I didn't include this in my comments on the 25th Anniversary Writers of the Future event because I wanted to look stuff up first. But one of the things at the events are speakers who work in visionary industries. In 2008, they had the president of one of the civilian space launch firms. This year, when steampunk abounds in spec fic, they had the guy who dreamed up the World Sky Race. A race around the world in airships, over all the major cities and wonders of the world you can think of.
And how cool is this? The guy announced that the Gold Award winners for the WOTF (Emery Huang) and IOTF (Oleksandra Barysheva) contests would be given VIP passes to fly on the competition airships. One of the writers I met at WOTF last year posted this on Facebook early this morning:
Steven Savile They had a montage up of all 500 book covers from previous winners at wotf, familiar faces zipping by, a dance troop and Emery Huang just won a trip on the Cairo leg of the World Airship Race 2010 - how steampunk is that? Racing to the Pyramids in a blimp!
This Makes Me Smile
If you go to the race's homepage, you can see the computer generated video they showed at the event.
The other year somebody did a TV commercial which had whales swimming through the sky. This reminds me of that, which is why I say this makes me smile.
Absurd, you say? Sure. Aren't most races? Can they pull this off? Some of the web comments I saw listed in Google talk about World Sky Race 2010, and the emblem in the video has MMX (2010). But the header on the homepage now says World Sky Race 2011 -- and given that this is the first time I've heard of it, I'm sure an extra year will pay off.
The thing is, the visionary was saying they've got UNESCO support -- and permission from the President of Egypt to make landing just south of the Great Pyramids. "Is that a great parking space or what?" he joked. The other point they make is the visibility. You can't miss big colorful airships gliding over major cities -- they expect more people will see this competition live and in person in one day over, say, L.A., than saw the Beijing Olympics live in person last year. Something to think about.
You know, I was skeptical of the Red Bull Air Races the other year. Air racing in high performance propeller planes was huge in the 1930s, see The Aviator for example, but it has toiled in somewhat obscurity for decades. Yet this past year I saw the Red Bull Air Races showing live on TVs in sports bars, and my aviation students talk about how big it has gotten. But most people don't understand competitive air races over courses -- this airship race around the world is much more grokkable. And it will showcase tourist destinations everywhere, so I think countries really could get behind this. It could be huge.
If nothing else, it will be beautiful. Should the races really happen, I may have to make a trip to where I can see them. Live, and in person.