Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man, on his way back from an interplanetary cruise. This journey came as a bit of a shock to this unassuming systems engineer — to say nothing about what actually happened aboard ship.
He’s here to tells about his solar-system wide cruise.
Tell us a little about growing up in the Big Apple. What was it like there?
Well, everyone knows what it is like under the dome, I mean they film the tridees there all the time. Actually, it is a bit funny that as new as most of the city is there are still parts that are really old. For example, when the climate controls are working you would not notice, but in the summer, it frequently breaks down. That is when you notice that there are two hundred and fifty-year-old steam pipes that are still used. You notice when they start to leak, adding humidity to the air. Funny think that there are still companies that use it to power their manufacturing or buildings that use it for heating.
But you asked about growing up in the city. It was nice, when the weather control worked it was always a little warm. Enough so, that the first time I went out of the dome on a class trip some of my classmates were frightened of the small white flakes that were falling. They thought that it was ash from a fire. Boy were they surprised when the teacher explained that it was snow. One of my classmates commented “but it is not zero degrees.” The teacher explained that at ground level it could be as high as two degrees and there could still be snow.
But the best part of growing up in the City was when my grandfather would take me to see the old airplanes and space ships at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. He always dreamed of going up, but was never able to afford the time off from work, or the price of a ticket to go into orbit, and my grandmother got deathly motion sickness. So they could not go to colonize. He would have really loved to go on the cruise with me.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
Well, as I just mentioned my grandfather used to take me to the Intrepid at least three or four times a year. He would read me stories about space travel and make a special day out of every twentieth of July, he called it Neil Armstrong day in remembrance of when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. Google know that I loved hanging out at their apartment. But they seemed to always have something breaking down or not working. So when I was real young I would help my grandfather fix things, later he would help me. He really liked to work with his hands, but had moved into a supervisory role where they would not let him touch any of the actual tools anymore.
I guess that is how I chose my studies and career.
Oh, what is it that you do?
Me? I’m a SET, a Systems Encyclopedic Troubleshooter. I get called in to diagnose and solve strange or complex computer and systems problems. You see, most people study a topic in depth and have little capabilities in related areas. I studied several areas: programming, AI psychology, basic chip design and repair, and a bunch of stuff that I may never use.
But the combination means I get called in on a variety of different problems that pop-up either in AIs or where AIs and humans interact. This has given me the opportunity to travel around the Earth to many places for work, but until this trip I never left the actual planet.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Well, to start with I never expected to be leaving the planet. If I had known I was about to go I don’t know, I may have packed my towel. Ok, sorry but I couldn’t resist. Arthur Dent had even less clue he would leave the planet than I did, but he did get to go with a friend.
So it all started with a surprise bonus, and let to an all expense paid, month long, cruise around the solar system. The ship was the absolutely latest design, and it was full of interesting people – from beauty pageant contestants to rocket scientists. Now as to adventures, flying on the Moon was fun but I prefer less excitement. If I had time I could write a dining guide to the colonies as everywhere we went I found interesting food and people.
What did you first think when you boarded the ship?
Boarding the L.S.S. Venture was nothing like I expected. You know you watch the tridee and see these spaceships with no decorations, minimal lifting mass, everything has a function, and almost no comforts for the passengers. Well the Venture was nothing like that. It was almost like walking into a five-star hotel. Thick carpet, marble staircase, lots of open space, and decorative plants. If I was not sure where I was I could have been at any luxury resort on Earth. But this was different and I was going to be on the maiden voyage.
What is the worst thing about being on a ship for so long?
You would think that living on a spaceship the worse part would be the cramped environment or limited food options. But on the L.S.S. Venture there was plenty of space and the food was top notch. The worst part is having all that time to fill. Now on an ocean cruise you have the same problem: what to do to fill your day. You get up, go eat breakfast, kill a few hours, eat lunch, kill some more time, eat dinner, go to the evening entertainment, and go to bed – every day. But on an ocean cruise you have fresh air. On a space cruise you have the same time to kill and no fresh air. So they try to organize lots of activities, and you need to chose which you would like to participate in. The one I regret not getting to was the EVA. The classes were all full and I did not have a chance to see the ship or anything from outside, only by tridee.
What is the best thing about it?
I’m glad you asked, I don’t want to sound like it was all dull. There were lots of interesting lectures and classes, and there were the pageant performances, plus several options for evening entertainment. It was the first time in years that I did not need to rush to a job and could just waste a day reading an old classic, usually curled up with Fay.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Well there is Fay, from the first time we got introduced it was as if we had always known each other. It was just such a perfect and natural fit that even having her dad as Captain was not a problem. In fact he realized how close we were very quickly and approved.
Another person that I got close to was Dodge who was helping her mother, Carol, in organizing things around the conference. We had some intense discussions about old science fiction stories.
What’s your favourite drink and relaxing pastime?
One of the best, and most surprising, things about the cruise was the time spent in Callahan’s bar. I was never big on hanging out in bars, but sitting there in a quiet booth with Fay enjoying our glass of Bushmills was almost magical. Also sitting in the ship’s library alone or with Fay was a great way to fill up some of the hours each day.
What does the future hold for you?
Well I am looking forward to heading home, then taking Fay on some sight-seeing on Earth. I am sure that there will be more adventures to come.
Eric is a lifelong Sci-Fi and fantasy reader, and has always enjoyed stories that show how the science and technology affect people’s lives. Now it his my turn.
You can find BJ on the pages of The One: A Cruise Through the Solar System.
Join us next week to meet a necromancer from some grim and dark world. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.