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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 740 Response:
Bewildering Stories discusses...

Colonizing: Past and Future

with Robin Helweg-Larsen

Space Colonization” appears in issue 740.

[Robin H-L.I was intrigued by the questions you put into the Challenge. I hadn’t considered whether the poem can be said to “implicitly justify the history of colonization on Earth,” but I can see it.

But exploration into empty territory is one thing, ethinic cleansing of an earlier people is something different. I have other poems on that theme. I even had a letter to that effect in the print edition of The Economist of 24th September 2015:

Politicians are right to suspect that behind the current spate of refugees and migrants there are another 100m who are thinking about moving to the West. We have been walking out of Africa for 2m years, motivated by the need to find somewhere safe and productive to raise a family. But most people would rather live where they were born, with familiar people, food and climate. The way to prevent mass migration is to stabilise and develop all countries.

If Europe takes in a surge of immigrants, that isn’t inherently problematic. Europe will become more similar to the globalised communities of Canada, America, Brazil and Australia. There is no moral justification for the apartheid of nationality when we are born at random into regions of luxury or misery. People should be free to move anywhere, so long as they are prepared to absorb the language and culture of their new land.

[Don W.] A fair and forceful argument, Robin; thanks!

And your poem’s imagery is also thought-provoking. Humanity emerges from Earth as from an egg? We start to write a new story? Surely no one can object; that is what Bewildering Stories is all about.

As everyone knows, I have serious reservations about “space colonies.” Not only will they be extremely difficult to build and maintain, their purpose remains obscure. What are they supposed to do?

Sir Edmund Hillary’s response to “Why did you climb Mt. Everest?” was quite modestly non-committal: “Because it’s there.” I would have expected: “Because somebody was going to do it, and I wanted to be the first.” But he was a gentleman and too well-mannered to boast.

Is space uninhabited? If we’ve learned one thing from the early explorers of planet Earth, the most we can say at present is: “We don’t know.” That’s why the Cassini probe was ordered to end its mission at Saturn rather than risk contaminating Enceladus or Titan, which might already or ultimately harbour life of their own.

While I take a dim view of space colonization, space exploration is another matter entirely; I’m all for it. And who knows: robot exploration may someday provide a good reason to establish space colonies.

In a far future, explorers from Earth may land on a planet inhabited by people whose science fiction resembles our own, in which invaders from outer space replicate the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: war, famine, pestilence and death. To return to your observations about immigration, we’ll be ready for First Contact when we no longer pose such threats to ourselves or anyone else.

Copyright © 2017 by Robin Helweg-Larsen
and Bewildering Stories

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