On social media and over email, I’ve fielded several questions about what someone should read to learn more about the space race. While writing the Fly Me to the Moon series, I’ve inhaled dozes and dozens of space histories. So for prosperity’s sake, here’s what I recommend.
A few caveats: my list is focused on the period between Sputnik and Apollo 11 (or 1957 to 1969) and on US/Soviet crewed space flight. If you’re interested in rocketry, for example, that would be a whole other list and it would start a lot sooner.
Also, I’m not a scientist or engineer. So while I’m interested in the history of technology, I prefer books pitched to a general audience.
I do have a PhD in American studies, so my bias is for new history that is intersectional, considers the economic and social factors that create institutions, and includes marginalized voices.
(This is a follow up about Star Crossed; you can read our first statement here.)
In the summer of 2014 when we started plotting the Fly Me to the Moon series, we penciled in a female/female romance about a would-be astronaut and a woman at the American Space Department. Much of the fiction and non-fiction about the space race is very masculine, very white, and very straight, and we didn’t want our fictional universe to replicate those exclusionary narratives. As we drafted the series and this specific story, we came to love to our heroines, Bev and Geri.
The day after releasing Star Crossed, we pulled the book because reviewers pointed out we’d deracinated Bev, who is African American, and given more weight to harassment and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation than that based on race.
That wasn’t our intent, but intent isn’t enough. We spent eight months talking about and trying to revise Star Crossed, and while we made some progress, we have decided this isn’t our story to tell. We can fix the craft issues, but we can’t shake the feeling that for us to tell this story is narrative appropriation. We therefore have no plans to rerelease the book.
If you’re on our mailing list, you’ve already seen these (and if not, sign up here!), but here are the covers for Free Fall and A Midnight Feast. The blurbs are after the break along with some FAQs.
Here are a few things I believe:
1) Representation in art matters. It’s important to see people in books who look like you. It’s important to see people in books who are nothing like you. It’s important to see people in books who are superficially like you but different on the inside. It’s important to see people in books who are different from you externally whose emotional journeys are like yours. And everything in between.
2) But diversity of representation isn’t enough: the quality of the representation matters. Throwing one woman into a superhero ensemble—especially if she doesn’t have a rich inner life, complex motivations, and so on—doesn’t actually solve the problem. And the arbiters of the representation have to be the people within the community.
3) Certain voices have historically had an easier time making themselves heard. In a Western context, straight male white middle- and upper-class voices dominate the conversation. Even today, publishing largely magnifies those same voices, probably because many editors, agents, and publishers fit into that demographic. Even in romancelandia where women play most of the roles, the white straight middle-class voices tend to be the loudest ones.
4) This doesn’t mean you can’t write an experience that isn’t yours, but it means you have to do it carefully. Start by listening. Read lots and lots of #ownvoices books first. And if you face criticism, don’t get defensive. Apologize and fix it.
5) Writers shouldn’t respond to reviews both because of the power imbalance between reviewers and writers (the latter having more power) and because when you make a book commercially available, accept that reviewers have a right to respond to it however and wherever they want to. The review isn’t for the author; it’s for other readers.
6) Criticism is good and healthy. Debate within a community is a sign of growth.
Into this comes Star Crossed, a book I wrote with my friend Genevieve Turner about two women (one of them African-American) falling in love at a fictional version of NASA in 1964.
It was a very long time coming, but I’m thrilled Star Crossed is now available in both print and e-book! You can pick it up at Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Google Play, and Kobo; add it to your Goodreads shelves; join the series mailing list; and see the book’s inspiration board on Pinterest. (Whew.)
Star Crossed is the story of Geri Brixton, an ambitious pilot who’d like to be the first American woman in space, if only she were better with numbers. Reluctantly, Geri agrees to be tutored by Beverly Fox, a mathematician whose work has been getting rockets off the ground and who dreams of love and honesty but has been denied both. Geri and Bev develop a friendship and eventually become lovers, but secrets tear at what they’ve built and threaten everything they hold dear.
As has now become Fly Me to the Moon tradition, I’m celebrating release day with a Jello mold. This one is cranberry orange and courtesy of Martha Stewart.
Genevieve and I are putting the finishing touches on Star Crossed. We’ll have an official release date and preorder links soon (and ARCs in the next two weeks), but before we get to that, I wanted to recommend some of the many, many female/female romances I’ve read.
About two years ago, I asked myself, “Why aren’t there any female/female romances?” This was after I’d previously asked, “Why aren’t there any political romances?” and “Why aren’t there any Muslim romances?”
The problem was all of these questions began with me assuming such romances didn’t exist simply because I hadn’t read them and/or I wasn’t seeing reviewed on the (primarily straight) romance blogs. And in each case, I was deeply wrong. It was the worst kind of “if I don’t know about it, it must not exist” fallacy. But luckily the moment I scratched the surface with my queries, dozens (if not hundreds) of books poured out.
It’s clear that romance suffers from a discoverability problem. For reasons I won’t speculate about in this post, female/female romance hasn’t had as much cross-over with f/m romance as m/m has, but as soon as I went looking for it, I found tons. Here are some of my favorites; let me know in the comments if I missed one of yours.
I find myself staring at the moon more and more.
It started in 2014 when Genevieve and I began writing Star Dust (yes, we’ve been working on this series for that long). The core of that book is the hero and heroine sitting in the dark saying things they wouldn’t otherwise. Secret confessions and wants and dreams and hopes, all accompanied by the stars.
To write those conversations, I would walk Gromit, my dog, late at night and contemplate the few constellations you can see in my suburban neighborhood. There is a lot of light pollution, but Orion is there. So is Taurus, which Kit shows Anne-Marie how to find. But mostly the moon dominates the view.
There are nights when the moon is so beautiful it hurts to look at it, and I can only manage a few brief glances. When it’s full, it seems so close I’ve reached up as if to nudge the craters with my fingertips. Lately, it’s been a gold scythe in the sky slicing through the blackness.
butter crispies and cocktail
The fictional people in my head tend to stick around even when their books are published.
Like today, I suspect Millie and Parker would host a Chrismukkah event with Alyse and Liam and Lydia and Michael. They’d drink a lot and debate the election and laugh and cry and open presents and watch their children play. (And then Lydia and Michael would go home and toast their child-free state.)
I suspect Christmas would be a big deal for Joe and Frances given their pre-Christmas engagement. (Ditto for Greg and Betty with New Year’s Eve.) Joe would give Frances a new diary and they’d listen to Perry Como. Anne-Marie would cook something elaborate, and Margie Dunsford would throw an epic holiday party with lights on her tiki torches and green and red drinks and a Jello mold.
I’ll have a proper year end wrap-up post soon, but wherever you are and whatever you’re celebrating, I wish you joy in 2017.
Round Midnight is here! This is boxed set includes the Fly Me to the Moon Christmas and New Year’s Eve novellas, A Midnight Clear and A Midnight Kiss. It’s available at Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and Google Play (it’ll be at Kobo soon). Those links are all ebook, but you can get it in print too. Here’s the short description:
A pair of holiday romances featuring a romantic sailor, a duty-bound admiral’s daughter, and a Christmas miracle and an uptight pilot, a jilted southern belle, and a New Year’s Eve kiss.
These are both swoony mid-century courtship stories; it’s the book version of a hug and a spiked hot chocolate. The world needs some of that right now.
Genevieve and I interviewed each other for Binge on Books. A tiny sample:
[E]: I definitely believe writers have core stories or mythologies, and mine is about characters whose plans have failed. My heroines especially tend to be disappointed or reevaluating their professional lives when things get confused by meeting someone. My heroes tend to be gooey inside, even when they present a harder face to the world, and are very, very gone for my heroines. Maybe at some point I’ll feel like I have my life figured out and my core story will shift, but I’m intrigued by imperfect people who are perfect for each other and how that intersects with their professional lives, so I don’t think I can get away from it. …
[G]: I guess the one thing I do that is related to my scientific career is how I develop my books: At some level, I’m just constructing operant chambers for my characters.
You can read the entire thing here.
And this dropped a while ago, but I don’t think I ever posted it on my blog: we chatted with Cobie Daniels for her podcast, which you can listen to here. We talk for about an hour about what we’re watching on TV and how we research and write.
I’ve been writing so many words (SO MANY WORDS) and just being overwhelmed by the rhythm of autumn. But I hope everyone is well!