The Fated Sky Excerpt –
Now I faced the wall, running a Fibonacci sequence to try to calm down. At least I didn’t throw up anymore. Usually.
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 . . .
Behind me, Parker paced in tiny circles, shaking his hands as if he were trying to get blood back into them. An assistant with a clipboard waited by us, one ear covered with a giant earphone, as if he were at Mission Control.
. . 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765 . . .
The man with the clipboard leaned next to me and whispered, “You’re on.”
Onstage, Jack Paar said, “Please welcome my next guests, Colonel Stetson Parker and Dr. Elma York.”
I turned away from the wall in time to see Parker snap his genial smile into place. He gestured for me to lead the way. “Ladies first.”
My smile felt brittle and plastered on. Crinoline shushing against my legs, I strode out into the lights and the wall of applause. Beyond the banks of lights and cameras, real people sat in the auditorium. Beyond them, millions of people sat on the other side of television sets.
. . 10946, 17711, 28657 . . .
Mr. Paar shook my hand and then Parker’s, and we went through the requisite smiling and waving to the audience before we were seated on matching leather chairs next to his. A silver microphone stood on the floor between Parker and me, and I had to cross my legs carefully to keep from hitting it with my pumps.
With a tug on one of his signature ties, Jack Paar leaned over to us as if we were the only people in the room. “Thank you both so much for joining us. I tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over being five years old. I know it’s obvious, but I just need to say it . . . You’ve both been to the moon?”
Parker laughed. He really does have a good laugh. “I can’t believe it either. There are days when I have to pinch myself.”
“And, Dr. York . . . You live on the moon, is that right?”
“Yes, I live in the lunar colony about six months out of the year.”
“That must be fascinating.” Jack Paar leaned closer, smiling with all the fidgety interest of a child. “What’s it like?”
“More like Earth than you might think. I pilot one of the transport ships, ferrying geologists and miners out to various sites. I have a regular route, so it’s not much different from being a bus driver, really.”
Beside me, Parker chuckled. “Don’t let Dr. York sell her-self short. Piloting one of these ships requires a lot of skill because of mascons.”
Jack Paar raised his eyebrows almost to his hairline. “Mass cons? Is that a convicted mascot?”
Bless him for making me laugh, even if it was a poor joke, or I would have gaped at Parker’s compliment. “Mascon is short for mass concentration. There are local heavy spots on the moon where the rocks have more density, so it causes the ship to dip unexpectedly.”
“Wait—there are really spots where there’s more gravity on the moon?”
I nodded. “Here on Earth, too, but it’s so slight that you wouldn’t notice it. It’s one of the reasons we can’t automate a ship around the moon, because the math is too complicated for a mechanical computer that’s small enough to fit on the spacecraft.” Not that anyone wanted to hear about math. My job was to extoll the virtues of the Mars program. “But the lunar colony does give a taste of what our Mars colony will be like. It’s much the way living on the frontier must have felt for early Americans.”
THE FATED SKY Summary:
Mary Robinette Kowal continues the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.
Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but there’s a lot riding on whoever the International Aerospace Coalition decides to send on this historic—but potentially very dangerous—mission? Could Elma really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family to spend several years traveling to Mars? And with the Civil Rights movement taking hold all over Earth, will the astronaut pool ever be allowed to catch up, and will these brave men and women of all races be treated equitably when they get there? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.
About Mary Robinette Kowal:
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the historical fantasy novels Ghost Talkers and the five books in The Glamourist Histories series. She is also a multiple Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago with her husband Robert and over a dozen manual typewriters.
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