Columns, Opinion

SONI: Sovereign space: a novel idea

The year is 2012, and the U.S. government has allowed the private corporation Aventura Group to spearhead a multi-trillion dollar mission to research the possibility of asteroid mining in space. No, it’s not some crappy John Cusack movie, it is the premise of my political science fiction novel.

Here’s the deal: Two years from now, the scramble for Earth’s scarce resources will be even more heated than it is today, the Chinese-American market will be completely inextricable and the ideological differences between these two superpowers will be more pronounced than ever before. Aventura Group, a conglomerate of wealthy venture capitalists, couples with the private space research firm Lotus Corporation to launch the Mark V EcoHabitat &- a spinning donut-shaped space station that will provide a home base for the remote mining of incoming asteroids and comets. (Don’t stress about the semantics &- it’ll all be in the book).

The EcoHabitat is given the OK under the belief that after a few years of intense research and construction, the mining operation will yield vast amounts of raw materials that will considerably ease political tensions amongst nations. It’s true; from aluminum to copper to lead to gold, asteroids and comets are a potential source of many raw materials in extremely pure forms.

A year after the announcement, the EcoHabitat blasts off amid a mixture of hopeful praise and intense skepticism, which intensifies when previously concealed balance sheets reveal that China and America are responsible for a third of the project’s funding.

Soon after they are put in to orbit, the one million people living and working on the EcoHabitat create the Democratic Republic of Aventura, both the first nation-state in space and the first spawned from a corporation. The social democratic government has three governing bodies: 1) a ten-member board with members from both Lotus Corp. and Aventura, 2) the executive, Kenneth J. Fulder Jr., CEO of Aventura Group and most influential governing body and 3) the president, Anish DiRusso, the story’s protagonist.

Born of an Indian immigrant mother and Italian-American father, Anish climbed the social ladder through hard work, charm and with the help of his wife &- the daughter of Kenneth.

Anish is an idealist. He loves his wife dearly but also understands that she is the reason for much of his corporate success. His faith in the EcoHabitat project makes him a great spokesman, but as his role in the project gets bigger, he is forced to internalize the harsh and constricting logics of corporate policy. His idealism slowly erodes under a new reality dictated by profit.

Years pass with the project’s research bearing little fruit, and the United States and China begin getting anxious about the risks of their heavy investments. They want answers, but there aren’t any. As a result, the DRA’s government begins restricting the free speech of its people in the hope that news of the project’s failures will not reach Earth. The citizens of the EcoHabitat, angry over the cronyism and rampant corruption within their government, take up their weapons and begin organizing a popular revolt against their rulers.

The story aims to exemplify the inherent problems of mixing private and public interests, and the potential risks of prohibiting free speech within an unrepresentative, profit-motivated state &- dire issues of our contemporary society.

The problem comes with the end. The first version is a happy one, in which the evil corporate board is banished from the DRA by the popular revolt. The board, along with Fulder, is charged under the laws of the International Court of Justice while Anish stays on for a second term to lead his war-ravaged country out of turmoil. The revolution subsides and there is peace in space once again.

The second solution is a lot bleaker. In this scenario, the final scene consists of Anish surveying the desperate nation from his office as writes his suicide note. The Chinese and Americans have sent troops to suppress the revolution, the project is doomed for failure and he has just heard news that his pregnant wife on Earth has died in labor. With a tumbler in one hand and a Smith &’ Wesson in the other, Anish writes of how the world he once loved had given him a false and dangerous sense of hope before he finally puts an end to his grim tale.

Chances are I’ll go with the happy ending. Not because I have so much faith in humanity, but merely because no one likes a sad ending. If “Avatar” ended when the Na’avi got pwned I would have broken my 3-D glasses and started crying.

But I really don’t have that much faith in humanity. No matter what my pop culture subsistence has taught me, I’m beginning to realize that life doesn’t always have a happy ending. The longer I stare at the world I inhabit, the uglier it becomes, and like my fictional progeny Anish, the faith I once had is beginning to slowly erode.

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