What do we mean when we talk about “Communication and Information?” That’s quite a broad topic, don’t you think? After all, everything we say and write is information, and every act of sharing constitutes communication. How can we center the theme of Ad Astra around such a nebulous concept?
The idea is to focus on the interchange of ideas. Speculative fiction allows us to imagine scenarios where communication is difficult to comprehend because different individuals may not speak the same language, or one does not speak but instead transfers ideas through sophisticated pheromonal discharges or transmit wirelessly on a frequency we rarely scan and don’t have the protocols to interpret. We can picture information that means something fundamentally different to other entities. To a being that lives in the vacuum of space, sound conveys no information, but light may be a rare gift of knowledge. To a dragon sliding through storm clouds, a word of power could be the most important information in the world.
At some point, every story hinges on a fact that changes the narrative. Sometimes the only way to deal with this new fact in the story is to endure, or survive, or to fight back. But often, the fact requires understanding, the transformation from an observation to understanding a piece of information. Then it becomes important to deal with this information properly. Should it be hidden away, protecting people from the knowledge that the Patient Ones are waiting for us to discover a way into other dimensions so that they can spring into action? Should it be shared as widely as possible, making sure that everyone knows the latest viral video actually infects its watchers with a neural wasting disease? Or should it be treated as a close secret shared among intimates, that the pixies hiding in the gardens and hedges of a small town will evaporate if too many people gaze on them?
Besides the fictional aspects of our theme, scholars have studied how we try to share ideas both in the past and now. We see how a piece of information about the universe — that there are other galaxies in the universe, and that we all seem to be moving away from each other — can fundamentally change our conception of reality and our place in it. Analyzing how an idea flows from a creator to friends to a wider audience on the Internet can show us a lot about how people use this medium. And of course, having a place to combine both fiction and scholarly research allows us to put these kinds of information into dynamic communication, allowing them to spark new ideas and new directions for study.
That is the idea behind our first issue of Ad Astra. We encourage our contributors and readers to further the communication between the various kinds of speculative fiction to help us gain more information about who we are.