In that initial post, I stated that Nick and I hoped to have the contents of the anthology determined by December -- which is, like, now! And, in fact, we have selected the stories to be included in the book. On December 13, I sent an email to all the authors with a listing of the contents. One of those authors posted the contents list on her LiveJournal, and then two other sites picked it up, and now I see that the information has spread from there -- so an appropriate web search over the past day or two would have yielded the results. But now that you are here, instead of there....
Submissions to this anthology were by invitation only; however, I think you will be surprised (and hopefully impressed in the end) with some of the "new" authors included in the anthology. We had 23 stories submitted, from which we chose 15 -- written by a total of 17 authors (two of the stories are collaborations). We also asked yet another well-known SF author to draft an introduction to round out the book.
But I'm going to keep you in suspense a wee bit longer while I mention a couple other items. Because of my involvement in this project, I occasionally receive links via email and Twitter for articles and such related to the Fermi Paradox. Recently @projectblackcat sent me a link to the January 2010 editorial in Sky & Telescope magazine. The editorial, entitled "Where Have All the Aliens Gone?" was written by Jacob Haqq-Misra (a Ph.D. candidate in meteorology and astrobiology at Penn State University) and Seth Baum (a Ph.D. candidate in geography at Penn State). The authors write: "If growth outstrips resources, human civilization may collapse. This could also explain the absence of extraterrestrials: despite the seeming vastness of the galaxy, perhaps exponential expansion is also unsustainable on a galactic scale." It's an excellent, albeit brief, editorial that tells us, in conclusion, that we had better "become responsible consumers and ensure our own long-term survival." The editorial is available via a PDF, and can be found on the last page of the file.
So this got me hooked on Sky & Telescope. The magazine has a new article online entitled "The Chance of Finding Aliens" by Govert Schilling (an astronomy writer in Utrecht, The Netherlands) and Alan M. MacRobert (senior editor of Sky & Telescope). It's a very lengthy (5 pages), detailed article, broken down into numerous sections. In one of those sections, the authors delve into -- and at great length -- each expression that comprises the Drake equation, which is used to calculate the potential number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy:
The article gets quite technical discussing each of these expressions, with calculations, graphs, and postulations -- and I'll leave this part of the article to those of you who might find this interesting. But it is the last page of the article that really piqued my interest. Schilling and MacRobert write:
And here is perhaps the most important point of all: the Fermi paradox turns the definition of "optimist" versus "pessimist" on its head when it comes to life in the universe.
If star-traveling intelligences are extremely rare or nonexistent, despite the abundance of planets where life can begin, there must be some kind of "Great Filter" that prevents the emergence of interstellar colonists. Is the Great Filter something in our past, or our future? If we've already passed it – that is, if the filter is the origin of life, or the leap from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, or the leap from single-celled organisms to large multicellular animals, or from animal brains to human brains -- then the great test is behind us, and our way is open to spreading to the stars.
But if the Great Filter lies ahead of us -- for instance, if technological civilizations arise often but always destroy themselves -- then we are doomed. We will never get to the stars. Because (by definition) we are extremely unlikely to beat the odds that have already filtered out all who made it as far as we have now.