The Fermi Paradox
SFCrowsnest has a review up on Old Man’s War which is mostly positive, and that’s good. Yay! It also notes that the book “wantonly ignores the Fermi Paradox and offers no explanation as to why his galaxy is so densely populated with myriad alien species.” For those of you not in the know, the Fermi Paradox is the idea that is best summed up as “if there is intelligent life out there, why isn’t it here already?” In the particular case of OMW, I suspect the question might be better tuned as “if the universe is filled with hostile intelligent life, why aren’t we dead already?”
Well, that is an interesting question, isn’t it. The review is entirely correct, incidentally: I don’t really explain that aspect of the story. In terms of OMW, the reason I don’t explain this has to do primarily with me wanting to leave the question open a bit, because I think it’s fun to let readers speculate; the question begins to be answered in The Ghost Brigades and will be more so in The Last Colony, but as I’ve said elsewhere about the Old Man series, in my mind the ambiguity of some aspects of the series is a feature, not a bug. I like to read what it is that readers of the series have to say about it. It’s nice to live in a time when one can get out on the Internet and see reader speculation in that regard. Naturally I understand why people want answers from me rather than have that ambiguity there, but I hold the opinion that in science fiction, not everything is improved with a “logical answer.” Case in point: Midichlorians.
In the really real world, I like to answer the topic of the “Fermi Paradox” with two questions of my own:
1. Why don’t we have a moon base?
2. Why is there no McDonald’s in my hometown?
In both cases there’s no practical bar against either — both are able to be accomplished materially, although admittedly one’s easier than the other — and yet here we are without a moon base or a McDonald’s in Bradford, Ohio. Once you figure out why we don’t have either of these, you know why the Fermi Paradox isn’t really a paradox, and also frankly isn’t really that interesting of a question. I have my own thoughts as to the answer to both questions and what it means for the Fermi Paradox, but I’ll leave it open for you folks to discuss if you want.