Petty Gestures of Cost-Free “Solidarity”

Sure, we’re in an unhinged fit of histrionics over Russia, so why not?

I mean, if you’re going to cancel Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy for being Russian despite both predating the Soviet Union, why would you not cancel a Soviet-era historical figure who is a hero in both Russia and Ukraine, and pretty much across the world? Isn’t that part of the point of “Yuri’s Night”, to bring people together in celebration of a human achievement? 

Endurance Wreck Discovered

This has been sitting in my drafts box for a couple of weeks, so I’m a little late to the party with the news: Wreck of Shackelton’s Endurance Found

The state of preservation is remarkable, not only given its century-long submersion but compared to the crew’s descriptions and film of what happened to the ship as and after they were forced to abandon it. I would have expected a pile of rotted lumber scattered across the seafloor.

We have a Dispatch story outlined and partially written (yes, I know I say that a lot) based in part on the Endurance expedition, which I would like to get to if we can ever get Ghosts of Tharsis completed. It’s The Anabasis performed by members of the Shackelton, Mawson, and Scott crews, led (unfortunately) by someone who makes Fauci look like Oppenheimer.

 

Life Imitates Art: EuroSpace Edition

This has some striking relevance to certain events at the beginning of Ghosts of Tharsis: Astronauts in Europe ask for their own independent crew spacecraft

In fact, Ivanka has a thought along these lines, just before…very bad things happen:

“While Europe is still at the forefront of many space endeavors, such as Earth observation, navigation, and space science, it is lagging in the increasingly strategic domains of space transportation and exploration,” the manifesto states. “Europe’s Gross Domestic Product is comparable to that of the United States’, but its joint investment in space exploration does not reach even one tenth of NASA’s.”

Russia has the Soyuz crew vehicle, China has the Shenzhou spacecraft, and NASA has SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Moreover, within a few years, the US space agency should add the Orion spacecraft and Boeing’s Starliner capsule to its fleet of human spaceflight vehicles. India also seeks to develop and demonstrate a crewed transportation system to low Earth orbit within the next two years.

So where does that leave Europe?

She’s not any happier about being part of an also-ran team than these manifesto-writers are. In her case, though, it’s because all that money that could be lavished on a European space program is being frittered away on corruption.

H.G. Wells on…Puppies?

“Very much of the Fiction of the Future pretty frankly abandons the prophetic altogether, and becomes polemical, cautionary, or idealistic, and a mere footnote and commentary to our present discontents.”

-H.G. Wells, Anticipations

This is a prophetic observation indeed, having been written over a century before the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies foofaraw, whose core complaint was that mainstream science fiction as a genre had been co-opted by the totalizing left as just another conduit for its political propaganda and grievance-mongery and wasn’t fun, exciting, thought-provoking, or inspiring any more.

And yes, it’s ironic to have Wells complaining about that when he later in the same book advocates subverting all human activity and institutions to indoctrinate the public with his “global commonweal” idea. I guess when its his own “future technocratic utopia” instead of the mere “present discontents” of others, using absolutely every literary product for propaganda is peachy.

There’s a Story Here

I don’t know what it is, but I can imagine a dozen of my own:

If you take away the ray-gun rifle and the gas giant in the background, it’s a retrofuturist take on the climax of our (eventually upcoming) story, “The Olympian Race”.

(Unfortunately, I found this several years ago and don’t recall now where it came from.)

If I Were One to Squee…

…I’d be squeeing about now.

‘Babylon 5’ reboot in development with original series creator J. Michael Straczynski at the helm

No word yet on what the story, period, or characters might be, but it does sound like it’s a ground-up reboot a la Battlestar Galactica. As others have observed, it’d be difficult to simply re-film the original story as we already know the twists and turns and surprises, so like BSG it may only borrow the overall concept and some thematic and universe elements for a very different story. 

On the bright side, JMS is in charge, and has 25 years of added experience to draw on and technological advances at his disposal. Imagine the ships, battles, Shadows, etc. rendered using state-of-the-art CGI rather than (for-then state-of-the-art) Amigas. It’s also been suggested that this time around, Warner Brothers is actually very supportive of the project and is giving Straczynski a lot of latitude in writing and producing the show – and, one hopes, an adequate budget.

But then, as Ridley Scott and Prometheus show us, such things don’t automatically translate into a good product. So, I’m tempering my enthusiasm for now until more information is available. 

 

Families in Science Fiction

At Powered by Robots, James Pyles asks “Where Are the Families in Science Fiction?”

I’m curious. Of the science fiction and fantasy you read, have you seen any family life shows in a positive way, especially in more recent publications?

I haven’t seen much in recent science fiction, because I haven’t been reading much science fiction recently. My reading priorities lately trend to the Classics and other nonfiction.

However, when we started out writing what became “In the Shadow of Ares”, this was one of the elements that we noticed was missing from a lot of SF at the time. We wanted to write a young adult novel that avoided the cliches of that genre and SF itself. So, we created a main character who was human, who made mistakes, and who wasn’t some sort of infallibly smart and precociously wise Secret Chosen One destined for greatness, and we set her in a family with parents who made some pretty risky sacrifices to make a go of it. We explicitly avoided making her an orphan, or situating her on her own in some manner like many of Heinlein’s juveniles’ protagonists (stowaways, runaways, castaways, and kidnappees). Too, families fit with the overall nature of the fictional universe, in which Mars is just starting to be settled – one character observes (perhaps only in draft) that if you’re not having babies, it’s a base and not a settlement…you’re not really committed to stay and build a new world.

In “ItSoA”, Amber’s positive relationship with her parents (especially her father) is a key element, while in the sequel, “Ghosts of Tharsis”, her close relationship with her mother is explored. In both books, the issue of children and families on Mars is an important theme, and this theme reappears in “Redlands” and (indirectly) in “He Has Walled Me In”. In “Pipeline” (unpublished), Thoreson’s children are entrusted with his business empire on Earth when he emigrates to Mars with his grandchildren to run the project. Also in “Ghosts of Tharsis”, every protagonist is shown in the context of family: Amber, Marek’s children, Ethan and his parents, Ezekiel and his brothers, even some tag characters. The only story we’ve published so far without a positive family element in it is “Anatomy of a Disaster”, which is appropriate given the story is a farce inspired by the Piper Alpha disaster. Even our non-Ares Project story, “Silent Stalker”, involved the positive portrayal of two families.

The funny thing about it, though, is that while we chose consciously at the beginning to include positive portrayals of family, it’s played out naturally in the creation of characters and situations. For example the “Baby Taboo”, once conceived (no pun intended), took on a life of its own in the fictional universe and suggested different but always opposed reactions from different characters – everyone hates the taboo, and you never see anyone but the villains truly supporting it. At the beginning of “Ghosts of Tharsis”, when the MDA relents and allows a small number of children 13 and older to emigrate, that not only brings Amber some kids her own age to associate with but necessitates exploring the family backgrounds of those new arrivals to explain how and why they ended up on Mars.

Apart from that initial decision, though, it’s not something that we’ve shoehorned in, and is not presented in a treacly or sentimental way. It just followed naturally as we drew on our own experiences and those of families around us.

Perhaps that’s the real problem: those authors who cannot or will not write positively about something as commonplace and essential as families are themselves broken children from broken homes. Like the majority of modern culture creators, their creative priority is the non-stop masturbatory airing of their childhood resentments – they hate their fathers so much that they write them out of the future.

Safe but Boring: SpaceX Landing Sites

SpaceX appears to have narrowed its potential Mars landing sites to four. Unfortunately for purposes of scenic interest, they’re all pretty smooth and safe.

Which is perfectly understandable, but nonetheless a little disappointing. I guess the landings near Valles Marineris and Olympus will have to wait a bit.

SpaceX narrows Mars landing site for Starship to four prime locations

“Redlands” On Sale

For a short time, we’ve reduced the price on “Redlands” to only $0.99.

It’s hard to believe that this story takes place only 26 years from now. That would make Silas Hudson around ten years old today, and Susannah Caillouet around three.

When worlds-famous science popularizer Silas Hudson and his partner are brutally killed while visiting an isolated settlement on Mars, settlers take justice into their own hands. The justice they seek carries a greater danger than murder, however, and their actions threaten to conceal another crime with far-reaching consequences.

In this Dispatch, freelance journalist Calvin Lake investigates the truth behind the events of March 2047, and their long-term consequences for Mars.

Helluva Ride

I had the same reaction to this that I had when LM started putting cameras on the Shuttle External Tanks: “Why haven’t they been doing this cool thing all along?”

The departure of the heatshield was especially fun, as it’s exactly how I imagined the corresponding event in the prologue to “In the Shadow of Ares” (minus the unfortunate burn-through, obviously).

The rover’s first 360 pano is also out:

Note the similarity…
Day 14
Day 14
Mars on Earth