So a certain argument has been playing out in the back of my mind for a long, long time now. Whenever I write, there are really two different versions of me who do my writing. On the one hand, there’s science enthusiast me. On the other, there’s Sci-Fi author me. And these two versions of me view science, space exploration, and the universe at large in dramatically different ways. One of the biggest ongoing disagreements I have with myself involves alien life.
Science enthusiast me believes that extraterrestrial microorganisms are pretty common in the universe. Science enthusiast me thinks we will find evidence of extraterrestrial microbes in the very near future, perhaps hiding under the ice on Mars or swimming around in the oceans of Europa, Enceladus, or even Titan. (I almost wrote unambiguous evidence there, but science enthusiast me also expects that confirming the discovery of extraterrestrial microbes will be tricky—just ask the researchers who found (or thought they found) microfossils inside a Martian meteorite back in 1996).
As for complex multicellular life—plants and animals, or whatever the extraterrestrial equivalent of plants and animals might be—science enthusiast me is far less optimistic. While microorganisms have proven again and again that they can survive almost anything, even direct exposure to the vacuum of space, multicellular organisms seem to be far more fragile, far less resilient. Earth may be one of the very few worlds where complex, multicellular organisms like us are able to survive and thrive over cosmic timescales.
And intelligent life? Science enthusiast me believes intelligent life must exist elsewhere in the universe—surely it must! But the universe is an awfully big place. Our nearest intelligent and communicative neighbors could be many galaxies away. Humanity is not alone in the universe, according to science enthusiast me, but we may as well be.
Sci-Fi author me, however, sees things from a different perspective.
Sci-Fi author me wants to write stories where encounters with alien life are commonplace, almost routine—stories where the aliens are sometimes friendly and sometimes not so friendly—stories where all sorts of weird and wacky interspecies adventures are possible! And Sci-Fi author me takes a particular and peculiar pleasure in handwaving away all the concerns and objections science enthusiast me might have, not just regarding alien life but also in relation to faster-than-light travel, time machines, cybernetics, et cetera, et cetera. Part of the fun, for Sci-Fi author me, is thinking up clever excuses for why impossible things are now possible (in the context of the story world, at least).
So there is this ongoing argument happening in the back of my mind. This argument is never going to end, and I’ve decided that that’s okay. Not every argument needs to have a winner and a loser, nor do arguments necessarily need to end in compromises. Sometimes a house divided can stand after all. Science enthusiast me believes the universe is like this; Sci-Fi author me would prefer (for story reasons) if the universe were more like that. And the tension between these two different versions of myself drives my creativity, both as a science blogger and a science fiction writer.
P.S.: For those of you who might be interested, both the “I Heart Science” and “I Heart Sci-Fi” designs in this post are available in my RedBubble store. Click here if you heart science, or click here if you heart Sci-Fi. And remember: nobody’s stopping you from clicking both if you heart both!