I came across this film in progress called Man Conquers Space on the Sci-Fi Movie Facebook page. It’s an amazing retro-future history documentary of a space program that never existed, but that every space geek dreamed of in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Since I grew up reading Popular Science magazines from the 1950s and a great set of 50s encyclopedias my grandparents had, I too envisioned the future of space travel and exploration though that brightly, rose-tinted lens of 1950s space optimism. It was a sad day when I was old enough to realize that the future that I was dreaming about – a future of space stations, moon bases, missions to mars, and regular space travel – was unlikely to be realized in my lifetime.
Sure, we have the International Space Station, but the US no longer has a Space Shuttle to build and service it. We now rely on the Russian’s unreliable Soyuz space craft to service and staff the ISS. The next US space fleet is still years away and will not be composed of reusable craft. Private companies are, thankfully, trying to step into fill the gap and expand access to low earth orbit, but even with government assistance, there are some big hurdles to overcome before private space travel is regular, reliable, and safe.
The website for the Man Conquers Space film project has a great background story page with a detailed future history providing the dramatic rational for the film. I love future histories. The idea is simple – a sci-fi fictional history of the future, generally used as a backdrop for several stories or novels. Neil R. Jones seems to have created the first fictional future history with his Professor James stories (published between 1931 and 1951). I grew up reading the stories in Robert Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow future history, Larry Niven’s Known Space future history, and Jerry Pournell’s Codominium future history, among others. I was always fascinated by a detailed vision of the future. It’s the sort of world building that lends a bit of realism to stories. Recently, I’ve found the future history of Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth and Night Dawn series captivating. A solidly created future history in sci-fi is akin to a vividly imagined world in fantasy. Both are backdrops for the story to take place in, but the level of detail, and the consistency of that detail, lends the story a deep patina of realism that makes it easier for the reader to suspend his or her disbelief.
Back in the mid-1990s, I wrote a script called Future History. It was a story about a man and his robot meeting a woman and her rocket ship in the year 2000 AD – as envisioned by the sci-fi pulp magazines and novels of the 1940s and 50s. I haven’t looked the script in years, so I have no idea how good or bad it might be, but I while hunting for something else in my digital files, I came across a Guidebook to the Future – a future history I had written up for the script and formatted as a guidebook for the screenplay agents I was hoping to entice to represent me.
I got go so exited watching the teaser film for Man Conquers Space that I decided to post the guidebook for my Future History script. I may post the script itself sometime soon, but I think I’d want to read again before taking that leap.
Follow this link for Future History: A Guidebook to Tomorrow.