This is intended to provide a description of how The Start of Eternity was created. Under construction: the story is not yet complete; collaborating authors are welcome.
The End of EternityEdit
Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity, was published in 1955. I'm not sure when I read The End of Eternity, but it was probably around 1976. It was fun to imagine that time travelers from the future such as Noÿs Lambent and Andrew Harlan might have lived out their lives in the 20th century.
One of the interesting features of The End of Eternity is that it is a story about time travel in which the technology for time travel is thrown away. Humanity is shown abandoning the use of time travel, but we have to wonder: if time travel was invented once, would anything prevent it from being invented again?
Asimov has often been criticized for his one-dimensional characters. Noÿs was a rather amazing character for the 1950s. She was a smart and sexually-liberated secret agent from the far future. After introducing us to Noÿs, Asimov never told us enough: in what kinds of ways would a woman from 10,000,000 years in the future differ from us? For some of my ideas, see this blog post.
In Foundation's Edge (1982) Asimov mentioned the idea that "Eternals" had used their time travel technology to select a Reality in which humans would spread through the galaxy. I read Foundation's Edge in the mid 80s and was intrigued by the possibility that Asimov might some day write another story about Noÿs and Andrew and their adventures in the 20th century. In The End of Eternity Asimov wrote about Noÿs and Andrew using their knowledge from the future to stimulate the development of space travel technology. What other kinds of changes would they have caused to the course of history?
Foundation and EarthEdit
I've long been interested in the possibility that Noÿs had "mentalic" abilities. In The End of Eternity, Andrew rather mysteriously has a "revelation" about the existence of a time loop which, in essence, allows time travelers to make time travel possible. Did Noÿs telepathically plant that startling idea in Andrew's mind? However, another possibility is that telepathic robots like Daneel were involved in the destruction of Eternity.
In addition to showing that the galaxy was heading towards formation of a "group mind", Galaxia, Asimov raised the specter of aliens from other galaxies (Foundation and Earth, 1986). If time travel was used to make the Milky Way a "humans only club" then what would prevent aliens from using time travel in a similar way? Isn't it inevitable that the universe would degenerate into a time travel war? Is there any way to absolutely make it impossible for time travel to be used?
Unfortunately Asimov was taken from us before he had a chance to extend the Foundation Saga beyond the events that were depicted in Foundation and Earth. How would Asimov have written aliens into the Foundation Saga?
Some of my thoughts about the role of aliens in The Start of Eternity can be seen in this blog post.
In Foundation and Earth, Asimov emphasized aliens from outside of our own galaxy, but The Start of Eternity also includes aliens from our own galaxy.
The Start of EternityEdit
In 2005 I started experimenting with fan fiction. Not long after that, I started playing around with the idea that it might be possible to write a fan fiction sequel to Asimov's The End of Eternity. I re-read the story and wrote down some ideas for a sequel. I started thinking about ways to develop the idea that telepathic robots had been the creators of Eternity but eventually those robots realized time travel was a problem. In order to prevent aliens from taking over the galaxy, the robots made use of Noÿs as their secret agent who could destroy Eternity and make sure that space travel technology was developed in the 20th century. At first, I toyed with the idea that Noÿs could have also been involved in the creation of Eternity.
The Start of Eternity is a fan fiction story that explores the relationship between Asimov's time travel novel The End of Eternity and his Foundation Saga. The sections below describe the development of The Start of Eternity from when I started working on it at this wiki in 2008.
Noÿs, as a secret agent who interfered with the function of Eternity (actually, she made use of Andrew to destroy Eternity) and the Second Foundationers (with their mentalic powers) were important influences on my thinking about a solution to the Fermi paradox. I like to imagine that aliens with human-like minds evolved long ago on distant planets and have existed as a space-faring civilization for hundreds of millions of years. How would such beings interact with creatures on other worlds like Earth? I like to imagine that such hypothetical beings might:
1) have some rules that limit the ways they interact with more primitive civilizations and
2) have advanced technology that from our perspective would be indistinguishable from magic.
My first thoughts for The Start of Eternity that I wrote down at this wiki back in 2008 included the idea of aliens from another galaxy discovering the existence of telepathic robots from Earth who had the power to travel in time.
By June of 2008 I had decided to make The Start of Eternity a story in which aliens had long been visitors to Earth (see this early version of the timeline). By then I had decided that there was a long untold history of positronic robots before the events in the 20th century that Asimov wrote about.
I was never very comfortable with Asimov's "mentailics". After starting The Start of Eternity I had the chance to collaborate on The Search For Kalid, a story that involves "mental powers". I was forced to invent a fictional theory of telepathy and that experience gave me some ideas for how to develop The Start of Eternity.
When I got back to The Start of Eternity in 2009, I had a fairly clear idea of how to continue the Foundation Saga past the point where Asimov had gotten stuck.
I turned to the issue of what Noÿs and Andrew had done while living in the 20th century (see this early version). I soon started writing about the early positronic robots who had been involved in the creation of Eternity.
Asimov had written about the telepathic male robots Giskard and Daneel, so I decided to make the first telepathic robots be female, just to mix things up. First I wrote about R. Rycleu, an agent on Earth who interacted with Noÿs and Andrew in the 1940s. Then R. Gohrlay was written into the story as the first positronic robot that ever had a human-like mind. My thinking about introducing Observer Gohrlay at the beginning of The Start of Eternity (while placing the story of how R. Gohrlay created Eternity at the end) is introduced here and the decision to do so was finalized in this blog post.
I've never been happy about the stories Asimov told concerning how telepathic robots came into existence. In Foundation and Earth, Asimov introduced the idea that a robot could transfer its mind into the brain of a human. I've long thought that the easiest way to make an artificial intelligence with a human-like mind would be to copy the tricks that are used by human brains. Asimov's wife wrote a novel about mind transfer from humans to robots.
Asimov might have felt inhibited from writing about the transfer of minds in the direction from humans to robots, but I was willing to take The Start of Eternity in that direction. In December 2009 I started writing about Observer Gohrlay, the human whose biological brain was scanned in order to transfer a human mind into a positronic brain.
I imagined that Observer Gohrlay's brain would be destroyed by the brain scanning process, but her mind would be "reborn" in robotic form. By a quirk of positronic circuits, R. Gohrlay would develop a powerful telepathic ability. Using her telepathic powers, R. Gohrlay would liberate humanity from the alien Huaoshy. Observer Gohrlay was a Neanderthal with latent telepathic abilities; when the structure of her brain was copied into positronic circuits an artificial mind was created with strong telepathic powers.
Some of my early thinking about Observer Gohrlay and the inclusion of Neanderthals in The Start of Eternity are in this blog post.
My early plans for having R. Gohrlay "go insane" are described in this blog post.
Some of my early thinking about the origins of the Laws of Robotics are discussed in this blog post.
Asimov the CharacterEdit
As discussed in this blog post, I could not resist making Isaac Asimov a character in The Start of Eternity (see this first edit). Leading up to the idea of writing Asimov into the story, I had decided that R. Gohrlay would be careful to remain hidden and safe within a time travel machine on the Moon. In order for the aliens to battle back against R. Gohrlay and her fellow positronic robots, the Huaoshy would need to find a time when R. Gohrlay had come out of hiding and could be trapped in Time. I thought it would be fun to imagine that R. Rycleu had been involved in an accident on Earth and needed to be rescued by R. Gohrlay. Why not say that the accident led to the events we know as the Roswell UFO Incident?
I thought of a way for Asimov to be working in Roswell during July 1947, but that is a different Reality than the one we know. In The Start of Eternity, Asimov is taken out of that Reality (the Foundation Reality) and he travels back in time to create our Reality. This time travel by Asimov results in there being two copies of Asimov in our Reality. I always thought Asimov wrote more book than a single person could actually write!
Besides going on to an amazing career as a science fiction author, the time traveling Asimov makes it possible for the Huaoshy to defeat R. Gohrlay and prevent humanity from forming the Galaxia group mind.
The Uvadekoto SagaEdit
In an attempt to assure that a time travel war would never develop, I thought of a way to assure that time travel can ultimately be made impossible. This "trick" goes back to an idea that I had about 10 years ago. I've gone back and forth in my thinking about the existence of faster-than-light (FTL) travel within the Exodemic Fictional Universe. In stories where I want there to be space travel at high speeds, it is fun to imagine that the physical laws of the universe can be altered so as to make that possible. For The Start of Eternity I imagined that the Huaoshy altered the dimensional structure of the universe so as to make FTL travel possible, and it was that alteration that also makes telepathic positronic brains and time travel possible. I wanted to include a "story within a story" that would illustrate an early time in our universe, soon after FTL travel became possible (see this early edit). I later decided that it would be fun to have the Asimov Character read the "Saga of Uvadekoto" (see this blog post).
Telepathy vs NanitesEdit
I've taken pains to make sure that The Start of Eternity does not degenerate into some kind of time travel war. The main weapons in the struggle between positronic robots and the Huaoshy are telepathy and nanites. Some of my early thinking about the relative powers of these two weapons is described in this blog post. As long as R. Gohrlay can keep secret the existence of telepathy, she can prevent the Huaoshy from regaining control of humanity. However, she is also driven by the Zeroth Law of Robotics to create Galaxia, which will make it impossible to keep telepathy secret. This is the basic "Catch 22" that is her downfall.
In The End of Eternity, Asimov began the novel with a "high tension" scene in which Andrew is trying to find a way to save his beloved Noÿs. Asimov then had to fill in some background information, so the next four chapters were "flashback". Similarly, I thought it would be a good "hook" if The Start of Eternity started with a dramatic moment for Observer Gohrlay: when she is taken to her death by Doltun. The next few chapters could then be "flashback" to show how Gohrlay got into that predicament. Another alternative was to try using Gohrlay's Diary as a way to fill in her background, as discussed in this blog post.
I later decided to start the novel with Observer Gohrlay's illegal journey to Earth and then follow her capture on Earth by Doltun with a depiction of how she came to write her diary.
Near the end of 2009 Proxima Centauri began expanding on Gohrlay's reaction to her imminent demise. So far, the story is mostly bare plot. There remains a need to expand on the inner lives of the major characters.
From the very first consideration of Gohrlay's participation in the mind downloading experiment, it was not clear if the brain scanning process should destroy the scanned brain. I like the idea that the scanning technology was "first generation" and rather primitive. However, it was not clear that Anagro would actually kill Gohrlay.
An important question is to what extent Anagro uses nanites to prevent Observer Gohrlay from fearing her own death. The answer is: "to a very large extent". However, as long as Gohrlay's brain scan and her death was the "hook" (readers first shown Gohrlay in the rather strange situation of having volunteered to die in the mind downloading experiment), there was strong motivation to have Gohrlay die. However, in Gohrlay's world, "death" might have a different meaning than in our world. Specifically, it might be made to appear that Gohrlay dies, but some advanced technology might be used to save her and give her a "second life". This might puzzle and shock the reader, but be a good introduction to the advanced technologies of the Huaoshy!
Asimov wrote many mystery stories and most of his science fiction novels contain little puzzles that are not resolved until the end of the story. Similarly, The Start of Eternity quickly establishes for the reader the mysterious existence of the Huaoshy. Only slowly during the course of the novel does the reader come to understand the aliens and how (and why) they have made Gohrlay volunteer for the mind downloading experiment.
The decision to not kill Gohrlay and the decision to change the start of the story.
The End of Eternity is a novel about time travel that was created by Isaac Asimov. The story and characters from The End of Eternity and his other fiction are probably claimed as the intellectual property of Asimov's estate or other for-profit corporations. Characters from The End of Eternity and other Asimov novels are borrowed for use here in the spirit of Fan Fiction, for the enjoyment of science fiction fans and with no intention for profit.