A trip to space in style

Marvel comic writer Ryan North takes us to the cosmos

Ryan North (and Noam Chompsky) photo by Andrew Pickles (Image by TOPIA)

In this exclusive sci-fi short, prolific author and comic writer Ryan North imagines he’s reviewing a space-cation aboard the ‘Starview Spaceway’

Taking over the world is a lot of work. Any supervillain is bound to have questions: What’s the perfect location for a floating secret base? What zany heist will fund my immoral plans? How do I control the weather, destroy the internet, and never, ever die?

Ryan North’s hilarious How to Take Over the World (Riverhead Books, 2022) is a sly book. It might look like a guide to supervillainy, but really it’s a tongue-in-cheek guide to how to save the world – exploring ways to mitigate climate change, improve human life spans, prevent cyberterrorism and finally make Jurassic Park a reality.

At TOPIA, we are big fans of North. The New York Times bestselling and Eisner-award-winning writer is the creator of the long-running webcomic Dinosaur Comics (featuring a neurotic, wordy T-Rex), the print comic Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and The Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics, as well as the series Adventure Time and Jughead.

The Canadian comic writer is also behind (deep breath!) the bestselling anthology series, Machine of Death; the bestselling nonfiction book, How to Invent Everything, a guide on how to rebuild modern civilization for lost time travellers; a Shakespeare choose-your-own-adventure series; and a graphic novel adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Honestly, he is too prolific to list everything here, but this deserves a mention… he and his dog ‘Noam Chompsky’ once made the news for getting stuck in a hole. Oh, and his favourite star cluster is the Pleiades.

TOPIA is privileged to publish this original science fiction-based ‘review’ by North, created with Futurity Systems, a Barcelona-based studio that focuses on science-based innovation. Although we all know that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, here, the prolific writer asks: when it comes to space-cations, why not both?

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This future-set fictional review addresses the present from the year 2030

Ryan North on the Starview

Obviously, we’re all about luxuriating for week (or three) in orbit at the Starview Hotel. Who could pass up gazing down at all the splendor of Earth at once, before retiring to the zero gravity spa and bathing in pure starlight? But that’s only part of the Starview experience, and it turns out that getting there is half the fun.

When you’re looking to slip the surly bonds of Earth and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings, you might as well do it in style – with some surprising, memorable, and above all authentic experiences along the way.

Enter The Melness Starview Spaceway™. It’s the crowning jewel of the Melness Space Authority (though, like most seasoned travellers, we simply call it “The MSA”). It’s your gateway to the stars – and a playground that just happens to be filled with locals who live, work and play right alongside you.

Melness is a locality in the Scottish highlands

History and Culture

You’d be hard pressed to tell it today, but in the early 2020s, Melness was a sleepy collection of small townships and peat bogs in the north of Scotland. It offered the quiet life for the less than 700 locals who lived there… a little too quiet, in fact. Without tourism or economic development, Melness was facing a depression that threatened to end its towns once and for all. But luckily, when a few residents began exploring the idea of attracting a spaceport to save their beloved villages, the space startups listened. Sure, there were some bumps along the way – protests, lawsuits, the sort of distractions that accompany any large infrastructure project – but they were quickly overcome, and before long, the thrill of voyaging among the stars had come to Scotland.

The facility originally began as an industrial launch facility (with its first launch in 2025 – fittingly, to bring parts of the famous Starview Hotel into orbit), but you wouldn’t know that today. After partnering with Starview International Hospitality to become their exclusive Earth-to-orbit guest transportation provider, the MSA pivoted to being the final word in luxury, and those efforts have paid off. Within the space of a few years, the staid and workmanlike “Melness Low Earth Orbit Spacecraft Launch Facility” transformed into the Starview Spaceway™ we know and love.

Today, there is nothing in Melness that doesn’t cater to the space-bound. It’s an amusement park for both seasoned astronauts and the soon-to-be. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t plan at least a few days before (or after) your trip to orbit to take in all the area and the MSA has to offer. You’ll be sure to encounter some friendly locals – and a whole lot of personality.

Don’t forget to pack the app

No matter where you explore throughout the hospitality complex, smiles are free – and courtesy is guaranteed. If you’re ever dissatisfied for any reason, a quick photo taken in the MSA Appstronaut® App (available on all major platforms) is all you need to do to quickly and easily alert the MSA to your dissatisfaction, and they’ll ensure they make it right. But don’t worry: despite the fact MSA employees incur financial penalties for each complaint, everyone is genuinely pleased to help.

Where to Stay

The Spaceway™ has plenty of hotels-before-your-hotel built right into its remarkable and sprawling spaceport complex. Don’t worry, while these accommodations may be on Earth, but they’re nowhere near down-to-earth.

Unique experiences abound everywhere you look. Guests at the Transorbital have access to the Zero-G Training Room, where large fans simulate weightlessness, and who could forget the Stratosphere Hotel and its famous launch simulator experience, where you can get a peek at what it’s like to take off from Earth, the Moon, or even from the rings of Saturn. There’s really no way to go wrong, especially since every hotel on campus is guaranteed to carry a rating by Forbes Travel – Earth’s only independent travel guide – at four stars or above. Contact your travel agent for more information.

Food and Drink

Of course, the MSA has its own series of places to eat. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops – and our personal favorite, retro space race diners – pepper the Spaceway™ campus. Top of the heap of our editors’ recommendations is Dominic’s, a must for a cultivated, bespoke pan-Earth dining experiences. The chefs have elevated their both their craft and their cuisine to orbit (metaphorically), making the Michelin star they’ve earned very appropriate. But if you’d like to send your taste buds there literally, you can’t go wrong with Del Espacio, where everything on the menu, from the salads to the smoothies, incorporates at least one ingredient literally grown in orbit. The meals are truly out of this world.

While Del Espacio uses space-grown ingredients in every dish, only their Signature Salad is made exclusively from orbital-grown ingredients. Kale, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, poppy seeds, barley, and soybeans meet in a surprising medley of flavour – and it’s good for you too.

Even simplicity travels in style at the MSA, with American fast-service restaurant Sonic offering a ‘SuperSonic Suborbital’ burger exclusively to patrons of their Spaceway™ terminal locations.

But those are all within the MSA. If you’re willing to explore just little further off the beaten path – or rather, off the official spaceport campus – there are some real diamonds in the rough to be found. For our money, no visit is complete without a visit to Debbie’s, located in the public lands just outside Melness.

Your Flight

Imagine it. You’re relaxing by the pool when your smartwatch vibrates. It’s Amy, your personal MSA concierge letting you know it’s your turn to board. (Everyone in Astronaut Class® experiences the bespoke care and genuine courtesy of an authentic human providing one-on-one attention throughout the experience: no economy-tier AI “assistants” here.)

Grabbing a quick towel and a change of clothes, you make your way down to the terminal and your reserved boarding lane. Amy greets you warmly, helping you into a spacesuit in both your size and preselected style. As she drives you to the spacecraft in an open-air transporters, she points out several photo opportunities available on your way to the launchpad. As you settle into your seat on board – taking the luxury comfort kit from Amy before she departs with a smile and a cheery “bon voyage!” – you have to admit that as great as that experience just was, it’s just that tiny bit better knowing that those poor souls flying Economy got to see the highlights of this whole experience from afar, live streamed to the in-terminal displays as they wait their turn to board. It’s a tough job flying Astronaut Class®, but somebody’s gotta do it.

After the champagne and the countdown (feel free to join in) you’ll experience liftoff. While the first astronauts experienced more than 6 Gs – six times the normal force of gravity – on those early trips to space, the kinder, gentler liftoff the MSA has pioneered ensures you won’t feel more than 3 Gs, and then only briefly. 

Besides, with lay-flat beds, it’s feels closer to a brief snuggle under a nice weighted blanket than anything else. In less than two minutes, the primary burn will be complete. Then it’s just one more burn to bring you into orbit, and when those engines turn off – the experience of gravity does too. You’ll be free to move about the cabin – looking down at our beautiful blue marble from 2,000km up – as the spacecraft completes its journey to the Starview Hotel.

And as that beautiful hotel grows in the distance – that triumph of engineering and hospitality, an absolutely unique achievement in the universe, and the place where your vacation truly begins – you might just find yourself agreeing that in some cases, getting there really is half the fun. Yes, Melness and the Spaceway™ truly are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

And as that beautiful hotel grows in the distance – that triumph of engineering and hospitality, an absolutely unique achievement in the universe, and the place where your vacation truly begins – you might just find yourself agreeing that in some cases, getting there really is half the fun. Yes, Melness and the Spaceway™ truly are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Until your next trip into orbit, that is.

What’s so good about this?

The future is a hard place to understand. Future-set speculative fiction is not designed to predict the future, but to plausibly and logically tell a story about what we see around us now. It allows us to imagine better.

This article is part of a series of speculative fiction and interviews in partnership with Futurity Systems, a research and design venture studio working at the intersection of tech, society, business innovation and impact to “build better futures, faster”. Their lifestyle magazine, inTENSE, offers a dress rehearsal of the future by exploring how deep tech will shape the world around us in 2030. Read all the features.

Meet the writer

Ryan North is a NYT-bestselling Eisner-winning author, writer, computer scientist and pioneering webcomic creator. He got his start in comics, writing series like the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and The Fantastic Four for Marvel comics. He is also responsible for the award-winning Dinosaur Comics, the Adventure Time comics, adapted Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five into a graphic novel has written bestselling nonfiction books, like How to Invent Everything and How to Take Over the World. And loads more. You can find the Toronto-based writer at ryannorth.ca and on Twitter and Instagram.

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