Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why the Hundred-Year Ship Needs Game Masters

So the buzz is that we’re looking at colonizing Mars instead of just getting there, touching down and then getting back. This is mostly because getting back is going to be stupidly expensive, where colonization is, in the long run, much less so. A one-way ticket means that whoever goes is going to die on the Red Planet, having built a mostly-self-sustaining community there. This is a mission that is going to require some very special people with some very special skill-sets; you will need the usual pilot, co-pilot, science crew; but you will also need survivors, people who are going to make the trip, bunker down on Mars, and make the colony fucking work.

I am neither a pilot nor a survivor, but I want to go to Mars. This presents something of an interesting challenge for me, because it means I need to be able to justify the waste of resources I am going to represent to the mission. I mean, I suck at building stuff, and my ability to garden is so poor that I have managed to kill my only houseplant. I am horrible at math, I have no science in my background at all, and what small amounts of medical knowledge I have accumulated over the years is the rough equivalent of a first-year English student. My resume to become an astronaut is not exactly shining.

But one thing I excel at, the one thing I can do better than anyone I know, is tell stories. I can’t write them down (or I would already be a wildly successful novelist), but I can make them up off the top of my head with little or no difficulty, I spin them from raw dreamstuff into whole storycloth. I am one of the last of the traditional storytellers, those weird-ass hippies who refuse to give up the oral tradition of sitting around a camp fire and telling people lies.

This is a necessary skill for settlers, and will be given added weight due to the very nature of the mission. We will be in space for years. We will have nothing to do for years. So we’d might as well play Dungeons & Dragons.

Add to that the need to chronicle the adventures we’re actually partaking in (something I could do in the form of videos sent to the good people of Earth, or I could like, I dunno, type them), and I’ve got myself a full time job. Kristoffer the Chronicler, I shall be called, and it will be my duty, my privilege, to record the adventures of the Hundred-Year Ship, the First Martian Colony, and the characters they play in ridiculous role-playing games.

So I here submit my intention to travel to the planet Mars, to become the first of the great Martian storytellers, and to chronicle the grand adventure that is our first colony on another planet.