Saturday, October 3, 2009

Synopsis, and Steven Hawking

Book pitches require you to write a synopsis, and that's the hardest thing to do; it has to be short (back-of-the-book-cover short), engaging, a little provocative, concise and accurate; it has to tell the publisher, first and foremost, that people will buy this book (publishing is, like it or not, a business). Here's the synopsis for my space-colonization book, provisionally titled Distant Lands Unknown;

While doomsayers focus on preserving humanity in the short term, one fact about our universe should chill everyone's blood: eventually, the sun is going expand and incinerate the Earth. There is only one way for our species to survive, and that is to colonize space and move away from our solar system.

But mention ‘space colonization’ and many roll their eyes; it’s a technocratic project focused on rockets and robots; it’s too expensive; it’s unnatural; we have too many problems to sort out here on Earth.

Distant Lands Unknown, an anthropological perspective on human space colonization, argues that on the contrary, staying on Earth will cost us everything; and that colonizing space will be a natural continuation of our four-million year history of exploration and adaptation to new environments.

Distant Lands Unknown humanizes space colonization by putting it into the context of human evolution at large. Using dozens of examples from the four-million year history of human expansion into new environments, the author focuses on two staggering tales of human colonization—the prehistoric colonization of the Pacific islands and the high Arctic—to show that space exploration is no more ‘about’ rockets and robots than Arctic colonization was ‘about’ igloos, or Polynesian colonization was 'about' voyaging canoes.

Still a little rough, but you get the idea.

Another, shorter one, requested by my prospective publisher;

The sun is eventually going to burn out, so unless humanity colonizes space we will become extinct. The time has come to begin colonizing space, and this book explains why space colonization isn’t about rockets and robots, it’s about humans doing what we’ve been doing for four million years--finding new places to live.

And, below, some good advice from Steven Hawking, from an item in New Scientist:

Eventually, Hawking said, humanity should try to expand to Earth-like planets around other stars.

No such planets are known so far. But even if only 1% of the 1000 or so stars within 30 light years of Earth has an Earth-size planet at the right distance from its star for liquid water to exist, that would make for 10 such planets in our solar system's neighbourhood, he said.

"We cannot envision visiting them with current technology, but we should make interstellar travel a long-term aim," he said. "By long term, I mean over the next 200 to 500 years."

Humanity can afford to battle earthly problems like climate change and still have plenty of resources left over for colonising space, Hawking said.

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