Friday, 4 March 2016

Isolated Planets

How likely are faster than light interstellar travel and a galaxy full of habitable but uninhabitable planets for human beings to colonize? I think that both ideas are extremely unlikely. However, these improbable premises underlie two standard sf scenarios:

an interstellar civilization or "Empire";

a post-Imperial period during which colonized extrasolar planets, isolated for several generations, are gradually rediscovered and recivilized by the few worlds that have retained or regained the capacity for interstellar travel.

This second scenario, Star Trek without the absurdity of identically humanoid beings independently evolved on innumerable planets, exists in:

Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation;
James Blish's Cities In Flight;
the Long Night and Allied Planets periods of Poul Anderson's Technic History;
Jerry Pournelle's A Spaceship For The King, expanded as King David's Spaceship.

Poul Anderson describes fictional planets in detail and always makes clear that human colonists would require dietary supplements, imported ecologies, biological readjustments etc. Another planet is not just another continent.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I agree a FTL drive is unlikely NOW. But there are scientists who seriously wonder if there might be some way around the light speed barrier--and are working on the question. Perhaps an Andersonian hyper drive or a Pournelleian Alderson Drive is not hopelessly impossible!

    And we already know thousands of other planets exist. True, most of them are "super Earths" or hot Jupiters not suitable for colonization. But, I think it's only a matter of time before planets not too impossibly difficult to colonize will be found.

    Correct, how Poul Anderson was careful to point out that even colonizable planets will need work to be satisfactory for mankind.