1. YoungCreature
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    YoungCreature Member

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    Surviving on an alien world

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by YoungCreature, Apr 16, 2011.

    I'm playing around with a concept for a new novel/story. In modern day Earth, a highly advanced alien race has selectively chosen and abducted roughly 100 humans, varying in culture, age, and social status. For research purposes, these humans were then taken to an uninhabited planet and left to survive. This is where the story starts. It will be written through various journal entries by the main character, a 23 year old student and writer. As you can see, there will be a lot for me to consider.

    First, I have roughly 100 characters to develop. I have to take into account the psychological problems that would occur from being dumped on an unknown world and being forced to live with 100 other people, many of which don't even speak the same language as you. I have to take into account many sociological problems as well. There will be fighting for leadership and resources. All of these will be difficult enough, but my main problems are with the alien world itself.

    Obviously, the atmosphere will be similar to earth and life on the planet will be carbon based life forms that mostly take in oxygen. I also decided that, to make things easier on myself, I would include a large crate of supplies that has been air dropped along with the human subjects. In this crate they will be given a handful of weapons, including guns and ammunition. They will be given tools, a small supply of food, and various other supplies.

    With that aside, I am concerned about disease. These subjects would be susceptible to a wide range of diseases, whether viral, bacterial or alien. Since they have never been exposed to this environment, I would have to assume that many people would die just from this alone. I think of the Native Americans that were infected with new diseases that the European explorers brought with them-- and that's on the same planet! Imagine the problems that would occur on a totally alien world.

    Next, I have a situation with food. After their small supply of food is exhausted, they would be forced to find a local source of nutrients. How are they to know what is edible and what isn't. Imagine being forced to eat something completely foreign and hoping, or praying, that you will not die from it. Can the human body even adapt to taking in a substance that has been grown on a completely alien world?

    In my head, I imagine all 100 people would die within weeks. That is what I have to overcome. Any thoughts?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe. But consider this - pathogens on our world have evolved alongside humans, and as humans adapt the pathogens in turn adapt. So when diseases came from Europe those diseases were already well adapted to infect humans, but whereas Europeans had lived alongside those diseases for a long time, people in the New World had not and the diseases took a horrible toll on them.

    On your alien world, it may well be that the disease organisms there simply aren't pathogens to the humans because humans are new to the planet and the diseases haven't evolved in ways necessary to infect them.

    It could go either way - the diseases kill them off, or they are resistant to them. Either is plausible.

    Oh, and apart from adaptive mechanisms, think of purely physical ones. Bacteria invading the body have a pretty narrow range of physical conditions under which they can thrive, which is why the body tries to raise its temperature (fever) to kill them.

    Maybe the human body is too warm for pathogens on your alien world. Or too cold. Or the pH of the body is too high or too low. Any number of reasons they could survive the indigenous disease organisms.
     
  3. YoungCreature
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    YoungCreature Member

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    Perfect solution. Hell yeah. I've been rolling this over in my head for weeks now and haven't even considered that. I can include a sizeable outbreak of some sort of strange disease, which would add to the story, and still explain why they arn't completely wiped out by alien diseases. Thanks.


    I'm entering nursing school, you would think that all my microbiology, anatomy, and physiology classes would pay off. Hah.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's OK, my background is in Microbiology and I worked as a research scientist for a number of years, so this is kind of up my alley :)
     
  5. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I heard that Earth-species couldn't survive on alien worlds because of incompatible proteins. One example is from an old Analog story where a race called Harubans were fond of nibbling on the ornamental ivy, and commented that it had no nutritional value to them. The other is from Freefall the webcomic, about five years ago I'd guess.

    I once had a vague idea where humans were the minority on a multi-alien hub spacestation. There were foods that were non-toxic and could provide minerals and some vitamins, but they also had to supplement their diet with a stem-cell jelly that was pretty much cloned from their own skin, but with the proteins "shattered" enough so that the body could digest it properly. (I think cannibalism is not just problems with neurological disease, but also how the body can't distinguish well between eaten human and itself.) I never did the research to know if this would work. (Can a human digest important minerals that have been dissolved in water, or does it require a plant to somehow bind or convert the minerals?)

    There might be problems with the planet having a strange day-length that plays havoc with their circadian rhythms. I think it was the same Haruban-stories were someone commented that they had to abandon a colony because the multiple moons were disrupting the women's fertility cycles and they were trying to save another colony by making that world's tiny moon more reflective.

    Light spectrum might also be a problem. I can't remember what other Analog story it was, but the blue light disoriented the landing party when they crashed and had to walk through the jungle. Someone also accidentally fell into some slime that smelled like his mother's cooking, but there was also something about the smell that triggered an over-the-top reaction.

    I never read it, but I think the book "what if Earth had no Moon" points out how different species would not be possible or would work differently if certain environmental factors were in effect.

    Water seems to be a plausible substance to find.

    This is more on the psychological side, but think about how many people would be addicted to caffeine or nicotine. That's assuming that no-one in the group needs prescription drugs to stay healthy or sane.
     
  6. Coreen Hipae
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    Coreen Hipae Member

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    Another note from someone else who thinks about these type of things all the time haha.
    Water - I would say some of your people would have some sort of survival training, or at least the knowledge to boil any water before drinking it. Which even on our planet is a common practice when out in the wilderness.
    While some of your populace may not do this which could lead to them being infected y a bacteria.

    Food Veg - You could use a method that a lot of people use when in a new place, see what the animals eat. If they eat it and don't suffer horrible side effects including death then it could be considered safe to eat. Yes this is an alien world but its something to consider. Sure some people may die by this because even on Earth some animals can eat things humans can't.

    Food Animals - There are a few things to consider when coming up with animals and wildlife for food. 1 - the sentience level of the creature. Is it like a cow with a thought level of eat, sleep, mate, or is it up there with the greater apes and dolphins. Can it think to an extent, and use tool? Will you have a sentient native species on the your planet. I will come back on that haha. What is the morphology on the creatures? Are the majority of them bipedal, quadrupeds, six limbs of some sort? Usually most animalian life of a planet will have roughly the same number of limbs. Look at earth most species have four limbs with some exceptions. Will there be species that you have to cut or cook a certain way to be fine to eat like the puffer fish? Well there be animals that resemble creatures from our home planet so the people will look and consider them food before something else totally alien.

    Ecosystem - What is the natural cycle of life and the eco system on the planet. How would introducing a new sentient predatory species effect the over all ecosystem? Are there plants that feed on living creatures like fly traps, what is the top natural predatory animal for the area. How will the animals react to something totally new in their environment?

    Sentient Life - Coming back to this. Will you have a sentient species on the planet? Will they be hostile, curious, helpful? How will your people react the first time they come face to face with the natives?

    Just some things to consider I guess haha.
     
  7. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    I think if this were done, you'd find that humans are much more resilient than you would think. Yes, there'd be trial and error, especially among food, but once a good source of food is found and a sturdy structure is built, your experiment would become relatively self-sustaining.

    That being said, I would imagine that there would be a huge amount of conflict at the beginning. I can imagine the group splintering (especially over the language barrier), stealing food from the others when they get low, and maybe even fighting each other if they were that uptight.

    You may start with 100 people, but I could see that quickly dwindling to become a reasonable number within a couple weeks, where the population would stabilize.
     
  8. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I just thought of something that might take care of some problems, I'm not sure if it brings it into harder SciFi or softer SciFantasy...

    The refugees could be dropped into a specifically-prepared environment. Sure, things can look as weird as you want them, but saying that the aliens specifically set up the environment can explain away many of the nerdier hangups. (I'm sure there is a plausible way to make something that is a dangerous mix of rhinoceros and carnivorous rabbit.) For some reason, pink oranges exist and were cheap last time I could buy them.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To expand on Steerpike's point: The most dangerous meats to eat undercoohed are from animals closest to us biologically. A greater number of parasites and infectious agents that thrive in the carcass will also thrive in our living system. That is also why, religion and ethics aside, cannibalism tends to be selected out of most species - it is a practice that has a high likelihood of wiping out its practitioners.

    It is a double-edged sword, though. It also means that food on an alien planet is likely to be nutritionally deficient even if it isn't toxic.

    Your alien researchers might have to stack the deck a bit, and provide some means to develop a sustainable source of food.
     
  10. YoungCreature
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    YoungCreature Member

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    You guys have been a big help. Thanks.

    Smoke: I don't think we can make the assumption that it is impossible for humans to survive on an alien planet since it's never been tried before. The beauty of science fiction is that the rules of one fictional universe doesn't have to hold true to another fictional universe. I do like your thoughts on the light spectrum.

    Coreen Hipae: Water will be relatively abundant in this new world. However there will be many predators. No sentient beings.

    Oz: The problem is finding a reliable source of food. I want the main focus of this book be about the relationships and conflicts between the various people fighting for survival. I agree there will be a lot of conflict, not only at the beginning, but through the whole story. I want it to be about survival, just with a science fiction twist.

    Cogito: Good points. I don't like the idea of the aliens "stacking the deck" though. I haven't decided if I want this to be more like a cruel alien research project or more for their entertainment-- like Survivor: Alien Jungle. If I choose the latter, then I could even have the aliens add components to make it interesting. Dropping survival packages, trying to split the groups, dropping in an exceptionally large and deadly beast, or even dropping in more people randomly. Something to think about.

    Thanks
     
  11. Wasp
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    Does it have to be 100? If so, maybe you could only make about 21-25 or so of them near each other and in the story since 100 different characters would drive focus away. And then dividing those people into 3 different tribes who may fight each other for territory?
     
  12. nzric
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    nzric Active Member

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    Dude, I think you just described the plot for The Hunger Games. In space.

    Why do you want it to be an alien world? You have said the focus is on the relationships (and prob. the action). Look at the core of the story and write to that. You don't want to get tied up with the flora and fauna - that's just window dressing. You need a good story first and foremost, otherwise you'll end up with Avatar.
     
  13. Lorddread
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    Ever considered differences in day length, temperature, seasons and such?
     
  14. slyfox
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    One last thing, what happens in the end? The last person standing might be alive on the planet, but what can they do about getting home?
     
  15. slyfox
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    slyfox Member

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    Sorry, I'll never use yellow again...
     
  16. author97
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    This would be a trial and error kind of situation. You might want to kill off a dozen or so people for suspense, and have the rest figure out how to live from their deaths.
     
  17. author97
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    This is like the Hunger Games in space!
     

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