frequently asked questions

Answers to questions Melanie has been asked.

Do you believe in ET's?
Is this story autobiographical?
Why start the book (How to be Happy) with a tragedy?
What do you think about the various doomsday/end-times theories?

do you believe in et's?

Do you believe in ET’s?

Yes, I believe that life exists on other planets—life forms ranging from simple to complex, some as complex as human beings, capable of invention and art and culture and love.

I live in the dry desert, and I watch life grow here. I see delicate leaves of green push up through concrete-solid earth. They're weeds, so we pull them, roots and all. Always, they grow back. Life, I’ve concluded, is powered by an intense drive to live and grow and propagate, anywhere and everywhere. Life grows in the dry desert and in the frozen Antarctic and many other places we could call inhospitable.

That’s one reason I find it impossible not to believe in ET’s—the growthful and ubiquitous nature of life. Another reason is the vastness of the universe combined with the smallness of Earth and the subsequent statistical odds against the notion that we are the only sentient creatures and the only civilizing planet in all reality.

Planetary astronomers are finding thousands of planets orbiting other stars, and they’ve just begun the search. Some of these planets lie in what they call the “habitable zone”, which is a range of distance from a host star to a planet whereon life could be supported. Too close, a planet’s too hot; too far, a planet’s too cold. From their Kepler Telescope observations, NASA scientists extrapolate that the Milky Way galaxy may contain as many as 50 billion planets, half a billion of them within the habitable zone. If you consider that there are at least 175 billion galaxies in the visible universe (some astronomers think there are as many as a trillion), and you do the math, that’s a lot of habitable planets strewn about in the great vastness of space, the part we can see from here.

As for ET’s that visit us with maligned purposes, I feel no sense of the truth of that. I’ve seen no impressive evidence. Wouldn’t we have been destroyed or conquered or whatever by now? Would our destructors really be so subtle in their actions after all the trouble and expense of getting here?

I personally believe that we live in a friendly universe, upheld by love and sustained by an intelligence our finite minds will never comprehend. The more romantic of scientists (I know a few) have daringly said that love is the underlying force that holds everything in the cosmos together.

I believe we live in a friendly universe despite the fact that Earth is a quite unfriendly place. I have a personal belief about that too: that Earth is a young and troubled planet, a black sheep in an enormous family of worlds who are each evolving in their own way—some with more ease and happiness than the rest, some with tragic amounts of trouble—just as is true in any family of children.

Luratia is a planetary sibling that’s having an easier childhood than Earth. But it still has its growing pains.

If you're curious where all these ETs are—in other words, why we haven't we seen any solid, empirical evidence that they exist—see The Fermi Paradox on my blog Beautiful Universe.

Is this story autobiographical?

No, I share only a few traits with Lin, not all of them her better ones (ie, impatience). Lin's obstinant and bellicose father is nothing at all like mine, although there’s a bit of my maternal grandfather in him. As far as life in a seaside fishing village goes, I grew up in Kansas City, as far from the sea as a city can be.

Why start the book (How to be Happy) with a tragedy?

The tragic event in the first chapter of Book 1 is a significant defining experience of Lin's young life. There are few among us who’ve escaped childhood without suffering some terrible, life-changing tragedy whether imagined, exaggerated, or real. Often these tragedies are a senseless or inexplicable accident of nature. Every little senseless tragedy left me wondering as a child why life is so cruel. Lin wonders this. I think many kids do. How to be Happy is, in part, an exploration of that.

I don’t try to understand any longer why life is so filled with tragedy. I’m more interested in how it can be a catalyst for personal growth and social progress, how it can make us better people.

Adversity has a way of chiseling in us a depth of character and personhood that no joy or contentment can. Joy opens heights, but pain carves depth. I want to suggest to young people (and adults) that we can approach the difficulties of life with acceptance and positivity and leverage them intelligently in the spirit of self-improvement.

Lin is destined to become a great person in the annals of her planet's history. Like many great people, she will know her share of suffering. I believe that, aside from accidental greatness, it is love and longing that make a great person great and keep them steady on their gnarly road of destiny.


do you believe in et's?

What do you think about the various doomsday/end-times theories?

I don't adhere to any of the apocalyptic doomsday scenarios that I hear about. I don't believe in an end-times where either we destroy the planet or are saved by some super-phenomenal event or divine intervention. I don't believe in any of that. I believe in love. Love is what will save us. Love, respect, decency. That's what will save our world from the destruction we fear.

I have an unshakable faith that goodness is prevailing, no matter how dire our circumstances may seem. How we get there from here, I don't know, but every part of me believes that the human race is going to make it and we’re going to thrive. I believe that we're going to grow up, mature, and become a peaceful, loving, and functional family of human beings. Some will call this idea utopian, but I disagree. Decency, respect, and basic goodness is what it takes and these are not impossible achievements, not for a person and not for a world.




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melanie at luratia dot com