August 14, 2012


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: Humans are Something Special in the universe

While this doesn’t rank HUMANS, it does rank COUNTRIES on Earth. What if there were a list like this of planets with intelligent civilizations – and Earth was last? It would explain The Fermi Paradox, wouldn’t it?

Fermi Paradox: “In an informal discussion in 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi questioned why, if a multitude of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exists in the Milky Way galaxy, evidence such as spacecraft or probes is not seen.” A clearer definition would be: “The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.
However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.”

So, here we go!

Bintou Kogda  and Ouedraogo Ye are both just eighteen and come from the country of Burkina Faso, which recently came through the Reorganization Wars that redrew the map of the African Continent. Their small country has encompassed the former nations of Ghana, Benin and Togo and because of the peaceful nature of its Reorganization, has risen to prominence.

Both are at Harvard in the United States, ostensibly to study law and nanotechnology under grant scholarships from their own government – and as part of a program the US has started to gain a foothold in the New Africa. They’ve never met – except formally at a reception welcoming all international students to Harvard.

While they love their fields of study, both are dissatisfied with the “boring life” they lead. When a small group of students begins to meet to discuss Extraterrestrial Intelligence, they both show…

“What are you doing here?” Bintou asked in French.

Ouedraogo replied in the same language, leaning closer to her than he’d ever done to woman – excepting his mother and sisters – and said, “The same thing you’re doing here. I’m bored and this sounded exciting.”

Bintou leaned away. She’d managed to maintain her sense of modesty despite the crazy American obsession with sex. She shook her head. She should have known that Ouedraogo would want to embrace that insanity.

Even so, she bumped his shoulder as a young man stood at the front of the room and clapped his hands, saying, “Let’s get this gig hummin’!”

Bintou puzzled for a few moments. Though she spoke English as well as anyone who completed high school in Burkina Faso, American idioms still left her totally confused. Especially when they piled them on top of each other. She could only deduce that it meant “This meeting will now come to order!” because others started taking seats. No one sat in ordered rows, it was more like a circle without any definition.

After the chairs were done scraping across the floor, the young man said, “Hey! My name’s Edgar Bailey and I’ll be the moderator tonight for this first meeting of the ET Discussion Society. If you’d tell us your name before you speak, it’ll help us get to know each other. To start things off, I’d like to toss this out to the group.” The lights dimmed abruptly and a projector hanging from the ceiling flicked on, projecting a web article.

Ouedraogo groaned. Bintou had managed to sit across the group from him. She also kept her dismay to herself. Edgar stood on his tiptoes to locate the source of the groan. He snapped, “What’s wrong with this article?”

Ouedraogo stood up and replied in English. Bintou shook her head. It was unlikely that his heavily accented English would impress the people in this room as he said, “First of all, the article is almost twenty years out of date – the information is patently wrong...”

Edgar cut him off by saying, “The information is unimportant...”

Ouedraogo fired back, “It’s important to some of us! You’re perpetuating a stereotype!”

Bintou sighed. So much for keeping a low profile. She stood up and said, “What Ouedraogo is trying to say is that he and I are from Burkina Faso and this list places our former country at the very bottom as the worst country in the world from 2008 to 2009. Unflattering, to say the least. But what you’re implying by using this is that Earth has somehow gotten on the bottom of some interstellar ‘worst place to live’ list and that that’s the explanation of what puzzled Fermi and Hart?”

Edgar blinked slowly, massively as Bintou sat down. A moment later, there was a crash as Ouedraogo knocked over his chair and stormed out of the room. Beside her, a young woman with wildly uncontrolled, curly red hair nudged her and said, “Nice going! I’m glad someone shut down the pompous windbag before he went on his superior rant about Fermi.” She snorted, “You even mentioned Hart.” She raised an eyebrow and added, “You probably made his most-hated person list today!”

“I didn’t mean...” Bintou began.

“Don’t worry, you just made it on to about sixty people’s ‘OMG, I have absolutely GOT to get to know this woman!’ list. You’re certainly on mine. I’m Ginny Phleger. What are you doing after the meeting?”

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