Star Trek vs. Firefly & me

serenity1As a science fiction fan, I’m also a fan of two of the arguably best science fiction television series (and movie spinoffs,) Star Trek and Firefly. What’s interesting about these two series is that they are, in a way, diametrically opposed in their idea about what our space-faring future looks like.

The Star Trek future is, for the most part, clean and comfortable, egalitarian, and rational. The human race went through a dark period, and came through much better for it. The Firefly future is, in a way, smack in the middle of that dark period. It’s dirty and uncomfortable, and you have to fight to survive.

In some ways,  I’ve been influenced by both visions of the future. My Casitian Universe series includes the Casitians, who are even more clean, comfortable, rational and egalitarian than Star Trek! My most recent book, “Friends with Wings” is more Firefly. It shows a grimmer, more problematic future. The Casseopeia Chronicles splits the difference, although it leans a bit more to the Firefly model than the Star Trek model.

There have been countless visions of what our possible space-faring future might look like, some quite grimmer even than Firefly, few brighter than Star Trek. If we make it to be a real space-faring species, where going to another planet in our system, or even another world in a distant star system, it’s hard to believe we won’t take many of the aspects of our nature with us. Or can we change so that we might have a chance at a more Star Trek future?

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  1. I tend to be skeptical in thinking we can bringing just our best values into space. I think to survive out there we will need to. The big question is do we as a human race have the will to do so?

  2. There’s a big difference between a universe where Earth sends ships out on a diplomatic mission to meet other races and one where Earth has just populated all of the neighboring planets. As I recall, there weren’t any aliens in Firefly — it was a universe built on galactic sprawl.

    Star Trek’s radical idealism has everything to do with how Earth’s political future develops. Roddenbury envisioned one government; an end to racism (although he kinda skipped sexism and discrimination against gays); and a cultural humility born out of the early 21st century depression that is not as easy to envision now that we’re in that millennium (even if the depression is easy to picture). But Roddenbury’s goal was to give us a picture of what we should strive for; as a kid growing up in the 60’s (My dad let me stay up late to watch TOS with him), his vision was a big factor in my worldview.

    If we speculate about reviving our space programs and growing them to the point where we are visiting other galaxies, then it’s a lot easier to picture us exploring the universe than than it is populating or conquering it; I think Star Trek has the edge on that. If other races exist, and we can communicate with them, that might well result in a unified government on earth and a reduction in racism and discrimination here (all of our skin tones will look familiar when we’re standing next to the green people). But, once we get to a point where we are in some sort of federation or alliance, we’ll still be the same race that we are today, and violence will be a part of that. I’m optimistic that things can improve, but I’m not so optimistic that things will ever be ideal, or that our nature, as humans, will be transformed, as opposed to evolved a bit.

  3. I see a bit of both. The Firefly sprawl makes sense to me … whatever alien life is out there, it seems pretty distant. We may be populating other places before we find anyone else to interact with. Even with NASA building a space ship that will travel faster than light, it seems likely that for an undetermined amount of time, our travels will be pretty limited and it may very well be that we’ll find no one out there for quite some time. Then, we may find one direction puts us in the middle of gritty, tough interactions that we try to avoid while traveling in another direction may bring us to meet a society of aliens that are quite welcoming and amenable to friendly relations.

  4. I think the great thing about Start Trek is that it presents science and technology in a positive light as opposed to the fear-mongering we usually see in science fiction (nothing wrong with that when intelligently done, but it’s nice to see something different). With Firefly, science and technology have continued to improve but aren’t at the forefront of character motivation and interests. Also Start Trek is set over a hundred years before the Firefly timeline… Cowboy Bebop and Firefly are set in the same time and have similar views. It’s all very interesting… focus on people or tech.

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