I’ve been a reader of books from a very young age and have probably read thousands of books in my lifetime. Some were for entertainment, some for knowledge, and some for research. When I entered junior high, I gained access to a fairly large school library. The three genres I read most often were historical biographies, westerns, and science fiction. Of those, science fiction was the one that drew me like a moth to the flame.
Many of the early science fiction writers were scientists or had a scientific background. Isaac Asimov was a biochemist, E. E. “Doc” Smith was a chemist and food engineer, Arthur C. Clark, was an inventor. They were some of the most prolific sci-fi writers. Asimov, Clark, and Heinlein were considered the “big three,” the best of the best.
Reading about technologically advanced worlds beyond our planet ignited my imagination to the point I watched the horizon at night and hoped an alien race would land nearby, so I could go and greet them. Silly boy! I probably would have wet my PJs if this had really come true. Over the years, though, I saw much of the technology in the science fiction I read become actual science facts.
From their inception, science and technology have grown exponentially. From messengers running on foot in ancient times to the Pony Express in the 1800s took thousands of years. From the Pony Express to global video conferencing, though, measures just a couple of centuries. If you extrapolate from that, you can imagine we could have starships within decades. That’s right, travel between solar systems and galaxies by the end of this century.
What’s that, you say? It can’t be done? It is impossible to travel faster than light? What about cosmic radiation? Every advance we have made in science and technology has had its naysayers who’ve given all manner of reasons why it couldn’t be done, was too dangerous, or the then-current science had proven it was impossible. Fortunately, there have always been brilliant and determined souls that have pushed through barriers to bring about advances, people who were as inspired and made it happen. After all, the first automatic electric doors that slid open sideways, inspired by the 1960s Star Trek doors on TV, were installed at Randall’s grocery store in Houston when I lived nearby. Some inspired people decided they were going to make that sci-fi idea a reality. That first set of doors cost $50,000!
Inspiration and creation will continue as long as we humans exist. The adventurers among us will always strive for bigger, better, further, faster, and longer. Just as we sailed across oceans, not knowing exactly what was over the horizon, we will go forth into the galaxy to find what lies there too.
What will we find? The adventurer will tell you that new worlds await exploration and settling. Naysayers will be certain we are courting disaster, like some 1950s B movie or those celebrated on the Fourth of July, that aliens will take heed and attack the human race. But go into the great beyond we will. We always have.