Are we trying to build a new Empire in the Outer Space?

As part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I am teaming up with an ex-astronomer and acclaimed science fiction author, Pippa Goldschmidt, to debate the future of human activity beyond the Earth in a show titled: Outer Space – The Next Empire?

Pippa is a Royal Observatory Edinburgh graduate and has later worked both at Imperial College, London, as well as in civil service, including on outer space policy. She has since been writing fiction about science and scientists, including a novel about an astronomer who discovers the Universe and loses her mind, ‘The Falling Sky’ and a collection of short stories ‘The need for Better Regulation of Outer Space’. Pippa has been writer in residence in several science and social science research centres and is currently Visiting Fellow at the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Group (my “home” department) at the University of Edinburgh.

In an hour of literary drama, comedy and engaging discussion with the audience, Pippa and I will be exploring big questions such as: Who does outer space belong to, and are humans its only intelligent tenants/owner-occupiers? Will colonising space soon become our business-as-usual, and should we be doing it at all? Can we cause any harm to whoever else might be out there or are we likely to be harmed ourselves?

The event is part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas series, which is a joint Beltane Public Engagement Network and Fair Pley production, successfully taking science to the Fringe for the fifth time in 2017. You might even remember that I have done another Cabaret show last year, called “Let Big Brother Watch!”

Hence, I am delighted to be returning to the Fringe with this show, as we are planning to make it as exciting for the audience as any of the big Fringe productions, but with more discussion and engagement. Pippa is an amazing story-teller and I am so honoured to be working with her to create this very special event.

Though we will intertwine fact with fiction to set the scene, we are looking forward to talking about the scientific and social impact of space exploration, whilst also questioning some of the accepted norms and challenging pre-conceptions. Arts, and especially literature, is great in enabling an open and frank discussion about not only the present, but also the future of scientific and technological development.

 This is very well illustrated in this review (by Iain Maloney) of Pippa’s collection of short stories, ‘The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space’: “Science is a tool for understanding the universe, but in Pippa Goldschmidt’s hands it is also a metaphor through which we can better understand ourselves.”

Outer Space – The Next Empire? is on 5th August, 1.50pm, at the New Town Theatre in George Street.

Tickets can be bought via the Fringe Box Office or on-line: bit.ly/OuterSpaceEmpire 

Poster

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