I want to wrap up where we started, with one last science fiction story, one of my favourites, about the greatest Escalante of them all.
It’s by Olaf Stapledon, and it’s called Last and First Men, and it maps out the next two billion years of humanity in eighteen separate human species, each decimated and rebuilding itself in a new way.
Right at the end of the book, humans are vegetarian, there are 96 sexes, and they live to a quarter million years of age. They have six legs and an eye on the top of their heads, and the race is telepathic. They can join themselves together into a huge planet-wide telescope, just by looking up. They live on Neptune, which is this planet here.
You come away from the book feeling like you’re part of the Grand Staircase of history. It’s a great feeling, to know that you’re part of something much bigger. It makes you stop and look around you, realise the era I’m living in is part of something huge.
So it’s my favourite science fiction book, and Neptune is my favourite planet.
And i suspect it’s my favourite planet partly because it’s a really pretty shade of blue.
Blue is a good colour. It’s the colour of Neptune, of course; it’s the colour of the future of humanity. It is the colour of deep seas and of Cherenkov radiation.
When we finally move on from Earth in the late 24th century and take over the solar system, our city-sized generation ships will take off into clear blue skies just like this.