The Many-Solar-Systems Interpretation: It's A Small World After All

by A.R.Parwini
(a tiny corner of the universe)

The universe is a big place—a very big place! This may sound like a boring fact to some, or a depressing one even, but for dedicated followers of imaginative fiction it should be a fact to celebrate! For a big universe means one simple thing: room!—room for infinite worlds and infinite interactions between them! And with literature, the ability to zoom in on the most interesting bits!

Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this—infinite Solar Systems, and the vast literary opportunities in such worlds colliding (figuratively, mostly)! After all, if we can invent a Counter-Earth (Hold your horses! There's no page on Counter-Earth yet?! O.o), why not a Counter-Solar-System? It could be dimensionally intertwined with ours, or just a second Solar System, some distance removed from ours, with its own alternate history and inhabitants both familiar and alien.

And literature provides the great opportunity of vagueness — the ability to jump from one perspective to the next and illuminating the subjective element of our reality.
We can follow the journey of Longus, heir to Otto the Conqueror, fleeing the devastation of the latter's interplanetary wars to a new system, a new Earth.
Then we switch to Tika, adopted daughter of a forager tribe chief, witnessing as Longus' massive spaceship crashlands through the Solar System, disrupting Phaeton's orbit and plowing down into the depths of Venus' lava oceans, spreading debris and escape pods along the way.
Many thousands years later, we follow Arro, a self-made orphan adventurer, undertaking the audacious voyage to explore the jungles of Venus, only to discover a pathway leading down to a hollow world with at its center the remnants of a giant, otherworldly machine and inside—something alive!
All these characters need not even be human—Longus could be a metamorphic blob/slug-thing, Tika could be a millipede and Arro could be a salamander-humanoid. We'd only need to find out once they interact and find out sentience can take different forms than their own! A nice way to trick people into expanding their horizons. ;)
(If someone wants to run with this story btw, by all means!)

In this vast literary universe of ours we can even reconcile NSS and OSS, if we want to, it'd certainly be interesting what untold possibilities we can come up with. In a way, all outer-space scifi is a great exercise in astronomical, but also astrological, speculation about the character of stars and planets, and the systems they form.

Godspeed and Kaor to all!

{Comment from Zendexor: Indeed, this dimensional-extension business wants looking at. I believe that the "Earthshimmer" theme, already explored on the site, is in the spirit of what A.R. is saying, but our range of coverage can certainly be further expanded to do the same for other words, in such a way as to preserve the spirit of traditional OSS visions while simultaneously (as it were) squaring and cubing them!

A.R.'s "vagueness" theme in particular is worth following up. Think of the flowing back-and-forth dimensional shift undergone by the meditative Mr Tagomi in the last part of Dick's "The Man in the High Castle". Or the network of time-lines in Laumer's "Worlds of the Imperium". Fascinating possibilities abound, for applying such techniques to OSS tales.}

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Feb 05, 2018
The True Nature of Magic!
by: A.R.Parwini

Ah, now you've opened a true can of worms, Zendexor. What is magic? Well, as any word, it can of course mean anything people want it to mean. But I'd argue it's rather consistently used to label that which is wholly unbelievable/unthinkable, both positively and negatively. In this way, the concept is largely synonymous with "supernatural" and "paranormal", and these latter words clearly illustrate the issue at hand: a process goes beyond what is normal to us humans, beyond what we think nature is capable of, and we call it magic. But this is of course ridiculous, taking our conception of "normal" and demanding the totality of reality to adhere to it, ha! (If nature had a sense of humour it'd be laughing pretty hard at us.)

When the first chemists added together reagents and created chemical reactions, it was called magic too. No one understood what was going on, how could this even be possible? Yet it was all real, however impossible it may have seemed. And that's how all magic is, until it becomes accepted, and then it even becomes mundane. All magic is technology waiting to be understood.

As for your proposed s-magic vs w-magic framework, well I'll be honest, I'm not sure if symbolic magic is necessarily that distinct from the w-magic unrecognized powers. For one, maybe symbolic magic works because w-magic entities have a language and if we use the right symbols to communicate with them, they'll respond accordingly. Even if it's an inherent part of reality, as you say, well, then that's just the way the universe is. All reality is order arising from chaos, assembling its way up to macroscopic scale. If certain symbolic connections happen to be a part of that mix... *shrugs*

Also, thanks for the prison recommendation. I think I'll pass for now though. ;)

{Z: A neat point you make, that symbolic magic can be understood as response by supernatural entities to our efforts in that direction. A language for communication with demons, etc. I hadn't thought of that one; it makes good sense.

In which case, we're down to the idea that magic is just science waiting to be discovered. Somewhat perilous science, one might add. I'd vote for leaving it alone!}

Feb 01, 2018
Also Re: Anthology, Longus et al. story
by: A.R.Parwini

I'd certainly love to contribute something to the next Anthology, but I fear my Real-Life situation will be a big obstruction. Until I get stuff resolved, I won't be able to do a lot. More managable might be if I slowly build up a story with short blurbs from different characters, like diary entries. Once I have a basic plot emerging, others could contribute as well. Could be a fun writing game.

Also, about categorizing stories, I'd like to introduce the concept of MASS and MOSS, magic-alternate and magic-old Solar System. MOSS is basically OSS with magic, like Daedalus, while a MASS-universe is radically different from both OSS and NSS, but still has a structure that corresponds to a Solar System. For example, imagine the turtle from Discworld but with the planets added in, e.g. being carried on top of giant eagles circling the turtle. MASS could also double for mythic-ancient since a lot of ancient views of the universe paint a very different picture of how our Solar System works. Off the top of my head, I don't know of any modern authors that've taken this road, but it's a nice extra branch/axis to consider.

{Z: this looks like powerful stuff. Any comment from other readers before I add MASS and MOSS to our defined-acronym list?

I'm sorry to hear, A.R., that you have personal difficulties which delay your writing. I know the feeling! In one of the Dr Doolittle books, Dr D. tries to get some leisure time by getting himself put in prison, but he's so popular that the authorities won't incarcerate him although he tries his best to provoke the law by (I think) heaving a brick through a window.

Anyhow, your idea of roughing out a plot and offering it to others to contribute sounds good to me. Let me know when you're ready and we can then arrange it on the site.

Returning to your topic of Magic: here's something that could turn out to be quite a sizeable issue in our pioneering literary community, for the basic reason that the psychic-accretion model of OSS formation would seem naturally to lead to the idea of OSS-counterparts on other planes of existence. In a sense they would consist of the same worlds, but facing into different realities, like a house has windows on different fronts - see the "Kroth" theme of dimensional extension of Earth into a universe with different laws.

The concept of "magic" is a challenge in itself. It's profoundly ambiguous. It can mean a system whereby symbols can have a feedback effect on reality, so that the relation between map and territory is reversed; one might call this the "traditional" or "strong" concept of magic. On the other hand the word can be taken to mean something very different: namely, a system which merely brings into play hitherto-unrecognized "paranormal powers"; one might call this the "weak" concept of magic as it shades merely into new science.

Of course, even the strong concept - call it s-magic as opposed to w-magic - must have laws of its own, rather than be utterly chaotic, random and meaningless; but those laws, whatever they are, must work by symbolic association rather than any sort of physics, and that makes them really alien to the rest of nature...

...Unless, that is, you posit some kind of associational field-theory which allows symbolism to have unsuspected roots in the energy-force-matter matrix... duh, I think I'll stop now.}

Jan 31, 2018
Suggeested term for the Daedalus Incident sub-genre
by: Robert Gibson

How about WHOSS (Windjammer-Historic-OSS) for the Daedalus trilogy / "Wreck of the Mars Adventure" type dimensional extension of the OSS, in which the System is accessible to sail?

{Z: I like it. Can't think of a better idea myself. Pending advice from anyone who can, I'll provisionally add WHOSS to the list of acronyms on the home page's section on useful terms.}

Jan 31, 2018
Daedalus & OSS
by: Anonymous

I checked out the plot for The Daedalus Incident—definitely promises to be a fascinating read. Alternate history, magic, dimensional weirdness, and it's set on Mars and Ganymede! But I guess that's sort of the problem, OSS-wise—with everything going on, the Solar System is mostly just there as background.

Martinez' approach is also a bit opposite to the road I'd take—human-centered vs multiple-species perspective, familiar historic figures with a major twist vs new characters not connected to known history (in any obvious ways at least). Maybe I could write another page about all the choices an author has in matching or clashing different elements of reality.

{Z: yes, from our OSS sub-genre's point of view, the trouble with the Daedalus series is its skimpy coverage of the actual worlds. As you say, they seem mostly to be just background. (With a few exceptions here and there - in particular, you'll find there's a good "take" on Saturn's rings.) Mostly, Martinez is exploring a different genre, and we should maybe try to think of a name for it, unless someone already has.}

Jan 29, 2018
by: Dylan Jeninga

To A.R. Parwini, hello and welcome! An interesting article indeed - reminds me a bit of The Daedelus Incident, with an alternate-reality OSS mingling with our own Solar System. I liked but didn't love that book, and I'd be open to reading another author's take on the idea.

{Z: same here - I liked but didn't love the Martinez reality-spectrum. A.R.'s sounds more promising - and how about something for the next Anthology, A.R.? The scene-shifts you mention certainly cover the right sort of territory! Suggest you brood over the "Tales Unwritten" page while you're about it - some topics there are plaintively crying out for attention.}

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