My alternative title for this was, “2081: A Space Odyssey.” This is the first stage in my process of building the skeleton of a future history.
As T.S. Eliot said, “Mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal.” So far this work is still on the mediocre end. By the time I’m done, I intend to complete the heist by bringing this around to something that is truly my own. Stealing it. Part of that process is, to quote Mister Spock, “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” Whether borrowing or stealing it pays to take from many sources. A dishonest writer takes from one source and follows it faithfully. An honest writer combines from many sources and alters without mercy or compunction to turn ideas to his own purposes.
Done right, this is no sin. H. Beam Piper, whatever you think of his politics, was an excellent writer. His stories were rousing and original in spite of plots which were often lifted straight from the pages of history. One of Piper’s characters makes the claim that virtually everything that happened as man expanded into space had happened before at some point in pre-space Earth history. One of the beauties of science fiction is that even if the situation that faces characters in a story is the same as that which faced some historical figures the possible challenges and solutions before the character could be very different, as could the attitudes of the character towards those challenges. How would a person raised in today’s society respond if he was in Kitchener’s position facing the Mahdi in the Sudan? How would a person from a 25th century space habitat? History is a great source of ideas for the budding science fiction writer. Make it your own!
I’ve been wanting to revise or retcon my, “Solar Union,” universe/future history for some time. I’m working within a few initial bounds. I want to retain some of the Star Trek-inspired optimism that my Solar Union had. A fairly early date for the development of FTL travel would be desirable, though more realistic than the timeline I had previously set. While aliens could in some cases be implacable enemies to human kind, I’d prefer for most to be at least potential friends for humanity rather than merely opportunistic allies.
There are things I’d like to change. Otherwise why revise the setting? I’d like to tone down the optimism a bit. I’d like to leave more opportunities for interesting conflict and confrontation. I’d like to delay the unification of Earth compared to the fairly early 21st century date I set for a global society previously. I also think technological, not to mention social progress could be delayed and slowed. This seems more realistic and allows for more interesting complications.
Science fiction is not about prediction of the future, but it is desirable to create a plausible future. I’m under no illusion, for better or worse, that my future will happen, but it increases my enjoyment as a writer(and hopefully the enjoyment of any potential reader)to be able to believe that it could happen.
At this stage of the game, I’m just trying to build a set of images of the, “nearish,” future in my head and setting some milestone dates to guide my construction of that future. Part of the challenge and part of the charm of building a history is getting from where the world is now to where the world is at those milestones and then building from one milestone to the next. Besides the challenge and fun of building a future history that leads to those images and the pleasure of contemplating the images themselves, I think that this sort of guided, bounded creativity could lead to a more fleshed-out Solar Union history with ideas that I might otherwise not have considered. At least I hope so…
I’ve seen the amount of energy that people put into arguing about points of Star Trek or Star Wars canon. Maybe that kind of energy would be better put into acts of personal creativity that aren’t so subject to the fiat of people like Harve Bennett, Michael Okuda or J.J. Abrams. For that matter, I’m not always jiggy about the ideas of folks like George Lucas or Gene Roddenberry, but its their world. This is my world. Even if some of the parts had to have the serial numbers filed off 😉 .
My first bound is to try to make a realistic extrapolation from current circumstances in the real world of 2012. Early future history is always very subject to the vagaries of a real world which is unlikely to follow any timeline no matter how plausible. This gives one reason to kind of cast off early parts of one’s future history to somewhere well in the future. It’s useful to make some assumptions about the near future then try to build off of, “predictions,” that are general enough and able to be rationalized easily enough to account for unpredicted events. This is largely how astrology and ESP, “works.” Given that this stuff is going to get outdated fast, don’t get too bogged down in this stage.
Another bound came from reading an article on Werner von Braun some time ago. In 1957, he made the prediction that a manned expedition to Mars might be one hundred years in the future due to the inherent difficulties of the project. As he encountered and surmounted the technical difficulties of a manned moon landing he became more optimistic. In my opinion that optimism failed to account for the vagaries of political timidity and bureaucratic inertia(only tenuously and with great difficulty related to momentum). Over forty years after the moon landing, Mars 2057 seems pretty much optimistic. I’m cool with optimism so we’ll assume a manned landing on Mars by 2057!
The remaining bounds are based on some cinematic images of the late 20th century as depicted in the 1960s and ’70s. From Star Trek I’ll derive the Eugenics Wars(said to last from 1992 to 1996) and some of their effects. I also indirectly take an image of the Botany Bay mentioned in my last post. From Space:1999 I take the title of this article, some spacecraft ideas, an idea of a fairly advanced lunar outpost and little else. From 2001: A Space Odyssey I take a lot of images of spacecraft, routinized airline-based travel to near Earth orbit and, although vastly reduced in scope, the space station as a gateway to the universe.
I use the dates from these stories, just delayed a bit. I’ll add eighty years to the fictional representations.
The first manned mission to Mars will be launched or land in 2057. Depending on who does it and the possibilities allowed by orbital mechanics, either the launch, Mars orbital insertion or landing would likely be aimed for October 4th of 2057 to mark the hundredth anniversary of spaceflight. If the expedition is sponsored by the United States perhaps January 31st of 2058 will be the chosen date for MOI or landing to mark the entry of the United States to the orbital club.
The Eugenics Wars will occur from 2072 to 2076. Presumably this means that the first genetically augmented, “supermen,” will be born sometime in the late 2030s or early ’40s. In 2076, some of the Eugenic, “Augments,” will escape Earth, and ultimately the Solar System, aboard the Botany Bay, an advanced nuclear-powered spaceship. Unless the Botany Bay was built during the war as some sort of space battleship, it seems likely that she was built sometime before 2072 to allow more frequent and routine travel between Earth and Mars. Perhaps she was part of a project to build a permanently-manned outpost on Mars as a follow-up to the expeditions to Mars after 2057. Given a reasonable extrapolation based on the world of 2012 and a 2057 date for the first manned landing on Mars, the 2060s and ’70s seems early for any real kind of colony, but something like a small early Antarctic outpost seems possible if ambitious. This might be a good time to read Ice Station Zebra. Bwa-hahaha!
Since one of my ambitions for space development is the use of in situ lunar resources to build solar power satellites(higher priority than a Mars landing), I think that the Moon will have some sort of permanent habitation well before 2079. On the other hand, moonbase Alpha as depicted in Space:1999 is a pretty large base, so I think it’s reasonable to look to that production to get ideas for what a mature habitation on the Moon might look like. Another, probably better, source for such imagery is Welcome to Moonbase by Ben Bova. None of the events depicted in Space:1999 would have actually happened in my timeline.
A manned mission to Jupiter in 2081 seems like a bit of a leap in the timeline, although, with the Botany Bay, we’ve already postulated a sleeper ship built to take large numbers of people and equipment to Mars before 2072 so maybe a slow Hohman transfer to Jupiter with the crew in hibernation wouldn’t be unreasonable. The size and configuration of the Discovery seems like a retrograde step from the Botany Bay as a Mars ship, so it really needs to be either Jupiter-bound or designed to explore the inner Solar system quickly.
The Discovery may or may not be flying in 2081, but the Orion shuttle sure would!
Probably not with Pan-Am livery, but by 2081 in the universe I’m postulating it’s safe to assume that commercial Earth to LEO launch services are pretty routine. I’m not sure when it would be reasonable to put up something like the big double-torus station. Surely experimental centrifuges with names like Ferris and Roulette will have been put up well before 2081. Maybe before 2072.
Another assumption I’ve made is that the practical introduction of the warp drive will be in 2087, about thirty years after the physical principles behind the application of Alcubierre’s hypothesis are proven. The United States Starship Discovery may be one of the first ships retrofitted with the new warp drive to leave the Solar System on voyages of discovery. Commanded by one David Bowman, perhaps?