Ministry of Space
|Ministry of Space|
|Publication date||April 2001 – April 2004|
|Number of issues||3|
Ministry of Space is a three-part alternate history mini-series written by Warren Ellis, published by Image Comics, starting in 2001. The book's art is by Chris Weston, and depicts retro technology in a believably 'British' style.
The story is set in an alternate history where soldiers and operatives of the United Kingdom reached the German rocket installations at Peenemünde ahead of the U.S. Army and the Soviets, and brought all the key personnel and technology to England, in a mirror of the real world's Operation Paperclip. Thus is created the Ministry of Space, whose mission is to develop British space technology and establish a firm foothold in space for Queen and Empire.
Elements of social commentary are present throughout the book, as is typical of Ellis' work, while the drama of the story is found in the lives of the first pioneers of space exploration (as in The Right Stuff). This social commentary is disguised in a snippet of dialogue here and a background detail in the art elsewhere, relying upon the readers' own observations to bring it to light.
Originally intended as a three-part monthly series, Ministry of Space was first released in May 2001. Delays prompted the release of issue #2 in September 2001 instead of June. The last issue finally saw print in April 2004, three years late. No specific reason has been given for the delays.
In his afterword to the series, Ellis speaks of how Ministry of Space came to be. While converting his attic into a library, he found a lost, forgotten copy of the Dan Dare comic The Man From Nowhere. In the fifties, this was science fiction. Now, it has the feel of alternate history.
The narrative moves back and forth between the last days of World War II, the first few years of the British space programme, and the year 2001. The British had captured and relocated to England all the scientists and equipment found in Peenemünde, among them Dr. Wernher von Braun and the plans and pieces of the V-2 rocket bomb. Peenemünde and American advance troops are then (intentionally) obliterated by friendly fire, so that they cannot challenge the emergent British technological advantage.
The entire scheme is masterminded by Royal Air Force officer Air Commodore John Dashwood, survivor of the Battle of Britain, who manages to convince Winston Churchill to establish the Ministry of Space and fund it with a black budget. The following years see British pilots:
- Breaking the sound barrier (1946).
- Launching the first artificial satellite in 1948, called Victory and radio-broad-casting "God save the King" in Morse Code.
- Pioneering manned spaceflight (1950), in a reinforced and pressurized cabin, in rocketplane named Britannia, wearing Leather jackets and sitting in a leather chair. Making John Dashwood the 'first man in space, but he loses his legs in the process, but receives a knighthood.
- Building a space station (1953–56) named Churchill Station.
- In 1957 the National Service Act 1948 is not abolished, but now includes service in the "The Royal Space Force".
- Landing on the Moon (1957) and in 1960 finding water on the Moon.
- Establishing a colonial base on Mars in 1969, with nuclear motors and 700 people.
The story ends in 2001 and involves an American attempt to go into space, and their blackmailing of the British government concerning the secrets of the black budget that funded the Ministry of Space (which was derived from looting gold reserves from Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust). However, thanks to Dashwood's crimes, the British space programme has a manned spacecraft that has reached Saturn, thriving British Martian and lunar colonies, asteroid belt mines and at least three Earth orbital space stations providing the country with free solar energy. The unrepentant Dashwood dismisses the Ministry's outrage at its origins with the claim that England will not care about the truth when it has reaped such benefits from the programme. However, the price of progress is hinted at in a closing page that shows that the culturally static Empire practices segregationism; the black female pilot that flew Dashwood to one of the space stations for questioning is shown to be staying in "Non-White Woman" quarters.
The series has been collected into a single volume, in both softcover (March 2005, Image, ISBN 1-58240-423-2, Titan, ISBN 1-84023-924-7) and hardcover editions (Image, March 2005, ISBN 1-58240-424-0).
The series won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History (short form) in 2005.
- Ellis, W: "Ministry Of Space", 'The Afterword'. Titan Books, 2005