How I found the first eighty-footer at Heathrow

It was March 1978. I was walking out to the gate to catch TW703 (odd how the flight number has stayed with me all these years) to New York. Concorde was sitting on a stand, ready to depart. I began idly calculating in my head:

Wright Brothers, 1910, 40 MPH. Concorde, 1976, 1350 MPH.

That’s over 30 times faster in less than 70 years.

Another 30 times faster is over 40,000 MPH. That’s almost escape velocity.

And in that moment the eighty-footer, the light spaceship that is the mainstay of the Confederate Space Fleet was born.

How it all began

It was a warm summer night in the middle of the 1970s. The moon landings were a recent memory.

I had been reading a textbook on astronomy, which described the star Arcturus as having a “lovely orange-red colour” under magnification. I borrowed my father’s binoculars and stood in the back garden. It took me a few seconds to get the star centred then I was suddenly entranced by the auburn glow.

In cosmic terms Arcturus is very close, almost in the next street. I found myself thinking “that would look glorious from close up”. Then I realised that there was almost no chance of anyone building a spaceship that could get there in my lifetime.

I almost cried. But then I realised that there was just one way I could travel the galaxy.

I gave my father’s binoculars back and borrowed his typewriter. And that’s how I took up science fiction.