Meet Matt Hollingsworth – Author of Captain Thaddeus

Cosmic Convocation, Starry Eyed Press’ first official space opera anthology features a story called Captain Thaddeus, a tale of a lonesome space fairing captain and what desolation really means.

We had a chance to sit down with its author Matt Hollingsworth to get the scoop on what inspired the tale.

The idea for my story came while thinking about the 1960s Lost in Space show. I loved this show as a kid, ridiculous and campy as it was, and I have fond memories of watching it with my dad after school. The story is about a family aboard a spaceship called Jupiter 2. They are thrown off course and become, as the title suggests, lost in space. One day, I was bored and began thinking back on it, pondering the physics of the world’s least physics-accurate TV show.

In the first episode, the characters are traveling to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth, and they say the trip will take four years. This implies that the Jupiter 2 moves at light speed since Alpha Centauri is four lightyears away. But if that’s the case, how can they get lost?

Even if they traveled for a solid year in the wrong direction, they’d still technically be inside the solar system. Our sun would still be the closest star, so it seems like they’d have a pretty decent idea where they were even if they couldn’t get back to Earth. The show makes it clear that they don’t even know what direction our solar system is in.

Also, this society can invent a light-speed spaceship, surely, they would have pretty decent maps of the closest stars. We already know a lot about the arrangement and distances of the stars closest to Earth just through our telescopes, and we know what part of the Milky Way we’re in. Surely, to get truly “lost in space” with no clue where our solar system is, they would have to be in a very distant part of the galaxy or in another galaxy altogether.

But in order to have traveled that far, the Jupiter 2 would need to be much, much faster than light. The real answer of course is that it’s a show for kids with an entire episode about a talking alien carrot. “Reality,” “science,” and “logic,” were more vague suggestions than rules. The writers didn’t think about it as hard as I was.

But still, I was bored, and I like overthinking things, so as a storytelling exercise, I tried to invent an explanation. My solution—what if you had a spaceship that was much faster than light, but for whatever reason, could only travel in certain increments and could only turn at certain angles.

For instance, let’s say the ship would only travel in exact increments of six lightyears. This would be a problem if you were trying to reach a spot only two lightyears away. You’d zoom right past it. To get to your destination, you’d have to bounce around until the distances lined up correctly. This means it could take longer to travel to close areas than to distant ones. That would explain how the Jupiter 2 could travel so fast as to actually get lost yet also take four whole years to reach Alpha Centauri.

The more I thought about this, the more I liked the idea of a spaceship where distance was unrelated to travel time, where it would take equally long to reach the opposite end of the galaxy as it would to reach the nearest planet. I imagined a ship that could travel practically anywhere in the entire universe in just a few hours. Uncountably many stars and more planets than you could ever visit in a million lifetimes would all be within your reach. The idea of traveling to one alien planet is cool, but having 10 to the 24th potential planets available to you… the scale of that is almost frightening.

For this story, I tried to imagine such a ship. A ship for which the entire universe was accessible, yet one piloted by an ordinary person.

What sci-fi books have you recently been reading and which titles represent your long-time favorites?

My favorite sci-fi novel is Perelandra by C. S. Lewis. Lewis is famous for Narnia, but he also wrote several darker, adult-oriented novels that I consider his best.

The universe of Perelandra is a perfect and harmonious paradise, teeming with alien life. Yet it has one dark smudge—Earth, which is quarantined and cut off from the rest of the universe.

The book is deeply philosophical, wonderfully written, and incredibly creative with its ideas. It contains perhaps my favorite depiction of an alien planet in all science fiction.

I also love Cixin Liu’s novels, especially the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. It seems like there are many sci-fi novels with great concepts and ideas yet paper-thin characters. But Remembrance of Earth’s Past combines brilliantly creative sci-fi ideas with gripping characters. I don’t always agree with the author’s worldview, but he is a genius—easily one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

Where can our readers find more of your works?

I have my other published stories listed on my blog here:

Ebook and illustrated paperback available here.

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