From the time I first learned to read, all the way through to my eventually moving out for college, my imagination was sparked and shaped by my dad’s shelves of old science fiction books. I burned through paperbacks with names like Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton and Isaac Asimov on their covers. But some of the most distinct memories I have are of poring over a book called Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD, marveling at the gorgeous spaceship art and dreaming that someday I might see their like spreading out through the solar system. (I may be more cynical these days, but I still cling to those dreams.) So when I ran across a pair of CGI short films based on the book, I was instantly transported back to being eight years old again.
Published in 1978, Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 AD was the first of four books collectively known as the “Terran Trade Authority” books, a fictional future history of mankind’s expansion to the stars. The TTA books presented this future both through text written by Stewart Cowley and artwork by such legendary science fiction artists as Jim Burns, Peter Elson, Colin Hay, and more. To this day, the bar for awesome spaceship design is still the beautiful, imaginative work done by those artists for the TTA books. When we finally venture beyond our solar system, I really hope it’s in something that looks as cool as this.
The videos were created by Adrian Mann, who’s done a really great job rendering those two-dimensional paintings into a computer-generated 3D “reality,” pitting the various TTA vessels against the dangers of outer space — not to mention their rivals in ships of their own. Honestly, the videos are great in and of themselves, but they really make me wish somebody would develop a TV series or movie based on the books. You’ve got a rich, fictional universe and a comprehensive visual guide to the look and feel of that universe. Plus, it’s obscure enough that you could make the tweaks and adjustments that any adaptation necessitates without lynch mobs forming outside your door. (Well, maybe a small one if you get crazy with the changes. And by “a small one,” I mean me and a homeless drifter I hire to hold the other protest sign.)
The initial Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 book was followed by three others in the original series:
You can check out some of the gorgeous original artwork from the books below.