Dear Mr. Bear,
There's something that's been bothering me for a while about the Precursor creation of humanity in your Halo series.
The Precursors were effectively destroyed as a civilisation by the Forerunners about 10 million years ago. Prior to that they had created humanity, denied the Forerunners the Mantle and intended to test humanity. In real life, the most recent common ancestor of chimpanzees and humanity is estimated to have lived about 5-8 million years ago. Now the Halo universe is meant to be an extension version of the real world (I can't really call it the future since it also includes the history of the Forerunners and Precursors), so we should assume that real history applies to the Halo Universe unless stated otherwise.
Here's what's been bothering me: if we assume a vastly different evolutionary (if that's even how the Precursors worked when they created life) history for humanity, exactly how different is the history of the rest of Earth's biology and climate? It'd have to have been significantly different for Ancient Humanity to develop, but I feel like to make that possible the Halo universe would have to become so different to the real world such that the events of the Halo games really take place in another universe as opposed to 500 years in the future. Being fiction, that's not really a problem in itself, but I do feel like there comes a point where a lot of immersion is lost in from changing your thinking of a fictional universe as a variant of the real one to a completely fictional universe - of course this'd only happen if the fictional universe includes a fictional changes the history of the past (ie. anything before 2014 in the Halo universe), which Halo's does. I know I'm probably giving this far more thought than I should, but I want to hear (read?) your thoughts. I also think I may have found a way around that which I want to run by you.
I don't have to tell you that the Precursors were extremely advanced to the point where they could create life. I've been thinking about how the Precursors made the powder that became the Flood (while I'm at it, I may as well ask you how and when the powder was packed into the glassy containers and who sent the ship off). Although the powder became corrupted and it didn't work as they intended, the Precursors did intend to recreate themselves using a simple chemical powder. The Forerunners, who weren't as advanced, could evidently influence a species' evolution much more subtly through the use of geas. I'm thinking that the Precursors created the humans on Earth in a similar manner. In other words, they created humanity somewhere and also influenced life on Earth such that humanity would also evolve here. This would solve a few problems. Ancient humanity could have developed elsewhere, wouldn't have been descended from humans on Earth, and could have had an entirely different evolutionary history (although due to the influence of the Precursors they'd still be genetically the same species, more or less). It'd explain why Earth had no trace of once hosting a space faring race when the Forerunners found it and why it was surprising that Ancient humanity came from Earth. Discounting the very subtle evolutionary influence of the Precursors, the only difference between the history of humanity on Earth in Halo and in real life would have been the influence of the Forerunners between 110 and 100 thousand years ago. The Forerunners would have found primitive humans on Earth, found a diverse evolutionary tree which humanity obviously fitted into on Earth and naturally concluded that Ancient Humanity evolved on Earth, not realising that the Precursors created two separate versions of humanity separately. Modern humanity would have been descended from both types of humanity after the Forerunners relocated the defeated Ancient Humans to Earth.
I can't remember if there was anything in your books that supported or contradicted that. What are your thoughts?
Or maybe we should just accept that the Mantle was always meant to be held collectively by Humans, Chimpanzees and Bonobos.
From: Greg Bear
Excellent thoughts, Josh. There are indeed deep issues remaining to be explored. Thanks for your contributions to the discussion!