Friday, February 24, 2017
Allen Steele & Passengers
In the movie "Passengers," a mechanic awakens from hibernation to discover that his spaceship is ninety-years away from the new world he had hoped to colonize. Without being able to reactivate his sleep pod, he spends a year alone on the ship before giving into desperation and awakening another passenger. Together, the couple work through her anger at losing her planned future, and help save the five thousand sleeping passengers when the malfunction that awakened him threatens to destroy the ship.
A few years ago, I met Allen Steele. One of his most famous novels is Coyote, which tells about a group of people who make a similar voyage to another habitable planet. In one long section, a man awakens from sleep to discover that his hibernation pod has malfunctioned. Without a way to reactivate it, he will die of old age before the ship reaches Coyote, the world he had intended to colonize. Unlike the mechanic in "Passengers," he does not give into his loneliness and attempt to awaken another passenger. Like the mechanic in "Passengers," he constantly tries new things, learns new skills, and lives a fulfilling life aboard the spaceship.
A couple years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Allen Steele speak at a local convention. Later, when he signed my copy of Coyote, I told him I had particularly enjoyed that section of the novel. He said that section was close to his heart also: one of his biggest fears about embarking on such a long journey would be that his hibernation pod would malfunction. It was nice to connect with him in that way, and meet someone who had taken me on a wondrous interstellar journey through his novel.
I don't know if Coyote inspired the brain trust behind "Passengers," or Allen Steele was consulted, in any way, on the movie, but it was nice to see a movie that didn't rely on the normal Crash Boom Bang of Big Tentpole Sci-Fi Hollywood movies. It was intelligently written and visually stunning. It's the kind of film I'd like to see more often, and one I highly recommend.
Oh, and if you're interested in reading a great science fiction novel about colonizing another world, I've got a novel I can recommend too.