THE CENTER'S NEWEST PROJECT
Star Trek, Interstellar, and the 21st Century Space Age
A new book by Barry Vacker
To be published in Fall 2015.
The future begins. — tagline for Star Trek (2009)
We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt. — astronaut Cooper in Interstellar (2014).
It's 2015. We are now 14 years past 2001, the year for Stanley Kubrick's "space odyssey." And grand space films are making a comeback. Interstellar is considered one of the great films of all time and the new Star Trek films have proven immensely popular. What's happening in space?
Given the popularity of these films and the emergence of privatized space travel and space tourism, perhaps it's time to explore the many meanings of space films and what is happening with human civilization in the 21st century. We send human bodies into space on to live on space stations, while we extend human consciousness into space with the Hubble Space Telescope — to reveal an expanding universe with billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, along with untold numbers of planets and black holes. What does this space exploration mean for the human species? Something or nothing?
Using Star Trek and Interstellar as the starting points, this book offers an original critique of space narratives and human destiny in popular culture. This book will draw from cosmology, technology, philosophy, aesthetics, and media theory, including the ideas of President John Kennedy, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marshall McLuhan, Carl Sagan, Jill Tarter, Jean Baudrillard, Immanuel Kant, Brian Cox, and others. The book hopes to inspire you to think critically and creatively about space and human destiny, in ways that are broader and deeper than the conventional perspectives. That should not be surprising, as there are a wide range of issues — far beyond economics and nationalism — that inform the space age narratives for our species and they are present in Star Trek, Interstellar, and other space films, past and future.
Will what's happening in space mirror what's happening on Earth, or will life on Earth begin to mirror what's happening in space?
Will we merely extend into space our cosmic narcissism, our ignorance and superstitions, our consumption and destruction, and our prejudices and tribal warfare? Or is it even remotely possible to use the 21st century space age as the starting point for building a cosmic civilization — a global and interplanetary civilization that embraces its cosmological origins and relations as a single species with a powerful consciousness born of billions of years of cosmic evolution. Can this consciousness imagine a future for our species and that is sane and humane, ecological and technological, optimistic and inspiring, meaningful and beautiful?
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