In 2011 I met Les Johnson, a NASA executive who, if he’d wanted to, could have put together a successful career as a science fiction writer. But he was more interested in the science itself, and specifically in whether humanity would eventually be able to get offworld and be able to establish colonies elsewhere. It was something we would have to do if we wanted our species to survive. And of course he was right. No one, certainly no politician, ever seems to notice that our growing population, which was a good thing in earlier years, can’t continue forever without leading eventually to disaster.
We both knew that no place in the solar system would work long term. We would eventually have to occupy worlds orbiting other stars. But the closest ones were extraordinarily far. Proxima Centauri is the nearest. If someone out there turned on a giant floodlight to celebrate your next birthday, you’d be four years and four months older when you saw it. Which is how we started thinking about a faster-than-light drive.
Unfortunately, an FTL drive may be impossible. We don’t really know yet, but that may be the reality. It would be a good idea, Les suggested, to start thinking about our situation if Captain Kirk’s warp drive or any other type of FTL drive really is impossible. The result was Going Interstellar, published a year later. These were stories about what it would take to get to some of the “nearby” stars if something like the warp drive never appears. What would an actual voyage of years be like?
Some of the best known writers in the field signed on: Ben Bova, Gregory Matloff, Charles Gannon, Richard Obousy, Louise Marley, Michael Bishop, Sarah Hoyt, and Mike Resnick. And of course Les and I contributed stories. We had some non-fiction as well.
Why am I bringing all this up ten years later? Baen will be releasing a trade paperback edition shortly. It’s a book with which I was seriously proud to be connected.