Thursday, July 26, 2007

Robert Reed's "Eight Episodes": An ancient alien sentinel in earth's vicinity

This story is a take on early parts of Arthur Clarke's well known novel "2001 A Space Odyssey", but very well written. Only alien sentinel communicates with modern humans rather than ancient apes. And it tries to convince modern humans about the futility of attempting steller conquest.

Full text of the story is available online.

Story summary.
Story is set in 2016. A television production house sells a serial called "Invasion of a small world" to a television channel. The show is so boring for popular audiences that it is canned after 8 episodes; hence the title.

Plot of the show is very similar to Clarke's "2001 A Space Odyssey", but perhaps is more realistic. Geologists discover a tiny piece of metal - about the size of two grains of rice - in rock 250 million years old!

Investigations reveal it is a tiny automated starship of immense antiquity. It is somehow opened to reveal a contained diamond crystal. When investigating the surface of this crystal with a laser, it is found that some of the energy of laser ended up charging a battery inside the crystal, & it has come live - throwing up colorful patterns.

Further investigations, & we find the crystal is telling us about aliens, about life elsewhere in galaxy, & about the futility of any attempt to either meet aliens in person or to colonize other stars.

After everyone has forgotten about the bad show, the TV company owning it gets sold. New owners bring out a DVD, or its 2018 AD equivalent, containing all the 8 shows. And it creates a sensation.

Apparently, the footage is too realistic - the images it is showing of other planets & of old earth. But all attempts to locate the production house that made the series turns futile; it was a phony company.

So we are left with speculation. Rest of the story is of these speculations on possible origins of serial, & of aliens & their starships.

Fact sheet.
Eight Episodes, short story, review
Rating: A
First published: Asimov's June 2006
Nominated for Hugo Awards 2007 in short story category

Related: All Hugo Award stories.