Interview With Hank Slater, Creator of Space Trails: Life on Mars

Space Trails: Life on Mars is a new science fiction series that is currently raising money on Indiegogo to fund its pilot episode. For this interview, I caught up with series creator Hank Slater.

Heidi: What would an elevator pitch for Space Trails: Life on Mars sound like?

Hank Slater: With everything, everyone around the world being so focused on Mars right now, it seems the ideal time to do a series about colonizing Mars, more than just the technology of it, but also the reasons for going to the colony or the reasons for funding the colony. Space Trails: Life on Mars does that, taking all of the various motivations for why to fund a colony on Mars, why to go to a colony on Mars and takes them from aspects around the world and collides them in this one colony.

It’s about that conflict of all these varying plots or personal motivations colliding here and determining how they’re going to play out.

Heidi: Awesome. What makes Space Trails different from popular Mars-themed entertainment like the Martian?

Slater: Before I answer that question, I’m going to caveat this with I haven’t watched any Martian-themed sci-fi since I started working on this project because I don’t want that impacting—I don’t want that seeping into Space Trails: Life on Mars.

So, based on the limited information that I have about it, I would say that one of the main differences is cast size. Because this is an international effort, it has a very large cast. That’s the primary difference.

Also, it seems to me that—I’m guessing here—that other sci-fi about colonizing Mars features more the harsh terrain of Mars, more the technology needed to overcome that, while Space Trails: Life on Mars does delve into that, I consider that the primary backup story to the colonists’ interaction with each other, with earth, the relationship between those who went and those who funded them and the personal dynamics of how living on Mars will affect their social structure.

Also, Space Trails: Life on Mars takes into account one aspect of colonizing Mars that I do not recall seeing in any blurb about any show about Mars, which is what would it be like to raise a family on Mars? Which is something that I think does need to be addressed before we actually go to colonizing Mars.

So, those were some of the things that differentiate it. Also, the international aspect and the fact that a lot of sci-fi in general features the American, where Space Trails: Life on Mars, while it does have American characters, because I am American, and they are featured, because I’m American, I understand them, I also felt it very important to include high-ranking individuals of varying ethnic backgrounds to further that diversity that a successful colony on Mars, I think, might need.

Because there are three possibilities that I can see for how Mars would be colonized, which is 1) It would be a space race, like the Cold War, where we were racing to the moon and this country would set up a colony and then that country would and then that country would. Or one country would set up a colony and another country would attack the colony because of the hostilities.

And the third, which is the most workable, which is why I chose that one, is Space Trails: Life on Mars, where a united colony is established. So, to take in all those political factors, I chose that one, my co-author and I did.

That’s one of the ways I think that it differs.

Heidi: What was the inspiration behind this project?

Slater: The inspiration behind this project, what prompted me to write it was, in 2016, when there was all of the uncertainty about the election and I saw people talking about how they were planning to flee to Canada or move to other countries as refugees, it made me start questioning, since my whole life I’d grown up seeing TV shows about people who are wanting to be refugees in America, it made me wonder what’s going to happen if there’s a time in our future when either because of immigration laws preventing refugee status or because of other country policies that prevent them being any country that is a desirable country for a refugee to go to, where would refugees go?

With space flight so close at hand, Mars seems the logical option. Space Trails: Life on Mars also looks at Mars from the perspective of this is where everyone is going who wants a better future, so these are the new pioneers. That’s what inspired Space Trails: Life on Mars to be written.

Heidi: Could you tell us a little about your crowdfunding campaign?

Slater: The Indiegogo campaign is primarily to raise awareness about the project, raise funds for filming the pilot. Since I have never done anything in the TV industry before, neither has my co-author, we’re trying to fund the pilot so that we can kind of show what our work will look like so as to be able to use the pilot to bring in more sponsors of the series. So, that’s our goal with the funding campaign.

Heidi: Awesome. That’s all the questions I had. Anything you’d like to add?

Slater: Yes. One other thing that I couldn’t think of a way to work into the other questions is that another aspect of Space Trails: Life on Mars that I find interesting is the fact that because of doing the whole tension between the investors and the colonists and the various conflicting viewpoints of the various nations, Space Trails: Life on Mars also delves into socioeconomic factors. For instance, the fact that because it would be so expensive to send supplies through space millions of miles to Mars—I think it’s millions—and as a result, I doubt a lot of companies are going to be willing to send expensive equipment along with them, you’re going to have people with the pioneering spirit who are willing to take the clothes on their backs, their most valued possessions, food, seeds, soil, the necessary stuff to live, as the most in their element, colonists.

While the people who investors may have chosen or countries may have chosen to send expecting them since they were so elite, to be in charge of the colony, find themselves in a foreign environment where all of the skills that they had were money management for resource management of all of these people, is replaced with an environment where resource management of rationing, resource management of trying to make what little you have last a long time, which is different from the well, “We need this. We need to buy this, we need to sell that, we need to do all of this,” because with a colony you’re rather isolated. You’re not going to be able to do as much trading as the elite tend to.

I find that, that I’ve decided to play with with Life on Mars of trying to strike this balance between the people who intended to be in charge and the people who have the experience working in that scrimping and saving and rationing and very little rewarding environment of the first wave of Mars colony.

Because once the colony is better established, I can see possibly companies would be more willing to send more expensive equipment, but initially, it’s going to be the people who are experienced with dealing with virtually nothing and making that work, who are going to be more in their element. And that’s something that I think is interesting to play with the Space Trails: Life on Mars.

The other thing that I find important about Space Trails: Life on Mars is the type of colonists that I chose. I wanted to make stereotypes with the series as well, since there was going to be this alien environment and I looked at the various stereotypes and the various ways that those primitive skills could be invaluable.

For instance, I recently learned, a couple years ago, that in Ghana, there is a new concept of mound farming, where mound, literal mounds, are being used to farm in small spaces and that is something that could be invaluable on a confined colony. That’s something that I thought that I like is using a Ghanaian as a chief of staff of agriculture in that respect.

As well as in another notable point for medicine, the chief medical officer being a Native American medicine man because again, the ancient remedies, the ancient traditions of healing via the Native American traditions, are more what would be effective in a colony that does not have hospital supplies and a hospital ability to be resupplied.

Those are two points that I like to point out. I think that’s it.

Heidi: All right, thanks.

Slater: You’re welcome.