Even at its scariest, science fiction can still offer some promise for the future: Sure, we may go to war against tentacled space monsters at the far end of the galaxy, but hey, that means we’ll at least get to see the far end of the galaxy (and maybe those tentacled space monsters aren’t so tough after all). Just positing the notion that there is a future for human beings is in itself somewhat optimistic – an exception made for dreary fare like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
So what do we do when our storytellers step from behind the curtain and tell us that the dreams they’ve shared with us are probably just that: dreams? Does it make a difference? Can we still be inspired by a possible future that might be full of unknown horror, but also beauty and wonder as yet unseen, or do we turn our eyes earthward and away from stars that suddenly seem to twinkle just a little less brightly?
Prometheus, from what I’ve seen from trailers, present a future both horrific and inspiring in equal measure: look at the Space Cobras and mysterious aliens, but also the gorgeous spacesuits, robots and star ships. See also the tantalizing possibility of a unifying myth of human creation: a race of cosmic gods who created us all, a religious revelation without the unsteady foundation of faith. It’s there, but only if we can survive the horror. Would you risk it? A journey to the stars for an answer to everything you ever wanted to know – everything all of us wanted to know?
According to Prometheus screenwriter John Spaihts, you’ll never have the chance. In a May 1 interview with Forbes‘ Parmy Olson, Spaihts shared his decidedly sober view of the future of interstellar travel: there is none.
“My personal belief is that as much as I love science fiction, human beings will never reach another star,” said Spaihts.
Spaihts cites many of the same obstacles that many scientists do: the unlikeliness of humanity creating a form of transportation that will exceed lightspeed; the incredible distances between stars; the probable technological ceiling imposed by limited mineral resources on Earth. Are these things certainties? Absolutely not, but they are considerable technological hurdles.
How does this make you feel about Prometheus? Are you disappointed?
Do you still believe in the promise of science fiction – the glistening chrome, the powerful hum of warp drives? Do you preserve your optimism, or will Spaihts’ pessimism colonize you, find the center of your being and nestle there like a Chestburster? Or was it already there, hibernating in deep, cold sleep, preserved against the promised warmth of alien suns?
Pictured: Prometheus: the Art of the Film, by Mark Salisbury. Titan Books, June 5, 2012.