Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-G-Generation (Ships)

When it comes to crossing the vast gulfs between the solar system and other stellar systems, SF writers turn to two main solutions: small and fast1 or big and slow. Perhaps the best known example of “big and slow” is the generation ship, large enough to qualify as a large town or even a small nation, slow enough that entire lives will be consumed getting to its destination.

Generation ships live in that delightful overlap between “seemingly practical” and “nearly certain to inflict lives of deprivation and misery on their inhabitants.” You might wonder what sort of person imagines the immiseration of many many others. SF authors do. Misery is drama. Generation ships offer so very much drama.

Two 20th century authors wrote stories sufficiently remarkable to imprint the essential details of their plot on many—most?—of the generation-ship stories that followed. The best known is Robert ...