Monday, May 27, 2013

The Traveller Has Come

Imagine there is a portal that will send you anywhere--but it's a one way trip. Where would you go and why?

I wonder if perhaps this question, upon reflection, has an unintended air of solace to it.  There's such a finality to it--you leave, never to return (though, I'm sure, the fine print reads "never to return by way of the portal." If your trip is from the attic in your house to the basement in your house, you can still walk upstairs.).  This, of course, differs from so many "voyages" of fiction and fact alike: the moon, Oz, the Death Star, and the new world are all places in the middle of a round trip home, of which there's like, it's been said, no place.

There also the issue of where one goes traveling.  If the port of call is some place inferior to ours, such as the past or an under-developed fictional world, you've the temptation to rule it--just as Hank Morgan so easily found in medieval England.  Sure, there's the whole microbial issue (if the vast array of germs for which we 21st Century lads and lasses are unprepared didn't zap us, the sheer stink of, say,
Franklin's Philadelphia with chambermaids pouring earthen pots filled with urine and feces into the street would certain pose a problem).  And also... I worry that upon arriving at that inferior place, one would be taken as a madman, not a prophet.  A pessimistic view, perhaps, but could one really an American Revolution in 1750?  A successful light bulb before 1880? Landing on the moon before 1969?  Twain's Hank Morgan might have become "The Boss" in a handful of months, but I'd skip the past for my portal trip.

It's the future for me.  Now, there's been much banter about as to exactly how useful one of we quaint, stupid people of 2011 would be in that advanced, far-flung future.  (Indeed, many a reader will doubtless be thinking of the character of Harry Bernard in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "When the Bough Breaks;" Harry, of course, at age 10 protested the fact that every child his age learns calculus.)  That said, if it was today, July 21, 2011 (the anniversary of the moon landing and the endpoint of the shuttle program, a disappointing footnote in American--and indeed human--exploration) that I was preparing to go through the portal to another place, it would probably be that world of Star Trek: The Next Generation anyway.

Now let me admit right off the bat, that I probably wouldn't have been Enterprise material even if I was born in the 24th Century--my work ethic leans towards efficiency as defined as having other people do things while I drink tea, Earl Grey, hot.  Nonetheless, imagine what a place it would be to live in--the starry frontier always around the corner, fabulous technology,  and the air of adventure in the air.  Perhaps I'm affected by the recent addition of TNG to Netflix, which has allowed me to start one epic rewatch.  This, in turn, has transported (pun intended) me back to being 7 or 8 again, as I was when TNG started to air.

Still, stepping through that portal, I can't help but imagine how grand it would be: the chance to step onto some ship and fly through the stars to whatever strange, new destination awaits.  Sure, a relative luddite to the 24th Century, I'd probably end up on the ham sandwich brigade of the tug boat fleet, but it's not like I'd be making less money for it.  After all, the Federation is moneyless, and the creature comforts (food, drink, material possessions) are all one synthesizer request away.  A future imperfect, perhaps, but I'll take it.

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