Tag Archives: The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy

More News

This is a busy day here are NRP.  First is the news that Tom Easton’s wonderful sf novel, The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy, is now available.  As with all our books, it is under $5 AND is DRM free.  It is currently available through our web store and will soon be available through Amazon, B&N and other online e-tailers.

Our second bit of news today is the announcement that some of our titles can now be found at Coffee Time Romance as well.  Now, don’t let the title throw you.  CTR is a wonderful site and you can find just about any sort of book through their web store.  We’re very pleased to be associated with the wonderful folks there.  You can find our CTR store here.

 

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The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy

is now available.

Now, to tease you so you will have to check it out, here’s a quick snippet from somewhere in the book. . . Yes, I’m evil.  I know.  Even more, I enjoy it ;-)

*   *   *

Monday afternoon Gabe had had the anthro hall in the other wing of the building.  Two hundred padded seats, burgundy plush and polished plywood, rising like a wave before him.  Perhaps a fifth of them were occupied, though not always by attentive students.  There were three couples that seemed to have their minds on something else entirely, and several bent heads, closed eyes.

Well, as long as they didn’t snore.

He was talking to the others, anyway, clicking through slides and bulleted lists, using his mouse-wand to point and highlight.  “There’s never been much doubt that humans were special.  We’re a conceited gang, but it’s clear that there are significant differences between us and the rest of the animal world.

“What are those differences?  Language?  But many animals communicate with sound.  Vervet monkeys even have different alarm calls for different threats–eagle, snake, leopard.  Sound and meaning, definite communication.”  Click-click-click, vervets watching ground and sky, fleeing high or low.  They’d read about this in their text.  If they’d done their assignment.  “Apes use varied calls and gestures, and chimps and gorillas can learn Ameslan, American Sign Language.”  Click-click, Washoe asking for a drink, Koko trying to teach her kitten Sign.

“Tool use?  Again, chimps make and use simple tools.”  Click, a chimp with the famous termite-fishing twig.  Click, another bashing nuts with a stone.

“Laughter?  Many animals play, and some look for all the world as if they’re laughing.”  Click, click.  Baboons doing cartwheels down a desert slope, a baby chimp being tickled.  “Chimps even play practical jokes.”

“Intelligence?”  Click, a porpoise.  Despite concern, despite a worldwide ban on whaling, the big whales were no more and the small ones survived only in Marinelands.  People had left too few fish and plankton in the seas to support them in the wild.  “Some think we may be outclassed on that.”  A few quiet laughs rippled through the hall.

“All of these have been suggested, but at best our uniqueness in these respects is much more a matter of degree than one of kind.  We’re not alone, and that has long rankled some of us.  Just what is it that makes us unique?”

A hand went up, a smile, almost a smirk.  He could guess why.

“Yes, Mr. Clancy?”  A serious-looking fellow.  Short hair, no beard or mustache, not wearing a suit but easy to imagine in one.  Give him a few more years.  Maybe a Saucerite mask, too.  Would he be one of the few who believed his abductors had planted a mental eavesdropping device in his brain?

“A soul?”

“Is there even such a thing?  I know many people believe there is, but I suspect the concept was invented to provide an answer to my question.  If there is such a thing…  Well, consider this, when did we acquire it?  The very idea of evolution requires continuity, change by modification.  We don’t gain features all at once, presto-shazam!”  A scatter of laughs.  These were upper-level undergrads.  They’d had that course.  “So, did our ancestors have them?  How far back?  Homo erectusAustralopithecus?  The pre-hominid apes?  Early primates?  Snakes and fish and worms?  How do you know your dog or cat does not have one?  Certainly some religions hold that they do–and other animals, and even plants, as well.”  Click-click-click–he was ready with a Buddha, a mandala, a wheel of reincarnation.  “Either we don’t have them, or everything does.”

He shook his head.  Souls were not an answer.  “What is it, then, that makes us special?  Or is it all just a matter of degree?”  Click, back to the chimp licking termites off its twig.  “Look at that.  As far as we can tell, chimps have been picking twigs, stripping off the leaves, and poking them into termite hills just like that for thousands of years.  Some chimp genius had to think it up in the first place, but it hasn’t changed since then.  It works, and to a chimp that’s enough.”

A skinny brunette, glasses, braces, not much makeup, cute, raised her hand.  “Yes, Ms. Worth?”

“And humans would have changed it?”  The slightly nasal voice actually sounded excited.  He grinned at her encouragingly as she added:  “Improved it?  Decorated it, maybe.  Or given it a handle.  A fringe so more termites could bite it and you could catch more.”

He turned his grin on the rest of the class and noticed for the first time the bulky figure in the shadows of the back row.  A Placoderm, humanoid like most of the aliens but so massive and solid that it looked like it belonged on the wrestling circuit.  Its blocky head jutted from a colorful, tent-like dashiki.  It hadn’t been there the class before; indeed, even though the aliens were famous for auditing a wide variety of courses, he had never had one sit in on one of his.  The students were ignoring it, just as they would have on the street, where the sheer quantity of imitation aliens, the Saucerites, diluted the impact of the few genuine aliens.

“You see?” he said.  “We can’t help ourselves, can we?  Show us something, and we have to improve on it.  At least change it.  Make it more complicated, even quite rococo.  A tool like this, a story, a religion, a language.  We never stop, and that’s something new.

“And we don’t really seem to be driven by necessity.  Sure, there are plenty of times when the changes we make seem to have a purpose.  To solve problems.  But there are plenty when they don’t, when we seem to be pursuing change for change’s sake.”  Click–a classic car meet, rows of antique cars with elaborate grills and fins.  “And the result is human culture, civilization, technology.”

Gabe hesitated before musing aloud, “Human only?”  He eyed the Placoderm in the back row thoughtfully.  Would it take offense at being brought into the discussion?  For all the peaceful intentions the alien species had loudly declared when they had appeared a few years before, they were surely quite capable of showing their displeasure.  Their embassies could not be broken into by stealth or force.  Why would the aliens be so good at defense if they had never had anyone to defend against?  And these would be the winners, the ones who had prevailed against the defenses of others.  Or their descendants.  Evolution in action for societies and technologies.

The next step was in the syllabus.  So don’t worry about it, he told himself.  “There are profound differences between humans and our alien visitors.”  Several heads twitched to peek at the back of the hall.  Click-click, click-click, click-click, a Placoderm, an Ent, a Spider, a Burd, a Furry, a Helf.

“Major differences,” Gabe repeated.  Similarities too, of course.  It had actually shocked some biologists to see them eat our food.  Earthly proteins have a left-hand twist, sugars and starches a right-hand twist, all due to a flip of the coin at the dawn of life, and lefties cannot digest righties, and vice versa.  Surely the coins must flip the other way on other worlds, and we should–sometimes, anyway–be toxic to each other, or at least non-nutritious.  Other biologists, who had insisted that biochemistry was just the way the parts went together, were delighted.  So were chefs, who very quickly noticed that some of the aliens tended to think of human dishes–even those heavy on chili peppers and wasabi–as rather bland.  Unfortunately, the aliens would not provide samples of their own herbs and spices.

Anatomy had raised similarly mixed feelings.  The aliens were all roughly humanoid, with heads and arms and legs and hands, and their voices worked in the human range.  Some had wished for slugs and insects, telepaths and color flashers.  Others had said, hey, it works, and besides the really weird aliens probably didn’t want to look at us anyway.

“They evolved from different stock,” he went on.  “They had to suit different environments.  For instance, we think the Helfs come from a high-gravity world.  Their broad base offers exceptional stability, which must be to protect the more fragile upper portion.

“The Furries–the chitinous caps may reflect a shelled ancestor, something like a crab, just as the pen of a cuttlefish is the vestigial remnant of a mollusk’s shell.  The fur does not suggest an aquatic ancestry, but there are Earthly crabs that live on land.

“These differences, these adaptations, these very different backgrounds or contexts in which the patterns of their thoughts were formed, must be reflected in their cultures.  Do Burds lay eggs?  Then perhaps, where we associate the opening up of potentials with emergence, as of a baby emerging from the womb, they associate it with breakage, with shattering.”

He noticed a few skeptical looks, but he went on anyway.  “Do Helfs think of intelligence–that delicate upper body, head and brain–as in some sense a passenger on the solid, animal base?  That might affect attitudes toward the natural world, and such a species might never face the sort of environmental crises we have had to deal with.

“I’m guessing, of course.  They haven’t shared that much about themselves.  But of some things we can be sure: They’re all intelligent, they plan, they speak, perhaps they laugh.  And of course they are just as much technological beings as humans are.  Just as much the creators of advanced civilizations.  They couldn’t be on Earth otherwise.”

A hand: “Mr. Gortley?”  A chubby fellow, hairline already receding.

“How can you say such things?”  He seemed genuinely puzzled.  “Aren’t they far too superior to us to be compared that way?”

Gabe hoped his smile did not seem condescending.  “You feel I’m guilty of lesé majesté.”  Gortley nodded tentatively, not sure of the phrase.  “But we compare ourselves to apes and monkeys and dogs and cats.”

A girl to the side of the room spoke up: “That’s okay.  It wouldn’t be if the cat was doing the comparing.”

“A matter of direction?”

Several nods, yes, only the high can have the privilege of comparing themselves to the low.  Then Gortley was leaning forward. “It’s more fundamental than that.  Your whole thrust is that humans thought up their own advancements, but it’s obvious that we had help.”

“Ancient astronauts?  The Shining Ones who taught primitive humanity how to weave and farm and build?”

More nods, yes, this was what they had heard all their lives from Sunday supplements and tabloid feeds, TV and film, even in novels.  Not, he hoped, in school.  And the flourishing of Saucerites that had followed the aliens’ arrival had only strengthened the tide of rumor.

“The pyramids?”

“Of course!”  Gortley obligingly took the bait.  “How could mere humans build such mighty things so long ago?”

Cynthia Worth flipped the pages of her textbook and called out, “Page 217.”

Someone laughed.  Several more joined in as they got the joke.  Gortley flushed.

Gabe grinned at the class, and especially at Ms. Worth.  Yes, the reproduction of the tomb paintings showing how the pyramids were assembled.  Time was what it had taken, time and the effort of ten thousand strong backs and pairs of hands, not the machines of alien construction crews who could erect an impregnable Embassy almost overnight.  Not to mention all the trial and error, visible in the oldest pyramids of all, half-finished and collapsed, that it had taken the Pharaohs’ architects to get it right.

“A great many other ancient construction projects have also baffled modern understanding,” he said.  “Temporarily, anyway.  For instance, the statues of Easter Island, and they make a nice assignment for Friday.  A bit of research and a small report on how they were quarried, moved, and erected.  Please notice that our forebears right here on Earth were not dummies.”

He glanced at the back row, but the Plac was no longer there.  He wished he had noticed when it rose and sidled between the seats toward the door.  Perhaps it had just been beating the rush, the mob of students gathering their books and bags.  Those with another class or a work assignment next period moved faster, even sprinting toward the exit.  The rest seemed quite content to clot the aisles, drift toward the door, pausing, moving, always chattering.  As far as Gabe could tell, not a word of the chatter dealt with his lecture.

He had no idea why the Plac had shown up for this class and none of those before, or what it had hoped to learn, although his syllabus was posted on the Net.  It could have seen what he planned to talk about today, could have thought it might be interesting.  Or amusing, more likely, a provincial ape pretending that it shared its essential apeness with the gods themselves.  Was it lesé majesté to do so?  Perhaps, but he could hardly refrain, ape that he was. . . .

*   *   *

The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy by Thomas A. Easton is now available at the NRP website.  Look for it in coming days at Amazon.com and B&N.com and other e-book retailers.

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The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy — Preview

Later this week, NRP will be releasing the Thomas Easton’s novel, The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy.  This is the first time it will be available in digital format.  Below is a snippet from the novel.  For more information about Tom and the novel, be sure to check out Tom’s guest post here.

*     *     *

The sky was not full of alien spaceships.

There were only six of them.

But they were huge, and their psychological impact was colossal.  All the works of humanity shrank in significance.  The thousands of satellites human beings had over more than half a century put into orbit to pass on gossip and keep an eye on worrisome neighbors suddenly seemed as toys upon a playroom floor, while the public consciousness quite forgot the two space stations, the small Moon-base, and even the tiny ship, with its crew of eight intrepid explorers, whose voyage to Mars had preoccupied the media for almost a year.

That preoccupation ended the day the Spacewatch radars picked up half a dozen fast-moving objects headed straight for Earth.  Cometary fragments, the experts said.  An asteroid swarm.  And yes, of course, they’ll punch holes in the crust, raise tidal waves a thousand feet high, and fill the air with exactly the sort of dust that froze out the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago.

Deep Impact and Armageddon were immediately re-released.

“DOOMSDAY!” cried even the soberest headlines and news anchors, while the tabloid newsfeeds were left to speculate that the six strange objects were not pieces of comet or asteroid at all.  They were spaceships, and at any moment they would begin to decelerate.  The most extreme tabloids blared that the captain of the alien fleet was Jesus Christ Himself, come to gather up the Faithful, schlep them to Heaven, and leave Earth and the vast majority of humanity to the Seven Vials and Satan’s wiles, but no one who counted paid much attention.  Most seemed to think the ships were quite secular, and as soon as they had achieved Earth orbit, the Wise Ones from Galactic Central would tell poor benighted humanity how to solve all its problems, from global warming and AIDS to infidelity, impotence (Viagra couldn’t fix everything), obesity, and hair loss.

Which was exactly what happened.  Sort of.  Once their ships–each one a cylinder a thousand feet long and five hundred in diameter–were in orbit, dominating the night sky wherever one lived, the Wise Ones didn’t seem to have much to say about human problems large or small. They were much more interested in seeing the sights.

That helped restore humanity’s pride in its accomplishments.  It didn’t hurt a bit that the aliens were sights themselves.  They were at least roughly humanoid, but strange enough–carny freak-show strange–to let people feel superior.  It was easy to call them “it,” especially once it became clear that their behavior did not map onto any human gender norm.

Since none of them seemed to care what humans called them, people named them according to what they saw or were reminded of when they met: The Placoderms, built like professional wrestler Jacko “The Bull” Magruder, had skins studded with bony plaques that suggested they had evolved from something like an armadillo.  The Placs’ garments resembled dashikis with side-pockets.

The Helfs were pale green cones about three feet tall, resting on four thickly built legs with broad feet encircled by stubby toes.  The upper body was slender, almost delicate, the arms as scrawny as a human child’s, the hands surprisingly large, and the narrow, almost human head rested on an extensible neck that could add at least another foot of height.  The pointed ears and slicked-back dark hair were why someone had dubbed them “heavy elves,” which was promptly abbreviated.  Their only clothing was a belt with pouches.

The narrow-headed Ents had slender, dark-skinned limbs that ended in clusters of twiggy tendrils instead of fingers; humans called them Ents because to some they resembled walking trees.  They smelled of resin, and they wore strips of a white material that looked like plastic wrapped in spirals around their torsos and the upper portions of their arms and legs.  At intervals, these strips were marked by very recognizable zippers.

While decency, decoration, and protection from the elements are all important, the most important function of clothing may be that universal requirement of intelligent species–pockets.  Or something like pockets.  The Burds made do with small, purse-like satchels.  Otherwise, they went naked, ignoring decency–unlike birds, the males were well and obviously hung–and painting their scaly hides in perfumed, pastel swirls.  Each one had a feathered crest extending from its head most of the way down its back.  Their projecting jaws did the most to give them a birdlike look but their facial skin was so thin and mobile that–unlike birds–they seemed to have a thousand expressions.  Humans had no idea what most of them meant.

The Furries were just that, round balls covered with thick fur in several colors.  Their heads were squashed caps of something like chitin, under which gleaming eyes twitched back and forth on stalks.  The arms were long and six-fingered.  The legs were stubby but long enough to wear pants–with pockets, of course.

The Spiders might actually have descended from Earth-primate stock, for they resembled nothing more than large-headed, black-lipped spider monkeys, with long arms and legs and creamy fur with just a bit more nap than velvet.  They stood a little shorter than adult humans.  They wore briefs like swimming trunks and open-weave, fish-net shirts that seemed little more than support for several baggy pouches.  Unlike spider monkeys, they did not have tails.

Everywhere they went–Fifth Avenue, the Met, the Grand Canyon, the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Vatican, Jerusalem, Wal-Mart, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall–they drew vast crowds of gawkers, hawkers, and eager journalists.  They waved to the gawkers while the hawkers peddled fast foods and souvenirs, they sampled the fast foods, they bought some of the knick-knacks in quantity and ignored the rest, and they said very little to the journalists.  They also spent a little time with the United Nations, sampling the canapés and arranging to convert some of their technology–such as the high-capacity batteries that were showing up in electric cars within a year–into cash.

Then they went shopping.

The Furries began with denim jeans.  The Burds flocked to Avon ladies for new shades and fragrances of hide paint.  Then both joined the rest in buying real estate.  Each alien species acquired land near every major university on the planet; within a month, they had installed attractive buildings built of a creamy stone, with lots of glass and columns.  They hired local landscapers to do the grounds.

Not knowing what else to call these bases, the media dubbed them “Embassies.”

The FBI, CIA, and other national security agencies promptly tried to burgle them and discovered that the glass wasn’t breakable and the stone wasn’t even chippable.  When Texas tried the National Guard’s tanks and mortars, they learned that the aliens didn’t mind.  They didn’t have to take offense–the buildings were impregnable to human weaponry.

The Texas governor insisted that nukes would do the job, but since the local embassies were surrounded by Houston, no one took her seriously.

Then the aliens bought computers and Net access and began to download the contents of every electronic library and database they could find and/or buy access to.  They discovered Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and powells.com and ordered vast piles of books.  They visited university libraries and signed up to audit the more advanced courses.  And their tastes were catholic; they showed no preference whatsoever for science, technology, math, literature, music, history, film, philosophy, art, or Jungian basket-weaving.  They set out to swallow it all and admitted quite cheerfully that there were enough books and courses to keep them there for years.

But they never said why.

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Don’t forget. . .

that we are currently giving away copies of Born in Blood, Kate Paulk’s prequel to her new novel Impaler, as well as B. Quick, a mystery by C. S. Laurel.

Also, don’t forget to check out our latest novels, Nocturnal Origins and Death of a Musketeer.

Finally, check back tomorrow for a snippet from Tom Easton’s novel, The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy, which will be published later in the week.

 

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The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy by Tom Easton

Today’s post is by Tom Easton, author of The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy (April 2011) and Firefight (August 2011).

# # #

The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy began as a back-of-the-envelope calculation in the middle of an evening anthropology class.

I was trying to tell my students that our forebears were not as dumb as people often make them out to be.  Go back a couple of million years and, sure, they had small brains and brow ridges and looked like the second cousins to chimps that they were.  But nobody was setting them any examples when it came to inventing new technologies.  Whatever they came up with, they came up with entirely on their own.  And there weren’t very many of them to do it.

People today have absolutely no clue what a stroke of genius the first chipped stone represented, or the first basket, or even the first leaf folded to make a drinking cup.  Today we think of such things as rather primitive, suitable perhaps for a “Survivor” episode.  We’re way beyond them, and new ideas are so common that we yawn a bit even at a Moon rocket, a computer, or an iPhone.  New ideas are also rather to be expected, for they just keep coming.  Every inventor has thousands of years of predecessors–example setters if you will–leaning over his or her shoulder and saying, “Of course you can do it!  You’re human!  It’s what we do!”

At any rate, that night I suddenly paused, thought for a moment, and said, “Y’know…”  I then turned to the board and started making a list of great ideas–ideas without predecessors, ideas that later folks could modify into thousands of important inventions.  Chipping stone was one.  So was the wheel, fermentation (bread, beer, penicillin…), and so on.  The list quickly grew to about 50 items.  I then added rough estimates for the dates of these inventions, and then of the approximate world population at those dates.  After a bit of arithmetic, I turned back to the class with an awed tone in my voice.  It appeared that for the last 2.5 million years, we had been coming up with great ideas at a roughly constant rate: one idea per million people per 20,000 years.

Later I refined the list, the dates, and the population estimates.  The constant changed a bit–instead of “every 20,000 years,” I had to say “every 20-100,000 years”–but it was still pretty steady.  I also noticed the rather surprising feature that over the last 130 years, the rate of great-idea innovation had declined.  The, without saying much about that apparent decline, I turned it all into an article for the online science fiction magazine, Tomorrowsf (January-February 1998 issue), and moved on.   You can read the article at http://www.sff.net/people/teaston/front7.htp .

A little while later, I began to think about the way the rate of great-idea innovation had dropped off.  I began to wonder why such a thing should happen, and I came up with a the kind of possible answer it’s really hard to take seriously.  Certainly if I had tried to make a magazine article out of it, it would have branded me forever as a crackpot. But as fiction, it could work.

Want to know what my answer was?  You can wait and read the novel, or you can make your own guesses.  Post them here, and we’ll blow fanfares for the best ones.

 

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