Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Generation ships where things more or less work out okay

A post by James Davis Nicholl at tor.com: Five Stories About Generation Ships With Happy(ish) Endings

Nicholl starts his column this way:

We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. 

Yeah, usually something worse, is my impression. I’m certainly up for generation ships where things work out at least somewhat better. I can think of one possible example, but first let’s see what Nicholl comes up with …

Rite of Passage (1968) by Alexei Panshin

Riding the Torch (1974) by Norman Spinrad

The Dazzle of Day (1998) by Molly Gloss

An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017) by Rivers Solomon

Escaping Exodus (2019) by Nicky Drayden

Wow, I haven’t read ANY of those, even though Nicholl spans fifty-odd years in his selections. Some of these stories sound pretty unpleasant, although I suppose one must grant that the colonists don’t necessary descend to barbarism. The one that strikes me as most inviting is The Dazzle of Day. Here’s the description:

A former space station equipped with vast solar sails, the Dusty Miller takes almost two centuries to reach its extrasolar destination—long enough for any number of horrific social or physical setbacks! Alas, the Dusty Miller’s long voyage was orchestrated by Quakers . . . Everything keeps working. Not only are the Quakers relentlessly reasonable people, their customs allow them to face disagreements directly and resolve them peaceably. These peculiar arrangements suffice to get the ship across the light years and ensure that their response to the forbidding exoplanet that awaits them is a constructive one.

That strikes me as a good deal more appealing than the grim dystopias that appear to exist on the more recent selections above.

In addition to the ones Nicholl selected, how about this:

This is my favorite out of all the Foreigner covers. Bren looks like such a badass diplomat in this image!

Sure, the ship wasn’t meant to be a generation ship, but it wound up that way. Granted, the crew who stayed with the ship wound up in trouble, but they didn’t turn into barbarians or cannibals or whatever — and now that they’re heading down to the atevi world, I expect they’ll be fine. I’d call that at minimum a happy-ish ending.

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2 Comments Generation ships where things more or less work out okay

  1. Rachel

    Yes, several of these sound pretty grim, one way or another, don’t they? This isn’t exactly a list of “stories about generation ships where things are pretty nice.”

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