The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Truth of the Divine, volume two in Lindsay Ellis’ alternate history first contact series—available now from St Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio. Listen to the audio edition below, as read by Kaveh Taherian, Stephanie Willis, and Abigail Thorn.
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate becomes more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to non-human persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?
Cora Sabino not only serves as the full time communication intermediary between the alien entity Ampersand and his government chaperones, but also shares a mysterious bond with him that is both painful and intimate in a way that neither of them could have anticipated. Despite this, Ampersand is still keen on keeping secrets, even from her, which backfires on both of them when investigative journalist Kaveh Mazandarani, a close colleague of Cora’s estranged whistleblower father, witnesses far more of Ampersand’s machinations than anyone was meant to see.
Since Cora has no choice but to trust Kaveh, the two must work together to prove to a fearful world that intelligent, conscious beings should be considered persons, no matter how monstrous-looking, powerful, or malicious they may seem. Making this case is hard enough when the public doesn’t know what it’s dealing with, and it will only become harder when a mysterious flash illuminates the sky, marking the arrival of an agent of chaos that will light an already unstable world on fire.
December 14, 2007
The New York Times
A Third Option
To answer legal questions regarding the rights of extraterrestrial intelligences, we must think outside the box.
BY JANO MIRANDA
This week, protests in the capital spilled into violence as demonstrators in front of the White House, demanding accountability, clashed with police.The Cheney administration has seen a steady stream of resignations ever since President Cheney took office, and despite record-low approval ratings for the new president himself, he still refuses to address the topic at the center of these demonstrations: The people want to know the truth about First Contact.
I don’t condone what violence there has been, but we have to admit that the upset comes from a legitimate place. We still know almost nothing about the alien presence on Earth.Two months after President Bush resigned in disgrace, no new information has been released from those in power. What scant crumbs we do have at this moment come from the leaked memo that precipitated Bush’s resignation in the first place, the so-called Fremda Memo, which was published by my friend and colleague Nils Ortega via The Broken Seal. This memo effectively told us only that there are so-called ETIs (intelligent extraterrestrials) in federal custody, and they either cannot or will not communicate with us. But the purported reason for the delay in the release of what has up until now been confidential information isn’t the assumption that the public at large can’t handle the truth but instead the lack of legal status for any living ETIs inside the United States.
The de facto presumption right now, communicative or no, is that any intelligent extraterrestrial beings have existed and continue to exist in a sort of legal gray area, enjoying no real legal protections and beholden to no human law.Those on the left cry out against the former, those on the right cry out against the latter. And the rest of the world is similarly hamstrung, waiting and holding its breath to see what the United States will do, as the United States is, for the moment, the only country that actually knows what it is dealing with.
Regardless of what gets revealed about any ETIs, our first priority should be our own protection. A system of natural personhood was designed for humans, and we do not know what the consequences might be for allowing aliens, which, for all we know, possess vastly different intelligence and abilities from our own, into that system.
However, we likewise cannot assign extraterrestrial beings the legal status of animals, or of property. Protecting ourselves from abuses does not mean we should open the door for the abuse of others, now that we appear to be members of a galactic community. But that doesn’t mean we need to extend to any hypothetical extraterrestrial being, knowing absolutely nothing about their culture, their intelligence or even their civilization, the full scope of natural human rights. What then would follow? The right to citizenship? The right to vote? The right to marry? To own property, to play the stock market, to run for office? It may seem laughable, but in the United States, any natural person, provided they are of proper age and not in some violation of the law, can access some or all of these rights.
So the discussion has us at an impasse; either we grant ETIs, knowing absolutely nothing about their similarities or differences to us, full human rights, or we grant them no rights.The idea that these are our only two options strikes me as odd because part of what makes us human is our ability to problem solve, to innovate.
I would like to suggest a third option.
Excerpted from Truth of the Divine, copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Ellis.