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SFictional Higher Realities

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I like thinking about a higher or alternate forms of reality. In The Big Aha, I want to give my characters access to a more cosmic or far-out level. And then some of my characters learn to jump bodily into this higher world. And they find some creepy vermin living there. Creatures who do not have humankind’s best interests at heart.

So what is the higher world? So far I’ve thought of seven SFictional possibilities. Let’s start counting at 0.

(0) This is the traditional one. The “other” world is a physical place in our space. Either on our planet, as in mysterious voyage tales, like an island, an undersea cave, in the Antarctic, in a hidden valley. Or off-world, like on another planet. Or sort of on our planet, but not in an obvious place, like inside the hollow earth, or on a cloud.

(1) It could be a parallel sheet of spacetime, perhaps with a different kind of physics. But I used this option in Postsingular and Hylozoic, and I don’t want to recycle it here.

(2) It could be a higher-dimensional hyperspace. And then our world is a sheet inside this hyperspace, and the hyperbeings move about in the higher dimensions at will. They may dip into our world now and then. I used this model in Spaceland.

(2a) The hyperspace model can be adapted to a religious or spiritualist notions of incorporeal beings looking down on our world. Ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, gods, devils. Spaceland works somewhat along these lines.

(2b) An alternate use of a higher dimensional level is to suppose that the higher beings aren’t particularly aware of or interested in us, they’re simply rooting like moles or writhing around like lampreys, and if they happen to pass through our world it’s more or less an accident. Although then, of course, they might develop a taste for our hyperflat bodies. And then we’re flank steak. Cold cuts. I might like this. I do like the idea of there being stupid, unaware beings in the higher world.

(3) Another idea is to suppose that the “higher” world exists at very small size scales. In what’s sometimes called the subdimensions. I used this approach in Jim and the Flims, where the higher world could be found inside an electron. Lots of room at the bottom!


[Lowe's Alef-Null-Plex from FUTURAMA, episode 19 or so, the "Raging Bender" one where Bender becomes a wrestler.]

(4) Or we can go to the “big” direction. That is, put the higher world at an infinite distance from Earth. Out past aleph-null. I used this move in White Light, and at the very end of Hylozoic.


[Our friend Ronna Schulkin with two of her paintings, one painted on the real level, one appropriated on the subtle level.]

(5a) Another angle is something more vague—a higher world that overlays ours in the same space, but which is, for whatever reason, generally imperceptible. Perhaps their quantum wave functions are perpetually 180 degrees out of phase with ours. Putting this differently, it may be that the creatures in the higher world are made of a “dark” or subtle type of matter which doesn’t interact with us. And it may be that each of does in fact have a subtle matter soul. You can learn to do a hyperdimensional somersault that twists your elementary particles into bits of subtle matter. That is, you can do a “chin-up” that lifts you into the subtle world. I think this one is the one I like best just now.

(5b) A traditional fairy-tale variation on the subtle world is that there’s a secret world right under our noses but we don’t notice it. Elves and fairies that most of us can’t see. What if we can see the subtle world simply by adopting a different way of looking at things? (E.g. by being “high” on some psychedelic chemical or bizarre physical process…such as “qwet teep??) See Joseph Zizy’s comment below and my response comment for a bit more on this idea.

(6) What about virtual reality? Could the higher world be a virtual reality running within—what? Way too boring if it’s in a digital computer, although I did touch on this possiblity at the start of Chapter 12 in Postsingular. It would be more interesting if the “virtual reality” computation was being generated by natural objects in the physical world. Air currents, flames, water waves. And this effectively takes us into Zizys’s variation, that is, (5b).


“Night of Telepathy,” oil on canvas, November, 2012, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the image.

One way or another, you end up in the higher world with the archetypes and dreams and thoughts walking around! But! Look out for the subtle rats!

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6 Responses to “SFictional Higher Realities”

  1. yamma Says:

    Best text & image coordination yet! Really fun!

  2. woh3 Says:

    Nice post, with fascinating choices.

  3. Joseph Zizys Says:

    A variation on your number 5 might be that rather than quantum phase or fairies, the overlay might simply be over different aggregates to those we usually ascribe “thingness” to. So perhaps there is an entity that consists of your left shoe, the wall down the left side of the ally behind the theatre and a blade of grass a few miles away. A whole different regime applies to this overlay, it has a perfectly consistent physics and a reasonable philosophy that connects its aggregates into things, and in fact the entities from that “angle” struggle to see what could possibly make an aggregate like a locally clustered bunch of water and calcium etc into a “person”, it simply does not flow intuitively from their physics.

    You could maybe have schizophrenics or something who intuit “significance” in sites and things that turn out to be entities from the overlay. Likewise, the relation could be reciprocal; only “insane” entities from the overlay can sense the coherence of entities in our “angle”.

    anyway, long time reader, first time poster, you, along with PKD and Robert Sheckley are the most formative and influential sci fi writers on my life, and I appreciate what you do and your photography rocks.

    Yours

    Joe.

  4. Rudy Says:

    Thanks, Joseph, that’s a nice idea. And thanks for grouping my with Dick and Sheckley. The so-called subtle world might be one in which the (somewhat subjective and arbitrary after all) collections viewed as objects are distinct from the collections we ourselves view as objects.

    This brings to mind a half-remembered notion from quantum mechanics, having to do with the fundamental reality being a wave function in infinite dimensional Hilbert space. But there are endlessly many ways to set up the axes in this space, and each setup would be experienced as a different flavor of reality.

  5. eo Says:

    How about the idea that the ‘higher dimension’ is quantum computational? We each have in our brains a quantum computational engine that we can learn to access, and this allows us to connect to all things, read minds, create invisibility cloaks, walk through walls, and perhaps teleport — but only at the speed of light.

  6. Rudy Says:

    Eo, I like the quantum computation angle. It’s a little like (6). Maybe you can obliviously merge into the single universal wave function that’s being computed by the entire universe everywhere and everywhen. Ah that feels good. And when youy snap back out you don’t exactly remember that Big Aha. But you have intutions about it, and maybe you’ve nudged it in some direction. Another angle here is that, there might be two main ways of “snapping back,” and in one of these mode you’re in our regular world, and in the other mode, you’re in the subtle world.

    The subtle beings are more or less transparent, but perhaps with practice we can see them a little bit, if only from the corners of our eyes.

    Or maybe we see the subtle beings like we see a face in a pile of leaves…as evanescent constellations of light-shadow patterns that merge into the form of another being.


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