Used Spaceship for Sale: missing Szyxcnik rotor Qewst engine
Or something like that.
I was car shopping a while back, and had joked on Facebook that hundreds of years in the future, not much would have changed about the process, only how DO you test-drive a starship? I mean, if you hit foldspace and just… Disappear into a cloud of scintillating dust, the used ship salesman will just tuck your stack of credits deeper in his pocket and turn his attention along with Brillo-Ray enhanced smile onto the next suckers in line.
Of course, the fact that I was shopping on a very small cash budget which limited me from even having to deal with Smarm, the purple alien dude, you know, the one with the tentacles on his upper lip? Anyway, that meant I was dealing with the jokers who advertised a car at one price, knocked a grand off it when I showed up to drive it, then when I got back from the test drive, had another guy there, who informed me he was selling the car for his dear old Auntie. Then he offered to call a friend who was a notary, as I’m looking at the name and feminine signature on the title, and cocking an eyebrow at the wall of testosterone in front of me. No, he wasn’t willing to meet me at the BMV to have it notarized, or at my bank… I’m not sure how I got away with a straight face, but the dude was quite disappointed when I texted him later saying my husband wouldn’t let me buy that car. Handy thing, that husband card. Playable even when not married, if you’re dealing with strangers.
But I am married. Married with kids, which is why up until yesterday we were house hunting. I was reminded of the scenes in Rolling Stones (the Heinlein book, not the band!) where the family was checking out the ships. In that future, like the one I’m working on for my nascent Tanager series, house shopping and vehicle and storage and trailer are all wrapped up into one package deal. Which has pros and cons if you think about it. I drove home yesterday towing a trailer for the first time in my life. It was a little bitty trailer, but no one died, so achievement unlocked – and it got me thinking. What happens to people like us in the future?
I’m not a big believer in the post-scarcity world of Star Trek, where everyone is happy with a cubicle in a ship, no windows, no choices (unless you are the Captain and even he got orders although following them was not his strong suit). Where are the tinkers, the tailors, the peddlers? The roving ship like the Serenity, carrying what cargo it can and making ends meet with a budget and a plan? The Rolling Stones, meeting new friends and working hard to feed the family?
I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of people like me, like my family, who work hard, earn our way up, and sometimes have to go car – er – ship shopping on the cheap. And I’m betting that shade-tree mechanics will morph into dark-side of the asteroid garages, long after the origin of ‘garage’ is lost in the mists of the Milky Way.
But to go back a bit, when we were looking at houses we weren’t necessarily looking for what the ‘average’ (you know, normal is just the high point on the gaussian curve. Us, the Odds, we’re on that steep slope off to the side, slipping happily down shouting Wheee! As we go) people want in a house. We need room for books. But not a TV, because we don’t own one. We want a big kitchen and space in the dining room for a table we can game on. We eyeball the windows and think about the light coming in, in terms of lighting for photography and art. And we do the normal stuff, too, like wanting a place in the country rather than in town, and googling to find out how close the local library is… Oh, well, maybe not that last. I mean, I do, but I can’t speak for normal.
All this is fun to think about in terms of story. Regular folks, making their way in life, and the plans they make to keep house and hearth warm. Then, we throw rocks at them, metaphorically, as authors. What happens when you scrimp and save and put down a deposit on that spaceship, only to have the broker disappear? What happens if a war breaks out and soldiers are quartered on your ship? Or if alien fungus starts spreading and you’re under quarantine?
I’ve got to do something to distract myself from the prospect of packing and moving, after all.