Saturday, September 3, 2016
Sense of Wonder
I've been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy ever since I could read. Of course, growing up in the 60s and 70s I really thought I might have the chance to go to other planets. There was a sense of wonder. Progress was amazing and the universe was open to us. Then we got to the moon. The space race ended and everything got pulled back.
There were some amazing space missions using robotic craft. That's great for science, but doesn't do much for a kid who wanted to go to Mars. Closer to home we benefited greatly thanks to a constellation of satellites: gps, weather satellites, communications, heck, even google satellite maps.
Skylab was interesting, but wasn't meant to last. Anyone remember when it pancaked in the Australian Outback? The Russians had MIR. Now we have the International Space station and the Chinese are taking steps towards a station of their own. That's all well and good, but growing up I expected that stuff 40 years ago.
Recently there have been some exciting developments in private space programs. A company is even planning a robotic moon mission. However, there are setbacks like that little explosion at the Cape recently. Oops. Stuff happens.
Growing up I came to a better understanding of the costs involved. Getting out of Earth's gravity well is hard and takes some serious money to make it happen. The space shuttle was supposed to lower costs but compromises doomed it from the start. Reusable rocket boosters should lower costs, but not to the point where blue collar folks will be working in space anytime soon.
That's the thing. Space was supposed to be for everyone. That was the Science Fiction promise that turned into just another dream. We got some cool cell phones but didn't get the stars. It's a disappointment.
There's been a lot more dystopian Science Fiction. It's not so much about exploring the universe but about things going wrong here on Earth. No one writes the way Heinlein used to, in spite of what publishing houses claim on the book jackets of new authors. We were going to make the universe ours. In recent movies if we do run into aliens it's because they came to us, not the other way around.
Some years back I was talking to guy in the publishing industry. He was saying that when people are optimistic they gravitate more towards Science Fiction. When they are depressed about the state of the world they read more Fantasy for the complete escapism.
Looking at the state of the world right now . . . I think I'm going to have to publish some Fantasy books.