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An Excerpt from HYBRIDS
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 2003 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
In Robert J. Sawyer's 2003 novel
Hybrids, the U.S. president who comes to
office in 2009 makes a speech calling for a crewed mission to Mars. The
speech appeared broken into a series of excerpts at the beginning of
each chapter of Hybrids, but here it is in its entirety:
My fellow Americans and all other human beings on this
version of Earth it gives me great pleasure to address you
this evening, my first major speech as your new president. I
wish to talk about the future of our kind of hominid, of the
species known as Homo sapiens: people of wisdom.
And, as you will see, it is only our future the
future of Homo sapiens that I will be addressing
tonight. And not just because I can only speak as the American
president. No, there is more to it than that. For, in this
matter, our future and that of the Neanderthals are not
I said it during my campaign, and I say it again now: a
president should be forward-thinking, looking not just to the
next election but to decades and generations to come. It is with
that longer view in mind that I speak to you tonight.
Let me begin by noting this isn't about us versus them. It isn't
about who is better, Homo sapiens or Homo
neanderthalensis. It isn't about who is brighter, Gliksin or
Barast. Rather, it's about finding our own strengths and our own
best natures, and doing those things of which we can be most
Four decades ago, my predecessor in the Oval Office, John F.
Kennedy, said, `Now is the time to take longer strides
time for a great new American enterprise.' I was just a kid in a
Montgomery ghetto then, but I remember vividly how those words
made my spine tingle.
Jack Kennedy was right: it was time then for us to take longer
strides. And it's that time again. For the greatest strength we
Homo sapiens have always had, since the dawn of our
consciousness 40,000 years ago, is our desire to go places, to
make journeys, to see what's beyond the next hill, to expand our
territories, and if I may borrow a phrase coined just four
years after JFK's speech to boldly go where no man has
Our strength is our wanderlust; our curiosity; our exploring,
searching, soaring spirit.
It was that questing spirit that led our ancient ancestors to
spread throughout the Old World.
It was that questing spirit that moved some of us to march
thousands of miles across the Bering Land Bridge, which linked
Siberia and Alaska during the Ice Age.
It was that questing spirit that caused others to bravely sail
boats over the horizon, finding new lands in Australia and
It was that questing spirit that led Vikings to come to North
America a thousand years ago, that drove the Niña, the
Pinta, and the Santa Maria to cross the Atlantic
five hundred years ago.
It was that questing spirit that lifted the wings of Orville and
Wilbur Wright, of Amelia Earhart, of Chuck Yeager.
It was that questing spirit that made brave men and women like
Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova and John Glenn ride on
pillars of flame into Earth orbit.
And it was that questing spirit that let Columbia and
Eagle, Yankee Clipper and Intrepid, Odyssey and
Aquarius, Kitty Hawk and Antares, Endeavour and
Falcon, Casper and Orion, and America and
Challenger fly to the moon.
There are human footprints preserved in volcanic ash at Laetoli,
made by a male and a female australopithecine, the ancestors to
both Gliksins and Barasts, just wandering, walking slowly, side
by side, exploring: the original small hominids steps. And
there are human footprints at Tranquility Base and the Ocean of
Storms and Fra Mauro and Hadley Rille and Descartes and
Taurus-Littrow on the moon truly giant leaps.
But it has been more than three decades since Eugene Cernan
became the last person to walk on the moon. The last person!
Who would have thought that whole generations would be born after
1972 for whom the notion of humans on other worlds would be
nothing but a lesson in history class?
How could that have possibly happened? How could we have given
up that most noble of drives that had taken us from Olduvai Gorge
to the lunar craters? The answer, of course, is that we'd grown
content. The century we recently left saw greater advances in
human wealth and prosperity, in human health and longevity, in
human technology and material comfort, than all of the forty
millennia that preceded it.
Here in North America, and in India and Japan and Europe and
Russia and all across this whole wide wonderful world of ours,
things are mostly better than they have ever been and
they're getting even better all the time.
So: it's perfectly reasonable that we took a hiatus, that we
enjoyed the first few decades of post-Cold War prosperity, that
we indulged in one of the other things that makes our kind of
humanity great: we stopped and smelled the roses.
But now it's time to resume our journey, for it is our love
of the journey that makes us great.
Scientists tell us that our kind of humans moved up to the
northern tip of Africa, looked north across the Strait of
Gibraltar, and saw new land there and, of course, as seems
natural to us, we risked crossing that treacherous channel,
moving into Europe.
Likewise, some of our Barast cousins, natives of Europe, came
south to Gibraltar, with its famous rock, that wonderful symbol
of permanence and stability. And from their vantage point, the
Neanderthals could see south to the unknown lands of Africa.
But the Neanderthals didn't cross the Strait of Gibraltar.
There, at Gibraltar, we saw the difference between us and them.
For, when we saw a new world, just a short distance away, we took
If the dangers posed by the collapsing of this Earth's magnetic
field teaches us anything, it is that humanity is too precious to
have but a single home that keeping all our eggs in one
basket is folly.
So, yes, indeed, now is the time to take longer strides. But
it's not just time for a great new American enterprise. Rather,
it's time, if I may echo another speech, for black men and white
men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics and
Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists, and men and women of all
faiths, and men and women of none for individuals from
every one of our 191 united nations, for members of every race
and religion that make up our unique, varied brand of humanity
to go forward together, in peace and harmony, with mutual
respect and friendship, continuing the journey we Homo
sapiens had briefly interrupted.
And so I stand here today to usher in the next phase. It is
time, my friends, for at least some of us to move on, to leave
our version of Earth and take the next giant leap.
It is time, my fellow Homo sapiens, that we go to Mars.
I believe we, the humans of this Earth, should commit ourselves,
before another decade has gone by, to launching an international
team of women and men to the red planet.
And although our Neanderthal cousins will be welcome to join us
in this grand Mars adventure, should they so choose, it is
something it seems few of them will desire.
But whether the Neanderthals come with us or not to the red
planet, we should adopt their view of that world's color. Mars
is not a symbol of war; it is the color of health, of life
and if it is, perhaps, barren of life now, we should not let it
remain so any longer.
Of course, once we're there, once we have planted flowers in the
rusty sand of the fourth planet from our sun, once we've nurtured
them with water taken from Mars' polar caps, we Homo
sapiens might again briefly pause to smell those roses.
But smelling Martian roses will be only a pause, only a
brief catching of breath, a moment of reflection, before we will
again take up the journey, driving ever outward, farther and
farther, learning, discovering, growing, expanding not only our
borders but our minds.
We the kind of humanity called Homo sapiens, the
kind our Neanderthal cousins call Gliksins have a drive
unique among all primates, a drive singular in the realm of
conscious beings. And that drive will compel us onward and
And yet, some of us will stay permanently on Mars. Now, in the
pages of science and science fiction there have long been notions
of terraforming Mars making it more Earth-like, by
enhancing its atmosphere and liberating its frozen water, thus
creating a world better suited for human habitation.
But there have been objections to terraforming Mars from
those who feel that, even if it has no indigenous life, we should
leave its stark natural beauty pristine and unspoiled that
if we visit it, we should treat it as we do our Earthly parks,
taking nothing but memories and leaving behind nothing but
Who would have thought that both destinies for Mars could be
fulfilled? But, of course, now they can. We will travel to the
Mars of this universe, the one that graces the night skies of the
Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania, and, as has ever
been our way, we will conquer this new frontier, making an
additional home for Homo sapiens there.
And although someday we may also travel to Dargal
for that is what the Neanderthals named the red planet of their
universe, the crimson beacon that beams down upon the continents
of Durkanu, Podlar, Ranilass, Evsoy, Galasoy, and Nalkanu
we will leave that version of Mars as we find it. Truly, like so
much in this new era we are now entering, we will have our cake
and eat it, too.
And it is a new era we are entering. The Cenozoic
the era of recent life is indeed all but over. The
Novozoic the era of new life is about to begin.
The dawn of the Cenozoic, the famed Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary
when the dinosaurs died out, was marked by a layer of clay, found
on both versions of Earth. The beginning of the Novozoic in this
universe, our universe, the universe of Homo sapiens, will
be marked by the footsteps of the first colonist on Mars, the
first member of our species to leave the cradle that is this
Earth, never to return.
It has been suggested by some scientists that since there was,
apparently, only one universe until 40,000 years ago when
consciousness arose on Earth, then there is no other
consciousness anywhere in this vast universe of ours or,
at least, none older than our own. If that is true, then
exploring the rest of space isn't just our destiny, it is our
obligation, for there is no one but we Homo sapiens
with the desire and means to do it.
And if that notion isn't correct if this and other
universes are, as some scientists and philosophers believe,
teeming with intelligent life then we have another duty
when we take our next small steps, and that is to put our best
foot forward: to show all the other forms of life the greatness
that is Homo sapiens, in all our wonderful and myriad
And we are just that: a great and wonderful people. Yes, we
have made missteps but we made them because we are
always walking forward, always marching toward our destiny.
My fellow human beings, my fellow Homo sapiens, we will
continue our great journey, continue our wondrous quest, continue
ever outward. That is our history, and it is our future. And we
will not stop, not falter, not give up until we have reached the
An excerpt from Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer.
Copyright © 2003 by Robert J. Sawyer. All rights
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