Out Now: Odyssey 26 (April 2013) – Worlds Aplenty


World Ships arrive: an historical inevitability, or an event destined to remain within the realm of fiction and speculation? Image courtesy of Adrian Mann.

“A ball of light or fire had formed in midair. The light grew, filling much of the room yet fading as it did so, resolving into something dark and bristly – a sphere like a sea-urchin, a flattened ball of copper spines, vivid one moment, insubstantial the next, hovering and spinning, slowing down. Horse whips of light arched from the spikes to walls and floor with the sound of ripping canvas. This noise also oscillated, near, then far – like an old wireless wandering off-signal – as if the thing couldn’t quite anchor itself in space or time…The sparking and pulsing ceased at once. The thing dropped to the flags with a sound like a jail door.”

A Scientific Romance
Ronald Wright

As we disembark from the “Wells Device” (powered up and sent hurtling into the future in last month’s Odyssey), the moment has come to cast about for a new destination. Brushing the dust from our clothing, acquired in battling the cannibalistic Eloi, it’s time to search for new terrains to explore. And we don’t have to look far.

This month’s Radical Vectors (written with characteristic verve by Richard Hayes) tackles the theme of world ships, perhaps the largest engineering feat (short of terraforming) that mankind may ever tackle. Such endeavours are at present far beyond our capabilities; and it’s hard to see how they will ever come within the reach of a species which seems intent on consuming planetary resources at a faster rate than they can be replaced. And who’s to say that humanity (with its endless capacity for cruelty and violence) deserves to spread its DNA to the stars? Perhaps other less aggressive primates, or aquatic species such as whales or dolphins, might make better ambassadors for Earth. Perhaps indeed some of the very creatures (given an evolutionary boost or uplift) which David Brin writes about so convincingly in his latest novel, Existence, reviewed on page 3 by John Silvester.


BIS Member Stephen Baxter tackled the theme of interstellar travel in his grittily realistic novel, Ark. A signed copy of the first edition forms part of the Stephen Baxter Collection in the BIS library.

While world ships and interstellar travel continue to be aspirational goals, the Solar System remains very much within our grasp, as Sheila Kanani demonstrated so dramatically in her recent lecture at the BIS. And there are enough moons – worlds aplenty – in the Solar System to keep a fleet of robotic probes occupied for many decades. Perhaps some of our younger members, or some of our friends and colleagues in UKSEDS, may well be involved in the construction and design of these probes in the near future, thus putting the Society’s motto into practice in a tangible way.

Continuing our theme of exotic vehicles we take a ride in the lunar buggy – “the most expensive four-wheeled vehicle ever built” – in the second of this month’s book reviews. Moonwalker Pete Conrad missed out on the chance to drive a lunar buggy (the rovers were introduced after Pete’s exploits on Apollo 12) but it’s safe to say he would have had great fun with the device. And if he could fix a broken space station, as he did on Skylab, Pete would have had no trouble at all with a punctured tyre on the Moon. This remarkable member of the Apollo brotherhood is the subject of a series of on-going posts on the BIS website, as regular visitors to our cyber domain will know: Cosmic Spider: the Interplanetary Thread Linking Pete Conrad, Reg Turnill and H.G. Wells.

Odyssey is distributed free to all BIS Members via email each month. We have recently changed the style and content of the covering email to help bring you the latest news on BIS activities, including full details of all upcoming events. If you missed the link to Odyssey 25 in last month’s e-newsletter, please let me know so that a copy of this issue can be sent to you.

Thank you for reading Odyssey.


Mark Stewart, FBIS
BIS Honorary Archival Librarian/Editor (Odyssey)

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