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In many Science Fiction movies there’s one plot device that, like a broken down show pony forced to perform despite old age, is dragged out time and again to strut its stuff. That of the Earth being ‘Doomed’ somehow by mankind through overpopulation or environmental disaster. Something that only a ‘hero’ can ‘save’ a sacred few from. It was a tired idea by the 18th Century CE (Seriously) and it’s worn to a nub of nothingness now. This premise is what’s put me off going to see the movie ‘Interstellar’.
In looking at possible (or impossible) futures I’ve always found it a good idea to examine what has sparked human migration since our species first learned to walk upright. From observation, the biggest motivator is that the grass will grow greener over the next hill. Fresh ground to occupy, new resources to develop, new ideas to explore. It’s part of the human condition. Only in the very early days of bipedal endeavour has environmental disaster played a significant role in mass migration. In the more modern era, migrations tend to be generated more by politics, war and economics than simple resources. To illustrate by analogy; when the fattest of cats have locked the dairy, the kittens will go elsewhere for their cream. And they will cross continents, even galaxies if the means are available.
It’s also worth noting that most of us simply want to get away from our parents and make our independent way in the world. Visit other places, learn other languages, meet other peoples. It’s been part of the human condition ever since we evolved to spread out a little. Mate, carve out a patch for the next generation and expand. If anyone were to ask me the meaning of life, that’s how I’d describe it. The Earth may well be our mother, but frankly wouldn’t it be embarrassing to tell other intelligent life forms that we still live in her basement?
While struggling a little with the major projects, I’ve amused myself with rearranging the site menu a little, creating a sub page and section for short stories no-one would really be interested in.
First offering is an odd little tale entitled ‘Christmas in Space‘. I’ve got a few others, but I’m wondering whether I’m brave enough to let them out into the public domain. For what that’s worth.
Watching the sun rise this morning, I was observing the crepuscular light shedding angular dusty beams on the Eastern horizon. One beam of light was shining vertically through the clouds like some massive laser. Which made me think about alien invasion movies like ‘Independence Day’ where the invaders come zooming into Earth’s atmosphere with massive energy weapons, blowing up everything in sight. Thinking about it, why bother with Star Warsy / Trekkie type energy weapons? All very sparkly, all very pretty, but mostly all heat and fury with very little knockdown power. Comparatively speaking.
Now if it were me, I’d drop half a dozen or so hundred metre asteroids on the planet well before sending in ground troops. Any detonations, even within a kilometre or five of the surface would do enough damage to a major cities infrastructure to paralyse everything. Then leave for a year before hitting with another quick barrage of about ten Tunguska sized masses. Wait another solar year while all the humans run around shooting each other and running out of supplies before sending in my very expensive, and hard to fix number of terminator ‘droids. Minimal damage to the biosphere and game over for all those pesky humans. And some very nice living space on a des res planet once the meteoric dust has settled and things have warmed up again. Just send in the scrap scavengers.
Fortunately it’s all fiction. Because if any other species is smart enough and capable of crossing interstellar space en masse with hostile intent; basically, humanity is screwed.
Update: as opposed to airbursts, what if the asteroids were dropped in the seas near major coastal conurbations? A big enough water explosion a hundred and fifty klicks away would mess up LA, San Francisco and San Diego with Tsunamis. South and East of New York to push a wall of water up the Chesapeake. One in the Northern Caribbean would paralyse Florida and all of coastal Texas, as well as sending a massive tidal bore up the Mississippi. Polish off with a hit in Lake Michigan. Europe could be paralysed with three hits. One in the Northern English Channel, Eastern Baltic and central Mediterranean. Western Indian Ocean about equidistant between the Persian Gulf and Mumbai. The last reserved for somewhere in the Philippines. Residual tidal surges would at least severely damage every sea port everywhere in the world. Two years of solid rainfall from all the atmospheric water vapour would do the rest. Result: one freshly laundered planet ready for colonisation. Scary.
Have elected to post a few story samples under the ‘Story Samples’ tab. Mostly unfinished or rough draft samples, just to see if there’s any feedback. First up is ‘Bug’ from the Association worlds timeline. Others to follow over the next few days.
Have decided to put the first couple of thousand words of ‘Darkness’ on an excerpts page. Just to give a flavour of the style and tone. New story thread to add to the mix, with six particular characters.
New page is under the ‘Stars Trilogy’ tab on ‘Darkness between the Stars – Excerpts‘ tab.
At present, inbetween shifts and all the other domestic stuff, I’m flipping between stories, trying not to get them all mixed up. Oh yes, and I’m also growing my beard back.
Got one of those occasional ‘question’ emails from the planetary society, and it rather brought me up short. In the Stars Trilogy I write about space technologies and how they might change the future of humanity, but where did I get started? What made me want to write about it? So I’ve decided to send the planetary society this as my answer.
What sparked my passion for Space and space travel? The first thing that springs to mind is timing. I was born in 1957 at the very beginning of the ‘Space Age’. The year the Soviet Union put Sputnik into orbit and lifted the eyes of the world up into the great nowhere, above mere terrestrial squabbles. Since then, man has taken his first faltering steps off the planet. Sent satellites into orbit, sent men and women outside the thin layers of our biosphere into the unforgiving near vacuum beyond. Created global communications relays. Landed craft on Mars (Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity) and Venus (Venera, Pioneer). Dropped a probe into Jupiters maelstrom of an atmosphere. Skimmed the tails of comets. Men and women have gone into orbit (Soyuz, Mercury, Gemini, Shuttle) and even landed on the moon (Apollo). The Hubble and Kepler orbital observatories, to mention but two, have helped expand our knowledge of the Universe almost all the way back to its very genesis.
The second thing for me was Science Fiction. The worlds created by Anderson, Asimov, Bester, Harrison, Heinlein, Niven, Van Vogt, to name but a few. Their visions sparked off my own desire. If I was never going to be an Astronaut or pilot (Eyesight issues), I at least wanted to write about it.
Space exploration has formed a palpable background to my life, and continuously fired my curiosity about more than mere terrestrial matters. Its constant round of discovery formed the background noise of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The dream of space travel has never ceased to fill me with wonder. I say this as a self confessed, dyed in the wool cynic of over fifty five years of age who has never worked in Aerospace.
The sheer scale of the awesome and continual endeavour that is space exploration, driven as it is by little more than mans indomitable curiosity, is nothing short of inspiring. In order to find our place in the universe we needs must reach out to find where we have not come from, in order to compare our origins with other places which failed to bring forth the miracle of life. Or may yet be discovered to harbour life.
We are fragile beings on a small, and possibly unremarkable world in the greater cosmic scheme of things. However, we need to find out if this is true by looking outwards, because unless we look, we will not know. That is what sparks my passion for space exploration. Whatever answers we find.
New discoveries about the universe around us flood in every single day. So much so, it is often very hard simply to keep up. While this might discourage some and overwhelm others, it simply makes me want to know more. To see more. To feel more. To read more. To comprehend more and not rely on the blind insistence of others. To be more alive. Space exploration is the triumph of inquisitiveness over ignorance, the bringer of light from outer darkness. To me, it is the very personification of hope.