I recently finished Robert Sawyer’s trilogy The Neanderthal Parallax, and it left me thinking. (For those who don’t know me, that’s seldom a good idea.)
The premise of the series is that worlds collide, metaphorically speaking: A universe where Neanderthals survived while Homo Sapiens did not encounters the one we know. It allows Sawyer a broad sweep in exploring what our species has become, and it isn’t pretty.
But, predictably, it ends on an up-note, as much sci-fi does. A human-designed plague meant to eradicate the pacific, unspoiled world of the Neanderthal so we could take it over backfires on us. As well it should, of course.
Anyway, I’m not writing a book review here. If you want to dissect the themes involved in the trilogy, you can look them out.
No, the conclusion reminded me of a long-ago discussion with the moderator of a website called Smart Asses Online. I wasn't a charter member, but I apparently met the membership criteria later on.
The thing is, while these people were smart, they weren’t asses, at least not in the conventional sense. They were witty (still are, I‘m sure, although they migrated to FaceBook where I don’t venture). In fact, one of them dissected my screenname, knew its origins and what it meant -- about 30 seconds after I joined.
But the exchange I had those many years ago with Diamondback, the moderator, was about how low humanity has sunk. We are raping the world, he and I agreed, and there are far too many of us, just for starters. The term "vermin” occurred.
It was at that point Diamondback wrote something like, “What we need is a slate-wiper virus.” I hadn’t heard it described that way before, but it sure struck home.
I was quick to agree – with one caveat: It had to take me among the first.