One of my favorite novels last year is Sue Burke's debut Semiosis dealing with a fundamental issue when it comes to an alien encounter for the first time: how do you recognize intelligence and how to co-exist with alien life that is very different from us? Later this year, Burke will publish a sequel to Semiosis Interference which is based on these questions.
In Semiosis an expedition of earthly catastrophes in a distant world called Pax. The collision removes survivors from most of the tools that would allow them to easily survive in the world, and they must start from scratch, understand how to deal with local plant life, which seems aggressive and unusually intelligent. Jumping from generation to generation, the novel follows the colonists and their heirs as they build a new civilization on the planet and slowly realize they are not alone ̵
Your debut novel Semiosis presents a colony of human explorers who arrive on the planet Pax, discovering a whole ecosystem of intelligent plants. Given that most first contact novels deal with recognizable intelligent aliens, what did you hope to convey with alien intelligence that we can not easily recognize?
I started with the question "What if": What if the plants were intelligent? My research then told me that the plants here on Earth actually have a certain level of what we can call intelligence. They are aware of their surroundings and react actively, even aggressively, to the challenges of survival. They communicate with each other and even with people.
For example, tomato plants depend on animals to eat their fruit and spread their seeds. When the tomato of the plant turns red, what did the tomato plant tell you? We are trained to recognize this important message and make the request to the plant: We eat tomatoes. I just had to imagine a way to get to human speed. Everything else the plants do in the book are things they can do here and now.
I hope that people who read the book look differently in their gardens: with awe and perhaps with little fear. Read the book differently, look at their gardens: with awe and perhaps with little fear. "
At the end of Semiosis the colonists met with members of another civilization, which they call the Skylights, which seem to break apart as a society. Where is your extension, interference lifting?
Interference began about a hundred years later. In Semiosa, we learn that glass masters, some species of insects, have landed on Pax long before human colonists. They built a beautiful city but appreciated the survival difficult and abandoned him to live as nomads. It was not easier, and after a long absence they returned to the city and discovered people who lived there. The attempt to restore the city led to a bloody battle, but surviving glassmakers, those who did not fight, were met in the Peace Society.
The city is also inhabited by a large, intelligent plant that people call a bamboo arc. She learned to communicate with people, took the name of Stevland and began to work closely with them, which she considered as working animals. Like many terrestrial plants, Stevland is a social being and desperate for the interaction that people and glass masters can provide. At intervention, glass masters have integrated more or less well with people and with Stevland and they all have benefited from their joint work – but there is still tension.
In Pax's interference a new expedition arrives from Earth. What is this dynamic given that they meet established settlers but also come into contact with native life forms on the planet for the first time?
Over the century, since the colonists left for Pax, the situation once again made the Earth worse in autocracy. There was no contact with Pax's colony, but he may have survived and flourish. Risky trip to visit seems like a reasonable escape for those on Earth who have encountered the authorities on Earth. An expedition of anthropologists, scientists and support staff goes to Pax
Expeditionists arrive and quickly realize that colonists and life-forms of the planet can easily kill them because they are great and unprepared. They also see the simplest technology of the colonists, like stone tools, and can not imagine that other types of technologies could work. They also can not imagine that their own technology can be vulnerable.
The colonists, in turn, recognize the modern technology and weapons of the expedition that could easily kill them, but technology is not available for their use. An unrelenting truce develops. Both sides do not trust or even dislike each other.
Dynamics, in short, is mature for error.
Something that struck me with  Semiosa is how vulnerable society is: in this first book there is real tension between generations of colonists. What changes the newcomers have experienced and what the readers hope to take away from reading
The tension between the generations continues between people and glassmakers, men and women, and Stevland and the inhabitants. They have learned some cohabitation lessons just to face new challenges such as the problems of survival change. Pax's problems get worse when the expedition arrives. If there is a constant in the book, it is how wrong our assumptions can be, and how they can lead to devastating mistakes and astounding discoveries.
that was what I was told about the history of the colonization of North and South America. We still live in the wreckage, and I'm not sure how much we have learned from this disaster. Exploitation remains a common way of interacting with each other and our world.
Pax's original colonists had good intentions, and they still barely survived their first contact. The new expedition makes another kind of first contact with the glass makers and the people who have become completely different in cultural terms, as well as with an entirely new ecology that holds secrets. Members of the expedition believe they have good intentions, but the differences in power dynamics between them and the colonists guarantee problems. When the elephants fight, the grass is trampled. But on Pax, grass can have opinion and revenge