So as I have been working on Cawdor and doing my research and planning it has sparked a desire to write a quick essay about what we will not do with alien life.
Popular media has given us some of the bad ideas about what might happen when we get out into the stars and land on worlds with alien biomes and ecosystems. Star Trek is the worst offender with the character of Mister Spock. Mister Spock is the half-breed offspring between a human woman and a Vulcan man.
RULE ONE: We will NOT breed with it.
The process of creating sperm and egg is a delicate and sensitive process prone to all manner of error and failures. A significant number of pregnancies self terminate in human/human coupling because of chromosomal issues. We can not cross breed with apes our closest evolutionary cousins. In no way shape or manner are we going to successfully cross-breed with the product of a totally alien evolutionary process.
(Yes, I know late in Next Gen they brought out the idea that the galaxy was seeded by a forerunner race and this why all the aliens can interbreed. Balderdash! We have the clear proof of evolution here on earth in the DNA of the biosphere. Even if someone went around and seeded the same DNA on dozens and hundreds of worlds the unique paths and changes that occurred would insure no capability for cross-breeding.)
I am not saying that there will not be a few, very very few, sick individuals who may try to breed with something alien. After all we have people who have sex with animals and corpses right now, but there will be no offspring.
Next up on the hit Parade is Michael Crichton and The Andromeda Strain. It is the story of an alien disease that comes to Earth and threatens all of humanity. It’s a fun read and the original film is worth seeing. (I own it.) Still, as an example of that SF trope, the bad space bug, it is sill.
RULE TWO: We will NOT catch diseases from it.
Diseases are finely tuned parasitical organisms and molecules. (I add molecules because a Virus is very special and not really a living thing, More like a natural nano-machine.) To infect their host they need very careful conditions. They need the right pH balance, the right temperature, and the right receptors on the host. Malaria is a parasite that infects red blood cells, if the cells are not shaped just right, it has a very hard time infecting. Disease are matched to their hosts. There are thousands and thousands of viruses on this planet that can’t hurt a person at all. Go to an alien planet with an alien ecosystem and nothing will match up. It would be worse than diving into a foreign junkyard and grabbing parts at random and hoping that they would fit your american car.
The final thing on my list is something SF writers have ignore for decades. The truth of the matter is that biology is often the forgotten science of science-fiction. Oh there plenty of fiction about advances in biological sciences and what that might mean to us, but alien biology is mainly restricted to unusual animal and their traits. An alien ecosystem will be truly alien and it will not support terran life.
RULE THREE: We will NOT eat it.
Most people do not think about the process of eating and how it works. Food goes into your mouth, chomp chomp chomp, drops to your stomach, you get fed, and then the leftovers are ejected out the backside.
It’s not really like that.
In your stomach there are numerous acids and more importantly enzymes that make digestion possible. Think of the molecules of food as being locked boxes. You have to unlock the box before you can open it and get the sugary goodness inside. Enzymes are the keys that unlock the boxes. If you do not have the right keys, you will never get that box open. This is why you cannot eat just anything. You do not have the keys to break down most plant matter and quite a bit of animal matter too. (Eating bones generally won’t help you.) That’s just life you evolved with too.
Alien life will have molecules that evolved along different lines. Their locks and your keys will not go together. It will not nourish you.
Most ‘hard SF’ skips right past this problem. People on alien worlds eat the fruit and animals just like they were exploring the North American continent. It won’t be like that at all.
This plays into Cawdor and now it will play into a new story that is forming in my mind set in the same universe.