Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Amped life

This week, Futures welcomes back John Cooper Hamilton with his cautionary tale about working in a space station: Amped life. John first appeared in Futures last year with his story This big, and you can find out more about his work by visiting his website. Here, he reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Amped life

Half of Amped life’s inspiration is history. In 1973, NASA faced the first labour dispute in space. Skylab 4’s three-man crew was micromanaged through an over-ambitious schedule, and communication between mission control and the astronauts became so fraught that an unscheduled radio silence in October was characterized by the press as a mutiny. In December, the astronauts and mission control worked out a new schedule. The mission went on to a successful end, after 84 days in space. Future missions were organized using the lessons learnt.

The story’s remaining inspiration comes from the amazing neural-imaging and stimulation methods now being developed, along with an ever-advancing pharmacopeia.

In science-fiction rogue astronauts, like rogue AIs, tilt towards the homicidal, simply because it makes for a good story. But there are always new lessons to be learnt.

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