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“These urbanauts are everywhere,” said Starling, “like a horde of hipster locusts. They think they’re so tolerant and quirky, but just see how they act toward those they deem less ‘evolved’ than themselves.”

low-techTrottier shrugged and imperceptibly rolled his eyes. “You say this every time we have to come down to the surface for supplies. I mean, okay, they’re kind of annoying with all the haggling and fiddling and all that, and their tendency to show off how different and tasteful they are is juvenile–but what did the Urbs ever really do to you, anyway? Plus, we need their materials for our project up on the habitat.”

Before Starling could reply, a large gray-bearded man bellowed through their discussion to one of the merchants on the other side of the bazaar. Laughing boisterously, the portly man and the bohemian merchant clasped hands on each other’s shoulders and hugged in a public display of camaraderie. “You old salty dog,” chimed the merchant, to which the big man guffawed, “that’s Doctor salty dog to you!” Continue Reading

The legend of Queen Arthur … and her nights at the Round Table

Sally Arthur — a 30-something single mother of three, server at a local restaurant, and artist in her spare time — could sling hash like nobody’s business. Not that she literally slung hash (which to her sounded like a euphemism for drug dealing), but she certainly had a knack for bringing the people what they wanted when they wanted it, and doing so with a smile. Working at the Round Table since her early twenties (when she first became pregnant) had provided her with a modest income and also a stable destination.

And in some ways it was also like a community, which was especially meaningful to her as a solo parent with children by three different (and absent) fathers. Sally figured she would have learned her lesson after the first time around, but life is more complicated than that, and we all do what we need to do to get by. And that was all Sally ever wanted for herself and her children: to survive. Any notions of doing something special, or of her being some sort of working-class heroine, weren’t even on the table for her. Continue Reading

The pumps were working day and night, emitting a low (and not unpleasant) humming sound and the faint stench of rotting flesh. Since the discovery three years ago of the first large deposit, thousands were attracted here by the planbpromise of steady work and maybe even a chance to become wealthy fast. For those of us living here already, the change has been difficult to absorb, but there are benefits too.

I run a small shop that sells basic provisions to the line workers. Even with my family helping, we can barely keep up with the demand—it’s all hands on deck all day long, unpacking shipments, stocking shelves, ringing up sales. Before the rush, we had a sleepy little store that served our needs and those of the community—a few hundred folks in all. Since the surveyors found the vein, we’re a major outpost. Continue Reading

“Space: the final frontier.” 

How many were drawn here by this simple compelling sentiment? It’s amazing what a few words can do in terms of insinuating an idea into the culture. Even in the old reruns shown when I was a kid, the basic idea still resonated. spacebowSpace was the place where one could be bold, brave, adventurous, legendary. And still, with the benefit of my seven weeks here in the heavens so far, the picture requires more detail:

Space is mystical. For as long as humans gazed upward, the stars have beckoned, a flickering beacon of destiny forever calling us forth. Or something like that! But hey, putting aside my mediocre poetry skills, it does feel a bit like a Middle Earth fantasy excursion. Everything here has meaning, poignancy, depth.

Space is queer. Seriously: people (mostly men, until recently) living in super close quarters, colorful flashing lights everywhere, the ballet of zero-gravity floating, the symphony of the cosmos. Space is queer like how war is queer, when you think about it: fabulous uniforms and excellent choreography. Continue Reading

Space is cold, but she was always warm. The casual brushes of her body as she passed in the sterile corridors, the faint residuals of her breath in the recycled air, the lilting afterglow of her voice over the com. The flame streaks in her hair matched the fire in her eyes, and all of it radiated an evanescent glow amidst the icy vacuum.

cold spaceThe mission had been a frosty one since the blaze of the afterburn was extinguished nearly a year ago. Once escape velocity had been reached, we switched over to low-energy mode, subsisting on the diminishing rays of the sun as we careened purposefully toward a self-imposed oblivion. The fact that it was all seen as heroic by everyone and everything left behind only accentuated the emptiness.

But I won’t complain, at least not out loud. I chose this life, mostly for the chance to do something memorable and important, and to be a maker of history rather than a consumer of it. The stars beckoned, persuasively, and even though I would never technically get there in this lifetime, I would be part of the first wave of humans to achieve a proximate vantage point and to pave the way beyond. Continue Reading