From the Air

We are the cavemen. We are the Ancients, the Progenitors, the blue-collared steel monkeys; a thousand interstellar expressways in a thousand derivative works of historical fiction rose by our hands. We’re the plot devices to let careless storytellers off the hook. We spin webs across the galaxy and conveniently disappear, millions of years before the real heroes arrive on stage. Oh, I’ve read the books; I’ve played the sims; I’ve watched the wraparounds. I’ve had plenty of time. I smile at every offhand digression, every throwaway line from bit players wondering what happened to us, where we went, what great filter might have driven us to extinction.

But we’re not extinct. We’re still out here laying the roads, crawling across the universe like ants, dragging your goddamned superhighway behind us. Don’t excuse yourselves with legends of our fall. Don’t justify your freeloading by pretending that we just went away, leaving all this miraculous infrastructure for you to play with. If you don’t see us, it’s because you don’t dare look in the empty spaces. If you’ve forgotten who we are, it’s because even now, in all your transcendent post-Human splendour, you’re still too frightened to dip your toes into the void where we spend our lives. You’re so used to stepping from A to B that you’ve forgotten the endless, infinite points between. Someone had to blaze the trail across that desert; and we got no help from magic carpets.

You will never catch up. You will always live in our slow, creaking, endless wake. You cannot go anywhere we have not already been.

And if, now and then, you happen to frown at some faint memory— if you ever wonder what you’d see if you bent down and peered into that abyss between the stars— the moment never lasts. You catch yourselves, and laugh nervously, and stop yourselves from thinking such foolish thoughts. Because you know there’s no need to wonder. You know exactly what you’d see looking back at you from that place.

You know.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday June 20 2008at 12:06 pm , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

13 Responses to “From the Air”

  1. kickass. I was hoping for another fiblet.

  2. I’ve been checking incessantly for the past couple of days, I had a feeling I’d see something soon.

    Sensing a lot of anger here, a lot of resentment, a lot of defensive elitism. Amply justified though.

  3. Damn, son. Damn. Amazing.

    You coming down to Readercon so I can reward you with liquor?

  4. I think you just need a hug. Or maybe a cuddly puppy.

  5. I should probably point out that I meant “from the narrator” :)

  6. excellent!
    strong aftertaste of “scientists wronged by the population at large” upon reading that.
    looking forward to more.
    gene

  7. chang3002 said…

    You coming down to Readercon so I can reward you with liquor?

    I came down there last time. This time around, you can come up here and reward me with liquor.

    Anonymous said…

    I think you just need a hug. Or maybe a cuddly puppy.

    Got cats. Don’t need no steenkin’ puppies.

  8. mmmmmm…. puppy

  9. The more I read this, the more and more I’m reminded of Eon, by Greg Bear.

    Or rather, what Eon could have been, and instead went from highly entertaining futuristic science fiction cold war territorial struggle, into… alice in wonderland.

    I remembered reading about how they’d folded space in on itself to present a self-generating essentially infinite geometry, and thinking: “Man, this has so much potential.”

    Squandered.

    Greatly, GREATLY looking forward to reading more of this. I know in your hands that if we’re going to wonderland, it sure as fuck won’t be a happy trip.

  10. One thing I worry about (worry is the wrong word, but I can’t think of a better one) in this story is it being so far in the future. One of the things I liked about the Rifter books & Blindsight is the nods to current fields & progress in science. Not that I think you’re moving toward 1000 page Asimovian crawls about historians in caftans, but I think tying stuff in like how Behemoth or vampires might have evolved is part of what some people refer to with the ‘Watts is some supafine readin’ when my will to live grows too strong’. Like, in Blindsight, there’s no warp drive. You wanna explore space? Reality sucks, time to get gassed with rotten eggs & turned into the undead for a few years. (on the bright side, you could probably sleep through the country while it’s going through a right wing phase)
    Not that I think you’re going to have devices that scan brainwaves and give the protagonists cupcakes as manifested desires…or stick everyone in caftans (dammit)…I just hope there’s still some crabby baselines we can sort of relate to, with a couple of tropes as cool as the Crucifix glitch or Ganzfeld effects.

  11. @tredecimal: The folks in this thing seem to be baselines. Well, near-baselines, I suppose, given the massive technological support structure they no doubt have access to and of course, their attested longevity.

    Still, everything we’ve seen indicates they’re about as weird as we would be if our waking life were
    minced thin across the eons in a sleep-wake-sleep-wake cycle for “building” wormholes.

  12. erp…to buffer/correct my last thought, it’s not so much worry about a possible lack of baselines to relate to (since no one in Blindsight was one and none of the rifters by definition were anymore)… it’s about the tropes. The mention of the ‘will to live too strong’ line was supposed to connect better to the idea of the realism & tropes being the appeal for me (they’re all the same thing to me is what I’m saying).

  13. Great stuff, thanks for putting it up. Interesting timing, as I’ve been thinking more-than-usual about Progenitors, in the context of Star Control II. That’s what happens when I make (not drink) wine. The explanation for that correlation is long and boring, so I won’t elaborate. To reiterate: coolness on my computer screen, thanks.