Friday, March 24, 2023

CREATING ALIEN ALIENS: Does ANYONE Have the Right To Terraform Another World? Part #23

Using the Programme Guide of the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention, ChiCON 8, which I WOULD have attended in person if I had disposable income, but I retired two years ago, my work health insurance stopped, and I’m now living on the Social Security and Medicare…I will be using the Programme Guide to jump off, jump on, rail against, or shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. My opinions may bring glad hearts to some, or cause others to wish to stomp me into the muddy ground of Lilydale Park shortly after a long rain.

Colin Alexander: (moderator) writer, SF and F; pseudonym for Alton Kremer, physician, biochemist, medical researcher
Eva L Elasigue: writer - poetry, short story, and scripts
Kevin Wabaunsee: writer, biomedical research news editor, editor @ Escape Pod, Prairie Band Potawatomi.
Sue Burke: author, literary translator

If we terraform a planet, what happens to the living things that evolved there? Would an "Earth-like" planet have living things we could live alongside? How might Earth life integrate into an alien ecology? This panel will contemplate the ecological impacts of making another planet more Earth-like.

For ME, the first clear idea of altering a planetary environment in order for an intelligence to live there were the chtorr-a-forming alien Chtorr in David Gerrold’s novels that introduced the idea in WAR AGAINST THE CHTORR. That book is “Set in a devastated early 21st century United States with logical expected advances in current technology such as a fledgling moon base [it] describe the invasion of Earth by an alien ecology. The story is unusual in that the tactics used by the aliens eschew the usual direct attack in favor of terraforming the ecosystem.” (Like I noted above, that should be “chtorr-a-forming” our ecosystem to conform to their own.

While I didn’t see the presentation, I’m hoping that someone brought up Gerrold’s book. Lately, it seems that the Human creature has entered a time of deep, almost religious self-recrimination; consistently now bringing to light events that happened in the past and attempting to either make reparations to the descendants of those who were most harmed by the event (I live in the state where “On December 26, 1862, following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the federal government hanged 38 members of the Dakota tribe in Minnesota. It was the largest mass execution in United States history.” (For an in-depth discussion, follow this link:, and obsessing over details that may or may not be incidental – just as obsessively denying that either the event ever took place, or trying to put the event “into historical perspective” (Whatever that means. Usually it seems to mean, “They didn’t know what they were doing because that’s just the way things were then. I’m not responsible.”)

My question is why would we think that Humans alone would consider terraforming a planet to suit themselves?

Because we’re the only intelligent life in the known universe (– please don’t use the movie CONTACT’s argument that “Carl Sagan said, 'I'd say if it is just us ... seems like an awful waste of space.'" to somehow convert me to your POV that there JUST MUST BE ALIENS. As far as I can tell, Sagan never said this. It is “creatively expressed in the movie version of Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact…” – but thus far, there is NO evidence that there is life anywhere but HERE. A plethora of life, even more lifeforms if you consider all that have gone extinct (without Humans lifting a single, evil finger) – but anywhere else?


In fact, if you want to get into the ethics of terraforming, let’s look at the Chicxilub Event. If you’re going to insist that THERE MUST BE INTELLIGENT ALIENS, then you have no choice but to consider the possibility that Earth was terraformed by asteroid impact that finished the extinction of the dinosaurs and initiated the upward climb and Age of Mammals. Even with today’s technology, Humans altered the orbital trajectory of an asteroid: “NASA has confirmed that its DART spacecraft has altered the trajectory of the asteroid that it crashed into two weeks ago, demonstrating the potential of this tool for planetary defense. A trial run at planetary defense has proven successful. Oct 12, 2022,,this%20tool%20for%20planetary%20defense.&text=A%20trial%20run%20at%20planetary%20defense%20has%20proven%20successful.

So why do I harp on this point? Because if it’s possible, AND there is intelligent life Out There, then WE are as vulnerable as we assume other planets are.

As Earth’s “twin”, should we terraform Venus? Someone already thought of that in the 70s. Watch this. I show it to my Alien Worlds class every year. “Mind-slaughter” (1977) It STILL gives me the creeps! On the other hand, altering its atmosphere will NOT make it habitable. Venus will continue to have a day that would see (for example) the sun rise on the First Day Of Spring (March 20, 2023), and set 37 weeks later on December 4, 2023…I doubt that life As We Know It would survive after 243 days of daylight. Of course, the night would be the same if you stayed in the same place - 243 Earth-days long. The only way you could make Venus livable for Humans is to change the planet’s atmosphere, rotation...And therein lies the question implicit in any discussion of terraforming: “Who gave YOU the right to change…”

OK, what if we changed HUMANITY instead? Well, you could always change Human behavior. Create Humans with a society that would move with the incredibly slow terminator line… and therein lies the question implicit in any discussion of Humanoforming (aka, Genetic Engineering): “Who gave YOU the right to change Humanity…” For a novel that deals with this issue, try THE CHILDREN STAR (2009), by Joan Slonczewski. Fascinating read.

Do I think we just throw all caution to the wind and willy-nilly start to change planets, moon, atmospheres, and asteroids to make way for MORE Humans?

No. But I DO think we should take into consideration the possibility that if there IS Intelligent Alien Life Out There, that we may have already been the victims of terraforming – or may become the victims in the future.

So, aggression or naivete? Which one is the path to colonizing the Solar System, the Orion Arm, the Milky Way, and eventually the Universe? I leave that for an intellectual exercise of your own. I've certainly stirred myself up...

Program Guide:[GS1]