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Pioneers and the future

The asteroid mining ship Dream Watcher docked on the Mars space station.
From Pioneer: The asteroid mining ship Dream Watcher docked
on the Mars space station Landville, c2183.

When I first wrote my sole science fiction book, Pioneer, back in the mid-1980s, I strongly believed (and still do) that for the human race to prosper in space and truly build new civilizations on other worlds, freedom, private enterprise, and courage would be required.

It was for this reason there is absolute no mention of NASA in the book. Unlike most modern movies that idolize this mostly dysfunctional government agency and see it as the only solution for accomplishing anything in space (watch The Martian again to see what I mean), I knew that while government will be strongly involved in space exploration for the foreseeable future, for anything to get done quickly those governments will best step aside and figure out how to let their citizens both freely do it and also own what they do.

This weekend’s aborted SLS static fire test illustrates my point perfectly. Rather than depend on private enterprise to get this rocket built, both George Bush Jr. and Congress decided to give the job to their government bureaucrats. The result has been nothing for now over a decade.

Meanwhile, in only two years a private company, SpaceX, using private investment capital entirely, has already test flown the upper stage of what will be a more powerful rocket, and more importantly, will be reusable rather than the expendable SLS rocket that NASA and Congress has had Boeing build.

My guess in the 1980s was that freedom and capitalism would make self-sufficient human settlements on Mars possible by the 2170s, with at the same time an independent nation established on the Moon after those colonists rebelled from the hidebound bureaucracies on Earth.

Is that timeline still possible? The present does not look hopeful. Freedom and private enterprise will be essential for building viable and growing settlements on other worlds, and both are now very threatened by the worldwide movement to stronger and more dominant government rule.

A more important factor for delaying the exploration of the solar system might be that third factor, the need for courage. The speed in which almost all of civilization worldwide panicked over COVID-19, and now demands masks, quarantines, and strict shutdowns if there is even a hint of this flu-like virus that only kills less than 1% of those it infects, strikes me as a much more serious impediment to the settlement of the stars.

Space exploration, like all pioneer activity, is dangerous. You have to accept the possibility that it can kill you, at any moment, and still forge on because the rewards are worth it. The settlement of North America for example routinely killed five to ten percent of all settlers, and yet the settlers came, and kept coming. I make this point very clear in the introduction to Pioneer, noting

…that those initial colonies will be harsh places, and as described in Pioneer will produce tough people with harsh exteriors. This is how it was for most past frontier settings, and I see no reason why it should be any different in space.

These tough individuals however had to also be brave. I worry now however whether the present culture of fear and panic can produce future generations with the same bravery. If you are now a young person you must ask yourself this question: Would you have the courage to risk your life on a rocket when you are now afraid to go outside without wearing a mask?

Nonetheless, the future still remains, and I suspect future generations will eventually tire of today’s control-freak cowardly culture and rebel. The result will be, to quote Lincoln, “a new birth of freedom.”

A United Lunar Moon base, c2173.
From Pioneer: A United Lunar Moon base, c2173.

I just wish I could be there to see it. It will be glorious.

As for the very near future, very shortly a crowd-funding project will launch, based on the book Pioneer itself. An adventure video game using a graphic novel style has been under development for the past two years and will launch as a crowdfunding project in just a matter of weeks. Both illustrations in this essay come from that project. The producers will be offering some exclusive and limited rewards for supporters, both from themselves and from me personally, so keep an eye on Behind the Black for announcements. You will want to be the first through the door when this project launches.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

20 comments

  • mkent

    This looks interesting. I’m glad to hear you’ll keep us informed of its development.

    About your book Pioneer — is it only available as an e-book? I guess I’m a little old-fashioned in that I still prefer paperback.

  • mkent: Only a ebook at this time. I need more sales to justify a paperback.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    I’m not terribly concerned that no one will be brave enough to try it. Timidreckless follows a bell curve, and those who left Europe to settle the Americas were never a majority, and seldom a substantial minority, in their original societies. The Americas got settled anyway.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    I tried something in the previous comment that didn’t survive html. That’s “timid to reckless”.

  • Kyle

    I’m looking forward to the game, I hope it gets funded and they will do a good job with it,

  • Skunk Bucket

    I would surely hope that we have self-sufficient human settlements on Mars by the 2170’s. Perhaps you meant the 2070’s? Of course, if human bravery continues to decline, we may never go anywhere. And in a world ruled by Big Brother, what would be the point of colonizing Mars? I’d like to think that humanity will do better than that, though.

    BTW, I really enjoyed reading Pioneer on my Kindle and ended up finishing it at like 3 AM. If you have any interest in having the book out in dead tree format, Amazon does a trade paperback version where they print each book to order. You do have to format it to their specs, but it doesn’t cost the author any money. I did that for both of my own novels, in addition to having them in Kindle format.

    https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200635650

  • Skunk Bucket: I work with Amazon as little as possible. My past experience trying to sell paperbacks published by others through Amazon was horrendous. They are a corrupt company, through and through. If I could drop them as a dealer of my ebooks I would. Unfortunately, I can’t.

  • Warren W. James

    Great news about the computer game. Looking forward to it. I have already bought all your books – some years ago – and I’m a regular subscriber to your site. This gives me another way to toss some coins your way to support your good works. What you are doing is important and I’m glad to find ways to help support you.

    Ad Astra,

    Warren

  • Michael

    In line with your observations on the current human condition, I sometimes think about the the first trip to the moon in 1968 or the moon landing in 1969 and wonder if they really could have happened. I imagine that by today’s standards someone would have gone to jail for just making the suggestion.

  • Warren W. James; Thank you for your support. It is very much appreciated.

  • Joe Rosario

    Looking forward to seeing the video game but wondering if you’ll ever write a follow-up to Pioneer? Would love to know what happened when Alice and Harry got to the asteroid. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinions on our journey to the stars.

  • born01930

    I bought read and enjoyed Pioneer. Not to shift this into a book club thread, but have you read Red Rising?

  • tullamore92

    “The speed in which…serious impediment to the settlement of the stars.”

    I am SO disappointed in my fellow Americans – less so with ROW; aren’t most of them second-raters anyway? – and their response to this joke of a “pandemic” (somewhere in the world, some pathetic excuse for a human just had a pleasurable shiver imagining my demise from said virus). But I do believe we’ve passed the point of no return regarding corporations running society, and for all of the negative connotations that entails, one of the few bright spots will be that space exploration will not only continue, but most likely expand, possibly in unexpected directions. All hail the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy…Planet Starbucks.

  • janyuary

    Ishmael, agreed. Men and boys are often rebels by nature, and many of both sexes are adrenaline junkies (need to engage in dangerous activities for mental health), for a reason: survival instinct carried on in our genes as long as we breed freely.

    Robert, though I loathe ebooks, I have decided to use the household kindle to read Pioneer.

    Its title exemplifies the power of language.

    It is so very cold-bloodedly, evilly regressive to require humans to submit to livestock status in the control of the state for “the greater good.” It is evil to require one person to work to support another who is too lazy or cowardly to support himself.

    The elephant that obliterates the living room and occupies the universe now, is that any human being who claims the right to liberty and self-ownership, when asked “Who says?” must accept the right answer, and must accept that atheism is the path to bondage. The atheist’s rights are bequeathed by the atheist himself and mean zip. OUR rights are bequeathed by God, the Creator, and He outranks any atheists (communism requires atheism, it is why it must outlaw religion) or any other force that wants to relieve us of our right to self-ownership.

    The Constitution, the United States of America, the concepts that built it, stand as THE MOST TRULY PROGRESSIVE of human concepts ever. Courage will become a lot stronger once we decide to address the elephant in the universe.

  • Janyuary: If it is not too late, buy the book from ebookit, rather than Amazon. I make more money, and sooner, and you don’t feed the beast.

  • janyuary

    Robert: Will do. Am proud to support your site and to buy your books, though the two paper books now on order reflect no profit to you, and only one of them bought through amazon … am getting better!

  • Andrew M. Winter

    Any body remember this short lived TV series based on the same notion?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1

    The “science” of his propulsion system was a kind of explosive that didn’t go “BOOM” all at once. Rather it provided a constant thrust over time.

    We now have a propulsion system that operates in a similar fashion. Although it was a big deal in —–, much information on it has faded into a fog of “tech speak” making it hard to grasp. but,… er… um… n.a.s.a.

    It was a great mission in 1998. I had never even heard of until I saw this documentary. The documentary “documents” the connection between the pioneering mission “Deep Space 1” and “Dawn”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlTwI1A1PmA

    Now stuff gets old and disappears from You Tube, giving a lie to the notion that data doesn’t die.

    If you want to have a higher resolution copy, you can get in on, of course, Amazon, here.
    https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Space-One-n/dp/B07DCZ97ZC. At three bucks I think it’s worth it.

    Deep Space one laid the groundwork by demonstrating actual “autonomous” navigation that did not use human input. Given how prominent the idea of “autonomous” drones is these days. It might be cool to see some of it’s roots.

    But the ION Drive that was built for this satellite is that constant thrust drive. The Mission director Mark Rayman details how he was inspired by a Star Trek episode that mentioned an Ion Drive, beginning at 6:10.

    If this critter can be scaled up. This will most likely be the first Space Ship Drive that will take us to another star. It will be a huge long voyage, that might involve cryogenics, but this is the Drive that could do it.

    And it all worked. Even when it failed, they were able to “fix” it on the fly.

  • Icepilot

    It’s very encouraging to see the increased interest in Space on the Internet. Unfortunately, YouTube has most of it. Saw one video anticipating an arraignment between Rolls Royce & SpaceX regarding nuclear propulsion. If Musk takes this next, necessary step, it will accelerate a lot of schedules. SpaceX has gone from a motorcycle, to a family car & (soon now), an 18-wheeler. In Lunar orbit, with a full load of S Pole H2O & late minute spares, aboard the new Explorer Model Starship, with a 5 Megawatt nuclear propulsion/power plant, where do you want to go?
    You know the Space Force is designing these now – they get to build the hotrods w/95% enriched fuel.

  • Dean Hurt

    Robert,
    I bought PIONEER just recently and am thoroughly enjoying it. Despite what you wrote in the Forward, I find nothing dated about it! So far a rollicking good “space opera” that fires the pioneer-spirit in an all-American sort of way! It is inspiring and makes my want to see if Space X would hire a 65 year old RN for their Boca Chica medical clinic! However, I love living the foothills of the Cascades her in the Socialist Soviet State of Washington. My only regret is that I bought from intolerant and anti-American Amazon!

  • Dean Hurt: Thank you for the kind words. As for where to buy Pioneer, I always suggest people buy it direct from ebookit, as I get a larger cut and get it quicker.

    And you don’t feed amazon.

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