A few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending three days in Robert McKee’s fabulous “Story” seminar. During one of the Q&A sessions, one of my fellow students mentioned how nature’s beauty was the inspiration behind her stories. Robert McKee’s response stuck in my head. He said, “Let me tell you something about nature. Nature is a vicious bitch.”
Since the essence of story is conflict, nature’s a great place to start.
Our planet has a rich history of alien invasion, so to speak: Illness is commonly caused by invasive microorganisms attacking a host. When plant species are brought from one ecosystem to another, they often push out the native species and take over. The same goes for insects or animals that are brought into areas where they have no natural predators. The invading species is alien to the environment and wreaks havoc. The invaders care nothing about the welfare of the species they push aside. It is simply a manifestation of a natural law, the survival of the fittest, which, for me, raises the question: Should we expect anything different from a far more advanced alien species?
My Rho Agenda trilogy offers an answer in that it presents alien agendas that were formed not with malice but instead without even considering their impact on humans. The books are about two starships that shot each other down over the American Southwest and the competing alien agendas that survive within each of those severely damaged ships.
In it, I use three exceptionally innocent high school students as the protagonists who, having stumbled upon the Second Ship, allow their curiosity to get the better of them and, like a child finding a loaded gun, their dabbling sets in motion a chain of events that destroys their comfortable lives. Ironically, it’s the same thing my villian Dr. Donald Stephenson is doing, under the auspices of the US Government’s Rho Project: dabbling with technologies that have the potential to bring our planetary ecosystem to the attention of those against whom we have no hope of competing.
So, I find myself in simultaneous agreement with my seminar classmate and with the great Robert McKee. Nature’s vicious beauty may well extend far beyond our little planet--and I find that very interesting indeed.