mean to be a “Seed?”

Knolan Motives for Contact

By the time thoughtful readers get to the end of chapter 2, it’s clear that Lysia and her superior, Turnia, are not of this world and that their interest in Marty isn’t an idle, passing interest. In Lysia’s case, it’s also obvious that it’s very personal. But the reader still doesn’t know the motives underpinning their interest or what to expect if Lysia does as Turnia has instructed. Should we be worried about Lysia’s designs on Marty? Should Marty be worried about them? The reader still has no idea.

Even as chapter 3, “The Mission” ends, while it’s obvious that Lysia’s personal interest in Marty goes beyond her professional interest, it still isn’t clear what Knola’s interest in Kurrithaal or its Seed. And the overarching question lurks in the background, to wit: why have not the Knolans made direct contact with “leadership” on Earth? It seems apparent that they haven’t, but why haven’t they? Chapter 3 provides no answer. And what are the “perils” to which Marty’s Awakening expose him? Whatever they are, Lysia, clearly, expects to share those perils.

Are the Knolans vulnerable to someone or something themselves? Who or what? And are their motives for making contact with Earth (Kurrithaal) then mixed by perils they believe we share with them? How might their motives toward Earth be changed if that “peril” whatever it is were not a factor?

And the Larger question?

Our default assumptions notwithstanding and assuming contact with other intelligent life is possible, how different (or similar) might they be? Is it possible that Steven Hawking’s speculations about hostile aliens is correct, or was he speculating out of an abundance of caution and prudent fear? 

The answer to this question will likely remain unknown and unknowable unless and until contact is made. And is it just possible that it depends on which alien race contacts us first? Is it all that improbable, if we postulated that there might be one species of alien interested in Earth, there might be more than one? Or that their interests in us might be at odds?

As Tier Zero unfolds, these and many other practical and philosophical questions will come up. Tier Zero is not simply a tale of First Contact, it is a speculative adventure of life, death, conflict and courage, as well as questions of ethics and courage. You can purchase Tier Zero in paperback or Kindle now.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, retired corporate trainer/manager turned full-time author. You can join Dirk’s Tribe and stay up to date on his progress to with Tier Zero’s sequel, Eryinath-5. due out in 2021.