Exploring the Next Frontier
Vietnam, NASA, Star Trek and Utopia in 1960s and 70s American Myth and History
The 1960s and early 70s saw the evolution of Frontier Myths even as scholars were renouncing the interpretive value of myths themselves. Works like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War exemplified that rejection using his experiences during the Vietnam War to illustrate the problematic consequences of simple mythic idealism. Simultaneously, Americans were playing with expanded and revised versions of familiar Frontier Myths, though in a contemporary context, through NASA’s lunar missions, Star Trek, and Gerard K. O’Neill’s High Frontier.
This book examines the reasons behind the exclusion of Frontier Myths to the periphery of scholarly discourse, and endeavors to build a new model for understanding their enduring significance. This model connects NASA’s failed attempts to recycle earlier myths, wholesale, to Star Trek’s revision of those myths and rejection of the idea of a frontier paradise, to O’Neill’s desire to realize such a paradise in Earth’s orbit. This new synthesis defies the negative connotations of Frontier Myths during the 1960s and 70s and attempts to resuscitate them for relevance in the modern academic context.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: 1969 and an American Mythos 2. Paradigms Lost and Paradigms Regained: A Mythography of the Lost Frontier 3. Vietnam, The Forever War, and the Shattering of American Myth 4. Technological Triumph, Mythological Miasma: NASA, the Moon, and Transforming Mythos into Logos 5. The Rejection of Paradise: Star Trek and the Final Frontier 6. The High Frontier of Gerard K. O’Neill: An Endless Frontier Utopia in Orbit 7. Conclusion: A Continuing Mythic Significance
Matthew Wilhelm Kapell holds Master’s degrees in History and Anthropology and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Swansea University (UK). He has taught those disciplines as well as Film at multiple universities. Previous work includes books in Film and Digital Games and journal articles in African, Urban, and Utopian Studies.