Diabolus ex machina


Which of these makes it onto the evening news?

1) bus crashes and children are rushed to the hospital
2) bus driver avoids collision and arrives safely at the destination

For the same reasons, the plots of many science fiction stories are full of bad news and bad breaks. A thousand years ago, if you wanted to torment your hero and build suspense you called a snake-like beast in from casting and let the battle begin. These days the diabolus ex machina is more likely to arrive from the depths of space just in time to ruin the hero’s day.

I often criticize the science fiction genre for widespread lack of imagination about aliens (most recently here). Asimov ignored aliens in much of his later writing, although when he first started trying to sell short stories he wrote about things like Martians who had sex with humans and produced hybrid children.

The Start of Eternity is a kind of fan fiction sequel to to Asimov’s time travel novel, The End of Eternity. While trying to pay tribute to Asimov, I find myself sending aliens half way across the universe to smash Galaxia, Asimov’s vision of humanity’s future.

Have I turned into what I dislike: someone willing to turn aliens into my evil henchmen? Hardly. Asimov painted himself into a corner by inventing Galaxia and leaving his Foundation Series and Robot Stories hanging, incomplete. I’m personally providing a deus ex machina that can lift Asimov out of the corner and allow fans to continue the Asimov adventures that we are so fond of. I’m willing to take criticism for what I’m doing to Asimov’s fictional universe, but I don’t think my plot elements are too devilishly mean or to magically helpful, either.

As I’ve previously discussed, I’m not a fan of a dichotomy between good and evil. I never sit down and say, “Hmm, I need to make a good (or evil) character.”

The aliens in The Start of Eternity are not evil. Actually, I’m concerned that some readers will accuse me of using aliens as a kind of deus ex machina. I just finished writing a description of the First Contact between the Huaoshy and the Retair. It is the alien equivalent of the story about the first two automobiles in Kansas crashing into each other.

I’m interested in why some people are willing to believe very crazy ideas, but they object to some plots and start shouting, “Deus ex machina!” The Retair are a species that evolved as a kind of flightless bird. They first appear in Chapter 10 of The Start of Eternity and by Chapter 13 they are in need of a helping hand. If you think that help arrives too magically then go ahead and click “edit”.

Image. Aliens as devils: Alien Pumpkin by dalangalma.

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