Multi-Species Empires

Multi-Species Empires

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This episode is sponsored by Audible. In the future humanity may meet alien   life or even create whole new species, but could  we ever work together to forge a greater union? Well we’re back again for another Scifi Sunday  here on SFIA and we return to one of our favorite   topics, Alien Civilizations and how they might  behave, if any exist out there in our galaxy.   A frequent part of our approach is to look at  examples of alien behavior from science fiction   and ask how plausible they are. One of  the frequent scenarios in science fiction  

is for there to be multiple alien  civilizations we are interacting with and   sometimes under the same nation or confederation. We see examples with the Republic and Empire of   Star Wars, the Confederation of Independent  Systems, or Separatists, also from Star Wars,   the Federation of Star Trek, and maybe arguably  also the species-assimilating Borg of Star Trek,   as well as the Planetary Union from the Trek  Parody The Orville. We also have the League of   Non-Aligned Worlds and Interstellar Alliance of  Babylon Five, the Citadel Council of Mass Effect,   the Systems Commonwealth of Andromeda, the de  facto empire of the Peacekeepers from Farscape,   the Alliance of Four Great Races from  Stargate, and many, many more, and each   represents a different style and are examples  of how such species might run an empire of many.  Indeed it’s a common trope in the fantasy  genre too, in everything from, the Unseelie   Accords of Dresden Files urban fantasy, to the  Alliance of the Warcraft video game franchise,   and countless examples of elves, dwarves, humans  and more, trying to get along in so many fantasy   settings since Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings  and various Dungeons and Dragons settings.  Now as often as not, when there are many alien  species, they each have their own territory,   and there’s no mixed rule, outside of maybe  some equivalent of the United Nations or   particularly cosmopolitan city or space  station. And indeed such places definitely   add a new flavor to the term cosmopolitan, which  traditionally implied either a multi-ethnic city   or a person who viewed themselves as more of  a citizen of the world than of some place,   and in this case, the actual cosmos,  or at least a big chunk of the galaxy.  

Our focus today though is on the examples  where we see joint empires, hence the examples.  Incidentally if you actually recognized each of  those various empires and settings I rattled off,   you definitely get at least a 9 out of 10 on the  Geekometer, and if not, don’t worry, we’ll give   the necessary context and highlights, though those  are all recommended reading, watching, or playing,   all great picks to steal away your free time. Now governments come in many forms, so we could   be looking at involuntary unions under one  despotic race, semi-voluntary unions under   a semi-benevolent powerful race, or at an equal  and democratic alliance. Even then, it might be   nothing more than a loose agreement not to kill  each other or an agreement to certain trade rules   or a full integration down to aliens immigrating  to each other’s homeworlds. What’s more, you could   easily have an empire composed of many species  at war with another empire who was composed of   a single species and many of that species were  also members of that first multi-species empire. 

Or for that matter multiple empires that were  multi-species and shared many member species.   Like if the Star Trek Federation went to war  with some breakaway human colony, or if the   federation split down the middle with colonies  of many species breaking to both new factions.   For that matter, in the fourth season of the scifi  classic Babylon 5, we see humanity in a civil war   with Earth controlled by an oppressive Orwellian  regime, and numerous colonies and deserter fleet   elements are eventually joined by a ton of alien  ships to assault Earth’s defenses, and that regime   had been receiving massive covert resistance from  an alien civilization known as the Shadows, who   were themselves a multi-species Empire of those  Shadows and their servant species like the Drakh.  I also want to emphasize that we’re being pretty  loose with the term ‘species’ here because in   scifi it usually means the lone species that  developed technology on a planet that was their   homeworld. But you could have humanity and its  Klingon allies at war with uplifted whales also   from Earth and related to us. Maybe who’d teamed  up with whatever that weird probe was from Star  

Trek IV. That’s the time travel film where Kirk,  Spock, and company go back to modern Earth to save   the whales because some massively powerful probe  showed up around future Earth, wrecking everything   whilst looking for whales, which had gone extinct.  That probe did a lot of damage to Earth, the   Federation fleet, and the Klingons, so it would  not be surprising if they wanted some payback.   In the film it’s implied the damage is accidental  or indifferent, but when you think about it, an   advanced race sending out a probe capable of doing  that much damage really hasn’t got much excuse   for being that reckless. Some probe so apparently  blind to other types of life is much more likely –  

and justifiably I’d say – to be classified as  the product of someone violently xenophobic.  And that’s a point worth noting too, because we  usually assume xenophobia in scifi context means   aliens from another planet but it might only be  of certain types. Maybe they are okay with whale   and dolphin-like critters, but loathe anything  with wings. Maybe they especially hate uplifted   species from their own homeworld, or they get on  fine with aliens but hate their mutant cousins   from all their interstellar colonies. Xenophobia  isn’t usually noted for being terribly rational,   so you might get some interesting perturbations.  Of course we also want to be careful not to imply  

xenophobia is always and utterly irrational  either, and it’s usually rooted out of the   fairly reasonable biological fear  of the unknown, or stranger danger.   Visitors to your territory, in nature, usually  only represent a positive if you’re planning to   mate with them or eat them, or sometimes both,  otherwise they’re competition or a threat. A   certain amount of fear of the unknown is probably  healthy, and how justified such fears are really   depends on the setting and authors in ficiton.  We don’t know what the Universe or Multiverse   is going to hold for us in terms of aliens;  what the average is going to be, so to speak.  And we also need to consider the motivations for  union. In Star Trek, it’s just general goodwill,  

because most advanced species are pretty kind and  enlightened, and with enough goodwill and effort,   you can find a way to make peace, at least until  the Borg showed up, as a sort of cruel mockery of   the Federation, having way more member races, as  they just assimilated everything into themselves.   I always consider ‘mockery’ an appropriate word  there because the Borg were introduced to the crew   of the Enterprise by the omnipotent trickster  entity, known as Q, in order to humble them,   because the TNG-era season 1 and 2 crew came off  as very cocky and smug, as did the Federation.  We’re not going to beat up on the Federation  and its ethics today, we’ve done that before,   but there was often something worrisome about how  the Federation kept growing and how its capital   was on Earth and virtually all its spaceships in  its starfleet were human-captained and crewed.  

This could be an example of the semi-benevolent  powerful species I mentioned before,   ruling over species that joined semi-voluntarily.  And this actually is historically accurate,   even if unintentionally so, because many  ancient Earth empires were really one powerful   nation ruling over conquered nations. Often  their military came almost exclusively from   that one nation or city-state as a result. Now it is common in science fiction, for   humans to be over-represented in the settings,  and the in-Universe explanations vary, but   by and large it’s because it’s a lot easier and  cheaper to put a human in a costume with regular   old makeup than to sit around gluing prosthetics  to their head for five hours before each shot.   This could be justified for a multi-species  empire where everyone was genuinely very alien.   In such a case, it might be that everybody had  plenty of representation in their fleets and on   space stations and planets, they just tended  to be segregated for life support reasons.  

You probably don’t mix crews much because  it’s a pain to maintain fifty different   atmosphere mixes, temperatures, and lighting. What’s more, the various hierarchical and   leadership talents of officers probably  don’t translate as well to other species.   Fifty-foot tall, hundred-armed mega crabs who show  their approval with 160 decibel roars, probably   don’t mix well on spaceships designed around human  scales. So there’s really not a big problem with  

justifying why they might all get along as a  unified group of civilizations but not really   share ships and planets much. One might wonder why  they are unified when they need to be inherently   separate but there’s many degrees of unity and  it might be just simple mutual defense treaties,   standardized currency and trade measures, and  sharing your technology and science. None of   which require you have many types of aliens trying  to share a ship. Problem with this, for science  

fiction, is it doesn’t let you have a couple neat  alien crewmembers on your mostly human starship,   no Spock or Worf as interesting characters. There are get arounds to that, maybe they   are the rare exchange officer who agreed to be  transplanted into a humanoid body or android,   or they remotely control one from back in their  own quarters with its specialized life support,   and a mind-machine link to that body. Or  your show might ignore it and tell the fans   outright that you crammed in as many aliens as  your special effects budgets allowed and they   should just mentally substitute in more aliens  where they see random extras. Maybe you could say  

everybody walks around in augmented reality and  their alien peers have their appearance and words   shifted to a human perspective and vice-versa.  Indeed you might have space stations where   everybody walked around in a spacesuit and their  feeds were all altered to show and hear everyone   put in their species appearance and languages. Nonetheless we do get a lot of in-Universe   explanations including “Humans are Special”,  in that we have some particular quality that   makes us uniquely suited to be running  or forging a multi-species empire.   Maybe the best justification I heard for that  was in the Masters of Orion Video Games, where,   of the various alien factions, humans happened  to be the most diplomatic and charismatic,   rather than the smartest or kindest or best  fighters or whichever, all of which might be   handy for forging various types of empires. And it  wouldn’t be surprising if an empire was forged by  

folks who stood out in some way that helped with  such forging, by words or by hammer and anvil.  Now the problem here is that while we shouldn’t  assume ours was the only pathway to technology,   it is pretty reasonable to assume that things  which helped us claw our way up Darwin’s Ladder   into space are probably not uncommon traits in  aliens, especially where they make a lot of sense.   I’m not really sure how you build a civilization  without some very strong analogies for diplomacy   and charisma. Even when we suggest a hive  species, be it the Borg or someone more friendly,  

the impression every critter in that hive  just obeys because it does, as we seem to see   in nature, seems only justified by them being  very stupid. I keep some hives of honey bees,   they’re neat and an impressive example what a  hive can do, but they’re dumb, not loyal. They   follow a very specific pathway for survival. Same  for the cells in our bodies, they’re not obedient   and loyal, they don’t have brains. They do their  functions because versions of them that didn’t,  

tended to cause the organism to die, and thus  didn’t propagate whereas versions that did do   their functions, benefited the organism, and  thus went on to propagate. This is additionally   complicated by most of the creatures in the hive  being only indirectly involved in procreation.  And a hive intelligence composed of  stupid members isn’t a civilization,   it’s a person, same as you and I are composed  of many individual cells and organisms,   many of which have none of our DNA. This is  generally not what we mean by multi-species   empire, and so we will mostly bypass the Borg  from Star Trek after this point, the Collective   is an entity, it’s constituent members really  are not, even if still individually intelligent.   By this same reasoning we can remove from our  list of multi-species empires, an example like the   Wraith from Stargate Atlantis, a vampire species  that feeds on humans for their lifeforce energy,   because there’s no intertwined civilization  going on there, anymore than humans and cows,   except that the Wraith seem to take perverse  pleasure in terrorizing their prey too.  

It's not that either the Borg or Wraith or  for that matter, the Reapers from Mass Effect   aren’t examples of Multi-Species Empires, they  just aren’t what we are usually picturing as   one, in a Space Opera context, and one can make a  pretty good argument that the Borg are essentially   a deconstruction or dark mirror of the classic  humans & aliens federations of Star Trek and   many other series, though in a different way than  the brutal empires we see in Star Trek’s various   Mirror Universe episodes. Those are cruel and  sadistic, like the Wraith, the Borg are just cold.  Now we can’t actually rule out an empire that’s  basically founded on the principle that there’s   one species or group that totally runs the  show and keeps everyone else around for its   own depraved delights and hobbies. It seems rather  unlikely and we explored it more in our episode   Gods & Monsters a few years back, but another  Stargate example, the original evil aliens,   the Goa’uld, were a race of parasites who  lived in human hosts, kept other humans as   slaves and worshippers, and had modified  some humans into a new species, the Jaffa,   who were combination soldier and incubator,  though still every bit as much the slaves.  It isn’t too hard to imagine a fairly  conquest-oriented civilization keeping a lot of   slaves or tributary kingdoms. And it also isn’t  too hard to imagine them selectively breeding   or genetically modifying them to be better at  some roles. Genetically perfected caste systems  

are common in scifi and I can’t say they’re  terribly implausible either. This could obviously   mean you found or made or modified a race of  critters who were great as soldiers and another   that were great as administrators, and that might  mean you had modified a single species from one   world or a whole bunch from different worlds. Calling two aliens evolved on separate planets   ‘of different species’ is probably abusing the  word, especially if you’re simultaneously trying   to use it to describe a bunch of branches or  modifications of an actual species from one world,   as aliens from different worlds aren’t even in the  same biological kingdom or phylum as each other,   less related than mushrooms, dolphins,  and Ebola are too each other and us.  

Nonetheless, it happens a lot in scifi, and I  think for today we really only mean “Multi-Species   Empire” where the distance apart is a lot more  than, say, human, chimpanzees, and orangutans.   Not simply where someone has modified a species  a bit or it’s undergone speciation from a few   millennia of isolation. Of course in galactic  empire terms, especially without FTL, we could be   talking civilizations millions of years old. And  we could also be looking at uplifted animals, like  

dolphins taken and given hands and bigger brains. We see an example of specialized races and   uplifting with the Jem’hadar and Vorta in  totalitarian Dominion of Star Trek: Deep Space   Nine, who play the military and administration  of that empire. The Empire’s founders,   called the Founders, have massively modified  the genetics of both species – programming in   utter loyalty and even drug addiction, and  of course great skill at their chosen role.  This is one way a multi-species empire can form  too, and plausible in my opinion. One of the   big problems with a galaxy full of thousands of  worlds where intelligent life separately arose,   is that somebody had to be first, and with  FTL they should have had the galaxy utterly   colonized in a few thousand years, as quick  as they could reasonably grow and explore.   Whereas even a thousand species, big as that  is, spread over a billion years of galactic   emergence would only mean one every million  years popped up. Even without FTL though,  

it should only take about a million years,  tops, for one civilization to spread over   the whole galaxy and claim it. So we don’t  really expect rival empires of different alien   species popping up simultaneously, except  by fragmentation of the original empire.  However we wouldn’t expect all these  worlds to be devoid of life. They might be,  

life might be that rare and need to get seeded on  barren worlds. More likely though, if we assumed   a thousand worlds per galaxy would eventually  produce intelligent life independently by now,   your species would be getting to space about the  same time a hundred other planets were getting to   various levels of fairly smart animal, running  some spectrum from dinosaurs up to dolphins or   maybe even a chimp or neanderthal. The galaxy is  yours, you own an empire of a trillion worlds,   it’s not hard to imagine you deciding to keep  those critters around as a curiosity. To you   a single planet in your galaxy is to us what a  single small zoo the size of a football field is. 

With these primitive aliens, maybe they start  getting smart on their own and you uplift some   to help manage and police things, so you need  not bother personally, they can share the load,   and the blame. This is essentially the origin  story of the Peacekeepers from Farscape, they were   uplifted and organized by a species known as the  Eidolons who were pacifists and so the group got   their name unironically originally, but eventually  the Eidolons disappeared from the scene and the   Peacekeeper organization slowly turned into  something much more violent and authoritarian.   It is not too hard to imagine creating  specialized agents to handle things for you,   and while we might frown on that ourselves, aliens  might not. More to the point, we wouldn’t feel too   bad about creating artificial intelligence to  perform such roles, and it’s very debatable if   making a biological organism from scratch is any  different than that. It also is hardly implausible  

a future galaxy is one ruled and populated  by artificial intelligence, and those could   come in just as many species, mutation happens. Something to keep in mind for colonizing a galaxy.   You’re the Firstborn species of a newly founded  galactic empire, and all over the galaxy,   folks are speciating while at the same time you’re  uplifting your own pets, smart cats, smart dogs,   and creating artificial intelligence. Someone’s  probably tried uplifting a few of these alien   species too. Time is creeping on, a million  years, two, three, even left alone a couple   of them are getting smart now, but after a few  million years, your own colonies a hundred light   years away are no closer to you in appearance  and behavior, and honestly probably genetics,   than those uplifted pets you had. So you  might spawn a multi-species empire that way. 

Specialized races certainly seems plausible, but  I’d be more dubious about them being natural.   It is easy to imagine we might meet 10 or 20 other  species and find each of us was just better at   some major task than the others. Our genius or  virtuoso at some area is their average citizen.   So the nominal 10 or 20 departments or key  organizations of the empire are basically   each run by that species, your Klingon  soldiers, your Vulcan scientists, and so on.   And again this is plausible enough as it  would seem likely that getting yourself   from smart animal to technological  civilization probably relies on,   to borrow a term from RPGs, bumping up your stats  a lot. In D&D, that would be Intelligence, Wisdom,  

and Charisma traditionally, for non-physical ones,  and White Wolf had Charisma, Intelligence, Wits,   Perception, Manipulation, and Appearance. Lots  of other systems had other stats and scales.  There are a lot of traits that are handy to  have in our civilization, and which would seem   to be necessary for that civilization or make it  much easier for it to exist and improve anyway.   Those are numerous and they come in many flavors,  and one might imagine each civilization having,   say, ten relevant stats each with a score of  1 to 10, we’ll just call them math, logic,   judgment, negotiation, administration,  leadership, agreeableness, aggressiveness,   creativity, and patience – those were  pretty arbitrarily selected by the way.  So everybody has a 1 to 10 in each and presumably  starts fairly low and evolution slowly adds points   to various groups. You could have a score of  anywhere from 0-100 as an individual and as a   species average. Say a score of 50 is enough to  start making you look more than just an animal   and a score of 60 gets you in the technological  avalanche to modern times. Well some species have  

Captain Average stats, like about a 6 in  everything – this is often humans in scifi –   and others might have a lot more 1s and 10s. And it might be that you just can’t get into   space until one or two of those stats specifically  hits an 8, like logic, you just can’t get rockets   working without being good at it. So maybe  evolution got all your other stats up to 9s   and 10s before that finally happened and you get  on the galactic stage as near supermen when you   do – this is also often implied with humans in  scifi. Or maybe you got found, you never need   to know rockets because another species who did  came across you and was impressed with your other   stats. The Krogan in Mass Effect come close to  this, they come from a planet that’s basically  

a suburb of hell so they are tough as nails,  breed and grow fast, and are very good at war.   They are decent with technology, enough to have  gotten themselves into several nuclear wars,   and they get uplifted by another race, the  tech-savvy Salarians, to help fight their battles.   Needless to say, if you can  modify your species’ stats,   genetically or cybernetically, this somewhat  cuts into any argument for species caste systems  Now, this brings up another issue with  Multi-species empires, and that’s birth rates.  

The Krogan made a great military ally because  they bred like rabbits and liked fighting,   but that also makes them bad peacetime neighbors.  They could have a thousand kids a year, each,   who all needed a place to live and  didn’t mind taking someone else’s.   The answer the Salarians came up with was  basically to give them a virus that wrecked   their fertility. The morality of that is  at best a ‘lesser of two horrendous evils’,  

and I always liked Mass Effect for not giving  easy moral outs to the players and characters,   like a lot of scifi does. In any event, it  is a likely issue in multi-species empires.  Now on the one hand, nature has two basic  approaches to reproduction: quantity and quality;   which is to say that you ensure your species  survives by either having tons of offspring   or by putting tons of effort into a small number.  Now this is actually a false dichotomy, you could   have a species that had a ton of children and each  with a high survival rate but that usually isn’t   necessary given how fast a species can double  and fill up an environment compared to how fast   it can mutate. Generally speaking we would expect  single births or smaller and less frequent litters  

to be more common with intelligent species  though there’s a lot of assumptions in there   about how intelligence forms biologically that  might have a big terrestrial bias. There really   is no ironclad rule saying an organism can’t  hatch from an egg able to take care of itself   and still grow to be human intelligent and  also still want to have social relationships.  Even if that is true though, that species  with technology usually come from low birth   rate species, there is still likely to be a huge  difference in growth rates, by both technology and   culture. Consider, a civilization whose numbers  increased by 1% a year – about what Earth’s does  

nowadays – versus 2%, then a thousand years  from now, both starting with the population   we have now, there’s 200 trillion of that first  civilization, 20,000 times as many of them, and   maybe 20,000 colonized worlds in their empire, and  the second civilization actually has 4 quintillion   people and more like 400 million worlds. Compound  interest is an impressive thing. Now imagine a   planet just like ours came on the scene at that  point, a thousand years later, 3000 AD, when   Civilization A controls 20,000 worlds and  B has 400 Million. Let’s say they have a 3%   growth-rate per year, well, come the year 4000 AD,  they, Civilization C, go from one lone planet to 7   trillion of them, probably about every reasonably  terraformable rock in this galaxy. Civilization A,   at 20,000 worlds in 3000 AD is now up to 400  million in the year 4000 AD. As big as B was   in 3000 AD, but now dwarfed by civilization  C, when a thousand years back they had an   empire of 20,000 worlds and C only had 1. Civilization B, at 400 Million in 3000AD,  

come 4000 AD, is up to 160 Quadrillion,  which represents a fair chunk of the   worlds in a Supercluster of galaxies, though  more realistically would represent something   like 10-12 million Kardashev 2 solar systems,  especially without FTL, Faster Than Light Travel,   and be in a rough sphere a couple thousand light  years wide, a tiny little dot in the galaxy still.   Come the year 5000 AD, Civilization  C will have caught up to them too.  Note that in all of these cases they have easily  populated a whole galaxy in a handful of millenia,   not even a millionth of the time this  galaxy has been around. Also note that   human population growth rates, tiny compared to  things like cats or dogs, let alone egg layers,   is currently 1.1% and has been as high as 3%  and higher. This generally is why we tend to   think the first species on the galactic stage gets  to control that stage, either by being the only   people on it or just being more numerous by far. Now you can actively seek to curb or accelerate  

growth, and high-tech civilizations can use  fertility meds, devote more time to child-rearing   than basic survival, even have extended lifespans  and cloning technology, or flat out duplication   for post-humans. However, it is still very easy  to imagine lots of tension between civilizations   based on how quickly they are claiming new worlds  and filling them up, or immigrating to other   species’ worlds inside this galactic empire.  Indeed we could imagine terrorist style groups   trying to emulate Thanos inside such empires to  either curb the growth of one very fertile species   or to clear room for them. It is not hard to  imagine lots of conflict and strife in such cases.   To keep up the MCU references, they may have a  vested interest in curbing technological growth   too, unless you hatch some Tiamat-style Celestial  from your world in the form of a Technological   Singularity, that takes over the whole galaxy. Another strategy, especially for high-tech and   early arrivers on the scene, is not to worry  about your species at all. Obviously there is  

an implication in a multi-species empire of the  more friendly kinds we see in science fiction,   that species shouldn’t matter and that one focuses  on ideals, or more selfishly maybe, one’s self.   If you’re potentially immortal through your own  technology, well exponential cumulative growth   works on stock markets and ownership as well as it  does for breeding. Right now if humanity divided   up the whole galaxy to each living person, we  would each get something like 50 stars a piece.  

If we wrote that up as a big old contract,  and issued deeds to those stars to everyone,   then by the end of the year, I’d imagine at  least half the population would have sold   theirs, and probably for less than a  thousand bucks a piece, when in the   long term each is considerably more valuable  than our entire current planetary economy.  Mind you, selling those might be smart, and  taking the money and investing it in something   more short term or in the company  that builds colony ships or such.   Imagine we also found life extension technology  soon too and folks could realistically expect to   live a few million years. A million years from  now you might have a couple billion folks who   kept their system deeds, or most of them, and  even bought more of them, and who had a vested   interest in making sure those remained valid. They  might be people still, they might be some giant   computer intelligence or super brain, but they’ve  got that deed and everything that grew up on it.  And all those fleets and banks and marketing  firms and other assets to help them retain power.  

They might easily be in charge of such a  multi-species empire a billion years down the road   and not really care which of those species  were direct descendants, mutant cousins,   uplifted cats or dogs, or alien tentacle monsters  from some system ten thousand light years from   their homeworld. All of these things are  alien to what you used to be or are now,   and far more than any star trek alien of the week  with a couple bumps or spots on their forehead.   Aliens so alien in appearance or motive that the  very idea of living and working with them might be   unimaginable or disgusting, while others might  be alliances of convenience or bonds as close as   humans have with cats, dogs, and horses. And the thing to keep in mind is,   even in a real universe where FTL travel and  communication is probably not in the cards,   you could have large regions of space, some  local mega-swarm of a thousand solar systems   all composed of thinly overlapping sea, of  space habitats numbering in the quadrillions,   home to a trillion, trillion people, where you  had constant waves of aliens immigrating in and   out of parts of that swarm or from neighboring  regions, raising thousands of giant multi-species   empires lasting decades or millenia, all inside a  relatively tiny piece of the galaxy no bigger to   that galaxy than a small village is to Earth. And yet in that little village might be that  

trillion, trillion people, which could easily  allow a trillion ‘species’ of a trillion people   each. Inside a colonized galaxy there is no  reason folks might not still migrate around,   and find themselves meeting new and strange  people and hoping to carve out a home,   peacefully or by force, and forming new nations  or alliances. Many might find themselves spending   centuries on exodus and arriving at places that  had more alien-ish species than all of modern   scifi has produced combined, living around just  one star, each of those millions of species having   millions of factions composed of millions  of people, and again, just around one star. 

So on first approximation we tend to think  Multi-species empires would be rare things,   but as we often note on this show, aliens may be  rare now, but wait a million years and they’ll be   all over the galaxy, even if they maybe all had  a connection back to Earth or to some scientist   from Earth that created them in a lab or uplifted  them on a primitive world. Such being the case,   it seems almost inevitable that you would  have multi-species empires as a result,   assuming the term even means anything by then.  And given the sheer quantities involved, across   a whole galaxy, we would expect them to come in  virtually every flavor, from military conquests to   peaceful alliances, close sharing of worlds, to an  agreement to mind each other’s space, totalitarian   expansionists to pacifist reclusive, and a  million, billion, trillion shades in between.  As always, one of the few things we can say  about the future with much certainty, is that,   if we live to see it, it should  be a pretty interesting place,   since there will be so much of it… and it  should be full of many interesting peoples. So we have a few announcements to get to along  with our schedule but first it is time for the   Audible Audiobook of the Month and keeping with  today’s theme I wanted to recommend the awesome   ongoing space opera series Dread Empire’s Fall  by Walter Jon Williams, the tale of humanity   and many other species kept under the thumb of an  oppressive empire that’s finally started falling   apart after untold millennia and the wars and  alliance that break out as that empire collapses. 

I’d encountered Dread Empire’s Fall by  coincidence, having been grabbing an   audiobook from Glen Cook’s excellent Dread Empire  series when I saw the similar series title and   saw they were narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, one of  my favorite audiobook narrators, so I thought I’d   give it a try. It didn’t take me long to realize  that Walter Jon Williams was an emerging space   opera author to rival greats like David Weber,  John Ringo, Timothy Zahn, and Micheal Stackpole.   Dread Empire’s Fall is everything I love about  Space Opera and military scifi, and William’s   take on why a ruthless ancient civilization is  finally falling is inventive and novel, so I’m   glad to award the first novel in the series,  Praxis, our Audible Audiobook of the Month.  So we mentioned an awful lots of books and authors  there and even more throughout the episode and   one of the things I love about Audible is just how  comprehensive their collection of audiobooks is,   but also how they have encouraged so many  authors to take their work and make it available   as an audiobook too. But they don’t just have  audiobooks, including many excellent podcasts,   such as Science & Futurism with Isaac  Arthur. It also has Reels of Justice,   the podcast show where movies are brought before  a jury to be tried, and I recently was on for   another appearance to serve as the Defense for  the 2021 version of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune. 

That’s just some of the great  content in the Audible Plus Catalog,   which also has sleep & meditation tracks  available, as well as guided fitness programs   for getting into shape for the spring, and Audible  Original’s like Impact Winter, from the folks who   brought you Pacific Rim and the Walking Dead. Audible has got literally centuries worth   of content for you to pick from to keep you  entertained while commuting or working out,   including about 500 hours of this show now, and  the whole Audible Plus Catalog full of free books   and other content, comes as a bonus when you  join Audible, in addition to your usual 1 free   audiobook each month and big member discounts on  additional ones, and as always, new members can   try Audible for free for the first month, just go  to, or text isaac to 500-500.  So down the years a lot of folks have generously  supported this show on Patreon but for one reason   or another many have decided to leave that  platform and been requesting I open up an   additional option, so SFIA will also now be on  Subscribestar, and I will link that in the episode   description. We are remaining on Patreon too and  you can also help fund the channel by joining   Nebula, or donating via paypal or even snail  mail, or by clicking on our sponsors, and as   always we’re grateful for everyone’s continued  support especially in rough economic times.  Also again, I recently re-appeared on the Reels  of Justice podcast to look at the Dune 2021 film   and as usual they were a ton of fun to work  with, make sure to check that episode out. 

Speaking of episodes, next week we’ll be asking  what would happen if Earth lost the sun and became   a rogue planet? After that we’ll ask how people  travel around planets once they settle there,   be it hang gliding through the clouds of  Venus or darting between shadowy craters   on sun-roasted Mercury. Then we’ll take a look  at the concept of a Technological Singularity,   an artificial intelligence of stunning  capability appearing seemingly overnight,   and ask if that outcome is inevitable. And  Two Sunday’s from now we’ll have our Monthly   Livestream Q&A on April 24th, 4 pm Eastern Time. Now if you want alerts when those and other   episodes come out, make sure to subscribe to  the Channel and hit the notifications bell,   and if you enjoyed this episode, please hit  the like button, share it with others, and   leave a comment below. You can also join in the  conversation on any of our social media forums,   find our audio-only versions of the show,  or donate to support future episodes,   and all those options and more are listed  in the links in the episode description. 

Until next time, thanks for  watching, and have a great week!

2022-04-11 21:48

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