A curious thing happened this week. Elon Musk launched his Tesla Roadster into space atop the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Curious as that is, the thing that really grabbed my attention was the fact that people all over social media and in real life got really excited by the fact that we were pushing boundaries again and striving to do epic things once more.
I was born in 1971 and the Apollo moon missions ended in 1972. Though I didn’t get to participate in the global excitement of watching people from Earth breaking the bonds of our planetary shackles and then walking for the first time on an alien landscape, I did have the benefit of living in a time where we could point to the people that we sent to the moon. For the next decade or so we lived in the afterglow of having accomplished a giant leap for mankind. The dreams of the golden age science fiction writers and the admonition of Gene Roddenberry to “boldy go where no man had gone before” had become reality. Then something happened.
The sixties and seventies turned into the eighties, and the Cold War ramped up with the very real threat that young people my age lived under. We believed that we and the Soviets would surely wipe each other off the map, and take the rest of the world with us. Our science fiction started to reflect this.
Lately the market has been dominated by a dystopian view of science fiction. Instead of painting a picture of humanity pushing boundaries and using our creative energy to solve problems, explore, and make the world a better place, we tend to see how the fruits of our labors are ultimately going to lead to our downfall. I believe cautionary tales are important, but it is equally important to inspire people to dream again about what we can do. Today’s writers should inspire tomorrow’s scientists who in turn will inspire the next generation of writers and scientists. If we stop dreaming, we stop growing.
I have been reading Elon Musk’s biography and what has stuck with me is the fact that he seems to believe that we humans can and should do more than we have lately. I agree. It also came as no surprise that early on Musk was a fan of, and saw his view of the future shaped by science fiction writers. His company SpaceX is proof of that.
Writers, please start dreaming again and inspire the next generation to push the boundaries like we never have before. You never know who that nerdy kid will be that picks up your book and is inspired to literally reach for the stars.