Home / Science / Sue Burke on her next science fiction novel Interference, Colonization and First Contact

Sue Burke on her next science fiction novel Interference, Colonization and First Contact

One of my favorite novels from last year was Sue Burke's debut, Semiosis which was about a basic topic when it comes to meeting foreigners for the first time: how to recognize intelligence and even you How do you coexist with extraterrestrial life that is very different from us? Later this year, Burke will publish a sequel to Semiosi's Interference based on these questions.

In Semiosis an expedition from landslides to a distant world called Pax. The crash frees the survivors from most of the tools that would have made it easy for them to survive in the world, and they need to start from scratch and find out how to deal with indigenous plant life that seems aggressive and incredibly intelligent. From generation to generation, the novel leaps after the colonists and their successors as they build a new civilization on the planet and slowly realize that they are not alone ̵

1; the planet hosts a very old plant called Stevland, which has its own motivations and Agenda and the Glassmakers, an alien species that established a civilization on Pax just to mysteriously collapse.

In Interference Burke revisits the story a century after the end of Semiosis when a new expedition from Earth arrives on the planet threatening to disturb the balance between Stevland. the glassmakers and humanity. The novel was released on October 22, and The Verge spoke with Burke about the novel's colonization and why you should be nice to your houseplants.

Image: Tor Books

Her debut novel Semiosis depicts a colony of human explorers arriving on planet Pax discovering an entire ecosystem of intelligent plants. Considering that most first-contact novels deal with recognizably intelligent aliens, they had ventured to hope with alien intelligence that we can not easily recognize.

I started with a "what if" question – what if plants were intelligent? Then my research has shown me that plants here on Earth have a certain amount of intelligence. They are aware of their environment and react actively, even aggressively, to the challenges of survival. They communicate with each other and even with humans.

For example, tomato plants depend on animals to eat their fruits and spread their seeds. If a tomato turns red on a plant, what did the tomato plant tell you? We have been trained to recognize this important message, and we do the plant's bid: we eat the tomato.

Soil plants are slow, so we do not realize how conscious and active they are. I just had to imagine a way to bring it to human speed. Everything else that plants do in this book, they can do here and now.

I hope that people who read the book look at their gardens in a different way: with awe and perhaps with some anxiety.

End Semiosis The colonists meet members of another civilization, whom they refer to as glassmakers as society collapsed. Where does your sequel intervene Interference ?

Interference begins about a hundred years later. In Semiosis, we learn that the glassmakers, a somewhat insect-like species, had landed in front of the human colonists on Pax. They built a beautiful city, but found it difficult to survive and gave it up to live as nomads. It was not easier, and after a long absence they returned to the city and discovered living people there. An attempt to retake the city resulted in a bloody battle, but the surviving glassmakers who had not fought were welcomed into the Pax Society.

The city is also inhabited by a large, intelligent plant that people call "human" Rainbow Bamboo. She learned to communicate with people, took the name Stevland, and worked closely with them, who considered her to be an official animal. Like many other plants, Stevland is a social being, and desperately wants the interaction that people and glassmakers can provide.

In Interference glassmakers have more or less integrated well with humans and with Stevland and everyone has benefited from the collaboration – but there are still tensions.

In Interference a new expedition from Earth to Pax arrives. What is this momentum given the fact that they are meeting established colonists but are also coming into contact with the indigenous life forms of the earth for the first time?

In the course of the century, since the colonists left for Pax, the situation has returned. The earth has turned into autocracy. There was no contact with the colony on Pax, but it could have survived and thrived. A risky trip to visit seems to be a reasonable escape for those on Earth who have come into conflict with Earth authorities. An expedition of anthropologists, scientists and auxiliary staff starts after Pax.

The expedition members arrive and quickly realize that the colonists and the life forms of the planet could easily kill them because they are inferior and unprepared. You also see the simpler technology of the colonists, eg. Stone tools, and can not imagine that other technologies could be used. They also can not imagine that their own technology could be vulnerable.

The colonists, in turn, recognize the expedition's advanced technology and weapons, which could easily kill them all, but the technology is not available to them. An unspoken truce is developing. Both sides mistrust and do not like each other.

The dynamics, in short, are ripe for errors.

Something that impressed me about Semiose is how malleable society is: in this first book there is real tension between generations of colonists. What changes have the newcomers experienced, and what do you hope readers will lose reading Interference


The tensions between the generations, between humans and glassmakers, men and women and Stevland and the inhabitants They have learned some lessons about living together just to face new challenges as the problems of survival change. The problems on Pax get worse when the expedition arrives. If there is one constant in the book, then it is wrong how wrong our assumptions can be and how they can lead to devastating mistakes and amazing discoveries.

How I wrote It reminded me of America's colonization. We are still living in the midst of the rubble and I am not sure how much we have learned from this disaster. Exploitation is still a common way to interact with each other and with our world.

The original Pax colonists had good intentions and barely survived their first contact. The new expedition makes another first contact with glassmakers and with people who have become culturally different, as well as with a whole new ecology that holds secrets. The expedition members believe they have good intentions, but the differences in power dynamics between them and the colonists are causing trouble. When elephants fight, the grass is trampled. On Pax, however, the grass could have an opinion and the means of revenge.

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