Throughout my life, there have been three years — three milestones — that exemplified the future. They were (it really, really sucks having to say they are all past tense now) 1999, 2001, and 2010.
When I was a kid, there was the British sci-fi show Space:1999.It featured the amazing Moonbase Alpha (a city on the Moon with 311 inhabitants) and the Eagle, which is perhaps the coolest spaceship of all time. It aired in 1975 and, from a design standpoint, really showed me how the future could look.
Additionally, before that, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey — a film that served as the blueprint for Space: 1999. Argue all you want, but I think this iconic vision is the still the best science-fiction movie of all time. Its 44-year-old visual effects easily stand up to today’s standards.
Lastly, there was 2010: Odyssey Two. A fitting sequel and an exciting return to that honored universe. Both the book and the film were memorable and well-executed.
Clarke eventually wrote 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. But, in my opinion, those narratives were far less thrilling and memorable. They were too far removed from the future that I was personally destined to inhabit. Little did I know…
So, as we begin 2010, I have written this detailed account of my love affair/obsession with our current, and disappointingly less-than-magical, year.
Aside from watching Apollo launches and reruns of the original Star Trek with my little sister, nothing caught my attention more than a children’s book by British author Geoffrey Hoyle called 2010: Living in the Future.
It depicted the world of tomorrow as filled with amazing new technologies such as ‘vision phones’ and ‘tubes’ that deliver food and clothing to everyone’s home. Shrink-wrapped electric cars are shuttled to consumers via even larger liquid–filled tubes.
Additionally, overpopulation has led everyone on Earth to live in high-tech apartments where they sleep and eat in recessed areas in the floor. There are spectacular community centers with swimming pools that can hold up to 4,000 people. That would take some serious chlorine!
I thought that book was so cool. I checked it out from my school library at least once a month.
Since people were traveling to the Moon at the time, I had to believe that this future, or something much like it was destined to come true. Just add flying cars and jet packs and I was there! An archive of that fun, yet, far less-than-visionary book can be viewed here.
I had just received a copy of 2010: Odyssey Two, Arthur C. Clarke’s sequel to 2001 (a film that, by the way, scared the hell out of me when I first watched it on NBC at age nine). I was thrilled. Not only did 2010 have the coolest book cover I had ever seen (by Michael Whelan), reading it served to explain some of the mysteries set up in the previous book and film.
It blew my mind.
In some way, it was nearly as influential on the evolution of Slingshot as Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Here was my first adventure to the Galilean moon Europa and the possibility of life in its subsurface ocean. We are also introduced to entities much like Slingshot‘s Quanzi into Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Shortly after reading that fantastic book, I discovered that a film was going into production soon. I couldn’t wait!
2010: The Year We Make Contact hits theaters. I was first in line.
I was a depressed teenager who was sick of high school and dreaming of the future. The film was a fitting sequel to the original. I had my critiques, which crack me up when I look at them today. I thought the spacesuits weren’t futuristic enough. I thought the set designs lacked the depth and vision of 2001.
The visual effects, while satisfactory, were without the artistry and creativity of the first film. I ultimately was concerned that the depiction of the future was not believable; it was too much like 1984 and not enough like 2010 was going to be. How ironic!
Anyway, I was really happy to see a realistic depiction of space exploration after so many years of Star Wars sequels and ripoffs. Plus, the main character had a house that connected to the ocean and real dolphins could stop by for a visit! Awesome!
Fredrick Haugen and I got to meet and hang out with Peter Hyams, the director of 2010, Outland, and Capricorn One. We were pitching our Mars-based sci-fi project, Utopia.
Hyams gave us advice on how to break into Hollywood and shared his personal cynicism about the direction of space movies. Aside from being able to chat with him, we also got to see a real prop of the HAL 9000. It was embedded in the wall in his office, glowing quietly. It was cool to see HAL’s ominous red eye in person!
No Moonbase Alpha. No Eagles. Actually, humans can’t even get past Earth orbit. I’m bummed.
No Space Station One. No routine travel to the Moon. The ‘future’ is looking worse all the time. I’m even more bummed.
No trips to Jupiter. No suspended animation. No dolphin houses.
So we finally arrive at the final of my legendary milestones of the future. Now what?
To be honest, it’s pretty depressing to think about it. Most people, aside from the space and sci-fi enthusiasts in know, just don’t get what these dates meant to so many of us. They were something to look forward to. Something to dream of.
I am not saying that the societies depicted in 2001 and 2010 were utopian or perfect. They obviously didn’t predict the future well at all. There was no internet. No iPhones. No Wii Fit. But then again, those visions seemed a lot more hopeful for our species.
Also, I am not saying that big rockets, space stations, or trips to Jupiter would solve all of the problems that our society — hell, our entire species — is facing and has faced for thousands of years. In some way, without forethought, they might have made them worse. It seems possible we may never know.
Regardless, I believe that the attempt to face the technological challenges inherent to creating these now imaginary worlds would have brought out our best and paved the way to a far more spectacular and successful human future.
This brings me back to Slingshot and the year 2100. Fredrick and I picked it for a reason. We wanted it to have a new number to look forward to. A new year to inspire thoughts of tomorrow. And besides, 2100 still has a two, a one, and two zeroes. Much like 2001 and 2010. Last time that will happen. Ever. Interesting, huh?
Who knows? Maybe by then things will be far more inspiring in 2100 than they are today in 2010.
Unfortunately, barring some amazing medical breakthrough, I won’t be around to witness it.
Header image by mgatch.
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