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Colony Crisis!

The burgeoning population problem here on Earth (Terra) inspired me to create an imaginary world called Tellus, a colonised planet beset with chronic over-population problems stumbling toward a dreadful and draconian conclusion. I will admit that my choice of the name Tellus was doubly deliberate however – one, because it was the Roman goddess of the earth, marriage and fertility (cognate with the now more familiar Greek Gaia) and, two, because of the rather obvious pun of ‘tell us’.

Anyway, I called my book Colony Collapse and, originally, I saw it as a one-off piece of SF writing. However, the activities and public statements in recent times of an American scientist, one George Church, have forced me to return once again to Tellus and to centre my current concerns about human development on that same imaginary world. And before I go on to say any more about Colony Crisis, I realise that in so doing I have – almost unwittingly – created a possible series here: a series where my worries about aspects of our lives here and now, and in the foreseeable future, can be rehearsed and played out in the future world of my imagination: Colony Consolidated, perhaps, and Colony Comeback, who knows? But almost certainly – if I am spared – Colony Creation.

In the early days of composition, I nearly gave myself a brain fever trying to find a genuine, known ‘goldilocks’ planet for Tellus and almost worried myself sick trying to determine a credible atmosphere, the number of moons it should have, appropriate fauna and flora, etc., and a plausible timescale for inter-planetary travel and colonisation and so forth. And, then, I realised that it didn’t matter - none of it did. The important point was not to create a scientifically correct Tellus, but a believable one!

Consequently, in the first book (probably the last one, if it is to be a series) the planet was in a bad place entirely due to the success of its human population, who - at the point at which we meet them - are at the end of an unspecified history of continuous growth and development. In Colony Crisis, however, we are dealing with a much earlier (again, unspecified) period in Tellurian history though one in which the colony is well and truly established, prospering and in very good order. The crisis then, when it comes, is of an entirely different type and magnitude to the issues dealt with in Colony Collapse and it is all down to scientific hubris, essentially.

Without giving too much away in this blog, the book deals with the problem of science for science’s sake, when things are pursued because they can and not because they ought to be, when public scrutiny and accountability fails, when too much is taken on trust, and when dangerous technologies are in the sole control of people consumed by hubris and barely concealed contempt for their fellow-beings. Which brings me back to George Church’s announcement, a short while ago, that he seriously intended, in the foreseeable future, to ‘de-extinct’ Homo Neanderthalensis, and that all he needed now (since the science was, comparatively speaking, a piece of cake) was an enthusiastic female volunteer to bring matters to fruition. That announcement alarmed me greatly and reminded me of alleged Soviet experiments to create a man-ape as well as Nazi ‘back-breeding’ programmes on horses and cattle… it also set me thinking and researching about various possibilities in respect of human development, and Colony Crisis is the consequence of all those labours.

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