Today we have a guest post and book feature from author V. R. Craft.
What If All the Intelligent People Escaped Earth—and We’re What’s Left?
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without idiots? I have, and it inspired me to write my first science fiction book, Stupid Humans.
I had been writing science fiction short stories for a while, and had attempted to write a couple books, but nothing had clicked novel-wise. Then one day I was at my job in hell, otherwise known as retail. A customer came to the register with a package of cardboard bankers’ boxes, which was shrink-wrapped and didn’t appear to have been opened.
She pointed at the label, which clearly said, “6-pack.” “This says ‘six pack.’ Does that mean there’s more than one in here?”
The question was so stupid, I didn’t know how to answer without getting written up for being rude to an idiot, er, valued guest. I wanted to suggest she count to six on her fingers, but stupid people almost always complain to management when they fail to appreciate sarcasm.
Finally, with as straight a face as I could manage, I said, “Yes, there are six boxes…in the six pack of boxes.”
She wasn’t even the dumbest person I waited on that day.
That night, as I was running on the treadmill and trying to burn off the stress of my annoying day, I thought about how nice it would be if I could round up all the idiots and ship them to another planet somewhere. How much more could the rest of us accomplish if we weren’t answering stupid questions all day? How awesome would our technology be if smart people were never interrupted by idiots. What would a society of only smart people look like? I bet there wouldn’t be any warning labels telling us coffee is hot.
My fantasy had a big problem: Based on my observations of people at work, there are far more idiots in the world than smart people. From a logistical standpoint, it would make more sense to leave the idiots here and move the intelligent humans somewhere else—let the dumb people have Earth.
And that’s when I thought, that would make an interesting setting for a book.
Then I remembered a previous story idea involving a journalist, a space station, and a war between the humans and some aliens. It never went anywhere because I had zero creative ideas for what the aliens looked like, what their society was like, and why they were at war with humans. I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t seem corny, cliched, or like something that had already been done on Star Trek.
That’s when the lightbulb went off. Humans have never needed aliens to start a war. What if all the intelligent humans did leave Earth—and we’re what’s left? (That would explain a lot of people I’ve met.) What if the intelligent humans ditched Earth, moved to another solar system, and were living happily ever after when the rest of us finally tracked them down?
By the time I got off the treadmill, I had the world for Stupid Humans.
What if all the intelligent humans abandoned Earth… and we’re what’s left? Samantha is a journalist who travels through the wormhole to New Atlantis and discovers that embarrassing reality when she meets the People, humanity’s more intelligent—and smugly superior—distant relatives. Unfortunately, thanks to humanity’s penchant for fighting, a Human/People conflict is brewing. She could almost forget she’s not on Earth, except the People have tails and don’t slap idiot warning labels on everything.
Plagued by anti-Human sentiment on New Atlantis and unwilling to return to Earth, Samantha moves to the Five Alpha, the space station closest to the wormhole, where Human—and People—stupidity lurks around every corner. Then the conflict worsens, causing concern for the security of the wormhole—and its closest neighbor. Naturally, politicians from both sides decide they can provide a diplomatic solution by holding peace talks on the station.
When sabotage puts both Five Alpha and her only route back to Earth in jeopardy, everyone blames Samantha—including a manipulative politician with her own agenda—forcing her to fight to uncover who is plotting to destroy the wormhole and cut off Human/People relations for good. Can she find a way to save the wormhole—and her sanity—before it’s too late?
Haylea couldn’t believe how well her latest Copacetic Communications stunt had turned out. To be fair, the Travel to Exotic Lands theme she’d tried last month had been poorly planned—every new Human attack made visiting a station close to the wormhole seem less exotic and more neurotic. Then the luxury angle failed because her funding from corporate—her mother’s travel company—abruptly dried up when the non-war’s effect on the travel industry cost Go Galactic a fortune.
But the “Can’t We All Just Ignore Each Other Peace Rally” on the main concourse was a huge success. She’d put out a hurried press advisory yesterday, and this morning people showed up toting signs, wearing t-shirts with peace-mongering messages—“Togetherness is overrated” was her favorite—singing songs, and reciting poetry. Some of it was borrowed from ancient Human culture, as one of the head chanters explained to her.
She’d made a deal with some of the station’s artists and clothing designers to carry their crap—er, memorabilia—in the concourse gift shop. One of them had hastily produced dozens of plastic “peace symbols” from Earth, strange circle-triangle symbols that she saw as an ironic reminder of how badly the humans had failed to establish peace on their own planet. Unfortunately, the damn things were selling like Carvalian beer, so she pretended to love them.
Naturally, she was thrilled when Farley, the head chanter, invited her to host a Prayer for Peace on the concourse. Public praying was more of a Human thing, but that was okay—showing support for the Humans was acceptable as long as it was part of the “Let’s All Just Ignore Each Other” campaign. She was helping both sides focus on the bigger goal.
So she found herself on a stage constructed from cafeteria tables, holding hands with Farley and mumbling to “any and all greater powers who might or might not be”—no one wanted to offend anyone—for a peaceful end to the conflict. She wasn’t really religious, but she was genuinely interested in ending this stupid war.
I’m a force for peace, she mused as she watched the other chanters. About ten percent were Human, and hopefully they’d remember her station as the place where peace between their peoples started. Wouldn’t helping bring peace to a warring sector of the galaxy look great on her résumé in case Go Galactic had to close Five Alpha?
As she considered how best to articulate that achievement in a job interview without sounding conceited, she saw a small blonde Human stride purposefully from the elevator, start toward the cafeteria, then pause, as if she wasn’t sure where to go. Something tickled the back of Haylea’s brain. Where did she know that woman from?
“Great crowd, isn’t it?” her assistant, Clark, whispered in her ear. “Hey, is that another Human showing up to make peace with us?” He thrust his chin in the direction of the blonde.
“I guess so. She looks familiar,” Haylea whispered back, hoping no one in the prayer circle would notice. Fortunately, they were all chanting pretty loudly.
The blonde turned around a few times, surveying the area, then shifted her overstuffed bag to the other shoulder and headed back toward the elevator. Of course! That was the woman the guards had hauled off to some ship the other afternoon. What happened to her politician boyfriend? Had she finally dumped him?
Was a young, attractive, and influential politician now recently unattached?
What a great power couple Haylea and that attractive guy from the other night would be. Maybe he could feature her on his show—
“Isn’t that Samantha, the reporter from Glass?” Clark nudged Haylea and pointed at the blonde.
“That’s right!” Haylea’s train of thought veered away from the talk show host. That must be why the Human journalist was here at the peace rally. Finally, one of the news nets was sending a real reporter—not just a news-collecting drone, but a real person. Well, Human, but that was okay.
“I’m sure she’ll want to interview the main organizer of this event.” Haylea smoothed her hair and started toward the reporter. The other peacemakers were too busy chanting to notice.
Samantha was interviewing a shop owner, probably about the positive economic effect the “Can’t We All Just Ignore Each Other Peace Rally” was having on her business.
“We’ve got five-cred pitchers of beer all day long, to help keep everyone in a peaceful mood,” the woman practically screamed the word peaceful.
Haylea walked casually toward the two, not sure when she would enter the shot. Reporters usually had micro-cameras embedded in their clothing, and often roving, insect-sized camera drones flying around, too. Those were conspicuous, so most of the reporters Haylea was in the habit of plying with beer said they used them only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, it was impossible to know just how wide a shot the cameras were taking, so Haylea kept a perfect smile plastered on her face and tried to look like she had no idea she was on camera.
“Here’s the person who made this all possible.” The restaurant owner grabbed Haylea by the arm and shoved her toward Samantha. “Haylea here is the reason I’m able to offer five-credit pitchers of beer all night!”
“Thank you for talking to me, Sheila.” Samantha’s face was slack with boredom. “I’m sure you have to get back into your restaurant and keep the beer flowing, so I won’t keep you.”
The restaurant owner bustled off, screaming over her shoulder about five-cred pitchers.
“I’m working on an independent piece for Glass.” Samantha’s dark eyes looked Haylea up and down in one swift glance. “You organized this event?”
“Absolutely! As the manager of this station, I felt strongly—”
For half a second, Haylea thought she heard a very loud thunderclap, because that was what it sounded like. Then she remembered there were no thunderclaps on a space station, because there was no thunder on a space station. There were only very loud explosions. The noise went on, deafening, with no sign of stopping.
The praying, on the other hand, ground to a complete halt. Everyone looked around at the ceiling, the walls, the floor for the source of the noise. Samantha gripped the nearest table with one hand, her eyes sweeping the crowd of people.
Haylea looked around, frantic, trying to recall if they’d skimped on any safety measures lately due to cost. She sure hoped not. But then she realized the station was holding together, and the rumbling sounded like it was coming from outside—but how could that be? Sound didn’t carry in space.
Well, it did if something crashed into the station’s hull and the vibration of the impact carried through the walls.
“Oh, no!” Clark stumbled over to her, waving his data pad. Why hadn’t she been looking at hers? What was she doing?
He shoved it in her face. “Look at the news!”
Haylea stared at the up-to-the-minute newsbrief, reported by roaming news automatons faster than any living, breathing reporter could even ask what was happening.
Ship explodes departing Space Station Five Alpha. Due to the nature of the explosion, natural causes are deemed unlikely (12% probability based on all available information). The most likely explanation for an intentional explosion is another act of aggression (probability of Human origin, 55%; probability of People origin, 45%).
For reasons Haylea didn’t quite understand, the second the shaking stopped, everyone ran for the exits. Hands pulled apart, feet pounded the floor in heels and soft soles, and signs fluttered to the ground as their holders fled.
“This door is locked!” someone screamed from the end of the concourse.
“So is this one!” Clark had joined the fleeing crowd. She’d thought better of him than that, but he’d been dating a Human, and while stupidity wasn’t contagious, people sometimes picked up each other’s habits.
Farley, running through the crowd in his “Peace for peace’s sake” t-shirt, threw the first peace symbol. Samantha said something Haylea couldn’t hear to Sheila, as she flounced out the door of her restaurant and surveyed the scene. Sheila grabbed for the nearest emergency exit door, jostling Samantha, who stumbled into Farley.
“This one’s locked too!” Sheila bellowed.
“It locks automatically after an impact to protect the inner part of the station in case of….” No one could hear her over the noisy crowd, and finishing the sentence with “a hull breach” would only worsen the panic, anyway.
“This is your fault, Human!” Farley yelled at Samantha. “I bet you caused whatever just happened, didn’t you? Your people can’t stand peace.”
Two minutes earlier he’d been holding hands with two Earthers and singing some old Human song, the lyrics of which sounded a lot like, “Come buy bombs.”
“Oh, that’s great!” yelled a Human at the back of the crowd. “Some peace organizer you are.”
“Seriously? You helped organize this display?” Samantha sneered at Farley.
“Not anymore!” He slammed his peace symbol onto the ground. Due to the lightweight plastic and the lightweight gravity, it bounced off the floor and flew up into the crowd, smacking Clark in the face.
Sheila shoved Samantha up against the wall, grabbing the collar of her black jacket. Was that messing up one of the camera shots? “Time for you to stop asking questions and start answering them. What do you know about this Human attack? Which of your people blew up that ship, and how stupid was their reasoning? Or were you in on it, Human?”
“Leave her alone, or I’ll make sure you stop getting an Economic Crisis discount on your rent.” Haylea hoped to come off as a beacon of peace instead of a miserly manager. It was so hard to gauge these things before they hit the news nets.
Sheila let go of Samantha and stomped back into her restaurant, slamming the door on other frantic fleers, but the Human/People clash was far from over.
While Haylea yelled at the crowd to calm down, every peace symbol in the room was lobbed at someone. Fortunately, the cheap plastic limited the damage, but a few pieces managed to leave red marks. One found its way to the mouth of a shop owner just as he yelled, “You people are sub-Human!” The peace sign drove his lip into a nearby tooth, and blood trickled down onto his “Give peace a fighting chance” t-shirt.
What was she doing? She was supposed to be in charge here, and she was gaping at this idiocy like, well, an idiot. Remembering her data pad, she called up the emergency preparedness plan she’d signed off on after Clark wrote it last month. She hadn’t actually read the plan, so hopefully Clark knew what he was doing.
Going through the emergency procedures—screaming at engineering to seal off the departure dock, ensuring the station’s AI had sent a distress signal to nearby ships, checking reports for life support systems in the danger zone, sighing with relief when none of them were—Haylea realized she was a lousy person. While she was genuinely concerned about the safety of everyone on Five Alpha, another part of her brain pictured the whole place going bankrupt. As the Humans and non-Humans ran around, screaming, crying, and generally melting into masses of useless hysteria, it was clear that no Copacetic Communications campaign could repair the damage the explosion had just done to her station.
Who is V. R. Craft?
V.R. Craft always heard you should write about what you know, so she decided to write a book called Stupid Humans, drawing on her previous experience working in retail and her subsequent desire to get away from planet Earth. She has also worked in marketing, advertising, and public relations, where she found even more material for Stupid Humans. Now self-employed, she enjoys the contact sport of shopping at clearance sales, slamming on the brakes for yard sale signs, and wasting time on social media, where she finds inspiration for a sequel to Stupid Humans every day. She plans to write more science fiction books and short stories.