I've got an idea for a depressing Science Fiction story. Who already wrote it?

I think it would be cool for there to be a science fiction story set billions of years into the future, in which humanity has survived, but never found a viable way to engage in interstellar travel. We’re still on Earth and we’ve colonized planets and moons in the Solar System, and we’ve desperately–for billions of years!–searched for ways to get out to other stars, but it has proved to be an engineering impossibility. We’ve accomplished a lot of the dreams of science fiction–but not that one, and that one is really important, since now the sun is not too far off from swallowing up the solar system as it is sure to do…

Who already wrote this story and what is it called?

Except for the “billions of years” part, Joss Whedon came close, with Firefly. Earth got used up, so everybody who could went and settled in a different solar system. No mention of interstellar travel except for that one trip, but lots of colonization within one system.

In Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon, published in 1930, mankind doesn’t leave the solar system during its two-billion-year history (that’s from now to two billion years in the future, when the sun goes supernova or some such), and it’s because interstellar space travel is impossible for some reason.

Surely the world’s greatest scientist will at the last minute find a way to rocket his infant son away from that doomed planet, for to be found in some wheat field and taken in by a kindly farm couple who’ll raise that child to champion truth and justice and, like, the ways of his adoptive country, or something.

Not exactly the OP’s scenario, but Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora somewhat fits the bill.

They do have interstellar TRAVEL, but they haven’t solved the “OMG things are far away” problem, so it takes hundreds of years to get to another solar system. Then, when they get there, it turns out the planet itself is toxic, and it’s strongly suggested that life is closely tied to a solar system. That is, even when we manage to get somewhere, unknown things (viruses, rogue proteins, bacteria, we’re not sure) make any non-solar-system planet toxic to humans and other earth-based life.

Not the kind of time frame you’re talking about, but elements of that were part of a novel by Clarke, “Imperial Earth”, I believe it was.

And also G R R Martin (according to the internet, at least, I’m too lazy to go up and comb through my books jut to confirm it) once wrote a story where they were struggling to get FTL and the punch line was that hyperspace was useless as the maximum speed wasn’t the speed of light, but slower.

Give you this, when you your subconscience cribs, it does so from the best.

Jack Vance’s “Dying Earth” stories are set in a remote future where mankind still lives on Earth, and the sun is flickering and giving all signs of dying any minute. It gives the population a fatalist, “live for today” kind of attitude that infuses the stories in the anthology. I don’t recall if there are other people who have left Earth or not; he focuses on the ones who stayed, by choice or because there was no way off.

In The Eyes of the Overworld (one of the Dying Earth books) the alien Firx came from a distant star (Achernar, iirc. But maybe not) I think it was brought back to Earth by humans but I could be wrong…

And I think Kim Stanley Robinson (spoiler for Aurora) is on record as saying he doesn’t think interstellar travel will ever happen, so almost making it in Aurora is about as far as he’ll go in his novels, I think!

In H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, published in 1895, mankind never leaves Earth and has died out by 30,000,000 years from now.

That story is called “FTA” I believe.

What’s the A stand for?

I don’t remember… I’ll see if I can find a copy of the story sometime and check.

Heh. In my court, “FTA” means “failed to appear.”

Charlie Stross’s sf novel Saturn’s Children posits that, even far in the future, humanity has never made it beyond Pluto, and moreover that

all of humanity has died off for reasons unknown, leaving behind a Solar System-spanning robot civilization. The robots are bound by Asimov’s Three Laws but have no humans to give them orders. The race is on for the first robot faction to create a human being and thus rule all the rest. An interesting concept - but not all that interestingly pulled off IMHO.

Faster Than Anything else we can come up with, but not light.

Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star. A race knows their sun is dying, they can’t stop it, and they can’t travel beyond it. But they place a memorial on the outermost planet to say we were here.

Star Trek’s The Inner Light, similar.

Even Asimov’s *The Last Question *is similar, although in that case it’s the Universe that’s dying.

I read it in one of those Asimov Greenberg anthologies , * 100 science fiction short short stories * , IIRC

The A was never explained in the story.

Whether it’s relevant or not at one time FTA stood for Fuck The Army, and this was the name of a subversive army periodical in another sf story.

There is also a Dr Who episode of a similar nature. Mankind finds themselves at the very end of the universe with no way to escape.

Utopia or some such title.

This episode has a nice tie in to later episodes.

I think that, instead of interstellar travel being impossible, there would just not be any habitable planets within range of human lifetimes, even as extended as they can be with genetics and cryonics and velocity. Even then you’re pushing it.

But that far off, culture would be so different I suspect you could just move it to another solar system and use the native life there.

Asimov’s End of Eternity had that theme as a part of the overall plot.

Time travel was the problem, the story involved a fix which is part of the Foundation Universe of stories.

So, not really an answer to the OP, but close… maybe… ymmv

Jack Vance’s “Rhialto the Marvellous” (A “Dying Earth” sequel) has the characters take to space flight, zooming out away to vastly distant stars, using magical propulsion.

Weird book. The whole “Dying Earth” series is totally screwball. I don’t believe it makes sense to analyze it for logical consistency or cohesion; Vance was just having fun.