About the Lady Astronaut novels
- What are the Lady Astronaut novels about?
- Where do these books fit in with the short story "The Lady Astronaut of Mars"?
- Would it be advisable to read "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" novella before going on to The Calculating Stars?
- What research did you do for The Calculating Stars?
- How much of the math/computation is based directly on history and how much hand-waving do you allow yourself on behind-the-scenes things?
- Sexism clearly exists in-universe — how did you navigate those fraught waters in a way that allows your characters to shine without being all sunshine and rainbows?
- So if The Meteor really did hit DC, how much trouble would my town be in?
- Elma bakes SO MANY wonderful things. Do you have any recipes?
- Any reason a smart 12 yr old should wait until they are older to read The Calculating Stars?
What are the Lady Astronaut novels about?
The first novels are a duology, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky.
The first book opens in 1952 about two minutes before I slam an asteroid into Washington, D.C. (I wrote this in 2016, so I swear it's not wish fulfillment), which kicks off the space program fast, and hard, and with an international effort. It's a time when computers were still women mathematicians and not mechanical devices, so this is very much woman-centered science fiction.
Where do these books fit in with the short story "The Lady Astronaut of Mars"?
These books are prequels. There are other stories, too! Here's the list in internal chronological order:The Relentless Moon - coming 2020The Derivative Base - coming 2022"The Phobos Experience" - in Fantasy & Science Fiction July 2018
Note that no one in the whole Lady Astronaut universe knows about the events of "We Interrupt This Broadcast." At least, no one alive.
Would it be advisable to read "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" novella before going on to The Calculating Stars?
It's not necessary - you can read them in any order. The novels are first, chronologically.
What research did you do for The Calculating Stars?
You can find my research bibliography here.
I talk about my research more in my historical note, but actually going to NASA and talking to astronauts was … I'm still giddy. Astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Cady Coleman were amazingly generous with their time. Kjell invited me to see a full run (simulated spacewalk) at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which was Very Cool. And Cady gave me tons of details about how being inside a spacesuit was different as a woman than as a man, because the suits are designed for men. Catalog this as "things Mary Robinette did not think about".
How much of the math/computation is based directly on history and how much hand-waving do you allow yourself on behind-the-scenes things?
If there are numbers on the page, those are real, hard science. Also, none of it is my math. There are two general sources for the math and computations. One of those is my rocket science consultant, Stephen Granade, who was with me for both books, providing math when I needed help. You can read more about that process here. The other source is Werner von Braun's Das Mars Projekt, which is technically a novel, but is really a dramatization of a technical handbook. He is widely regarded as one of the fathers of modern rocketry, and wrote this in 1947 with a plan to go to Mars using technology that was available, or easy to extrapolate, at the time. At the back of the book, he has tables of formulas and calculations. I borrowed liberally from that.
Elma approaches math like it's magic, with the same sense of wonder. That’s what I want in my science fiction, especially when we're talking about rocket launches!
Sexism clearly exists in-universe — how did you navigate those fraught waters in a way that allows your characters to shine without being all sunshine and rainbows?
Honestly, the sexism is pretty much the same as it is now. Oh, there are differences in degrees, but being underestimated because of being a woman? That's a problem that hasn't gone away. So I had them navigate those waters using many of the same tools with which I navigate them today.
So if The Meteor really did hit DC, how much trouble would my town be in?
There's a tool for this:
These are approximates but...
Set: Diameter = "Hartley"; Density = "8000"; Angle = 60 degrees; Velocity = 25km; Water of depth = 21 ft.
For distance, put in your distance from Chesapeake Beach.
If you think you are okay, remember winter is coming.
Elma bakes SO MANY wonderful things. Do you have any recipes?
Here is a very Southern recipe for a Chocolate Chess Pie:
CHOCOLATE CHESS PIE
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Piecrust – I make a standard crust, but substitute bourbon for the water.
Heat oven to 350°F.
- Prep pie crust and keep cool.
- Combine butter, sugar and cocoa. Add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk it until blended and thickish. Stir in cornmeal until just combined; pour into crust.
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until pie is set and top begins to resemble the surface of the moon. Dark and crusty with cracks running across its surface. Cool it. Serve at room temperature. If you are Jewish like Elma, and it’s a dairy night, adding whipped cream is a lovely touch.
Any reason a smart 12 yr old should wait until they are older to read The Calculating Stars?
I would have read it at their age. But -- for full disclosure. I drop the f-bomb twice. It's earned, though. There's cursing, but no casual cursing. The main character is happily married so there are sexy-fun times. Penetration is implied but not depicted.