We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Where are they?

“Where are they?” is a question I would rather had remained unanswered, Mbotu mused. The stone-like bench, lost in the giant and austere entry hall, was cold and uncomfortable. It grew more so as time passed. He had been punctual. One does not keep ones God King waiting. The reverse, however, is a given. Mbotu had once done so himself. Was it only a year? Just one year since he had held the highest office there was: Secretary General of the United Nations of Earth. It might as well have been a millennium ago. The now redundant world government had succeeded beyond the wildest imaginings of its 20th century founders. After three centuries, war and everything associated with it had been abolished. No one was hungry; there were no rich, no poor; the environment had been saved and the excesses of unfettered capitalism had been reined in by the gentle power of the institution to which he had given over his life. Mbotu’s thoughts were interrupted by the echoing footfalls of an approaching functionary.

“You will be seen now.”

By the time the elderly Mbotu rose aching from the bench, the figure was already in motion. Instant and unquestioning obedience was simply assumed. No further words were exchanged and he followed as quickly as he could.

A lift took them to the top of the five kilometre ‘palace’, if that was the right term for the new seat of government. When the door opened it was as if he had crossed light-years to another world and in effect he had. This was the private residence of the alien warlord who now claimed the once peaceful and unarmed Earth for his own.

“Sit”, said an imposing alien figure. “Be comfortable”. As if realizing Mbotu’s thoughts, he added “There is no need for formality here. You are fully aware of your place and it is time to integrate you into the Imperial Government. You will be assigned quarters here. You will be restored to your former position and will retain it for so long as you are obedient and successful in carrying out our wishes. Earth must begin to pay its own way in the Empire and repay our investment in it. Our requirements are simple enough. You have advanced technology and global infrastructure. You will convert it to production to support our fleet and invasion forces. If all goes well, in a century or so you will supply troops as well.”

“But… we have no knowledge of arms and war”, interjected an appalled Mbotu, “We have expunged even the basics of dangerous technologies from our libraries and archives. They have been outlawed for generations!”

“We know. That is in fact why I am here and you are there.” After a pause he continued. “Perhaps I should explain the realities of the wider universe. Most civilizations travel a path similar to yours. They go from warlike tribes to larger and larger conglomerates hacking and beating at each other with primitive weapons. Then comes the first technological transition and wars which become more and more terrible. Those who survive become a single global state by one path or another. Since there is no longer a threat to be met, defences atrophy. There is no need for advanced arms, nuclear weapons or standing armies. Most societies degenerate to the point where they have only small special units for solving problems for the supreme ruler of the planet.”

He continued. “A few, like you, are more extreme. You have eliminated your military entirely. You have destroyed traditions which reached far into your past and once allowed the training of effective soldiers. Even if we had allowed you ten years warning you could not have fielded a fighting force worthy of respect. You blocked the development of nanotechnology, advanced spaceships, nuclear power, directed energy weapons, force fields and a hundred other things you deemed too dangerous. Your population became coddled and addicted to a safe and easy, if somewhat impoverished, life. The concept of self-defence, even if you still allowed so much as a sharp blade to be manufactured or kept, have become as alien to your population as invaders from another planet.”

“You believe you had a golden age, but soon enough your population will be taught the lie and will support our rule. By our standards you accomplished a global and equal poverty for all but the ruling class like yourself. We will return adventure to your decadent and risk averse populace. We will give you the option of thousand year lifespans and travel to the stars. Your children will be will be our willing adventurers and soldiers.”

Mbotu, steeled by life as a bureaucrat, diplomat and politician, stayed calm. “You say most. Obviously you are an exception.”

“Yes. A very small number of civilizations follow the path to Empire. From time to time we fight each other at the edges of our vast catchments, but for the most part we take the easier path. There are so many like you that it would be a waste of resources to spend our time locked in bloody combat and destroy the very planets and populations we seek.”

Mbotu changed the subject. “How long have you known of us?”

“Space is vast and the stars are like dust. Occasionally we stumble upon a pre-technological species, but for the most part we just listen. By the time we hear the first radio broadcast your sort are already into the endgame of the nation state. When we first arrived your Europeans were nearly ready for harvesting but there were still many capable of causing us annoyance. Your United States had the technology and fight to give us big problems. A deadly challenge to their supremacy might well have pushed them into developing some of the now proscribed technologies and made invasion too costly for us. Others like China and India had populations whom we would have had to mostly wipe out to stop them from fighting.”

“Over the millennia we have learned the virtue of patience. A few centuries is usually enough. Once you are decadent, disarmed and centralized…” the alien did what could pass for a shrug, “We arrive with a show of overwhelming force and you surrender without a shot. There are usually a few hold outs, but they are easily dealt with and turned into object lessons without wrecking what we want: a developed planetary civilization that will supply us the tools for the next conquest. You were not able or willing to fight for your freedom.” He paused for effect. “And now you are ours.”

[Copyright 20090712 Dale Amon, all rights reserved]

38 comments to Where are they?

  • Wow, this would make a great Outer Limits episode. You should develop this into a script.

  • Nice, but being SF, it will not penetrate the consciousness of those who want us to become what you postulate in this peice, as they only read dour socially aware ‘gritty’ fiction written to reinforce their world view. SF is still discounted as being frivolous and the amusement of teenagers and geeks no matter its quality, depth and relevance.

    The argument “We should keep Trident, or some other form of Nuclear deterrent, because if we don’t we’ll be a pushover for the alien invasion.” is not going to convince anyone (apart from me).

  • Pa Annoyed

    Actually, it sounds great – rescued from the transnational “Planetary Regime” of the UN. Compared to what I’ve just been reading Czar Holdren once had planned for us, an alien invasion by beings who will give us the technology to live forever, travel to the stars, and invade multi-culti-lefty-run alien worlds with ray-gun laser blasters and blow them all up sounds lovely. Rescued from ourselves!

    When’s it going to happen? Come on! Where are they!?

    And may I be the first to say that I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords…

  • I’m pretty sure I saw it engraved on the doorway into UN HQ “To Serve Man.”

    Good one Dale.

  • RAB

    Sounds a bit like Childhoods End without the wacky Acid trip ending and Socialist bullshit, but yes, Wow nevertheless Dale!
    You never cease to amaze me.
    Rocket scientist
    Rock Musician

    Now Author! ;-)

    So what of the motivations of the Superior tooled up ones?

    You make then sound smug and hard hearted with this blank script of Conquest before us all.

    Of what?
    For what?

    Otherwise your Startroopers are just Daleks.

  • Laird

    When you finish the story I hope it has the same sort of “happy ending” as did Nineteen Eighty Four.

  • Alice

    I’ll buy the book.

    Can’t wait to see which way the story goes.

    1. A small cadre of gallant Earthmen (and women), including at least one token South American, one Arab and one Jew, successfully revolt — and gain a fresh respect & understanding for each other in the process.

    2. The children of Mobutu go on a thousand year shooting spree across the Galaxy.

    3. The alien’s speech turns out to be cobblers, and all the aliens want is ius prima noctis for the more nubile past of Earth’s female population.

    Whatever. I’ll still buy the book!

  • Alsadius

    It’s going to need a whole lot of work if you want anyone who doesn’t already agree with you to like it. That said, interesting seed of a story you’ve got there.

  • tomwright

    Nice. I like story’s with this theme.
    There are many sf tales along this theme, ‘to serve man’ has been mentioned. I also recall a series called Janissaries by Pournelle, Another called ‘with friends like these’ by Allan Dean Foster, and more whose titles I have forgotten:

    One where treelike beings keep taking human samples to study, but because they have the slow metabolism of plants are eventually overtaken by thier ‘lab rats’.

    Another our penchant for spraying insecticides actually becomes the saving grace of the human race, as we are now poisonous to the ancient farmer insects that return to round up their errant herd, us.

    Another where an ancient alien race shows up to see how the life they seeded millions of years ago has fared, and is so disappointed by our pacifism they decide to reboot the earth and hope for more warlike species in the future.

    All in all a favorite genre of mine.

    Try expanding it into a short story or novella and see what happens. I’ll give it a fair read.

  • tomwright

    sign.

    smited again.

    Does this make me the smote in Providence’ Eye?

  • Nuke Gray!

    How about adding a twist- that the aliens are racists, and like only the colour white? Since America has a black leader, you should try some contrarian thinking.

  • veryretired

    Sounds like one of the static, insular, controlled societies that Kirk and his jolly crew used to come across, and disrupt, on a regular basis.

    Mbutu’s obvious response to the overlord is—”Just how big a piece of the action do you want?”

    It’s also somewhat reminiscent of the “Uplift” series, with certain obvious exceptions.

  • Critic

    So how did the communists manage to create a global dictatorship without plunging the world into grinding poverty and eventually all-out war of all against all? Did they just vote to repeal the laws of economics?

    Good thoughts, but this is absolutely impossible. We are more likely to exceed the speed of light in the next 200 years than we are to make communism work.

    Also, I should point out that empires and patience don’t mix — since empires *always* destroy themselves, and generally destroy themselves pretty quickly. Look at the disastrous effect that a mere *one century* of imperial self-destruction has had on America!

  • Nuke Gray!

    You are wrong, Critic. Empires can last for centuries. The Roman Empire managed to hang on for 4 Centuries before Attila finally put it to ‘sleep’. Empires usually collapse because of competition- but if the UN runs all of Earth, then it will last until Contact destroys it. The scenario is plausible. And some Empires are still around- The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which is what the British Empire turned into.

  • That’s “reined in”, not “reigned in”. The metaphor is equestrian, not royal. Also, “free rein”.

    (I don’t make a habit of correcting blog posts, but literature demands a higher standard).

  • Alisa

    Alice, I’ll go with no. 1, with a slight amendment: Mbotu, who is obviously(?) an African, is suddenly reminded where he (historically and collectively) came from and joins in. And then at least one token woman is played by that cute Chinese girl from Charlie’s Angels. Over to you.

  • Jim

    Shouldn’t the alien chuckle while dipping into a dish of pickled male testicles?
    I don’t disagree with the idea of us maintaining a defence force, I just object to us getting entangled with foreign wars.
    Interestingly at Club Orlov, where he is predicting economic collapse due to energy depletion, he is predicting alien invasion will solve our problems. Do you think the aliens would relax the anti-smoking regulations? Clearly we need to be ready to have some input into policy work.

  • I like it. Reminds me of a short story idea I had involving libertarian aliens. I never seem to be able to finish such projects, though.

  • Fictional blog posts on the other hand — now there’s an idea… Much easier to finish. I think Dale might have invented a new form of writing.

  • The Roman Empire managed to hang on for 4 Centuries before Attila finally put it to ‘sleep’

    The Roman Empire, as a continuous and independent political entity, lasted until 1453. Roughly a thousand years longer than you suggest.

    Empires can last a long time, especially if there are no barbarians outside to knock them down.

    Anyone read The Probability Broach? About an alternate libertarian timeline? The online graphic novel version is here(Link).

  • Anyone read The Probability Broach? About an alternate libertarian timeline? The online graphic novel version is here(Link).

  • Rob

    Where’s the Climate Change angle? Tsk.

  • Dale Amon

    I was up on a network consultancy job all night so I am just catching up. (ie, The things you have to do to stay alive and pay for your commercial space habit).

    Thanks for the spelling check, on reins. that slipped right by the spelling check and was what was intended although my fingers did something different.

    I will not tie myself into a lot on the story just to reserve the faint possibility I might expand on it, but this would be more a prequel that got written after a longer series set some centuries later. Earth is not going to get out of this easily or soon, and all is not necessarily what it seems.

    Secondly, Mbotu is actually quite a nice guy, he just happens to have grown up in a particular set of beliefs that are now as dead at Byzantine politics the day after the fall. He is the sort who will be somewhat obedient but not an amoral SOB. He’s the sort whom if you met him on a personal level you would quite like him.

    The alien leader is also not a killer and mass murderer. His species simply discovered that being the biggest SOB in this corner of the milky way was the best way to live a healthy, wealthy and long life. They don’t like killing a lot of people, regardless of the species, if they can find another way to accomplish what they want. They are also very aware of cost and benefit of their actions.

    And of course, you should never assume your new alien overlord is telling you the full story about galactic politics or does not have his own particular brand of rose-tinted glasses. ;-)

  • Robert Speirs

    “I don’t disagree with the idea of us maintaining a defence force, I just object to us getting entangled with foreign wars.”

    So the defence force is going to keep in trim by fighting each other? Please.

  • Alice

    “And then at least one token woman is played by that cute Chinese girl from Charlie’s Angels.”

    That will certainly catch the eye of part of the target demographic.

    Of course, there needs to be a place in the movie version for that cute fiddle-playing Eastern European lad who represented Norway in the last Eurovision Song Contest.

    Maybe evil aliens can’t stand fiddle playing — or the Eurovision Song Contest. Remind me again why we want to get rid of the aliens?

  • Nuke Gray!

    Alice, we want to get rid of the aliens because they’re grabbing planets that God put there for US to use! No, US don’t mean North Americans who are not Canadians! It stands for the whole huperson race, who have a right to every star out there! Aliens are demons testing us to see if we fall for their blasphemous lies- or they could be demon-infested species who need us to teach them the TRUTH!
    All Clear now?

  • Nuke Gray!

    Yes, I read ‘The probability broach’. He should have called it, ‘The World That Killed Washington.’
    Interesting ideas, but I think that the States would have stayed on, as separate nations. They might have had roving conferences, but no real agreement otherwise. (And would that really have been a bad thing?) This means they’d have been a stronger Mormon Theocracy dominating western North America. And Russia might have hung on to Alaska.
    As for Anarchy, he didn’t prove the case, though the arguments are interesting.
    More pertinantly, he wrote some sequels, in which anarcho-Capitalists go out to the stars, only to find they’ve been colonised by Hamiltonians who didn’t know they’d be going backwards in time. ‘The Aliens’ turned out to be statist humans. Oh, woe is us!

  • Alisa

    Alice, I have always suspected that Eurovision is what has been keeping the aliens away lately.

  • Laird

    And here I thought it was the aluminum foil hats (although I acknowledge that there is some empirical evidence that they may not be as effective as was initially thought).

  • Paul Marks

    The aliens seem to be good guys (your children will willingly…..) and they promise lower taxes and less controls.

    However, I do not think some “New World Order” will need aliens to make it collapse.

    Remember the Romans only had government welfare and other such for Rome and a few other cities – a very small percentage of the population of the Empire.

    According to the “Economist” (and the rest of the mainstream media and academia) government financed health, education and welfare are rights for the whole population of Earth – the billion people in India and so on.

    Such a system will not last four hundred years – it will not even last forty years.

    And I have not even touched on the establishment’s love of a credit bubble financial system – the Romand debased the coinage, but they never dreamed of the crazy stuff that is going on now.

  • Alisa

    Laird: no, not against aliens they are not. Unfortunately, neither would they prove very effective against Eurovision itself, seeing from the links you so helpfully (and inexplicably) found and provided that they were originally intended to protect against invasive radio signals in general, and mind-control in particular.

  • Alisa

    Dale, of course Mbotu is a good guy: I already said that I knew this the moment his name was mentioned.

  • Nuke Gray!

    But didn’t Wells point out an invisible line of defence- natural biological warfare? Has anyone calculated the odds of aliens being immune? And how would we fare on alien worlds? Would we always need to wear suits?
    Alice, don’t worry! Since the universe exists for Humans to colonise, these ‘aliens’ are demons in flesh form, trying to stop us from our natural role as lords of all! Or they are demon-infested species who need us to save them!

  • TDK

    The strange thing is, many people like the idea of the “Day The Earth Stood Still”. It appeals to the idea that a benign technical class would rule the world [with an iron fist] for the benefit of mankind.

    When I worked in Abu Dhabi, an Arab colleague told me of his dream that one day the UN would have the power to go into countries and overturn the wrongdoing rulers. Obviously the US wasn’t a viable substitute. He had in mind the idea that the UN would eject the Israeli government but wasn’t averse to them doing something about Arab despots. How will you change the UN when it gets corrupt, I asked, to no reply. It’s the same thing: the abstract idea of a non partisan benign dictatorship appeals to certain people.

    It’s well to remember that whilst today’s progressives are anti-imperialism and notionally pacifist, that wasn’t always the case. Read the progressives of the past arguing for the imperial mission to civilise Africa. Interventionism is a statist impulse. I would imagine that the progressives in your fiction will just as easily switch back in imperial mode.

  • Aaron Armitage

    Aliens won’t get infected by our pathogens, nor will they be eat to eat our food (or us). Their biology would be too different.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Aaron, how can you possibly know that? The alien of this story seems to be breathing Earth’s atmosphere with no trouble, so it is sufficiently alike us that I think germs would be a real worry.

  • Paul Marks

    Above I say that we do not need space aliens to save us from the Welfare State because it will be collapsing in forty years (as opposed to four hundred years).

    I think I will really stick my neck out – and say that way things are going the present system will be collapsing in four years.

    Whether there will then be real reform (a roll back in the size and scope of goverment), or tyranny and chaos (not opposites as both involve the violation of property) I do not know. But the present trends can not continue without leading to total crises – and soon.