…a goodly number of us dreamers are going to ruefully reflect that it was entirely possible for humanity to establish off-planet settlements following the Apollo program. Settlements that likely could have been self-sustaining by now because in the alternate reality where humankind put as much effort and resources and brains as possible behind establishing populations outside this fragile egg basket we call Earth, the early ones could have been in orbit and on the moon in the 1980s.
There could have been nearly 40 years to chase the kinks out of the recycling loops and life support and hydroponics. To build solar power plants all over the darn place up there and drag a water-ice comet into Earth orbit if we couldn’t find enough to fling up to orbital colonies from Luna with mass drivers.
40 years to send more and more people up and for people to start being born up there.
40 years to establish a reservoir of human beings and our technological knowledge out of range of Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-Trump (brothers of another ego-rage-spiritual mother) and their shoe-on-podium nuclear chest-beating.
This is a little flash story I cobbled together while feeling adventurous about format and framing of stories. And, as usual, about the future. It seemed fitting to post it following the arrival of the Juno craft at Jupiter.
Hopefully the WordPress text editor won’t make too much of a hash of it — I’ll do my best to keep it looking like it’s supposed to.
This story first appeared as a patron-exclusive post on my Patreon page on July 5th — patrons see most posts 3 days early, stories 30 days early, get free ebooks whenever I publish a new one, and random exclusive stuff on occasion when I come up with something I think my patrons would like.
Help me move the hell out of the trailer park (no, seriously, I live in a goddamn trailer park and I’m NOT a fan of it) by becoming a patron, or buying an ebook or two.
Overheard Through an Apartment Wall in a City Orbiting Jupiter
At first he was speaking quietly
‘snot like it’s a new thing. People say, they say to me, hey, you’re thirteen hundred years old, man, of course you’ve forgotten best friends and lovers and all that shit shortlifers kill themselves over. But to you, hey, what’s all that? It’s no big, that’s what. It all spins around, you’ve got an age in Pluto years, man, and all we pygmies under three digits are like just dust swirlin’ ’round in the bright lightsocket, yeah.
but as he spoke his voice became louder
But what do those people know? They know nothin’. Nothin.
and I heard glass breaking
They think it’s cool, forgetting best buds and how we became so, just burnt out of there like a synapse forest fire, forgetting lovers, wives, husbands, even kids? To forget them and never remember ’til you read on a newsite how they died saving six people from decompression mapping out mineral deposits in the greasy guts of Orcus or they’re a loved great-times-six grandmother survived by who knows how many hundreds and you can’t remember her name until it says what it was in the obituary? And it’s not the years, it’s not the years, there are still a couple hundred of us in the first wave of the bioimmortal and far as I know all the rest all the damn rest still remember who’s important, hell, most of the most important to all of us are all the rest of the first wave, but
followed by a sob
oh I don’t know. Maybe they’re like me, just like me, maybe that’s how we get this old, throwing off dead leaf memories in the fall like the trees in the north when the winds start coming cold. How would I know. Dont’ talk to one of them. The years don’t make me forget. They never made me forget. I remember Tinisia, I can remember her a thousand years away, tiny little thing, graceful, her making coffee was a ballet, I remember her name and how she laughed and the smell of her skin in the morning after and last I heard she headed out in a whole hollowed-out asteroid balloon full of longlifers to see what’s around what star I can’t remember but they thought it might have two or even three Earths worth living on around it, big fat red simmering campfire with a Goldilocks the size of half a Solar system. Take them ten thousand years or maybe twenty and odds are I’ll be here to hear and not remember a damn thing I can’t forget Tinisia or
and I strained to hear another voice but there was only his growing softer again
But the rest, the rest, my own daughters, my own sons, they have no names any more and some of them are still alive out there and I don’t know
in a steady stream of words. If someone else had been there, I never would have known.
and I should know. I don’t know. If friends and family are what life is about then fuck them I’ve never lived or maybe I did but I’m not now and that’s bull, I have lived, I do live, I don’t need
Even when he wasn’t speaking, I heard faint sobbing. He never stopped speaking or sobbing. Not until
don’t need I don’t need shit.
the end when I heard footsteps
Ah, I sound like a brat baby fifty years old just figurin’ it out thumb in mouth. Was I fifty? Must have been, got here. ‘magine what it was for people in the old days, old west when the data roamed wild and free under the blue sky and never past the moon, takes a hundred years just to figure out how it all works, how all the things and people go together and bounce ’round and most all of it doesn’t matter a damn ‘cept if it makes you all happy right that moment, most all of it, who cares, nobody cares, not worth rememberin’ but worth it in the moment, and it all goes ’round, ’round, ’round, and much under a hundred it don’t make no sense but ’round then you figure it all out and the world starts to sorta work in a way you can get
and the door opened
my dad, what was his name, Chuck or Chas or Channing or Cher, a C-word, that was him, doesn’t matter his name he was a damn baby and died, fifty years old didn’t have time to know he didn’t know, and how old was I you expect me to know what happened when I was a snotnosed brat? Didn’t know anything then. Wasn’t nobody worth remembering.
and he paused
Not him, not me. Not who knows how many billions. Nobody knows.
and the door closed. I only heard a few more words.
Can you imagine what the world was like, when everyone died before they had time to figure out what it was all about? Wish I could ask
…or at least the happy little solarpunk short-short they star in is free!
I have often said that I hope that someone — anyone, government or private or whatever — builds a really decent retirement home on the moon or in geosynchronous orbit or at L5 in time for me to retire to it.
This is a story about two people who are retiring to just that sort of place. It’s a good idea for a few reasons — the reduced ‘gravity’ of a spinning habitat or the real low-gee of the moon may be enough to avoid the health troubles of microgravity while also avoiding the health troubles of living in full Earth gravity as an elder. Good times!
In the story, Brittany is happy to move to orbit. Dustin, however, is really unhappy at the idea of leaving Earth behind forever. Resolving that conflict forms the base of this happy little story.
Give it a peep — because it is FREE, and because my career as an author is still getting off the ground and every single one of you who reads it increases my chances of being seen by new readers by making my work more visible to everyone.
Your support is VERY MUCH appreciated! (If you’d like to lend even more support, I’m on Patreon, too)
Here’s where to find it:
Thank you for reading!
This is how Pluto looked when Clyde Tombaugh discovered it in 1930. A bright mote, an apparent star that moved in a way that betrayed its planetary nature — for someone who was looking carefully enough.
Things have gotten a bit better with New Horizons; you can see the latest images on NASA’s NH page. Here’s one that’s new as of this post date:
Edit: new image below, 14 JUL:
Quite the improvement, no?
Well, yes. But it has been a long wait, hasn’t it? 85 years. Granted, we could hardly have dispatched an airplane to take a closer look in 1930. Modern rocketry as in its infancy, as was broadcasting. Even if a 1930s era rocket could have been launched at Pluto, we’d hardly have gotten word back of success reaching it, much less a picture.
I do worry that these are the best images I’ll see in my lifetime, and I’m only 45. But NASA’s funding has been either waning or just holding on against inflation these last three decades, not growing, and the bulk of the current crop of Presidential candidates seem to be mostly unenthused by NASA. ‘What’s the point of spending a whole penny on the federal budget dollar on all this sciency stuff? We’ve got people to feed, bomb, feed bombs to, bomb with food, and so forth, right here on Earth.’
Hostility to and/or disinterest in space, NASA, science, and scholarly investigation in general is nothing new. In the 1970s and 80s, Senator William Proxmire (D) of Wisconsin is a ‘fine’ recent example, with his ‘Golden Fleece’ awards that, as often as not, lambasted space and science funding as wasted effort and wasted money. Plenty of commentators, regular folks, and politicians jump on that anti-intellectual, short-view bandwagon from time to time.
Frankly, it’s a nasty and dangerous habit, this idea that exploring the cosmos around us, exploring our own planet further, and learning in general is a waste of money and effort. There’s a lot to be gained by exploration, here and up there. Aren’t you reading this on a computer? Possibly a computer that also telephones people and locates itself by GPS? Thank scientists, scholars, inquisitive types, the space program, all those ‘wastes of money’ that pay off in knowledge and in the things that knowledge makes possible, if you spend the money learning now and have the patience to wait a decade or two for the payoff.
I know, we’re not that great at long-term thinking, most of us. But seriously. Yes, we’re just looking at Pluto, which is hardly going to be useful real estate or mining grounds next week, year, or decade. But every time we do something like this, we don’t just learn more about how our planetary neighbors work. We learn more about communications, propulsion, efficient generation and use of power sources, miniaturization, navigation, and so on, and so forth, and likely things that you and I haven’t thought of yet that will pay off come 2045.
Not to mention, as big as this earth is, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the solar system. Planets and asteroids and comets, oh my, swimming in a constant rain of free-to-gather energy that is sunlight (or maybe magnetic if you want to venture to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter and do some tinkering). Sometimes people talk about this ‘high frontier’ as if it could be a relief valve for overpopulation, but no, it’s not that. No more than opening California to colonization relieved crowding in New York City. But a wide frontier is a relief valve for people who are gravely dissatisfied with current affairs at home, and we as a planetary society haven’t really had one of those in quite a few decades now. Yes, there’s a certain lack of open air and flowing water up there among the various possible destinations. So what?
The big ‘so what’ is that we’re doing little practicing of how to keep people alive in places like that. There’s a space station, and 40+ years after people walked on the moon it’s still an itty-bitty one with a few people, entirely supplied from earth. It’s useful, and we learn from it, and we’ve no apparent interest in pushing the boundaries meaningfully as a species. Well, China has done a little talking in that direction, Maybe in response to US talk about sending people to Mars, maybe, one day, well maybe not, or maybe we’ll just push back the ‘maybe’ date… you get the idea. We like talking about it a bit, but few are serious about it, especially among those who would have to speak the loudest to fund such a nutty idea as putting a bunch of people on the moon or Mars to live long term, the politicians. They’re not that interested, and the public isn’t that interested. And that’s a shame. We won’t spread off this rock unless there’s an interest in doing so. Maybe the interest will come too late, after climate change gets nasty enough to cause even middle-class folks serious problems at home. Such a wait-till-the-crisis scenario would be a shame, too. Because, like in the ‘reduce population pressure’ scenario, colonizing the moon or Mars of anything else out there would not be a way to evacuate millions or billions of people in troubles.
But it would be a great way to spread the human race out a bit so that it’s not in danger of croaking en masse if a massive disaster of some sort were to loom. And it would, if no disaster comes to call, be a great way to expand the knowledge, both practical and abstract, of the human race as a whole — and that expansion would all be fuel for the next round of life-improving gadgets just as food preservation, improved transportation, construction and maintenance of internets, and so forth have been for us.
Don’t be selfish. Help the people of 2100 surpass us as much as we’ve surpassed the people of 1930.