“Old Vohl’s Planet” (novelette) by Issui Ogawa
English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)
Original: Japanese (老ヴォールの惑星, 2005)
Translated by Jim Hubbert, 2011
Synopsis: A turbulent gas-giant orbits its sun and is ravaged by both punishing winds and temperatures, yet an alien species still thrives in its seas, forever planet-bound. One large amoeba-like member optically views an incoming body that destroys most of its species, but not before transferring its knowledge to the rest of the species. Thereon, all remain vigilant toward skyward peril—and one body is seen that is sure to destroy their lives, their world. With their remaining time, the species collectively attempts to contact another species, if there are any. 26 pages
Pre-analysis: The gears of bureaucracy are weighty, ponderable, and largely immovable. Regardless of warnings or research, most governments simply shrug in the face of statistical danger while cladding themselves in their warm blanket of ain’t a problem yet, won’t be a problem later. With both manpower and money at their disposal, the gears still grind their steady decadal tunes, accommodating very little that’s new into their orchestra of maintaining the status quo. And yet, with each passing year and the ridiculous news items that summarize our state of affairs—as a country or as a planet—very little gets done, yet most can foresee the result of the government’s perpetual inaction.
Q: End America’s nuclear weapon program?
A: Nope, not with others wielding the same weapons.
Q: Cut carbon dioxide emissions?
A: Nope, not when fossil fuels are so profitable.
Q: Put an end to weapon ownership?
A: Nope, we glorify war too much to end that.
Q: Use alternative sources of energy?
A: Nope, nature will balance out the actions of seven billion people.
Q: Fund the search for near-Earth objects?
A: Nope, the likelihood is far too remote.
Analysis: As much infighting as the aliens did in their history—based on size and age—, they have very admirable qualities which span their history until the conclusion of the story: (1) they share knowledge of the their immediate demise realize its gravity, (2), they unify to seek out other such world-shattering objects, and (3) they unify to search for civilization that may assist them when the end nears. This is all possible due to their unique physiological trait that allows them to pass on and store knowledge passed down through the generations.
The amoeba-like aliens can unite and progress with their own millennium-long salvation because they objectify knowledge, share knowledge, accept knowledge, and react to knowledge. Their alien-equivalent eyes are tinted or tainted by self-interest or lobbied interest; their only interest is for their own long-term survival—for their race.
Aside from the elimination of the small pox virus, has there ever been another altruistic drive to benefit human life since then?
For being able to pull together for the benefit of the greater common good, these aliens deserve any respect or solace given to them. They may not be human-like in any physical, cultural, or governmental regard, but their actions and ambition definitively echo what’s best of who we ought be.