Sunday, 1 April 2012

A to Z: A is for A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Aliens

Darn you, Laughing Ferret! Happened by your blog, read that the A to Z Blogging Challenge was about to start, thought “How hard can that be?”, and signed up before I thought it through. D’oh!

And an impressive number of people (1630 as of 21:12 NZT) have signed up for the challenge – Laughing Ferret is number 1467 while this blog is 1480 – covering a huge number of types and interests. Good work, organisers!
So, 26 posts on Traveller-related subjects.

Let’s look at Aliens.

The original, LBB, version of Traveller was human centric – and reflected a lot of the more serious science fiction works of the time. While science fiction was moving away from the “mindless bugs from outer space want to eat all our men and carry off our women” that characterised much of the genre in the 40’s and 50’s, aliens in the 1960’s were either hostile and aloof, or humans in rubber suits. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the dominate voices in science fiction seemed to turn their gaze inward and we have a series of Dystopian Futures where humanity remains at the bottom of the gravity well, fighting over scraps, even as the Apollo programme was putting humans on the Moon.

Mos Eisley from WookieepediaFor me, the Mos Eisley cantina scene in Star Wars (now Star Wars: A New Hope) showed a view of a multi-species society that mirrored and expanded upon the multi-racial/multi-cultural society we began to see developing here in New Zealand in the 1980’s. It showed a society where star travel and trade was as common as air travel is today. To a boy in his late teens, this future slotted seamlessly over the mechanics of Traveller, and inspired my love of this game that has endured ever since.

As the official Traveller setting grew, we had the theory of Major Races (who developed Jump Drive independently) and Minor Races (who didn’t, but who could, and did, launch sub-light colony ships). It is the Minor Races that I find fascinating in this background, with human, hominid and alien species either evolving in isolation or being planted by Progenitor Races, of which the Ancients appear to have been the oldest example.

While the Major Races have been covered in detail in most versions of Traveller, few of the Minor Races have been explored in depth. This means that, within the over-arching story structure of the Traveller Universe, there are unlimited shorter stories that remain to be told.