After Code of the Lifemaker,
I received a lot of requests for a sequel. One of the most persistent was from
Owen Lock, at the time Editor-in-Chief at Del Rey Books and successor to Judy-Lynn
Del Rey, who had published the first novel. The Prologue of "Code"
contained mention of a race of aliens who long ago built the robot factory ship
that began the mutated process out of which the peculiar biosphere of replicating
machines on Titan had evolved; whose cost accountants ruled their engineers,
just as came to pass with humans a million years later; and who conceived an
alien counterpart of Murphy with his immutable law. "I want," said
Owen, "a sequel story that involves those aliens. They sound interesting."
The only problem was, I didn't really want to write one. There were other
thoughts going around in my head, and the idea of resurrecting the aliens was
besought with major difficulties that I assumed Owen appreciated. But he kept
arguing more persuasively--in other words, raised the offer--until in the end
I agreed, still with no real idea of what form the story would take.
One day, after I had signed the contract, Owen and I had lunch in New
York. "I reread Code of the Lifemaker over the weekend," he
informed me. "I'd forgotten. Those aliens all got wiped out a million years
"Owen," I said, "That's what I've been trying to tell you.
It makes it kind of difficult to tell a story about them today, doesn't it?"
His reply was, "You're a resourceful writer. I'm sure you'll come
up with something." And for the rest of the meal he refused steadfastly
to return to the subject.
Now, to me, a "sequel" implies a story that follows on from
the one before and involves the same characters that the reader has come to
know and wants to see more of. That meant it had to revolve around the central
figures from Code, whom we'd left out at Titan, solidly in the twenty-first
century. On the other hand it had also to feature the aliens, who were extinct
before humans existed. How to reconcile two such irreconcilables? I didn't want
to resort to a cop-out like time travel, which hadn't been anticipated in any
way in the first book; nor was I happy with something weak, along the lines
of, "Well, actually they weren't all wiped out. . . ." and
And lo and behold, a way out suggested itself. As a hint, I'll mention
that a major help on this book was Hans Moravec of the Robotics Institute at
Carnegie Mellon University. Hans has written a lot on uploading consciousness
into computers or other non-organic hardware.