As this is Speak Out With Your Geek Out! Week, I’m going to spend part of the week blogging about things that gets my geek up, that brings out the geeky part of my personality, that has people turn in my direction, point at me and say, “Geek!”
And I wear this title proudly.
So what’s on tap today? Space and all things Space Flighty.
I’m a child of the 1960′s. Sure, I was a teenager in the 1970′s, but that gets us into disco and I don’t want to go there. (Though I was at Disco Demolition Night, and that was tons of fun.) I started coming into my own, mental illness and all, in the late 1960′s, and that meant my life was, dare I say, pretty interesting.
Now, as I stated in yesterday’s post, as a kid I read a lot of science fiction. Nearly all of that came from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, so that meant a lot of what I had before me dealt with ships zipping through space to destinations known and otherwise. When a large part of your youth is tied up in such endeavors, you find yourself gyrating towards real life things.
And in the mid and late 1960′s, there was plenty of the real thing to go around.
Yes, I was around before people were in orbit around Earth. I saw the start of the race; I was there through Gemini and I do remember when sitting for 2 weeks in a capsule the size of a Smart Car was a world’s endurance record. I remember the Apollo 1 fire; I remember Vladimir Komarov dying in Soyuz 1.
I remember the moon flights. I was there for a small step for mankind, and all steps after. I remember the flight that didn’t make it, and I remember people driving on the Moon. (This last actually cost me a friendship because I wouldn’t hang with this guy as I was watching the first Apollo 15 lunar EVA. It was also my first encounter with idiots who believed the moon landings were faked, so it wasn’t a great loss.)
Yes, the years since 1972 haven’t always been the best for manned space flight, but in the unmanned area we’ve seen more and done more than one could have imagined. Today we know a far different Mars than I knew as a kid; we’ve “seen” the surface of Venus; besides the Moon and Mars, there are probes orbiting Mercury, Saturn, and the asteroid Vesta, another is on its way to Jupiter; and in a few years we’ll do a fly-by of the Little Planet That Way, aka Pluto, and finally see in detail, that system.
I love, as io9 calls it, “space porn”. I love the universe. I love that with advances in science and technology, we are learning about just how strange yet wonderful the universe is. I owned a telescope when I was 7, and I still have that and a 25 cm reflector. Exoplanets excite me, and I know it’s only a matter of months (yep, that’s right) before we find a totally Earth-like planet (not a super-Earth, but one likes this rock) in the Goldilocks Zone of another star. Are we going to find Vulcans? Probably not, but I just want to tell people, “I knew this was coming a long time ago.”
Now, yes, I know space flight hasn’t lived up to my expectations, and I’m never going to see a probe leave for the nearest star before I die (unless I get very, very lucky, or live until I’m like 500), but I can imagine and dream–and game it. Sure, there are a lot of RPGs that take you into space, but how about if you go there old school and real?
Diaspora is one game I’ve reviewed where the designers have tried to put science back into science fiction. (And if you enjoy reading about gaming and game designs, check out the blog of Brad Murray, one of the authors of Diaspora.) It’s a great, fun game, and it’s going to give you a feel for what being out in the black is really like. (Hint: for the most part you won’t be traveling with beautiful companions.) Stellar Wind is another such game where science can and does come into play, and space flight isn’t just a matter of aiming for the first star on the left and engaging your warp drive. And if you’re totally into the Rocketpunk Genre, Cold Space–space flight as it could have been–is the way to go. (Of course, with Rocketpunk comes The Elephant in the Room–)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention–I love modeling solar systems. I’ve done this for a few stories, and I’ve done this for a couple of games I’ve run. I’ve used AstroSynthesis for years (bought during one of my many visits to GenCon), and of late I’ve found a few sites on the Internet that allow me to figure out Goldilocks Zones for the systems I’ve designed. And if you like to have your solar systems created quick and dirty, National Geographic has just the site for you.
Seriously, before I die I would love to go into space. I’ve done it many times in my imagination, and I would look to spend a little while above 100 kilometers floating next to a window, even though I know physically I’d feel like I was about to die. But . . . that’s a minor thing compared to the experience of entering that Final Frontier–
‘Cause sometimes you gotta suffer for those things you love.