Ian Randal Strock Interview
Posted: Mar-10-2015 at 7:06am
Ian Randal Strock, the eminent personality behind the following interview is a dreamer of the First Order. As Editor and Publisher of Artemis Magazine, Mr. Strock's vision of near-future Moon colonization has initiated a fascinating and adventurous forum for science fact and Science Fiction.
More provocative and controversial is Mr. Strock's personal ambition to live on the Moon. And to make that possibility available for anyone who cares to join him. If you felt a glimmer of anticipation in that idea, read on, because there's good reason to believe Mr. Strock's dream will soon become reality.
Mr. Strock is President of LRC Publications, Vice President of The Lunar Resources Company, and a founder and director of both the Moon Society and Artemis Society International. All of those organizations are involved in the Artemis Project, a commercial venture to build a lunar colony.
As a writer, editor, spare time poker player, and prospective entrepreneurial visionary, Mr. Strock's imagination radiates much like the orb he aims to visit, with its attendant moodiness and mystery.
To say we were honored to interview Mr. Strock would be an understatement.
What's the first thing people should think of when they hear the words Artemis Project?
Three things: "We're going back to the Moon. We're doing it as a commercial project. And you can come, too!"
Basically, it's a commercial, as opposed to government-funded, project to return to the Moon to stay. We'll be building tourist destinations, industrial plants, scientific facilities, and setting the stage for a permanent lunar colony. And, like a score or two of other commercial space companies, we're a lot closer to realizing our plans than many people might think.
We recently read a great short story by Paul Levinson in the Age of Reason anthology, called "Location". The gist of it was a real estate agent's maddening anxiety over the dim prospects of selling private homes on the Moon. Does that theme make you smile or frown? Technical matters aside, will tourism to the Moon have a peak interest and then taper out? Or will there be more demand than opportunity?
I haven't had a chance to read Paul's story, so your precis of it is insufficient to tell me enough to react at all. However, his concept: selling homes, is not quite the same as your question: tourism.
Let me work on yours first. You need a time-scale to give the question more meaning. I think, at the opening of lunar tourism, there will be far more demand than opportunity. Heck, look at space tourism today: there's at least three times more demand than there is supply. Last I heard, there were three people competing for the flight on the October Soyuz taxi mission: *NSync's Lance Bass, former NASA administrator Lori Garver, and Polish businessman Leszek Czarnecki, and that's for a $20 million trip.
As with any new thing, there will be far more demand than supply available at the very beginning, causing the tickets to be very expensive for those few who can get them. As the technologies involved mature -- and those include Earth-to-low-Earth-orbit travel -- more tourist seats will become available, and prices will fall.
And as the decades pass, demand may fall off a bit, but again, consider that round-the-world cruises are nothing new, yet they still can sell luxury cabins for nearly $100,000 for a six-month cruise. At the beginning of lunar tourism, one of the big attractions will be to "walk where no one has stood before", an experience that is impossible to have on Earth. As it becomes common and accepted, it will still be a tourist destination that most people haven't visited.
The Artemis Project stresses international cooperation, along with the privatization of space exploration. How many hurdles are posed through global politics and conflict? What are the most important of these hurdles to be dealt with?
There are surprisingly few political hurdles we need to overcome. The biggest are apparently the Outer Space and Lunar treaties promulgated by the United Nations, but both of these are aimed at nation-states, and boil down to, basically, "no nation will claim ownership of any land in space or on the Moon." You'll note that, one: the Artemis Project never makes a claim to own the Moon, and indeed, does not discuss such an issue, and two: the Artemis Project is not a nation-state.
How does it make you feel when people write or say they don't believe we've ever reached the Moon -- that the original Moon landing was faked?
Very sad that our public education system has fallen on such tough times. Seriously, that claim, though raised with more frequency than I'd like, is rare, because it is an uneducated viewpoint. The evidence presented for such a claim, such as on the Fox television program, is specious, and holds no water when examined by a critical mind.
And then, I consider the fact that, whether men have landed on the Moon or not, the Artemis Project is about what we'll be doing in the future -- the very near future, but the future -- not the past. The Apollo landings show us that it is possible, and current and ongoing space development give us the ability to get there, but they do not govern our plans.
Right now, celebrities and millionaires are the only "private citizens" going into space. How soon can the average Joe or Jane expect to book a room at the Luna City Hotel? How much will it cost?
Lori Garver is neither a celebrity nor a millionaire; she expects to put together financing from investors and sponsors to make her flight. Nevertheless, this is a legitimate question. The answer is -- a few decades. If money were no object, the Artemis Project could land our first mission on the Moon within three years. Money, however, is an object. We have to earn enough to pay for the Project, so we expect the first flight in about 16-20 years.
The first permanent inhabitants will probably be living on the Moon 5-7 years later, with a hotel being one of the early commercial construction projects. Cost, at this point, is a broad guesstimate. If the Japanese consortium can build their 50-passenger single-stage-to-orbit craft that they have planned -- $10,000 for two days in orbit -- we should be able to refuel it in orbit, and provide a two-week vacation -- three days to the Moon, a week on the Moon, and three days back -- for about a quarter of a million dollars.
You're an accomplished, award-winning short story writer, President and/or Vice President of two major commercial enterprises, a photographer, editor of a fine magazine, essayist, columnist -- and you even find time to compose puzzles and stay an active member of Mensa. What drives you on a daily basis? How do you maintain your interest and vitality?
Stop it, you're making me blush! Seriously, all of those things you've listed, and a few other regular activities, are things that I enjoy, and many of them are things that are working toward great goals. I've worked in a variety of traditional jobs, but couldn't convince myself I was doing something that mattered or had purpose.
Everything I'm doing today, I'm convinced, matters -- except for the few minor pieces which I do simply because they're fun. The relationships I have with my family and friends matter, too; they contribute to the success of my projects, and that keeps me going, keeps me getting up and working long hours on all the things that matter. I publish the magazine, and when people tell me they enjoyed this or that, or disagreed with an article, I know someone has read the magazine. I know they've taken their leisure time and recreation dollars and spent them on this thing I've produced, and that gives me a sense of mattering to their lives. People remember my fiction, and tell me about it, and that gives me a sense of accomplishment.
The companies with which I'm involved are companies that are actively pursuing goals with which I agree. I know I'm very lucky to be able to do so many meaningful things I enjoy, and in which I see possibilities.
Artemis Magazine is terrific. We love the blend of science fact and fiction. The speculative articles on "Moon Ladders" and "Lunar Lighthouses" are the most provocative we've read in quite some time. Describe your mission with Artemis Magazine for those who may not have seen it. Have any advice for prospective contributors?
First, thanks for the kind words. Our "mission" with the magazine is the same as with any other consumer magazine: to publish a magazine that people will want to read. I hope the fiction we publish entertains our readers, and that the non-fiction informs them and gives them more reason to think. I'm trying to keep the mix at about 50% fiction and 50% science, and the responses I've been getting seem to appreciate it.
The fiction, as I've said, is "near-term, near-Earth, hard sf" and the science is "anything you might need to know to get to, build, or live in a lunar colony." The magazine was formed as an outgrowth of the Artemis Project, to both publicize the Project and earn money for it.
Advice for prospective contributors: read the magazine to see what we're publishing.
What writers of fiction do you think write the best about the Moon? Space travel in general?
I can't answer those questions, since most of them are my friends and colleagues and many of them do, or I hope will, write for me.
Has there been a change in your taste in fiction over the years?
My tastes have changed over the years, as I have grown and read and learned more, but unlike some, I don't see the impending death of science fiction around every corner. I think we're coming out of a period when the preferred form of science fiction was the dystopia, which, let's face it, is downright depressing.
So, you perceive an exuberance in the quality of science fiction, generally?
Following the terrorist attacks of last September, I've seen a great many explorations of future terrorism and fear in science fiction, but I've also noticed a lot of writers realizing that people need something uplifting from their pleasure reading. The quality has definitely improved over the years. With more practitioners of the art, those who wish to be successful have to work that much harder at it. We're also in an era when determining what is science fiction is much harder than simply reading the spines of the books, because in publishing, the "thriller", for example, may very well be science fiction, but it may sell better when marketed as something else.
I like Stanley Schmidt's definition of science fiction: a story in which both the science and the fiction are equally important, and removing either one will ruin the story.
Artemis is a print magazine, though you also have various websites devoted to the Artemis Project. Will people be reading novels and magazines on the Moon or is print doomed to obscurity?
I think you've got two unrelated questions there. First, you're asking about the difference between paper publications and web publications, and second, whether paper will translate to extraterrestrial living. As for print versus the web, I don't think there's going to be any significant movement away from print publications for the foreseeable future. The foremost reason being that no one has yet shown a model that can make money publishing on the web, as opposed to on paper, and publishing is, after all, a business. So Artemis, and magazines like it, will remain on paper for quite a while.
When people are living on the Moon, I think they'll be reading on some form of a computer screen far more than paper, simply due to the fact that transporting paper to the Moon is going to be very expensive, but sending data will be as inexpensive as it is today.
What's the best step for people who want to be more involved with the Artemis Project to take?
Aside from subscribing to Artemis Magazine? Join the Moon Society, and tell your friends that it really is possible, and it's going to happen, and they, too, can get involved. Dues in the Moon Society are $35 per year, sent to The Moon Society, PO Box 940825, Plano TX 75094-0825.
Firebrand Fiction Reviews: all content © 2002, Daniel E. Blackston
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