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Dave O’Neill daveon, in a comment on my blog, asked the not-trivial question “why are aliens invading?” Although an immediate and tempting answer is “because I the author said so!” that’s really not fair. Nor accurate. Because “why” is an important part of “how.”

I remember writing a critique of a fellow writer’s work, and she had a military force assaulting a space station by sending over troops. I told her that why they wanted the station would dictate how the assault would proceed. If, for example, they wanted to gather military intelligence, they would focus on capturing prisoners and data. If they wanted to use the station, they wouldn’t worry about prisoners but would try not to poke too many holes in the station. If they wanted the enemy not to have it, they would just blow the station up. So “why” matters.

In my story, the aliens, christened by the humans as “Ghosts,” are attacking for fundamentally economic reasons. The alien homeworld is overcrowded, and governed by a semi-permanent economic and political elite. To make matters worse, this species does not have a 50/50 mixture of sexes. Males are significantly rarer than females. Although in theory the society is male-dominated (men are in leadership positions, for example) in practice the males are controlled and manipulated by females, and they control access to the males. Basically, if you’re of a lower class, life sucks and it’s hard to get laid.

To avoid or at least limit rebellions, the Ghosts have developed a colonization scheme. Unlike the Jerry Pournelle (and others) “just dump undesirables wherever,” scheme, this scheme is structured so that those of lower class can compete to be colonists. Essentially, the first wave is composed of smart but underprivileged aliens. They get the initial colony going, and become the new elite, with follow-on waves sliding in below them.

Then the Ghosts ran into another colonizing race. Or more accurately, some of the Ghost worlds got conquered by the other race, which we’ll call the Orbiters. The Orbiters basically showed up in orbit, shot up the (then unarmed) Ghost fleet, camped out in orbit (hence the name) and demanded tribute. The Orbiters ended up building large space stations in orbit, from which they ruled the planets below with threats of and the occasional actual bombardment.

The Ghosts found this tiresome, and the Ghost worlds rebelled. Some of these rebellions were even successful. I haven’t decided the exact method of rebellion, but I’m thinking it’s the same general infiltrate / hidden attack / dirty tricks playbook they’re running in this book.

The Ghost / Orbiters war is still ongoing – Ghosts use the same tactics as in the WIP to attempt to take over Orbiter worlds, and Orbiter fleets occasionally show up over Ghost worlds. Whichever race is in charge tends to use the other race as slaves for all the low-end grunt work that a modern economy requires. Since the Orbiters don’t appear to be a serious threat to the Ghost homeworld, this perpetual war is good – the colonies buy high-end military gear (mostly spaceships), recruit mercenaries from the slums and provide an excuse to tamp down dissent.

Then a Ghost scout ship discovered the human settlements, of which 82 Eridani is just one that is under attack. What was good for the Orbiters was good for the Humans, at least if you’re a Ghost.

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This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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