Dreams of the Space Age

For a while now, I’ve been planning to publish a collection of my space-related stories. I had several pieces in mind for the contents (although for a couple I needed to wait until the venue I’d sold them to published them). It’s not that I set out to write a series of stories about the Space Race, but as a topic it’s long fascinated me and writing the Apollo Quartet often sparked ideas I then turned into short stories. I wanted to call my collection Memories of the Space Age, but JG Ballard beat me to it. So, instead, we have… Dreams of the Space Age.

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Dreams of the Space Age will be available in signed and numbered hardback (limited to 75 copies), paperback and ebook versions. I’m hoping I’ll have copies to sell at Mancunicon – but the paperback and Kindle editions will certainly be available before the con. Dreams of the Space Age contains seven stories, and an introduction by Dave Hutchinson, author of Europe in Autumn and Europe at Midnight. The contents are:-

‘Barker’ (originally appeared in BFS Journal, Winter 2010) actually predates Adrift on the Sea of Rains. I forget what inspired it – but the title is a clue. It’s the name of an American boxer who becomes the first man in space as a result of a quick-fix project by the US. Barker, in fact, is the only named character in the story who isn’t a real person (well, neither is his trainer, Al, but he only appears in the first couple of pages).

‘Faith’ (originally appeared in The Maginot Line, The Fiction Desk, April 2012) was inspired by a dream – well, a nightmare – I’d had. I’d woken up with the image of a Mercury capsule floating alone in the middle of an ocean – and while the TV camera showed the astronaut inside it, when they opened the capsule it was empty. I’d also wanted to write about the nineteen turns mentioned by Tom Stafford in his autobiography, We Have Capture.

‘The Spaceman and the Moon Girl’ (originally appeared in Litro #137, September 2014) was more or less written to spec. The editor of Litro contacted me because the magazine was planning an issue on future fashion and my name had been suggested. I’d been posting pictures of Space Age fashion from designers such as Cardin, Courrèges and Rabanne on my blog, so I thought contrasting their clothes with a “real” Space Age garment such as the Apollo A7LB space suit might prove interesting.

‘The Incurable Irony of the Man Who Rode the Rocket Sled’ (originally appeared in The Orphan #3, July 2013) was written to submit to an anthology of railway-themed genre stories. I’d stumbled across mention of the rocket sleds used by USAF to test human beings’ response to G-forces, and found it all fascinating. However, the editor decided my story was too tenuously linked to the anthology’s theme, so I sold it to The Orphan instead. I’ve always felt this was a bit of an odd story – you have to look at it very carefully to spot it’s genre, it has no real plot, and the point of the story is carried in footnotes.

‘Far Voyager’ (originally appeared in Postscripts 32/33: Far Voyager, November 2014), I seem to recall came out of research for The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself. I based part of the 1979 Mars mission in my novella on Skylab, and it occurred to me I could send my invented spacecraft even further… At the time I was writing ‘Far Voyager’, Voyager 1 was approaching the limits of the Solar System and there was some concern about what would happen when it passed through the heliopause. I was more interested, however, in the effects on the astronaut aboard my version of Voyager (he’s not named in the story, but there are sufficient clues to figure out who he is).

‘Red Desert’ (Space – Houston, We Have a Problem, January 2016) was written in response to an invitation to an anthology. The story had to include the anthology title as a line. I’d recently watched François Ozon’s film Under The Sand, and wanted to use a similar idea in a story. Setting it on Mars seemed to fit perfectly. I was keen to capture the grandeur of the Martian landscape, but also to keep the story firmly focused on my protagonist. I think there might also be a little nod to Tiptree in the story somewhere too.

‘Our Glorious Socialist Future Among the Stars!’ (previously unpublished). Yuri Gagarin on Mars feels so obvious an alt-history space conceit, it ought to be a cliché, although the only place where I’ve seen it is in The Chimpanzee Complex, a French bande dessinée. I decided to go one better and pastiche Robinson Crusoe on Mars as well. I’d tried several venues for this story, but no one was interested – possibly because of the title, or because the dialogue is in Russian, or because it quotes from The Communist Manifesto… Shrug.

There you have it: seven stories of alternate Space Ages, from the first man in space to a Soviet landing on Mars, from ‘Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’ to the Gee Whiz… Review copies are available from Whippleshield Books – epub, mobi, pdf. Just tweet me @ian_sales, or email sales (at) whippleshieldbooks (dot) com. I’ll be putting up pages on the Whippleshield Books website in a week or two for pre-orders.

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