Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy has successfully launched into space and is headed for Mars orbit. Aboard the massive rocket is Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, a test-dummy called “Starman,” a bunch of David Bowie music, the words “Don’t Panic” (in reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) displayed on the Tesla’s panel, and a storage device containing sci-fi classics.
Besides The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference propelling through space, a device that SpaceX calls “5D quartz laser storage device…a high tech, high data storage unit that can survive the harsh environment of space” is also on the payload. This device contains Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.
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The Foundation trilogy is basically about the idea that humans have cracked the code and can predict and plan for the future. It’s kind of a nice idea that Musk stored copies of the novels aboard the first Falcon Heavy launch. It’s, you know, symbolic or whatever. People should have reason to be hopeful if Musk’s optimistic enough to be sending something like the Foundation series up into space.
Musk is a known bookworm, constantly recommending books, and apparently a Potterhead. SpaceX’s successful launch of the Falcon Heavy means we can soon send up massive payloads (up to 64 tonnes) at a relatively low price. But the most valuable part of the payload that was sent up on its premiere voyage was, of course, literature.
The world’s favorite alien planet is back in the news this week (and not just because of The Martian adaptation!): scientists have discovered liquid water on Mars, a possible indication that there could be life on the Red Planet. One person who’s excited by the news is George R.R. Martin, who grew up reading about Mars in paperbacks and comic books. In a new piece written for the Guardian, he reflects on the literary history of Mars.
In the article, the author of A Game of Thrones traces the legacy of Martian science fiction from H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs all the way to the present-day writers who appear in Old Mars, a collection of Martian stories that Martin edited. Throughout the piece, Martin draws connections between scientific exploration and literature. In particular, he focuses on the Mariner spacecrafts’ discoveries and how they put an end to the more imaginative portrayals of Mars.
Despite NASA’s injection of realism to the science fiction community, Martin’s Old Mars collection will feature retro-style Martian stories. Martin anticipates some backlash from his community, but he defends the collection, saying:
Purists and fans of “hard SF” and other people with sticks up their butts may howl that the stories in Old Mars are not “real science fiction”. So be it. Call them “space opera” or “space fantasy” or “retro-sf” or “skiffy”, any term you like. Me, I call them “stories”, and like all stories, they are rooted in the imagination. When you come right down to it, I don’t think “real” matters nearly as much as “cool”.
Check out Martin’s entire piece over at the Guardian – it’s well worth reading!