Life Imitates Art: Planetary Resources

Looks like some big-name entrepreneurs are teaming up to pioneer asteroid mining – Planetary Resources:

Planetary Resources’ mission is clear: apply commercial, innovative techniques to explore space. We will develop low-cost robotic spacecraft to explore the thousands of resource-rich asteroids within our reach. We will learn everything we can about them, then develop the most efficient capabilities to deliver these resources directly to both space-based and terrestrial customers. Asteroid mining may sound like fiction, but it’s just science.

It does indeed sound like fiction. Readers of In the Shadow of Ares will recall a brief aside concerning Eleanor, an asteroid being moved into Mars orbit for mining purposes by a company called the Renaissance Project. Notice that we even got the initials right (just in the opposite order).

What makes this coincidental connection all the more interesting is that we will be seeing a lot more of Eleanor at the beginning of the sequel…along with questions of ownership, liability, and economics similar to those being asked about today’s announcement.


An Epic Marketing Fail

I finally made it out to see John Carter last week, accompanied by three kids, ages 6, 8 and 9.  We went despite–or perhaps because–the film had already been declared one of the biggest all-time flops.

We all enjoyed it tremendously.  The film was visually impressive, entertaining, and had a satisfying twist at the end.  This was clearly a marketing failure, and one that some think might have negative consequences for years to come.

I wish I could comment on how well the film portrayed the vision of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I have to admit I’ve never read the series.  I’ve always been more interested in a possible Mars of the future, and not an impossible fantasy world of the past.  Disney’s marketing missteps aside, perhaps other American moviegoers share my sentiment.

Why We Need Big, Bold Science Fiction

Glenn Reynolds’ article from Popular Mechanics is now available online. He opens:

The future isn’t what it used to be.And neither is science fiction. While books about space exploration and robots once inspired young people to become scientists and engineers—and inspired grownup engineers and scientists to do big things—in recent decades the field has become dominated by escapist fantasies and depressing dystopias. That could be contributing to something that I see as a problem. It seems that too many technically savvy people, engineers in particular, are going to work for Web startups or investment firms. There’s nothing wrong with such companies, but we also need engineers to design bold new things for use in the physical world: space colonies instead of social media.

Which is an excellent summary of why we decided to write In the Shadow of Ares, and to write it in the style that we did. I’m not persuaded that a proliferation of optimistic, “Human Wave” science fiction is enough to get us back on the right track as a civilization, but it’s certainly helpful to that end – one piece of the puzzle.

We know from past (and personal) experience that science fiction can embolden people (particularly young people) to seek out big challenges, and it can do so again in the future if the right kinds of science fiction are generated, read, and rewarded. But work is also needed on the assorted factors which needlessly prevent those big challenges from becoming big achievements: paralytic risk aversion, unproductive over-regulation, comfortable complacency, and open Luddism, among others. All of which, I hope and believe, will soon be facing their long-overdue reevaluation due to economic necessity.

As for Glenn’s suggested reading list — I’m embarrassed to say that I have only read one of the books he selected: John Steakley’s Armor. But oh, what a book it is. It’s one of my all-time favorite SF novels, and made a huge impression on me when I first read it at sixteen. It’s a very dark novel, so I’m exceedingly surprised to see it on a list of “optimistic science fiction books”. However, the tagline he quotes is indeed the moral thread of the story, and the redemption of several of the main characters at the end by living up to that quote does make it end on a positive note.

In the Shadow of Ares Recognized as a Prometheus Finalist

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced six semi-finalists for the 2012 Prometheus Award for Best Novel, and the list includes In the Shadow of Ares.

The Prometheus Award has been presented since 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf and fantasy.  The Prometheus Award for Best Novel focuses on novels whose plot, themes, characters and/or specific issues reflect the value of personal freedom and human rights, or which seriously or satirically critique abuses of power–especially unchecked government power.

The winner will be announced at an awards center at the WorldCon in Chicago August 30-September 3.

Congratulations to the other nominees and runners-up. It may be cliche, but it really is an honor to be nominated, especially among established authors such as Vernor Vinge and Terry Pratchett.