Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Those who favour fire

This week, Futures is pleased to welcome CB Droege with his fresh take on the end of the world in Those who favour fire. CB is an author and voice actor and you can find out more about his work at his website or by following him on Twitter. Here he reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Those who favour fire

I was bicycling across southern Ohio with my father, an activity we both love, and which serves as our primary bonding ritual, when the conversation turned to asteroid mining. A technology that is already on the horizon, and may reward our civilization with a previously unknown abundance of metals and minerals. “Someday we’ll run out, though,” he pointed out, and I realized he was right. On a galactic time-scale, humans, if they survive, will eventually use up all the asteroids in the system. It may take a very long time, but it must happen eventually. Then what?

Our conversation moved to other topics, but this idea stuck with me, and later, by myself in my car with my bicycle on the rack in the rear-view mirror, the story started to flesh out. Asteroid mining will look more like demolition than the mining we do on the surface of Earth. Each asteroid will be pulverized, and the minerals extracted from the debris. And when we run out of asteroids, will we use those tools on dwarf planets? Moons? How long before we decide that Mercury would be more useful in little chunks? And when everything else in the Solar System is gone. When every scrap of metal and minerals has been pulled from every planet and moon and rock, will we want the insides of Earth herself?

Living on the surface of a spherical body isn’t a very efficient use of that sphere, and we’re well on our way to making the surface of Earth a poor place for life anyhow, so will anyone care? Will there someday be enough people who were not born on Earth, and who hold no place special in their hearts for the planet, that we’d be willing to exploit it this way? What would that moment look like? These questions led me to Carlos and his team, managing the demolition from a safe distance, and having one last twinkling of doubt and remorse for the home of humanity. When the story was done, I was put in mind of the Robert Frost poem, and I had my title.

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