Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bummed about Space

Ever since the end of the Space Shuttle program last July, I've been feeling glum about America's space future. Right then, I was so bummed out that I couldn't even imagine a future for American space flight, to the point that I was imagining a scenario in which aliens arrived and told us that our status in their polity would depend on our ability to travel to another world. We point at the Apollo moon landings and are told no, they don't count, because we no longer have the capacity to do it.

Although my initial idea was unpublishable (other than as Real Person Fanfic), I realized it could be done as steampunk. So I jotted down some ideas for a Gilded Age version of Apollo, with the UK as our adversary in an alternate Space Race, and some decades later the elderly moonwalker is visiting the Smithsonian before testifying to Congress, only to have the aliens arrive and announce that no, that decades old landing doesn't count unless they can replicate it Now. So our aging moonwalker, after his initial outrage, buckles down to lead the new effort to get back to the moon -- but where does the story go and how? Is it a short story, or a novel, or a whole series?

But even as the effort peters out, I begin to see the possibilities of the Lanakhidzist timeline. I'd made some cursory mentions of there being US and Soviet space stations and a moonbase at the time of the Lanakhidzist Revolution, but had never really developed it, because my interest was on terrestrial events. However, even in my earliest versions of the Lanakhidzist universe, I knew that America's slip-slide into dictatorship was ended with a confrontation between the Administration and America's permanent space settlements.

So since then I've been working on the rocketpunk side of the Lanakhidzist universe, how the moonbase grew into a full-fledged lunar settlement, and how others developed, how the first expeditions to Mars led to a personal base, etc. It's interesting to see a completely different side of that world -- although frustrating that most of these stories are bouncing around from one market to another, and the one that has been published is the one that has no obvious alternate-historical content, and is recognizable as part of the Lanakhidzist universe only if you read other stories in which those characters show up, and in which clearly Lanakhidzist elements like human cloning as a Cold War secret project are mentioned.

And now I get the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away, and I'm even more bummed about the future of space exploration here in the Primary World. And worse, I feel weird about writing Lanakhidzist space stuff, because in that world Gemini VIII went very differently, and as a result Neil Armstrong isn't the icon he is in this timeline.