Damon Lindelof, writer and executive producer of Prometheus
Prometheus, director Ridley Scott’s long-awaited prequel to the Alien franchise, hits theaters June 8. DISCOVER editor in chief Corey S. Powell spoke with Lindelof (Star Trek, Lost) about the film, its science-tinged sensibility, and what our own future might look like.
How was making Prometheus different from working on more unbounded sci-fi, like Star Trek?
The Alien universe is a projected scientific view of the future. If you want to go traveling way off into the galaxy, you have to put yourself in cryosleep because a ship can move only so fast. In the world of Star Trek, you have sci-fi fantasy rules: There is time travel, warp drive, the ability to beam oneself around.
Prometheus, like Alien and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, has strong dystopian elements. Why is so much science fiction pessimistic?
Because the apocalyptic version seems much more probable. The 1960s hung on the promise of the space program. We believed the future was something we could make. But in the 1980s, when I was growing up, that transformed into the idea that the future is something we have no control over. Thirty years from now, nuclear holocaust and artificial intelligence takeover feel much more viable to me than a federation that seeks out new civilizations.
You interviewed futurist Ray Kurzweil about the possible merger between humans and computers. Does that idea resonate with you?
It does. My wife and I have had a number of impassioned debates about what I believe is not a hypothetical question: Would you download your consciousness into a box if it meant you could continue going on? That sounds appealing to me. But the question becomes, what’s inside the box? Is it a virtual reality of your own choosing? It gets very daunting very fast.
Despite all its science fiction elements, Prometheus seems like a very human, philosophical story. Is that what you’re aiming for?
The jumping-off point for Prometheus for me is this: If somebody believed in God and you presented scientific evidence that directly contradicted that belief, what would he do? I find that question tremendously compelling.