Has this sci-fi concept been used elsewhere? (Iain M Banks related)

I was mulling something over today, I’m a massive (well not really, I’m about average size) Iain Banks fan and there was an interesting concept introduced in the otherwise forgetable non-Culture novel, The Algebraist.

Basically Banks described two distinct populations of humans, rHumans and aHumans. Storywise, about 8000 years ago an alien species lifted a significent number of humans from Earth, mentored them on another planet and introduced them to galactic society.

Therefore when the poor buggers left behind on Earth finally make it to the stars they find that not only have humans been out there for quite some time they are also significently more advanced technologically, (arguably) culturally and also massively outnumber them population wise.

The former population of people are known as aHumans (for ‘advanced’ I think) while those that remained on Earth are known to the galactic community as rHumans (for ‘remnant’ I think)

I thought it was a really interesting concept and I was wondering if it has been used elsewhere.

It would also put an interesting spin on the ‘First Contact’ scenario if the ‘aliens’ arriving at Earth are actually aHuman explorers out to make contact with the mother planet!

It’s sort of a reverse panspermia, I suppose. I hope the Dwellers get introduced to the Culture universe. They were amusing.

I’m sure the idea has turned up in loads of places, but the first one to come to my mind is the universe of the StarGate movie and TV shows. Early humans were taken from Earth to be slave labor for the Goa’uld, but the various Goa’uld system lords would war among themselves with the result being random pockets of humans abandoned all over the freakin’ galaxy. Some of these populations, like the Tollans, advanced far past Earth level technology with the help of other alien races, while others remained primitive or only made it to roughly 1940’s era tech such as the Genii or the Langarans. Some even remain slaves to the Goa’uld system lords, although the Goa’uld tend to prefer the Jaffa as servants and soldiers, which themselves are a genetically engineered offshoot of humanity. All told, however, the humans off world vastly outnumber the humans that remain on Earth.

There was a sort of youth-oriented novel where the Neanderthals turned out to have survived in outer space. Alan Dean Foster’s* Glory Lane*, maybe? It wasn’t the focus of the story.

And I think there’s a sort of comparable genre to the effect of, “The Atlanteans went into space, some came back, and are like gods with their tech we have forgotten.” A lot of those.

Catherine Asaro uses this idea in her Skolian novels

Clarke and Lee used a version of this in their novel “Cradle”

Larry Niven toyed with this in the short stories “Bordered in Black” and “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?”.

In Farscape the Sabaceans are a variety of human scooped up from Earth in the past and subjected to some tweaks by an uberrace.

I seem to recall a few other stories, but not in enough detail to remember a title or author.

Yep, it’s not a new concept.

Isaac Asimov did something like this in his CAVES OF STEEL/NAKED SUN series: the Spacers on extrasolar planets leave the drudgery to their robot servants, and so spend their centuries-long lives pioneering breakthroughs in art and biology and mathematics and engineering – all while seeing the backwards simpletons of Earth as “subhumans” who routinely keel over from easily-eradicated germs.

Why, if not for an ever-so-rare murder occasionally prompting Spacers to request the services of a world-weary detective – a man who racks up daily experience as a cop, on that one primitive world where crime hasn’t yet been virtually wiped out – they wouldn’t much bother to remain in contact with the lowly locals. (They even based a movie on one of his cases; Spacers generally liked it, but had a bit of trouble believing an Earthman would really be that well-spoken.)

Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade dealt with the concept in 1960, though it was the punchline of the novel: a group of medieval soldiers preparing for the crusades are attacked by an alien ship, manage to win, and then take it over. The Epilogue describes humans from Earth meeting their descendants.

James P. Hogan’s Giants trilogy involves something along these lines:

[spoiler]In the third book, Giants’ Star, it’s revealed that an ancient race intervened at the last moment in a genocidal war between human factions. One faction was removed and established elsewhere in the aliens’ territory and the other was transplanted (yes, transplanted) to Earth. A subsequent cataclysmic event nearly wiped out the Earth faction and caused them to lose what technology and history they had managed to preserve. The other faction, safely established on another world and with access to the aliens’ tech, had a large head start and a major developmental advantage.

There were other factors at work that kept Earth humans from catching up, but the upshot is that while Earth had pretty decent interplanetary capability and research stations on a number of moons, the other faction had real-time interstellar communication, very fast FTL transportation, and multiple planets under their control.[/spoiler]

Gary Seven in the original Star Trek episode Assignment Earth claimed this as his backstory.

David Weber’s “Excalibur Alternative”, his typically Weberesque contribution to David Drake’s “Ranks of Bronze” universe, has a group of medieval English soldiers get kidnapped by a galactic corporation, take over the ship, and found their own interstellar Empire, that winds up saving Earth’s bacon several hundred years later. It actually sounds an awful lot like the Anderson novel RealityChuck described above.

In Forge of the Titans, the “gods” (actually aliens from another universe that the legends of gods are based on) left Earth millennia ago, taking their followers with them. The humans by our time have both much more advanced technology and “magic” as well; magic in the setting turns out to be an effect based on the alternate physics of the universe the “gods” came from, and is only possible on planets that the long term presence of these “gods” has infused with their extrauniversal forces. Magic on Earth is a myth because they left long ago, so it stopped working.

Not the same thing at all, but I enjoy a well done “lost colony” book (CJ Cherryh has done some lovely ones) where a space colony has, due to war or wacky religion or just a time period when everybody and his brother was loading their cult onto a sleepship, fallen off the map and gone native.

What I haven’t really read except as a brief mention in bigger stories is the inevitable-in-some-of-these-universes problem of boarding that sleep ship, spending a very long time in sublight travel, and getting to your destination only to have been passed a few centuries ago by FTL ships they invented after you embarked.

Aliens also removed humans and plunked them down elsewhere in ST:TOS “The Omega Glory” and “The Paradise Syndrome.”

I remember a good sf short story in which Earth sends out its first starship, carrying a single astronaut. He goes to a habitable world, scouts around and one night is relaxing by his campfire. A humanoid alien unexpectedly steps out of the shadows, sits down and tells the Earth astronaut a story about a master race which once, long ago, cruelly ruled the galaxy until it was finally overthrown by the other sentient races. The master race was wiped out. Legend had it, though, that the master race still survived in hiding somewhere. We realize the alien is talking about humanity having been that master race. The alien kills the Earth astronaut, almost regretfully, and it’s implied that the aliens will follow the starship’s track back to Earth, to complete the extermination of our race.

That’s part of the backstory of the Star Kingdom of Manticore in the Honor Harrington series; fortunately, the leader of the colony expedition was smart enough to leave behind a colonial organization and funds behind when he left, so when they arrived the FTL ships waiting for them were crewed by his employees.

In Mayflies by Kevin O’Donnell Junior, the colony ship the story is set on is passed up by later FTL craft, but the planet they are headed for is declared off limits, reserved for them.

Mack Reynolds did a sci-fi series along that line: some of the long-since-colonized worlds that broke off contact have greatly regressed (and it’s our heroes’ job to set out from Earth and lift folks out of Stone Age barbarism or medieval feudalism or whatever), but as per the OP he’d occasionally set things on a world where society got built around over-the-top dog-eat-dog winner-takes-all competition – and, having surpassed Earth in a number of scientific breakthroughs, the locals are bent on military conquest as the story opens. (At which point their own aggressive greed, rather than anything Earth does, dooms 'em.)

This was part of the backstory of the old Traveller RPG. Humans from Earth were transplanted all over the galaxy by the Ancients. Some of those transplanted colonies developed space travel and set up various interstellar empires which collapsed and reformed, while thousands of planets are colonized although most sparsely. Then Earth humans develop instellar travel and encounter these interstellar empires.

I don’t know if the setting directly influenced “Firefly” but it was very similar. There were some rich prosperous worlds but most were poor colonies with technology well below 20th century Earth. There was a vastly powerful Empire that was very far away, so outside of wealthy planets things were mostly lawless. Characters were mercenaries, traders, smugglers, pirates, and so on, usually all at once, roaming around on ramshackle crappy spaceships.

That happened to Vance Astro in Marvel Comics’ Guardians of the Galaxy.

And there’s a time travel story that’s a bit like, though I forget who wrote it: The first time traveler finds himself intercepted by a bureaucracy from his future that tries to to regulate time travel, and they see him as a nuisance.

Thanks for the answers everyone, guess its just something I hadn’t come across before!

That’s actually the example of “mentioned in passing” I was thinking of.