In the "Rant" section of always-entertaining IO9, writer Charlie Anders recently expounded upon "Why We Need More Space Adventures", because the fall season of 2011 is the first time there is no show featuring space travelers since the "V" and "TNG" gap in the 1980s.
Anders serves as a fine social essayist in the "Space Opera" campaign, listing all the reasons audiences love stories on spaceships, whether self-congratulatory about human-invented technology (notice even when it is inferior, we still triumph over hostile aliens) or simply employing the tragic, damaged-goods, shirt-ripping hot shot who can wage war and woo women with equal charisma.
He includes in his list the "exploring strange new worlds" angle – certainly a huge part of sci-fi in terms of imagining what might be different on another planet or in another galaxy. We humans also explore what WE FEAR in these scenarios. The villains can often be as telling as the heroes.
However, my fear now is that we have contracted inward, entertaining only the petty politics and crime of Planet Earth, and we no longer think we're going out into the stars. Anders goes on to insist that fantasy won't cut it, neither will apocalypses or time-travel. What we lack suddenly is exploration. Pioneering. Have we lost even the desire for these things?
Our lives are reflected in our art, and perhaps his most chilling commentary on the state of our space dreams is: "…the Baby Boomers who propelled the Space Age are reaching retirement, now helping to propel the Debt Age."
Perhaps too apt a metaphor
Anders challenges: "What comes first: an excitement about real-life space exploration, or a renewal of fictional space adventure? Could new shows about the wonders of space travel get people jazzed about going to Mars, or do we have to wait for NASA to launch a Mars mission before people will be interested again?"
A fine question. I could sit here and describe about a thousand books that remain unscripted, untapped, alone in all their space glory that will never see the screen. I could.
But I'm still trying to get over the cancellation of the last Star Trek series. Not that I watch much television anyway, but it's a sad commentary on how reality shows, chaotic kitchens, and "Corpse TV" have taken over. How many serial-killer-chasing dramas can people handle? Far too many, apparently. I find forensics and crime-solving as fascinating as the next person, but can't we do them in space, too?
That's what we need -- Law and Order: Lunar Crime Unit.
And no, we won't settle for animation
Well, someone tell Charlie that on the heels of this dilemma, NASA reports they hope to revive "hard sci-fi" to inspire future space forces. They're planning an initiative to promote accurate space science and science fiction novels to inspire young readers to embrace technology that makes space travel possible.
The hope is that someday, armed with mission details and the science that made them possible, they will aspire to become part of the space industry. At the very least, let's hope we spawn at least one hopeful candidate to take over FOX and quit cancelling everything cool.