What if Kurzweil doesn't make it?
What if all the switches get stuck on destroy?
When the shuttle goes, we won't take it
When the final counter-measures are deployed
All we'll have is all this time

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shazam! The Muse Strikes Back

Okay, so I may be dense and this is already out there, but in working through the biology of the beast in my Marie Fitzgerald story (which is vaguely Cthulhu mythos like) and listening to the Diane Rehm Show about whale song I hit upon a crucial aspect. How does an animal in space communicate? I've thought about using cephalopod communication techniques (ie. color flashing and changing skin pigmentation), but then it hit me. Sure, no sound waves in space (sound waves require a medium - atmosphere or liquid - to transfer energy), but radio waves work just fine. The tin-foil hat brigade was right, we are receiving transmissions from the mother ship! Or, actually, from sleeping Cthulhu in R'lyeh. The Old Ones and Elder Gods would need to communicate through radio telepathy as both are space traveling species who can survive the void. This is why humans who come in contact with them go insane (the tin-foil hats and all).

I'm sure someone else, somewhere, has already done work on this.

This also helps explain why the characters were having difficulty communicating (some plot bunnies involved here) - radio static jamming. Brilliant! It didn't appear in much of Lovecraft's work because of their were no radios (that I remember) mentioned.

8 comments:

Matt Staggs said...

Hey, this is a really cool line of thinking you've stumbled upon....I have this image of blinking space squids beaming out radio signals into the heads of unwitting schizophrenics.

Anonymous said...

I second (the other) Matt's comment above. Cool idea. I don't know of it having been done before, either...

Steve Buchheit said...

Thanks Matt S. Yeah, it was a real "Shazam" moment. And that's pretty much what our main character will have happen to him, even as he defeats the beastie (no, I'm not telling how). I had worked out how they could survive in vacuum, but then listening to the show it hit me that they would need to communicate over distance (I had already thought of the color flashing). On the show they were talking about frequency and long distance transmissions and that's when it came to me. And it solved all the other problems (there's a scene about having the on rescuee being deep batshit gone, trying to claw his way out of his survival suit, which fortunately he's to far gone to remember how, because the guy he was tethered to got sucked out - the creatures need breathable gases - I needed someway to keep them all out of touch, and this provided that). Of course when I'm interviewed I'll revise that to be, "Well, it was just a logical extrapolation..."

Matt M, yeah, I don't remember too much about communication in Lovecraft except through dreams, direct thought, and the Shoggoth's bird like calls. Some of the other beasties do have languages (like the goules).

Ken McConnell said...

Sounds very cool Steve, I want to read the finished product. I've got a crazy setup for my Return to Luna anthology story that I've got to get working on so I can get it turned in.

My protag was born with the ability to perceive radio waves. He doesn't hear talk radio or rock and roll, he hears maddening static that makes him physically sick.

He's living very nicely removed from all man's radio noise on the far side of the moon, until the events of the story force him to the near side of the moon.

mattw said...

Would that involve some kind of telepathic ability to send the radio waves, or have the beasties developed some level of technology that they incorporate into themselves?

Steve Buchheit said...

Ken, reminds me of the discussion of Power in A. C. Clarke's Childhoods End. Where the alien discusses how real power isn't a cudgel, it's a pin prick. Imagine someone famous, and then having a blast of static hit them every five minutes (like in the story from Welcome to the Monkey House by Vonnegut on how everybody is "made to be equal").

Matt, I'm thinking of some bioengineering to create a primitive radio device. Since the Old Ones and Elder Gods were great biology manipulators (revealed in At the Mountains of Madness) I think they would have been able to accomplish some of the engineering. Then all you need is a basic transmission rig. I'll do some handwaving about the signal being "carbon-chain resonant" or affecting the hexacarbon chains which is how all life can "hear" them as the receiving device (or that it is a biomechanical analog to telepathy, in My Favorite War Stories and my other Cthulhu story there is the use of ESP powers to control Shoggoths - since we are the accidental creations of the Old Ones, it would seem connected if they could also communicate with us through these devices, the radio static could be signal bleed over - how the presence of a powerful transmitter it'll blank most radio signals in it's vicinity).

Camille Alexa said...

Writing is good.

Steve Buchheit said...

Camille, it's the best thing. Especially when the words flow out and you loose track of time and space. Heck, even when it feels like you're extracting the words like impacted teeth is still pretty good.