The year is 2020. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, Reid Malenfant ventures to the far edge of the solar system, where he discovers a strange artifact left behind by an alien civilization: A gateway that functions as a kind of quantum transporter, allowing virtually instantaneous travel over the vast distances of interstellar space.
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January 02, 2002
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Excerpt from Manifold: Space by Stephen Baxter
My name is Reid Malenfant.
You know me. And you know I'm an incorrigible space cadet.
You know I've campaigned for, among other things, private mining
expeditions to the asteroids. In fact, in the past I've tried to get you
to pay for such things. I've bored you with that often enough already,
So tonight I want to be a little more personal. Tonight I want to talk
about why I gave over my life to a single, consuming project.
It started with a simple question:
Where is everybody?
As a kid I used to lie at night out on the lawn, soaking up dew and
looking at the stars, trying to feel the Earth turning under me. It felt
wonderful to be alive--hell, to be ten years old, anyhow.
But I knew that the Earth was just a ball of rock, on the fringe of a
As I lay there staring at the stars--the thousands I could pick out with my
naked eyes, the billions that make up the great wash of our Galaxy, the
uncounted trillions in the galaxies beyond--I just couldn't believe, even
then, that there was nobody out there looking back at me down here. Was it
really possible that this was the only place where life had taken
hold--that only here were there minds and eyes capable of looking out and
But if not, where are they? Why isn't there evidence of extraterrestrial
civilization all around us?
Consider this. Life on Earth got started just about as soon as it could--as
soon as the rocks cooled and the oceans gathered. Of course it took a good
long time to evolve us. Nevertheless we have to believe that what applies
on Earth ought to apply on all the other worlds out there, like or unlike
Earth; life ought to be popping up everywhere. And, as there are hundreds
of billions of stars out there in the Galaxy, there are presumably
hundreds of billions of opportunities for life to come swarming up out of
the ponds--and even more opportunities in the other galaxies that crowd our