Excerpt from a Speech about The Space Industry and Science Fiction, which I originally wrote for a Star Trek celebrity*, and then adapted for myself when I began speaking on behalf of the space industry:
"But what about those who say that our space program is a luxury - that what we should really be concerned about is food for the hungry, medical aid for the needy? That to those whose stomachs are empty, the space program is not merely a waste of money, but an insult to the human race?
Well, I have the supreme good fortune to spend most of my time among those who do not feel that way - who recognize the invaluable contribution that space research has made to our daily lives.I, personally, have not been asked that question. But if I were, I have an answer.
I would reply that I know of a geomorphologist who travels endlessly to third world countries in order to maximize land use - to grow crops that will feed millions, where only a few thousand were fed before. His tools are not hoe and spade - his knowledge does not come from hand testing and retesting the soils. No.
His tools are satellite transmissions - from space. His knowledge comes from highly sophisticated computers, perfected by NASA. His ability to put food in those empty stomachs comes from telescopes and state of the art cameras attached to satellites circling this planet, surveying flood patterns and the chemical composition of sand and silt. The people he feeds are fed, in fact, by the space industry.
I once wrote a line for Gene Roddenberry to use in a book I was writing about him: "Science fiction is prescience: pre-science, "knowing before." The role of the science fiction writer is to daydream. In doing so, images of the future come into being as ideas, and are often quickly followed by a desire to turn those ideas into reality.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Star Trek, whose introduction of such ideas as the "bio-comps" (biological medical computers which monitor the life functions of patients in hospitals) were taken seriously by scientists, many of them working in space related fields,and now exist in hospitals across the country.
There are many examples of the symbiosis between the science of the space industry and science fiction in Star Trek. Star Trek depicts a future in which the very research the space industry is conducting now, becomes an intrinsic part of our life. From the Starfleet communicator to our cellular telephones; from the phaser to the tazer, Star Trek continues to support space industry science by the sheer energy of its dreams.
When Star Trek first appeared in 1966, many viewers were entranced by the small computers which appeared at various stations on the Enterprise. At that Time, the only computers in existence were great, monstrous machines, hidden in the basements of research laboratories - a futuristic mystery to all but the erudite scientist. No one really expected, seeing the bright colored information squares in Spock’s hands that within our lifetimes, computer disks would be a household item, as common as television.
When I discussed these computers with Gene, he said, “When I laid out our first design for the Bridge, in the first series, I had only a general idea of what should be there.* I knew that the quickest way to generate information was to have buttons that you pushed that would somehow connect to all that information in the computer. And without knowing what they were - what they meant, I just knew that they should be there.**
There was nowhere in those days where you could go to get a computer keyboard. We had to make ours out of wood! We predated the computer generation! That's why the computer industry was so helpful to us - back in the days when they were just solving certain mysteries, we were presenting and solving mysteries too. This is why they have been so supportive over the years - we kept having the experience of going to a top rated computer company and having the boss say 'Give them whatever they want!' It was grand to have them say - 'Take the shop - you Star Trek people obviously know more about it than we do!' We received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of information and help from them. And NASA too."
This, I think, is a perfect example of science and science fiction working together to create a readiness for the future in the public mind. This is a perfect example of “the progress of the species.” Space Science and Star Trek have another crucial element in common. They both depend on public support for their existence. Star Trek is dependent on its viewer ratings. Scientific Research is conducted with grants and allocated taxes from people. People who, perhaps watch Star Trek.
That is the reason a new organization has been formed - The Star Trek Advisory Board for the Peaceful Exploration of Space. I am on that Board, as are many actors and actresses from the Star Trek world. I believe that Science Fiction, particularly televised science fiction is not merely to entertain, but to engage the imaginations of the viewers - to generate ideas, acceptance of change, and to inspire those whose exposure to these ideas will lead them into the fields of the future: computer technology, space systems analysis, engineering, even xeno-geology.
Once these ideas capture the imagination of the viewers, it will be obvious that they are good - that they will help solve humanity’s problems - that in attempting to turn dreams into reality for the future, progress will result today."
End of excerpt.
* For many years during the 1990s, I was involved in various capacities, often as a writer, with Star Trek, Star Trek the Next Generation and Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
This was before I met my husband, Herb Solow, who was, in addition to being the Head of Desilu Studios (where he launched not only Star Trek -but Mission Impossible and many other iconic shows), Executive in Charge of Production of Star Trek. [See his book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story.]
One of these capacities was as a speechwriter for various celebrities and then, later, for myself, when my book on the philosophy of Star Trek came out and I was asked to speak across the country. I wrote and delivered dozens of speeches, for myriad events - Star Trek Conventions, at Science, Education and Entertainment Awards Ceremonies of all kinds, at NASA, and at various kinds of conferences on behalf of or advocating the support of the space industry. A typical one is excerpted above.
** In fact Matt Jefferies created and laid out the design for the Bridge and for the rest of the sets on Star Trek in consultation with and under the supervision of Herbert F. Solow, Executive in Charge of Star Trek, Head of Desilu Studios which owned the show. Herb was Gene Roddenberry's boss. Gene was at times in these meetings. At other times, he was not. See Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman and The Star Trek Sketch book which depicts the sets that Matt designed and created.
For more information on the space industry, please visit the Space Literacy Foundation at http://www.spaceliteracy.org/index.html and for information on how to promote the space industry yourself, see: http://tinyurl.com/SLF-57
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance