Saturday, May 20, 2023

Another one-page screenplay! "DIASPORA"

Okay, another 'shut up and play your guitar" posting. 

I originally submitted two scripts to the 2016 One Page Screenplay competition in LA.  The first one -- "Bargain" won the contest! This other one "Diaspora" placed.

The short script for "Diaspora" is copied below. But you can also read-along while it is performed (a clickable video reading).  Poor sound quality, but nicely done.

 Definitely sci fi... and it suggests an unusual aspect of future First Contact... that might resonate uncomfortably with our past... And it'd make a great short-flick!

And yeah, blogger won't take Final Cut script formatting. So sue me. Or else... enjoy!

(Oh and I'll get back to posting serious stuff... like the ongoing insipid 'discussions' of AI... soon enough.)




David Brin



The Waldorf, please.

The African DRIVER speaks with an accent as he pulls away from the curb and into traffic.

Okay then! Be you one of the Radio Astronomers at the big meeting?


Yeah, well, it’s been hectic. Dodging the press and all.

Yes. I have been waiting at the Convention Center, 

hoping to give one of you a ride! 

You have been discussing the Out There Message?


What else? Finally, contact with—

Look, if you’re a sci-fi fan--

You are among those writing a reply 

to the Out There People’s message?


Yes. Though it’s a worldwide discussion. 

How to represent all cultures, peoples and values. . . 

According to the SETI Protocol, 

we’ll delay answering till--

What is to stop someone--not an astronomer--

from beaming to them?

It will take equipment of some power. Also, the exact coordinates--

So you are keeping them secret? Just for yourselves?

Only till our first, joint greeting can be. . . 

Look, if you don’t mind, I’d rather-–

My people--the Mobinko Tribe--want you to 

include something in the message. 

We are an ancient nation, distinct from all others.

Great! We aim to represent the full range of humanity. 

Just go to the World Message website. Fill out the form. 

We hope to blend millions of suggested--

Driver pulls taxi to the curb.


No blending.

Hey! This is still two blocks from
 my hotel-–

The Driver lowers the barrier and pushes a piece of paper at her.

Our message must be exactly as written here.

Scientist reads the note aloud.

Come rescue the Mobinko Klaka Tuva lost colony, 

stranded on primitive planet for 3,321 years.

(a beat)
Oh come on. You can’t seriously expect me to--

Driver blows sparkling dust at her and she blinks rapidly as his eyes gleam unnaturally.

Then she nods in silent acceptance, handing the Driver a twenty. 

As she leaves the cab, he adds:

We are not “humanity.” 

And we are going home.



Scroll down this page to see verification this was a finalist!

Anyone care to film it? 

©2016 David Brin


Alfred Differ said...

The best reference for the Y-chromosome bottleneck I've found that avoids drawing unnecessary conclusions is here.

It's from about 2015, so there has been time since then for other papers to poke at the data and build competing narratives.

This one starts with the simplest conclusion. Something happened about the time Neolithic cultures emerged. Something reduced the 'effective' male population which means 'reproducing' males no matter how much science communicators mangled the translation. What that 'thing' was could have reduced the number of men, but more likely increased the variance in the number of offspring they had. A large number had none while some were prolific.

This paper has tons of references and describes simulation and calibration techniques, so I think it is a fair start. In fact... it is good enough that I'm now thinking the data is too sparse to support a conclusion that the same thing happened in the New World. It's also good enough to see that this event did NOT happen at the same time around the world... which is consistent with cultural driving factors of which there could have been many.

Alan Brooks said...

Morgan Freeman could portray Driver.

Tony Fisk said...

Do the Wakandans know about the Mobinka?
(They seemed pretty opaque to those other dudes.)

Tony Fisk said...

Lenny Henry would do a good job too.

My query about the extent of the relatively recent Y chromosome bottleneck comes from the evidence of Australian habitation Going back 60,000 years, at least. I suppose it's possible a later wave of immigrants displaced the earlier, although the songline narratives don't indicate that.

Will have a further look when I have time.

David Brin said...

Unable to comment directly, Robert P offered some decent references:

Looks like the timing of the bottleneck correlates with the spread of
farming in a region:

Looks like the whole North American population passed through a pretty
small bottleneck…

David Brin said...

"Once they emerge, complex societies, such as chiefdoms and states, tend to supervene the patrilineal kin group as the unit of intergroup competition, and while they may not eradicate them altogether as sub-polity-level social identities, warfare between such kin groups is suppressed very effectively51,52. These factors restrict the social phenomena responsible for the bottleneck to the period after the initial Neolithic but before the emergence of complex societies, which would place the bottleneck-generating mechanisms in the right period of time for each region of the Old World."

The thing I got from these that astonished me is that the Y bottleneck appears to have happened in Africa and the Andes at the same time as the Eurasian one, even though the arrival of agriculture and then kingdoms rather differed.

duncan cairncross said...

Farming increases and centralizes the food supply

Before farming a "Big Man" who got too big for his boots had to sleep sometimes

After Farming the "Big Man" could feed his goon squad who could protect him from the rest

Unknown said...

Yes. There's also this - farmers are invested in a patch of land. They can't vote with their feet. A big man in an HG society who gets too "big" can wake up one morning with half his band gone.


Tim H. said...

Like the script, now I'm thinking of Zenna Henderson. In a good way.

David Brin said...

Duncan, it's actually three phases:

-1 Before farming a "Big Man" who got too big for his boots had to sleep sometimes

- 2 After Farming the "Big Man" could feed his goon squad who could protect him from the rest

- 3 After cities, the Big Man had his harem and cared more about keeping it, by making his city strong enough to fight other cities. Hence he repressed lesser Big Men in his domain from killing their neighbors for their women.

I believe it's no accident that phase2 coicided with lots of beer available. Which added to the death rate. Which is consistent with the fact that over 50% of humans can say 'no more, thanks' to more than social imbibing of alcohol and keep a level head. Most animals can't. So there must have been a lot of culling. Less easy to trace than the Y Chromosome.

Alfred Differ said...

I would think that culling associated with alcohol should have been fairly even between the sexes and indifferent to birth order. However, it likely did contribute to shorter lifespans which would be enough to impact reproductive success rates for second and third born sons.


What I've read suggests that fermentation was done by some before the arrival of Neolithic cultures, but the larger supply of grains didn't arrive until later and that's when culling would have become significant.

It would also appear that fermentation is pretty much a given to all human cultures who ate a fair amount of grains. Cook the stuff and let it sit as a gruel and it is going to ferment eventually. Same goes for other base foods like milk and fruits. Can't stop the yeasts and other microbes from landing in the pot. That suggests that fermentation was a known thing long, long ago and would be rediscovered if knowledge of it were ever lost for a time as long as we cooked things and then let them sit.


Neolithic populations boomed with the food supply, but residents were faced with a hell of a choice. Drink the beer (fermented gruel) or starve.

So Yes. Culling related to alcohol poison tolerance... and it's still underway. I've seen actual alcohol poisoning once at my 21'st birthday party. A friend of mine had WAY too much and couldn't function for a few DAYS. We were both from resistant stock (genome tracking would have placed both of us among ancestors in Ireland) so it took quite a bit to put him down. He managed, though, and that lesson stuck with me all my life. A bit more would have killed him.

David Brin said...

"I would think that culling associated with alcohol should have been fairly even between the sexes and indifferent to birth order."

It's not direct alcohol poisoning but the resulting BEHAVIOR that would have led to sex-different culling.

Women who abuse alcohol generally are less noisy, aggressive and irritating and their supplies are easier to cut off. Alfred envision the drunks you've known. Which kind would a king with capricious power order killed? I'd have to guess that females of child-bearing age would spur different means of control short of death.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

It's not direct alcohol poisoning but the resulting BEHAVIOR that would have led to sex-different culling.

Dave Sim's Cerebus comic actually had a nod to that. In the second half of the series, when the matriarchal Cirinists (One live birth--one vote) have conquered all of known civilization, unmarried men were confined to living in taverns where all the alcoholic drinks they wanted were available free of charge. They were left to cull themselves by the very means you suggest.

scidata said...

Everybody has a favourite version of the lion song. It has always sounded 'other worldly' to me.

Solomon Linda (1939)

David Brin said...

Lh a feminist future that's GENERALLY like that is one I worked out and never wrote. Vastly more subtle. Women generally breed with men who qualify as 'chiefs' by winning headfeathers (get it?) through a very wide range of competitive fields that either create good things or advancements or - more often - involve skil at dangerous things like rollerball or asteroid mining. A guy comes back with a platinum asteroid... headfeather! The shows designs he came up with to improve the mining craft and make them safer... headfeather! He later realizes his ship improvements were flushed because danger is part of the whole point, culling the careless.

A far less oppressive society that Sims's. Though still creepy. And cleverly figuring it all out does not win you a headfeather.

scidata I've heard that one before. So totally cool.

scidata said...

DIASPORA certainly does make one think. For instance, the Silurian Hypothesis is just a thought experiment, but more recent tribes could be worth looking closer at. Even stuff like Carthaginian bits & pieces in Peru. They had ships close to Nina and Pinta (Caravels), though not quite Santa Maria (Carrack) and a very strong impetus to 'get out of Dodge' (even more urgent than home sickness like the taxi driver).

BTW that was my reason for the lion song post - I'm not totally bereft of logic (yet).

Unknown said...

"Women generally breed with men who qualify as 'chiefs' by winning headfeathers"

With genetic self-tinkering in our probable future, actually feather crests for guys may one day be a thing.

Have read about an account of a Phoenician ship circumnavigating Africa. It included details of reversed seasons suggesting someone was messing around in a different hemisphere, just as an ancient Greek merchant venturing into northern European waters after tin (mostly) reported seas turning to slush and immensely long nights.

Be easier to suspend disbelief about a tribe of aliens if they turned out not to be interfertile with us locals, but it's a fun concept nonetheless - like the long-lived aliens in other stories who are attempting to guide human development to the point where we can manufacture the spare part their ship needs to get home, or (in Mickey Finn's case) perform maintenance on their internal gadgetry.


matthew said...

I could see Diaspora being set in the same world as "Senses Three and Six," just with different factions of aliens.

David Brin said...

A comment on Ars Technica []:

> I think Peggy Whitson should be getting more attention here. She now has 665 days and counting in space, and at 63 years old is making her fourth trip to the ISS. She has a cumulative 60 hours EVA time. She's commanded the ISS twice, been NASA's Chief Astronaut, and now is commanding a private spacecraft. Oh, and she has a doctorate in biochemistry.


Alfred Differ said...

In the spaceship
the silver spaceship
the lion's going home...

They Might Be Giants did their version of the Lion Song and it stuck in my head as much as the others do. They are performing down the road from me this summer, my wife got tickets for a bunch of us, and it took her two days to calm down. 8)


... and yes. Peggy Whitson is impressive.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: the Lion Song

I swear on a stack of bibles, I've never heard of that song*. I have tangentially heard of They Might Be Giants (TMBG), but more because of the Don Quixote reference to windmills.

I recently referred to Alfred Differ as a natural psychohistorian, that's because Psychohistorian = having a knack for sniffing out inflection points, causation vs correlation, and even just noticing that some major event immediately preceded another.

I'm a bit envious because that's definitely not my forte. Fortunately, computational thinking is; otherwise I'd have to find another occupation. DIASPORA making me think of the lion song is one of those fleeting, precious moments when I see things in more than just transistor terms. Thank you, Alfred (and David).

* TMBG - "The Guitar"

Alan Brooks said...

Whitson can have the role of Scientist. Freeman or Henry as Driver.
CB bloggers as extras.

Alfred Differ said...


TMBG is an acquired taste, but I appreciate how they expressed themselves over a wider range of topics than the stuff that usually makes it in popular music.

I can still hear the whip crack in "Minimum Wage" and love how three words and a bit of music put across their message in a very powerful way.

The sun is a mass
of incandescent gas
a gigantic nuclear fur-nace...

where hydrogen is built
into hel-i-um
at temperatures of millions of degrees.


As for the rest, I learned to squint at things as a kid. I wear coke bottle lenses and have since I was 4 yo. Fortunately my poor eyesight is correctable as long as I give up peripheral vision.

Squint enough and all that's left are the events and correlations. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I can still hear the whip crack in "Minimum Wage"

That album ("Flood") was the one I learned to love when a co-worker played it at the office in 1990.

* * *

Dr Brin:

a feminist future that's GENERALLY like that is one I worked out and never wrote. Vastly more subtle.
A far less oppressive society that Sims's. Though still creepy.

Sounds like your version was more Brave New World than 1984.

Dave Sim's Cirinists weren't what we now think of as "feminist" though. He posited two distinct structures of female-supremacist social organization, Kevilists and Cirinists. Kevilists were what we'd think of as modern feminists--women free to make whatever choices they want, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," type stuff. Cirinists though, the ones who took over civilization at the series' half-way point--were matriarchal and mother-centered. Though men were little more than drones, all of the prominent Cirinists were "Mrs. So-and-so". And their overriding philosophy was that motherhood is the only means by which someone understands how to deal with reality. Only mothers who had produced a live birth were full citizens, and they did have a "One live birth; one vote" rule.

I wish Dave had developed the concept in more depth before he became religious and began conflating feminism with liberalism, Marxism, and atheism, as if all of those are part of the same movement of rebellion against God.

Alan Brooks said...

He might even start a college:
Trafficante U:

Unknown said...

Totally off topic, but was viewing a breakdown of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (where 2/3 of the US carrier force then in the Pacific escaped total destruction by about one centihair) and was struck by how the close captioning turned a Japanese airstrike into an alphanumeric string:

"...the strike force consisted of 23 vowels and 15 zeros."

There is also reference to ships refueling at Truck.

Is this stuff done by AI?


Unknown said...

Regarding science filksongs, "we don't talk about Pluto" is pretty cool


David Brin said...

Huh. Kewl stuff and Alfred was positively poetic.

Alan Brooks said...

What could DeSantis say to Musk that’d be of any interest?
Aside from aerospace in FL.

Alfred Differ said...

Straight out of one of TMBG's songs.
Aimed at children from what I've heard.

I can't quote many songs in detail, but TMBG is an exception. 8)

duncan cairncross said...

Alan Brooks

DeSantis was probably PLEASANT to Elon Musk - he is a well known "Suck Up"

Unfortunately the otherwise sensible politicians from the sensible (Democratic) party have a bad history of being just plain NASTY to Elon Musk

And Musk is NOT NOT NOT a very good "People Person"

Alfred Differ said...


Whatever he has to say to Musk for attention.
Musk is already on record as preferring him to Trump.

scidata said...


Saw a John Flansburgh and John Linnell interview where they began an analysis of "Bird Cage in Your Soul" (TMBG's breakthrough hit) by paying homage to Elvis Costello (the greatest computer programmer turned musician ever). One of the probable reasons why I never explored TMBG was that I listened to Costello pretty much exclusively from 1977 to the early 2000's, when he married Diana Krall and became too happy, content, and Canadian for my taste.

scidata said...

Correction: Birdhouse not birdcage (happy not dark).

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I can't quote many songs in detail, but TMBG is an exception. 8)

I like the one where they examine the sentence, "I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before the expiration date."

I really love at least half the songs on that album. The office gang in 1990 favored "Particle Man". But my current favorite has become the one about:

When the ship runs out of ocean
And the vessel runs aground
Land's where we know the boat is found.

Alfred Differ said...

This is much more fun to talk about than politics, taxes, and all that other stuff. 8)

My wife reports that Costello saved her life. His music anyway. Kept her awake on a drive or something like that. I was going to ask her what she thought of his music after the most popular stuff was released... and that was the first thing out of her mouth. Kept her alive.

Alfred Differ said...

On a research note... I did a little reading on the sex ratio of infants born. The data is kinda muddy because some cultures are inclined to kill infant girls, but if that is at least partially accounted for there doesn't appear to be any difference in the ratio for the age of the mother.

There IS for the age of the father. Start young and you are more likely to have a son on the first try. The shift in odds is pretty small, but large enough to be statistically significant.

The ratio is a little higher for boys in multiple births too.

Alan Brooks said...

Glad y’all like EC; this is my favorite of his’:

Darrell E said...

I've tried EC many times because of his reputation, but I've never come across anything by him that speaks to me. What I mean is, his music fails the Clement Greenberg test for me.

"ESTHETIC JUDGMENTS ARE GIVEN and contained in the immediate experience of art. They coincide with it; they are not arrived at afterwards through reflection or thought. Esthetic judgments are also involuntary: you can no more choose whether or not to like a work of art than you can choose to have sugar taste sweet or lemons sour. (Whether or not esthetic judgments are honestly reported is another matter.)"
[Clement Greenberg]

DP said...

Not to take anything from your short story Dr. Brin, but the best "lost alien colony on earth" story can be found here:

"Well they finally came... But before I go, let's see you roll over a couple times."

scidata said...

Re: EC and esthetics

At 20, having rejected fundamentalist delusion and witnessing the rise of idiocy and fascism, Costello (and Nick Lowe, hard to separate the two) gave me hope, just as Asimov's humanism, skeptical optimism, and hard SF had done some years before. Songs like "Rose of England", "What's So Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding", "Oliver's Army", "Goon Squad", etc, etc, were exactly what I needed to hear.

I didn't have spikey purple hair or pierced ear and nose rings, but I was definitely a New Waver. I've never trusted anyone who wasn't a contrarian.

Larry Hart said...


having rejected fundamentalist delusion and witnessing the rise of idiocy and fascism, Costello (and Nick Lowe, hard to separate the two) gave me hope

For me, it was Kurt Vonnegut when I was 16. Oh, and Star Wars. Not "the Star Wars saga", but the first movie.

scidata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scidata said...

Larry Hart: Kurt Vonnegut

I think it takes a wee bit of sarcasm to successfully punch through any shiny fascist facade. He was Mark Twain reincarnated.

A late response to the request for academic research on psychohistory (or maybe economics & sociology). I'm definitely not an academician, but I do get some formal learnin' from:

Digital Humanism (TU Wien with a lot of help from Stanford)(also Moshe Vardi types hang out there)
The Strange Loop Conference (space, AI, & computation types, including a few who know more about FORTH than I do)

- both on YouTube of course

A.F. Rey said...

Just stumbled across this article on why vertical farms are failing.

Executive summary: price of electricity for lighting is too expensive (doesn't explain why they don't use natural sunlight); start-up costs are too high (around $1000/sq.m.); and price for leafy greens they produce are still too high.

Alan Brooks said...

‘Accidents Will Happen’.

Pop music ain’t intellekshuel;
it’s for lowbrows and middlebrows who appreciate the bass and percussion, lyrics are frequently filler to scan the simple melodies—the words are not usually profound statement.

It’s only Rock ‘n Roll.

Darrell E said...

. . . but I like it

Alan Brooks said...

One album wherein the music matches the lyrics is:
‘We’re Only In It For The Money’.
More recent? Too many albums to listen to; it’s as if you ask for a drink in a bar, and a hundred bartenders come to you with drinks in their hands.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

it’s as if you ask for a drink in a bar, and a hundred bartenders come to you with drinks in their hands.

"Too much jam."

I saw an article recently that argued that when there are two or three varieties of jam to choose from at the store, you are likely to buy one of them, but when there are dozens of options, you are less likely to settle on any particular one of them. The point of the article wasn't literally about jam, but used that as a metaphor to describe why men and women don't tend to settle down when there are too many possible partners available.

Alan Brooks said...

One could listen to music or watch films consistently, but only barely scratch the surface of what is available.
Nice thing about paintings is that when one is in a gallery, the paintings can be observed fairly quickly, whereas films & music unfold over time.
Something to be said for ‘low tech’ art.

scidata said...

There are only about three dozen known Vermeer oil paintings.

Alfred Differ said...

Paintings decorate space.
Music decorates time.

--a PSA from the "Water is Wet" department.

Alan Brooks said...

You can listen to two one-and-a-half hour symphonies in three hours. But in three hours, you can get a good look at more paintings than two.

—an inconsequential PSA from the
Laymen Observation League

Darrell E said...

Seems to me that both paintings and music decorate both space and time.

DP said...

Alfred "Paintings decorate space. Music decorates time."

Sometimes they do both.

Alan Brooks said...

At any rate, I don’t listen to symphonies all the way through anymore but, rather, pick a movement to listen to—say a brass solo—then another movement, another time.
In a gallery of paintings, can look at numerous paintings in the time it takes to listen to an entire symphony.

Enough of this.

Larry Hart said...

I'm not as musically oriented as many here, but some songs just appear at the right time to create emotional resonance. At my eighth grade graduation, we sang Cat Stevens's "Morning Has Broken", and I became a fan of his music. About the same time Seals and Crofts's "We May Never Pass This Way Again" actually made me tear up.

There was something especially poignant about Jim Croche's last big hit before he died in a plane crash being "I've Got a Name", with the tragic line, "Rollin' ahead so life don't pass me by." Even moreso for me, because when Chicago radio legend Bob Collins died in his own plane crash in 2000, WGN replayed some of Bob's first show in which he himself mourned the loss of Croce.

But for songs that tell stories, no one does it better than Harry Chapin.

Paradoctor said...

I play music while doing my chores. That's double use of time.

matthew said...

John Prine is my storyteller songsmith of choice. He had a way with a turn of phrase that was utterly fantastic.

I had tickets to see him for the first time when COVID got him.

Unknown said...

"Daddy won't you take me down to to Muhlenberg county, down by the green river, where paradise lay?"

"I'm sorry, my son, but you're too late in asking, Mr Peabody's coal train done hauled it away."

Hard to forget him.

I recently refound Aine Furey's "13 Wishes", one of those songs to listen to with your eyes closed. Lost the album decades ago. Youtube has some uses...


Alfred Differ said...

Heh. My mother was an artist, so I'm poking fun at the absolutes some people believe about the field. She spent a few years creating paintings that had a lot of texture and you were supposed to touch them in the gallery. None of that non-participatory audience stuff for her.

Experiences require space and time and can cover all your senses if done creatively. Consider fine dining for example. You don't pay mega-bucks for the calories you consume. 8)

It's story telling all the way down.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

It's story telling all the way down.


Tacitus said...

Lose the glowing eyes (bit too much cheesy theatrics) and the script reads well.


David Brin said...

Hey Tacitus! Nice to see ya.

scidata said...

One of the more comprehensive surveys on rogue AI:

Still, nothing about competing adversarial agents. Bengio repeatedly uses the term "the AI" instead of "they". Although I haven't yet gone down the extensive reference trails.

Larry Hart said...


Lose the glowing eyes (bit too much cheesy theatrics)

First of all, hey there. Long time no see.

I took "unnaturally gleaming" to simply mean enough of an unusual look to be unnerving to the reader. An uncanny valley sort of thing. Not necessarily luminescent.

David Brin said...


David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.