The Immortality Option
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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 ago."

"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 so on.

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.

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