With a pained heart, and an annoyingly intrusive conscience, I hereby confess and admit that I… have long coveted Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.
That’s done. The truth is now out there, published for all to see.
But Asimov’s Laws were such beautiful, shiny things, weren’t they, sitting there, waiting for him to pull them out and use them to inspire another one of his robot stories?
Arthur C Clarke, not to be outdone, contrived his own Three Laws, describing the future of science and technology. He used his Third Law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) beautifully in The Sentinel, the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I always felt jealous of Asimov and Clarke. I mean they got to create their own Laws! Laws, I say! They became Lawmakers! And I always wondered, why can’t I have some Laws of my own? Who were Asimov and Clarke, to lord it over the rest of us, bossy-booting us with their Brylcreem-slicked hair, obvious members of the ramjetset, as they sleekly rocketed their respective ways through the halls of science fiction history, their own private Laws giving them each a sense of smug self-satisfaction? I mean why can’t I make my own Laws? Why can’t my hair be slick? Why can’t I have my own sense of smug self-satisfaction? Why can’t I join the ramjetset? Or the warpdriveset?
Indeed, why can’t we all?
An end, an end I say, to this fascist, dictatorial Have-Laws / Have-Not-Laws dichotomy! Away, away I say to Lawmaking discrimination! If Ike and Art can luxuriate in their own private capital-ell Laws, then so can I! So there! Nyerr!
And from where, pray tell, did Ikey and Arty get the idea of creating Laws in the first place? From science, that’s where! From the sciencey part of Science Fiction! Science, that hot and sweaty pursuit of understanding that makes me all hot and sweaty and oh-so-ready to get down and… dirrrty!
Scientific Laws are relatively (ha ha) simple statements that summarise general scientific knowledge, thus helping scientists and engineers to more easily recall the principles by which the Universe appears to work.
So Sir Isaac Newton described his Three Laws of Motion. These could be renamed ‘Newton’s Three Simple Rules for Understanding Movement’ as they describe how the actions of forces upon objects influence their motion.
His Third Law of Motion states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is the prettily simple principle behind the rocket engine — and the reason rocket science is easy (it is rocket engineering that is the pain!)
Then we have the Four Laws of Thermodynamics (‘Four Simple Rules for Understanding the Behaviour of Energy, Heat and Entropy), Kirchhoff’s Two Laws of Circuitry (used in electrical and electronics work) and Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion (which does cover Uranus, whilst having the good taste to refrain from engaging in the sort of unimaginatively prurient puns about that heavenly body’s name some lesser hacks may inflict).
So if Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke can create their own Laws and apply them as principles supplying conflict and drama to their stories, why can’t I?
I know that on such trivialities, such mere trifles as fame, experience and writerly prolificacy I’m not a patch on either of them, but who can deny that I am somewhat prettier than Asimov and I have plusher chest hair than Clarke? It is a proven scientific fact that each one of my ear hairs has three and a half times more tensile strength and sheen than all of Asimov’s and Clarke’s ear and nose hairs combined! That and the fact that I am still alive make it possible for me to cannily pick on them while they cannot defend themselves and to catch up with them on those lesser bases… eventually.
A-ha, they weren’t expecting that now, were they? Futurists, schmuturists!
So what will my Laws be about? Hmmm…
I have long been vexed by the notion of human-alien relations.
I was vexed by the fact that Star Trek’s Vulcan Sarek and the human Amanda, could, evidently, drop their jeans and entwine their genes to make a little pointy-eared baby Spock. What is the likelihood that their mutually alien biology would be even remotely compatible?
Equally, I was vexed by how John Carter could… you know… do the same with Dejah Thoris.
Or how humans would make great fertiliser for the Martian’s red weeds in War of the Worlds or indeed how Ixtl could prey so uncharitably upon the crew of The Voyage of the Space Beagle nor even how any alien could eat a human being or have the favour returned… That was really vexing because it just seemed so, so, so… well, vexing.
To me, the chances of these things being plausible were so small, so tiny, so incredibly feeble and puny that they served as an ample excuse for my long-awaited desire to be the author of my own Laws… my own, mine, my Laws… my Laws and nobody else’s, mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Now I know what I have previously written about not allowing the truth to get in the way of a good story, but I have, through the crafting of my current major work-in-progress, decided to apply certain principles to the creation of my alien life forms and intelligences.
And I think that these will make great starts to other, future stories.
Here then are my own… mine… MY OWN and NOBODY ELSE’S… Digman’s Eight Laws for Human-Alien Relations.
We’ll start with the Three Principles, then get on to the Eight Laws so derived.
Digman’s Three Principles of Human-Alien Relations
The First Principle
Alien biology or physical nature is a product of alien evolution moulded by aeons of adaptation to alien environments.
The Second Principle
Alien psychology is a product of alien biology or physical nature.
The Third Principle
Alien culture and language is a product of alien psychology. Not all species will communicate sonically, and not all sonically-communicating species will employ sounds detectable by human hearing, and even fewer sonically-communicating species will employ phonemes that are articulable by human speech organs.
Digman’s Eight Laws of Human-Alien Relations
The First Law
Biology is but one of a range of physical natures that may form the basis of alien life. Others may include electromagnetic, neutronic and mineralogical life, amongst others.
The Second Law
Regardless of an alien’s physical nature, evolution will have been the motive force behind the development of its specialisations.
The Third Law
Alien and human biological needs are at best only partially mutually compatible.
The Fourth Law
Aliens and humans are mutually inedible.
The Fifth Law
Aliens and humans are mutually reproductively incompatible and may be, at best, only marginally sexually compatible.
The Sixth Law
Aliens and humans find each other’s likes and dislikes to be mutually unintelligible.
The Seventh Law
The desire to understand and make contact with others is not a desire shared by all species.
The Eighth Law
Aliens and humans find each other’s languages to be mutually non-articulable without technological enhancement.
Now there is an interesting consequence to all of this Lawmaking. Asimov had his Three Laws, Clarke had his Three Laws, and now Digman cunningly comes in from behind and beats their combined efforts with no less than Eight Laws! I mean, look at the math! Math never lies:
8 = 1⅓ (3 + 3)
Digman = 1⅓ (Asimov + Clarke)
Yay, I am fully thirty-three and a third percent more legislatively endowed than Asimov and Clarke combined! I am ascendant! I am triumphant! I am not overcompensating for any perceived shortcomings! I am a pretty little winner! Suck my sweetly sweaty socks, Asimov and Clarke!
Now before closing, I must say that I have allowed one exception to be made of my Laws. I have daringly violated my Fourth Law in my current work-in-progress. I have only done that in order to have fun with human body parts and show what cruelties can be done to them in new and exciting ways. Besides, since I do not follow the alien predator after its
morning tea carnage I do not show whether my character disagreed with the creature’s digestion! He may very well have had an unpleasant evening, barfing up the wrong tree or something.
And I have done this because in my story, I am god, and such a god that I now have my own Laws (so there) and it doth pleaseth me to occasionally stop the truth from getting in the way of a good gore fest…
Besides, these Laws are my new tools; my beautiful, shiny, new tools, aren’t they, sitting there, waiting for me to pull them out and use them to inspire another one of my human-alien meeting stories?
Or I am free not to use them, in any given story.
As I like.
Fun, isn’t it?
Write and Legislate with gusto,
Davidh ‘Deity’ Digman,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia