Jordan Chase-Young’s story “The Great Contradiction” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 26 November 2021.
Earlier this year, my friend Robin Hanson shared a provocative paper exploring the possibility that humankind’s early emergence in cosmic history, and the apparent absence of other civilizations in the universe, may be a selection effect due to most of the universe’s future being under alien control (https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.01522). I puzzled over how to turn this insight into a story and finally settled on a fantasy parable, as I felt that would be easier to fit into a few thousand words. The Ecumene is one of many SFF settings that’ve been collecting dust in my head, so I was grateful to have a story to set in it.
The most challenging aspect of the tale was plugging in concepts like the Fermi Paradox, Copernican principle, and selection effects while keeping the language accessible and the pacing smooth. I ended up trimming a lot of Atapua’s analysis to avoid bogging down the piece. I also fleshed out Atapua’s emotional world more and more with each draft, hoping to capture the complex emotions that scientists can have upon reaching a breakthrough with ambiguous consequences.
Though the setting is fantasy, the story is pure SF; it’s about the fun and often scary ordeal of uncovering a difficult truth about reality. I share some of Atapua’s anxieties about that process, but I tend to side with Wallaq’s view that people are good at adapting to hard truths. What about you?
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