DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
Although it would be fascinating to explore the methane-rich oceans being governed by skies of vinyl cyanide, I think it would be rewarding for me long after being deceased to describe such a landscape. The scientific understanding of Titan would not only assist in my survival, but also in enriching my vocabulary. It would also be a disservice if I did not examine space colonization through the perspective of an English major.
Coming out of my hovercraft, I would sift through the sticky sand dunes while wearing my protective suit that would appear like the ones used for Earth skiing. I would commemorate the efforts made by astronomers in landing their rovers and probes upon Titan while describing the spacecraft graveyards that might exist on an island. I would look up at the orange skies, which, like Earth, have a thick atmosphere that protects the surface from ultraviolet radiation. Since I would have to learn scientific words in order to vividly describe this new land, I would have to write with a Huxleyan flare.
As for my occupation on these settlements, just like the protagonists in George R. R. Martin’s early science fiction work, I would like to be someone who is sent to an unknown world to explore it. Specifically, I would like to be sent out alongside scientists and archaeologists in uncovering water sources, sites for future settlement, and even possible life. I might also have to take part in terraforming Titan, especially since Titan can have temperatures that reach -179 degrees Celsius. It would be important to add warming compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere and photosynthesizing organisms such as lichens, mosses, and liverworts into the soil. Although I wouldn’t mind congregating among fellow colonists, I am naturally more inclined to befriend the landscape than other people; not just because I am an introvert, but because I would like to expand my own personal horizon.
While Titan can reach chilling temperatures, I would expect to live in this colony within a heat-compacted settlement that is above ground. Where exactly I would live geographically would have to depend on how much of a good view I can get of the Titan frontier. So I would have to live on one of Titan’s mountains, like the Taniquetil Montes, which have been named from a range of mountains from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Ring” series.
Any valleys, rivers, and other geological formations that the Taniquetil Montes would become my Walden and I would write with a Thoreauvian perspective about the Titan landscape. I would call into question the concept of land ownership as it would apply to human relationships as a whole in terms of wealth. I might even name this area New Walden. I would like to paraphrase Thoreau’s “Walden” in the context of this article by stating:
“What is a house but a seat?–better if a terraformed mountain seat.”
Similar to Thoreau’s experience, I would lend out my services to fellow settlers of Taniquetil. That would be life for me outside of the cities. I would only go to the cities if it meant doing a job there or even doing sight-seeing at the organic development of Titanling culture.
Akin to civilization-building techniques as old as human history itself, it would not come as a surprise that Titan cities would thrive in close proximity to a water source, specifically Ligeia Mare, a lake located in northern Titan. Because the water is made of methane, I would think that there would be technology used to convert it into drinking water, especially since there already is technology right now in converting ocean water into drinking water.
Although colonizing another planet would create a colossal feat for the human race, I naturally think that all of the negative aspects of the human race would be brought with them to Titan. One of those negative aspects is war between the most powerful countries in the world.
Since it would be inevitable that the superpowers of Earth–America, Russia, China, the Gulf States–would take advantage of this colonization race, I would be very interested in how diasporic populations from non-superpower nations would live in this Titan frontier. I could envision a complicated relationship between these populations and the colonial powers which would be not all too different from the complicated relationship between the Irish and the empires that colonized the Caribbean. In that case, it would not become uncommon for people from non-superpower nations to switch allegiances to other superpower nations for any benefits that they may find.
Though, I would be very interested to see how these interactions between entire nations would create an agreed-upon vernacular. Just like how Mannie from Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” narrates and speaks in what would appear to be broken English but is really a Lunar Creole combining English and Russian, it might be possible that creole languages would emerge. This interaction might be more interesting to me if I was given the opportunity to write about such encounters.
But because there would be colonies on Titan, I can imagine that there would be condescension from the superpowers proper, specifically when they look upon Titan colonials as not being in the position of taking advantage of the educational resources on Earth. This would be a problem that already exists on Earth when it comes to post-colonial literature in former colonies like Zambia. Since there was little access to publishers, who already think of the Zambian audience as illiterate, this came to the advantage of self-published authors like Sekelani Bandi. Having national literature (or in this case lunar literature) written by colonials would help make literature in general relevant to Titan society.
Amidst all of these conditions and tribulations, I would say to anyone curious about my perspective that my contribution to this hypothetical Titan literary culture would be worth it to me. Since I already mentioned famous authors in this article, such as Tolkien, Martin, Thoreau, Huxley, and Heinlein, their works including the works of many of my literary inspirations would be lined up in my shelves made from Earth-imported wood. I would be interested in seeing how entire generations of Titanlings would read my observations of the Titan landscape.