Thursday, April 15, 2010

Edward M. Lerner's "InterstellarNet: Origins"

For thirty years, Edward M. Lerner toiled in the vineyards of high tech. Then, suitably intoxicated, he began writing science fiction full-time. He writes both near-future, Earth-based techno-thrillers (like Fools’ Experiments and Small Miracles) and -- as with his latest novel, InterstellarNet: Origins -- more traditional spacefaring adventures.

Here he explains some casting challenges for a cinematic adaptation of InterstellarNet: Origins, as well his choice of a couple of stars with significant sci fi credits for the lead roles:
InterstellarNet: Origins, as its cover suggests, starts with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence -- a quest that succeeds. Contemplating I: O as a movie, it’s hard not to think, almost immediately, of the few well-done SETI movies. There’s Contact, starring Jodie Foster as a radio astronomer. There’s The Arrival, starring Charlie Sheen as a radio astronomer. Hmm ... the opening of I: O needs male and female scientist leads. Okay, I can’t help casting Sheen as the hero, Dean Matthews, and Foster as the heroine, Bridget Satterswaithe.

But InterstellarNet: Origins the movie rapidly part ways with those earlier films. Earth stays in contact with the aliens who have reached out across the light-years -- and light speed being a limit, those exchanges last years. Even with our nearest neighbors (native to Alpha Centauri), the round-trip radio delay approaches a decade. And so, the first, tentative message swaps gradually transform into a robust interstellar internet over which information -- science, technology, and culture -- is traded. And so, I: O became a family saga. Dean and Bridget marry, and by the end of the story, their children and grandchildren are the ones immersed in alien plots. What can we say about casting them? Starting from Sheen and Foster, if we know nothing else, we can assume the rest of the clan is very attractive.

Arguably the most interesting characters aren’t human -- nor, exactly, are they alien. The way to circumvent the light-speed limit is to download artificial intelligences, AIs, possessed of delegated authority. But other species’ technologies are potentially incredibly valuable. What is to prevent the aliens’ AIs from becoming victims -- or being criminal masterminds? As archetypes for alien AIs interacting with humans within an ever-expanding network, I can’t help but think of Max Headroom, the Hal 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey), Colossus (The Forbin Project), and SkyNet (The Terminator) – with virtual-reality appearances animated with a bit of Gollum or the Navi from Avatar.
Learn more about the author and his work at his website Edward M. Lerner, perpetrator of science fiction and techno-thrillers, and blog SF and Nonsense.

The Page 99 Test: Small Miracles.

The Page 69 Test: Fools’ Experiments.

The Page 69 Test: InterstellarNet: Origins.

--Marshal Zeringue