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Star Settlers

The Billionaires, Geniuses, and Crazed Visionaries Out to Conquer the Universe


The story behind the elite scientists, technologists, SF enthusiasts, and billionaires who believe that humanity’s destiny is to populate the stars . . .

Does humanity have a destiny “in the stars?” Should a species triggering massive extinctions on its own planet instead stay put? This new book traces the waxing and waning of interest in space settlement through the decades, and offers a journalistic tour through the influential subculture attempting to shape a multiplanetary future.

What motivates figures such as billionaires Elon Musk and Yuri Milner? How important have science fiction authors and filmmakers been in stirring enthusiasm for actual space exploration and settlement? Is there a coherent motivating philosophy and ethic behind the spacefaring dream?

Star Settlers offers both a historical perspective and a journalistic window into a peculiar subculture packed with members of the scientific, intellectual, and economic elite. This timely work captures the extra-scientific zeal for space travel and settlement, places it in its historical context, and tackles the somewhat surreal conceptions underlying the enterprise and prognoses for its future.

Fred Nadis was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in the Public Understanding of Science and Technology program for Star Settlers. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He has authored two prior books, Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America, and The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey, a Locus Nonfiction Award Finalist. He has published essays in the Atlantic and Vanity Fair online and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Science and Popular Culture. Learn more at

"Science journalist Nadis (The Man from Mars) delivers a thought-provoking look at the scientists, space fans, and industrialists determined to settle humanity among the stars...With this grounded but far-reaching treatise, Nadis introduces readers to some fascinating dreams of the future."

– Publishers Weekly

"[A] fascinating exploration of the human quest to mine extraterrestrial lands for habitation...a solid, sometimes wondrous introduction to a field that is just beginning to show signs of promise....A futuristic, optimistic, and intellectually stimulating report for space enthusiasts or readers with celestial wanderlust."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Makes a lasting imprint. Entertaining."

– The Wall Street Journal [praise for Fred Nadis, PhD]

"Insightful and exemplary. Significant as well as intriguing."

– The Washington Post [praise for Fred Nadis, PhD]

"Well-written and entertaining. Invaluable insights into the science fiction world.”"

– Locus [praise for Fred Nadis, PhD]