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My history with the TTA

Context

I was born at precisely the right time (the early 1970's) to be around to witness a sea change in the science fiction world -- things that younger fans probably take for granted, having known no other situation.   In those days, effects technology was not very advanced, and visual sci-fi was still crawling out of the 1950's B-movie phase.  Unless it was science fiction literature (novels and such), it probably was not terribly high quality or realistic, especially if it was visual media (films and the like).  By the time I had reached childhood and was aware of events surrounding me, this situation was ripe for change.

This occurred with the release of the film Star Wars, and the subsequent marketting phenomenon.  I liked science fiction before the film, but it was a distant sort of affinity until then.  After that point, my involvement with sci-fi was so significant that now, I cannot even concieve what my life's path might have been if it hadn't happened.  I became a confirmed fan.

Discovery

Shortly afterward in the UK (1978), a book was published titled Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD, referring to itself as a "Terran Trade Authority Handbook", authored by Stewart Cowley.  It was an art/story book, combining various pieces of science fiction cover art into a cohesive storyline, written in the form of a ship recognition manual.  The story purported to cover (as historical events) the eponymous period in Earth's development, summarizing the formation of a world government, the development of new technologies, first contact, and the first interstellar war.  It was forward-looking, but predicting events that were concievably to occur within the reader's lifetime.  It was neither overtly optimistic (ala Star Trek) nor depressingly pessimistic, instead presenting things matter-of-factly, as if they had been real events which the reader had somehow magically been granted the ability to glimpse early.

The book spread all over the world, eventually resulting in over 800,000 copies printed and translation into at least eight languages.  No doubt the series fed on the popularity of Star Wars.  I stumbled onto a copy around this time, during one of our infrequent visits to a local mall (and even less frequent visits to an actual bookstore).  I fell in love instantly, and had to have it.  After somehow managing to convince my parents to buy it, my life-long relationship with the TTA was born.  In its own way, it was just as influential a part of my childhood as Star Wars was, such as being a major reason I'm interested in painting and other 2D art, and I have fond memories of flipping through the book over and over for years, lovingly analyzing the details of the art and text and extrapolating on the world in my head.  (I still have that self-same copy of Spacecraft, somewhat the worse for wear, almost thirty years later.)

Gaming

By 1992-3, I had gotten into RPGs and even experimented with using the TTA as a setting (without much luck, however, as I was too new at it).  I also discovered around this time that I was not, in fact, the only person that had a copy of this book (even in the relative backwater of genre culture that I live in), when I saw one at the house of someone I had recently met in gaming.

3D

The science fiction series Babylon 5 was also new at the time, and one of the things it pioneered was the use of 3D CG graphics on telivision, using Newtek's Video Toaster and Lightwave 3D.  By this point, I had been tinkering with 3D graphics software on my Amiga computer for awhile, and I had been wanting Newtek's software since roughly 1989.  I finally gained some limited access to Lightwave and started teaching myself the program by following tutorials and doing my own projects.  One of the very first Lightwave models that I did that was not from a tutorial was a model of the Proximan K13 Shark interceptor.  Shortly thereafter, I did a model of the Avery-Frost Orion.  (I had tried to do some of the ships prior to this, but until Lightwave, my main 3D software was the freeware Rayshade program, which had a nonexistant user interface ... you entered the 3D data by hand, in text files.  This is very similar to how the popular POV-Ray package works in the absence of third party front-ends.  As such, these early efforts never went far and probably don't really count.)  I was never the most prolific creator of 3D TTA models, but as far as I am aware, I was one of the first to try it.

In 1998, I decided that my TTA models were long overdue to make use of my more developed skills and familiarity with the software. So I rebuilt them from scratch. I created a new model for the Shark, and as an experiment, I then decided to build my own Mark II variant of the Orion (instead of rebuilding the original).

Community

A few years after I started making TTA models, I decided to go looking for more TTA information on the net.  That is when I stumbled across Philip Banks' TTA page, and learned a lot more about the series that had been with me since childhood.  In particular, I learned that there was not one, not two, but three sequels to Spacecraft -- a possibility which had never even occurred to me.  There were also a number of "related" books that Cowley had written for a different publisher, under the psuedonym Stephen Caldwell (the "Galactic Encounters" series).  Reading Phillip's page over the next few years, I learned of other TTA sites, including sites whose authors had also hit on the idea of doing 3D models of these ships, such as Adrian Mann's TTA page.

Sequels obtained

Then came the birth of eBay, and I finally had a chance to obtain copies of the other three TTA books to complete my collection.  I finally managed to do so around 2000-2001 (along with one of the Galactic Encounters books, Aliens in Space), just in time for the period covered by the original book.  This was also the time that I entered school as an art major, and upgraded my copy of Inspire 3D (a low-end version of Lightwave which I purchased in 1999) to Lightwave 3D 6.5.  In celebration of that, I made a new TTA model (Object #1).

Present Day

Fast forward to 2006.  Recently there has been activity in the TTA universe.  Specifically, the rights to the series have been licensed by Morrigan Press, an RPG company and fans of the series like I am.  They are publishing a reprint of the first book (moved ahead by a century to remain forward-looking), Spacecraft 2100 to 2200 AD, as well as some original sequels  (Capital Ships of the TTA and Aliens of the TTA).  Even more exciting, they are doing an RPG core book and some supplements (Alphan and Proximan sourcebooks have been mentioned).  What's more, after some heart-wrenching legal complications, Stewart Cowley himself has become associated with the project as an advisor and contributor.

Unfortunately, though they have the rights to the text and setting, the rights to the original art itself were not obtained (though they do apparently have the rights to recreate it), so the new Spacecraft contains recreations and later books will follow the path of the original by including new art and designs by young sci-fi artists.  Specifically, recreations in Spacecraft by the very same Adrian Mann that I mentioned previously.  The series will also contain brand-new artwork by various artists, including Adrian, Mike Majestic of Vulne ProFrancois Cannels, and Jainai Jeffries.

All of this has, of course, reawakened my interest in the setting, and as such, I've started creating more TTA models of my own, which you can see elsewhere on this site.