“Weakness and ignorance are not barriers to survival, but arrogance is”

Liu Cixin’s final instalment of the Three-Body Trilogy, Death’s End, takes our nice normative homilies and throws them at a dark yet mostly scientifically-correct universe to see what sticks. The end result is surprisingly less pessimistic than one would expect. If one were to novelise Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound, the Three-Body trilogy would be it. I would compare TB to Rick & Morty. Morty is the well-intentioned leftie that spouts the homely normative claims about how civilisation should be, cooperative vs competitive, market competition vs socialism, etc, but his claims are too parochial, too constricted historically. When these claims are examined through the temporal and spatial scales of the actually existing universe, they’re completely ridiculous. They’re not even worthy of contemplation by the Trisolarian aliens, whose fitting response in the first book is simply: “you’re bugs”.

Rick knows all of this already, he’s travelled a fair bit around the multiverse and easily destroys Morty’s moral positions and normative claims for the puerile idiocies that they are. Rick, like Liu Cixin, knows the universe is cold, bleak and indifferent, driven by natural forces of immense power, and, by short SF extrapolation, very possibly inhabited by extremely powerful and advanced alien species, for whom committing mundicide is as routine as scrubbing bugs off a windscreen. Yet, in these depictions of the universe there is still place for hope, cooperation and love. Which is granted a much higher status as these are recognised as being all the more rare and therefore worthy of treasuring and defending.

“Mere existence is already the result of incredible luck. Such was the case on Earth in the past, and such has always been the case in this cruel universe. But at some point, humanity began to develop the illusion that they’re entitled to life, that life can be taken for granted.”