I was thinking at first of my usual weekend posts of mostly forgettable reflections about minor points in whatever I’m reading at the moment, to fit the slightly lower reader numbers that happen on weekends. Then Phil gave me another idea, as I read his essay on Gridlock for TARDIS Eruditorum (honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself three mornings each week once his Doctor Who project wraps next year).
I don’t often talk about my fiction work here, although it is part of the blog’s origin statement to do so. I just don’t work on it as much right now as on my philosophy. I’m editing the ecophilosophy project, starting the research on my utopias project, last month I was preparing the post-doctoral application on evolutionary theory, and I’m in the thick of tenure-track application season. I’m still waiting on my editors’ comments on the second draft of Under the Trees, Eaten, and I don’t really have time to work on anything else. But this weekend, I thought I’d talk about a project that exists right now as nothing more than a glint in my eye. I call it Lost in Space.
|No, no. Not these idiots.|
Seriously, that’s the idea. About two years ago, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone did to Lost in Space what Ron Moore did rebooting Battlestar Galactica?” The answer, of course, is “Holy shit! It would be amazing!” And I didn’t really think any more about it because I was busy and had a lot of things to do.
I didn’t really think about it again until I stumbled across this article on IO9 about the possibility of (relatively) low-energy Alcubierre Drive ships. Basically, cheap warp drive. A sci-fi world of warp drives without the conceits of Star Trek that make travelling in deep space exactly like travelling on Earth. Those conceits are the incredible speed of warp travel, and the existence of “sub-space” to send instantaneous signals so admirals can chew Picard out in real-time communications at 500 light-years distance. Get rid of those conceits and you have a world where it takes about a week to travel only four light-years. Because signals would still travel at the speed of light, here’s a key element of space travel in this context: no ship has escape pods in case of emergency because they’re useless.
Do I have your attention? Good. Consider that you’re on a ship that isn’t having a good day. You’re in deep space, several weeks journey by warp drive from any settlement that could help you. Any help they could send wouldn’t arrive for weeks after receiving a distress signal that wouldn’t reach any of those settlements for years. Your only choice is a quick death in the explosion of your ship, or get into an escape pod and slowly die over weeks drifting in deep space alone. You send the distress signal not as help, but as a memorial, so your society and any family you might have back home at least knows roughly where and when you died.
That’s the cultural context of the story I thought of for this Moore-ized Lost in Space. The story itself involves something similar to that problem. The ship of our heroes has been sent to map and explore a new world farther away from Earth and the established colony worlds than have ever been settled before. Something goes wrong with the ship in orbit, and they have to crash-land on the alien planet. Their signal won’t reach other humans for 50 years. They have to face the problems of survival on a world where some of them will probably die of old age. There’s also a crew member who may not be entirely human. And then there are the aliens.