I was listening to Start The Week on Radio 4 this morning, all about the moon and further afield – our attitudes, fantasies and intentions of exploration and exploitation. It was startling to hear that Elon Musk really wanted to colonise Mars because it would be totally unregulated territory. None of those pesky labour laws or health and safety rules. Startling because it’s obviously true, but not usually stated so baldly. It’s usually disguised in purple prose about Man’s desire to explore or combined with apocalyptic visions of a lifeless Earth.
I wrote my science fiction trilogy (first version) more than twenty years ago, and although I’ve rewritten/am rewriting it substantially (would you believe futuristic fiction has to be updated?) I haven’t had to change the premise that our colonisation of the solar system would be driven by raw greed and the desire to exploit without restraint – no law, just the survival of the strongest, greediest and most ruthless. I can’t claim any credit for inventing Elon Musk but I could easily fit him in as a character.
Another interesting idea in the discussion on Start the Week was the notion that rich white men were promoting the idea of catastrophe on Earth, with the need for us to find somewhere else to live, because they were bored with what Earth had to offer. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. It’s probably not difficult to spook a lot of people with disaster predictions that would make them jump at the idea of moving to another planet.
For my part, although I can see disaster heading straight for us, or rather, I can see us heading straight for disaster here on Earth, my philosophy is summed up by the Walker children’s Daddy in Swallows and Amazons. “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won’t drown.” (Always turn to children’s fiction for profound insights). If we’re not duffers, we’ll do what’s needed to stop catastrophe on our own planet and there will be no need to inflict ourselves on another one. If we are such duffers that we feebly allow catastrophe on Earth while knowing we could stop it, better drown. The Universe is better off without us.
Although I milk it for my science fiction, I don’t think we’ve earned the moral right to go anywhere near the Moon, let alone Mars or beyond. What has the poor innocent Solar System done to deserve Elon Musk?
My scifi books so far.
(part 1 of Salvage)
(part 2 of Salvage)