Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD (Stewart Cowley, 1978)

Let's imagine for a moment that we're in the far, far future. It's the year 2000. Can you even conceive what life will be like? Space travel. Colonies on other planets. Discovery of alien life forms. Oh, the possibilities!

Okay, so the millennium is already old news, we still live on Earth, and the closest we've gotten to alien life forms is the freak show that is reality television. It's still fun to speculate what COULD have been, especially when peering through a telescope firmly planted in the year 1978.

Which brings us to Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD, a fictionalized retrospective of the first 100 years of interplanetary space travel, all told from an "in universe" perspective, in which we're to believe that space freighters first launched in 2004, a lunar station was established on Mars in 2011, and aliens from Alpha Centauri were contacted by a survey ship in 2036.

Author Stewart Cowley, incidentally, is purported to be a veteran officer of the Terran Defence Authority, who served a tour of duty defending Mars. Here's a photo of him holding his trusty space helmet.

The conceit that this is all based on historic fact, and the book itself an artifact from the future, made Spacecraft... all the more captivating to me when I first discovered it in the school library. (And for a very different example of another "in universe" book that I also loved as a kid, check out The Witch's Catalog.)

Spacecraft... is just one title in a series of similar guidebooks covering military and civilian craft (Starliners: Commercial Space Travel in 2200 AD), intergalactic wars (Great Space Battles) and wreckage (Spacewreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts From Space), all strikingly illustrated by various sci-fi artists, among them Angus McKie, Bob Layzell, Colin Hay, and Tony Roberts. Below are some of my favorites.


John Rozum said...

This was a cool post. I've never seen any of those before.

Please let me know if you will be joining us for this year's Countdown to Halloween. If so, please include a link to your blog so I can add it to the list of participants.


John Rozum (

Brother Bill said...

Hi John,
I enjoy being in the audience for the Halloween Countdown, but don't participate myself. Everyday is Halloween in the Haunted Closet, and I just stick to my irregular, leisurely posting schedule year-round.


Dex1138 said...

Oh wow!! I was just thinking about these books not a couple weeks ago. I had the Spacecraft book when I was a kid obsessed with Star Wars.
I wanted to Google it but had no idea what it was titled.
Thanks for the post and images taking me back to childhood.

Martín said...

Cool! I wonder what the hell were doing those books in the school libraries of nearly the whole western hemisphere. I found it in mine, too, in Madrid - Spain, about the mid-eighties

dude163 said...

Very cool, I had all of the books once, now I just have the spaceraft 1 ( 2 of them :P)

thanks for the trip down memory lane!

CMB said...

I've been looking for this book on/off for ten years, but had the same problem as Dex1138; the Internet is a big place when looking for a book about spacecraft when you have nothing else to go on!

For me, these books combined in quick succession with seeing "Star Wars" in its original theatrical release and watching "Star Blazers" every afternoon after school made me a life long space opera geek.

The Thinking Skeptic said...

Massive thumbs up! I've been hunting for the names of these books for years. Again, I think they were in our school.library. WTF was that all about!??

Alex Lugo said...

Amazing! I have been searching for the name of this book for years. I received it as a present when I was 8 back '78 and it always represented the future for me.

Now to find a physical copy...

Thanks again!

NWoodWriter said...

The compilation of all of those books is called "Spacebase 2000". I also found it in my library as a grade schooler, and it captivated me!

I have since found the two of the component books, Spacecraft 2000-2100 and Great Space Battles, on Ebay (for $60-75, albeit), but could not resist. I know have these hardcover books in my collection, in pretty good shape.

NWoodWriter said...

*found two of the component books and *I NOW have...

Sheesh. I'm a grammar Nazi and I didn't even check my own post.