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Moon: Fiction July 18, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Moon.
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Okay, for the week that’s in it I’ll offer up a rag bag of Moon related material. And to start things off, here’s a link to a short story.

I’m a sort of fan of British SF writer Stephen Baxter. Never quite got his far future stuff, bar the Destiny’s Children Trilogy (or is it a quadrilogy given an extra volume of short stories). But I’m very partial to his alternate NASA Trilogy as exemplified in Voyage, a book whose plot directly links into where NASA could have gone during and after the Moon landings. One aspect of that that has always remained with me was the concept of Moonlab, an orbiting station not dissimilar to Skylab which would be positioned around the Moon as a sort of waystation. It was vaguely proposed, but clearly not implemented during the Apollo and post-Apollo programme.

Here on the rather fine Infinity Plus SF, Fantasy and Horror website, sadly defunct in terms of publishing any new material but still available to browse, is a short story from Baxter which neatly encapsulates his ability to marry hard SF with something quite a bit more exotic. One could kindly say that he’s not so great on characterisation (indeed for those of you who recall my post from last Summer dealing with his novel Flood, here’s a good discussion on UK SF magazine website, Torque Control, on just that aspect of that book by other contemporary SF writers). I’m particularly taken by his description of a British spaceship… but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In a way one of the most curious aspects of SF in the late 1960s and after is the way that it almost deliberately appeared to avert its eyes from the nuts and bolts of the space programme. Instead, and this is far from a criticism, large tranches of it dealt with emotion and psychology. Granted this also came on foot of considerable cultural ferment across many areas other than technology – so perhaps it was inevitable that there would be considerable change in direction in SF. But yet it still seems strange that the sort of approach that Baxter, and others, took was eschewed for so long. And I’m not talking so much about the sort of privatised spaceflight novels that we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but a concentration on what NASA actually did, or where it could have gone, or what might otherwise have happened. To put it another way a fiction grounded in the reality but linking into parallel possibilities. Perhaps the reality of the programme was in and of itself too great and it required time to pass again for the achievements typified by the moon landings to once more gain a lustre that somehow their actuality lost during that period.

Central to this is a sort of pessimism that runs through all his work, and is quite typical of a certain strand of British SF, a sense that we really are just passing through in a universe that is utterly indifferent to us and that we either rework ourselves to it or we – as a species – vanish. Gloomy, realistic, humbling, you decide.

Anyhow, here it is...

Comments»

1. alastair - July 18, 2009

on current space matters – the coverage NASA tv have had of the shuttle mission to the ISS over the last few days has been well worth watching. And the more they’re occupied up there (13 in the ISS at the moment), the less time they have to talk to Bono, so a win all ’round.

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2. WorldbyStorm - July 18, 2009

Well there I do agree with you. Sadly Bono turned up on Jonathan Ross last night. I lasted four minutes before having to switch off.

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3. Craig - July 19, 2009

Incidentally, have you seen this new film “Moon”? I’ve heard it’s rather good sci-fi in the “intellectual” vein, much like what you discuss in your post above. It takes a lot of inspiration from the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey (which was both a great novel and film) and sounds like it’s worth the cost of a ticket.

I could not watch Jonathan Ross at all, the mere thought of Bono talking out of his rear end yet again was reason enough to switch off the television.

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4. WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2009

I have a post which references just that topic Craig. Looking forward to it.

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