The Origins of the Beta-Earth Chronicles
By Wesley Britton
One simple idea inspired the Beta-Earth series.
One afternoon, I thought about the many stories where ordinary humans were drawn against their will into extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes they were pulled to alternate universes or to distant planets.
But what if one such human was blinded in the process of being captured by scientists on a different earth?
How could a blind alien cope with a world he couldn’t see, how could he comprehend what was happening if he couldn’t understand anything that was said to him? How could he describe another planet when so much was so different from what was familiar?
That was the starting point.
From that concept, so many early ideas sprouted. How could the blinded Malcolm Renbourn of our earth evaluate the size of buildings or gauge distances? Facial expressions, gestures, body language would all be lost on him. How could he learn a new language when the only useable tools would be objects he could hold and hear described? If a glass bottle was placed in his hand, how could he know which spoken term applied to the container’s function and which applied to what the bottle was made of? Could he be certain what he thought was glass was actually glass?
And that’s just the beginning of our hero’s travails.
Then I wondered what kind of people would populate this second earth. What sort of culture was our unhappy traveler trapped in? From the beginning, I knew I wanted to have the Alpha man the subject of a long epic. But what would make him so valuable that he would become the center of ongoing struggles?
It couldn’t be any objects he brought with him – they’d have been taken from him right after his capture. I couldn’t think of any special knowledge that he’d carry. I didn’t want him to have super-powers as I wanted Malcolm Renbourn to remain off-balance, confused, vulnerable, desperately trying to adapt to completely, well, alien cultures.
So if there was going to be anything special about Malcolm Renbourn, it would have to be something to do with his body.
And that’s when the Plague-With-No-Name came to me. That plague set up so many possibilities. What if, on Beta Earth, that ancient curse killed three out of four male babies their first year? Curing that plague would be a central quest of the planet’s scientists. Surely, learning of the gender balance on our planet, scientists would wonder if Malcolm’s biology might carry the cure that might change their planet. Naturally, they’d want to keep the blind alien in some sort of confinement to monitor him as a resource for study.
Certainly, Malcolm would have other ideas.
At the same time, the Plague opened the door for creating Beta’s social structure. If women outnumbered men by a margin of four-to-one, obviously polygamy would be the norm.
Thus came Beta’s tribal system. Being joined to a male would be competitive. Bondings would often be arranged to make alliances between tribes. Power and prosperity could be built by wise alliances.
So, with these abstractions, my fantasies began to take form. A cast of characters then quickly gave these concepts meaning.
But that’s another story . . .
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