Tomorrow night (Monday) the SyFy Channel in the U.S. will premiere a three-night miniseries called Ascension. It’s a Canadian-American production about a murder mystery on a generation ship that launched from the United States 50 years ago. Canadian readers will need to wait until January to see it on the CBC.
The show is set in an alternate present. The generational craft started its mission in 1963, almost as a hedge against the threat of nuclear apocalypse. So for me at least, the murder mystery will take a back seat to seeing a generational craft. Unless we do manage to find some ‘Star Trek’ way of traveling faster than light, human colonization, if not exploration, of space will require sending out groups of people and expecting some kind of follow-through from their descendants. The sociological challenges of this may well dwarf the technological ones.
Ascension also offers a retro conception of the future. Much in the way that science and technology policy is often seen from a (limiting) ‘high-tech’ perspective, science fiction can often be seen from a single perspective – the future. But more often than not we are really seeing extrapolations of our present. Whether or not the folks producing Ascension will be able to pull off an extrapolation of the past into the present remains to be seen. But the possibilities are enough to catch my interest.