As a long-time fan of Gary Numan, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of his next album, Intruder, which is due for release this month. Intruder is a follow-up to his last album, the excellent Savage (Songs from a Broken World), in a more connected way than it simply being his next release; it looks at the same subject matter as Savage, but from a different point of view.
The underlying idea behind Savage was a future in which Earth has been badly affected by climate change, putting what remains of humanity in a post-apocalyptic setting, struggling to survive in harsh conditions on a mostly barren world. A science fiction theme taken from a novel Gary has been trying to write for some time, and which has provided material for songs on other recent albums, but also a reflection of what the future may hold if steps aren’t taken to protect the planet from, well, us.
Intruder takes that same theme but, as I said, looks at it from an entirely different point of view: from that of the planet itself, as if it were a living, thinking entity in its own right. The songs are an attempt to convey what the Earth might be thinking, trying to say to us in its own way – or even, having once nurtured us, now trying to rid itself of us because of the damage we are doing.
Which brings me to the title of this post: a terrible science fiction story I wrote at school; one of a very small number that I still have, some four decades later.
If at any time at school we were tasked with writing a story of any kind, and sometimes even when it was supposed to be an essay, I more often than not tended to head in the direction of writing a science fiction story – often inappropriately, as in this particular case. It’s far too long ago to remember with any certainty what year I was in or how old I was when I wrote the story in question, and I’m not even sure what subject it was, or who the teacher was, but we were told to write something about the living world, with some class discussion leading up to it about the countryside, local parks, wildlife, and so on.
The objective, therefore, was to take some aspect of the natural world around us, make some observations, and write about it – obviously an essay rather than a story…
So, naturally, my first attempt was a science fiction story called This Living Earth (I suspect that was the general heading for the class topic, and I made it my title) in which studies of our world began to show that it was changing , with that change becoming more and more pronounced, leading to rising global temperatures, rising sea levels, more and more electrical storms, and the main focus of the story – greatly increased magnetic activity, leading to its conclusion:
The Earth was a living entity, and it was deliberately taking steps to make life uncomfortable for us, with the change in its magnetic activity intended to allow it to send us a message through our computers – to tell us to leave because of the damage we are doing.
I didn’t retain very much from my school days, but I did keep some of my stories – at that time handwritten – where they weren’t handed in, or weren’t finished. Later, long after I left school and when I finally had a suitable computer (a BBC Model B+ with disc drives, for which I bought a ROM-based word processor) I typed in some of those stories. And some of those – but only a small number – got transferred again when I bought my first RISC OS computer (an A3000) and were then stored on 3.5″ floppy discs, and later a hard drive.
And a few years ago, when seeking out the source code to Floopy – the first (and so far only) game I’ve written in C – I rediscovered the folder with these old stories in, and copied them (along with that source code and a few other fun finds) onto my current setup, making them accessible on any of the systems I currently use.
Well, accessible on any computer once I’d converted them to a more open file format, obviously!
So, with Intruder soon to be landing on my doorstep, an album on which the songs conceptualise a living world taking steps to purge itself of the human virus that’s damaging it, now seems like a good time to put online something I wrote around forty years ago exploring an idea not far that removed from it.
The notes I added to the top of the document when I recovered and converted it state that the original is from pre-1984 (the year I left school), and suggest 1982 or 1983 as a guess at the original date, with ‘this version’ being marked as 1992, based on the file’s date stamp when I copied it to my current systems. That’s in the period when the A3000 was my main computer, so it’s likely to be when I transferred it to that machine.
The notes also say that it’s probably unchanged from the original but, knowing how bad my spelling was, I suspect I may have addressed that in this version – though clearly not entirely (see ‘annum’ for example). I’ve made no further changes to it here.
I therefore present a badly written science fiction story from my schooldays, called ‘This Living Earth’, which is quite embarrassing to read now with with its many flaws and mistakes, schoolboy grammar, etc.
And note that it’s set in 2014/15 which, at the time I wrote it, must have seemed so ridiculously far off!
This Living Earth
by Vince Hudd while at school in the early 1980s
On July 12th, 2014, geologist Andre Simms, whilst carrying out seismic studies of the Earth’s internal core by way of a recent innovation in that field, noted some unusual observations. Due to the manner in which the waves were diffracted and the fact that certain waves did not propagate in the expected manner he came to the conclusion that the internal workings of the planet, the liquid core in particular, were undergoing some major changes – the nature of which he could not determine without further investigation.
On November 21st, of the same year, after much observation it was noted that there had been a marked increase in the activities of the aurora of the two hemispheres. At the time astronomers could only speculate as to the reason, and out of the many suggestions put forward as possible explanations, only two were favoured as being the most likely.
Firstly, somehow Solar activity had increased on an unobserved level – there was still much about the sun and other stars that was unknown; enough to make this feasible – and that increase, which resulted in an intensified Solar Wind and Solar Radiation led to more charged particles interacting with the Earth’s Van Allen Belts.
The second possibility, which worked in much the same way as the former, was that there had been an intensification in the Earth’s magnetic field. The result here, too, would be an increased interaction between the Van Allen Belts and charged particles of the Solar Wind. As yet there was no evidence to weigh in favour of either of the two possibilities. Papers describing both possibilities in great detail were published before the end of that month.
December 3rd, of the same year. The aforesaid geologist, working alongside the German astronomer, Adolph Muller, made the results of their studies public. The conclusion of Simms’ work would have been much longer in coming had it not been for the observations of the aurora – and provided the first hard evidence of an increase in the Earth’s magnetosphere; The planet’s molten core had, by some unexplained means, grown larger. This meant that there was a larger surface area of this core in contact, and moving against, the innermost solid portion of the planet. This increased contact area supported a stronger magnetic field.
By March 7th, 2015, further studies of the phenomenon made it clear that the magnetosphere was continually increasing in intensity. Very simple extrapolation suggested that before the end of the year, this would begin to affect various magnetic and electrical apparatus – most notably computers.
By May 9th, 2015, the collation of data from meteorological offices the world over revealed several facts: One, the average surface temperature of the planet had been increasing by an average of point three degrees centigrade per annum over the four years to that point. Two, the average air pressure had gradually decreased and was now four percent less than it had been in previous years. Three, there were now, on average, twice as many electrical storms per annum as there had been in previous years. Four, the sea level had begun a rapid increase – many coastal towns had more or less suddenly become as much as an inch under water; and this looked set to continue.
On October 2nd, 2015, at precisely twelve noon GMT computers were affected by the increased electro-magnetic activity of the planet, but not as had been expected. Every person that was in front of a computer at the time was frozen in awe at what he or she saw on their screens. In the native tongue of whatever nation the operators were in, the following message appeared:-
ENOUGH. YOU ARE UNABLE TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH THAT THAT GIVES YOU LIFE. YOU POLLUTE, RAVAGE AND DESTROY. YOU WILL LEAVE MY SURFACE NOW, OR I SHALL CONTINUE MY METAMORPHOSIS INTO A WORLD THAT CAN NO LONGER SUSTAIN YOUR FORM.