Rocket Science Edited by Ian Sales

Mutation Press, 2012, 314p

 Rocket Science cover

Rocket Science is an anthology of short SF stories all with realistic settings which take account of known science. The stories are interweaved with five non-fiction pieces about the tensions of an impending rocket launch, the terraforming of Mars, the severe drawbacks of space suits, radiation hazards in space and a short history of waveriders.

There are multiple quotes from the Apollo programme or wider space endeavour, “Houston, we’ve got a problem,” “magnificent desolation,” “not because they are easy” and despite being a British publication are quite often written or spelled in Usian (apnea rather than apnoea.)

Given the collection’s remit to reflect the limitations on space exploration both Hohman transfer orbits and the effects of radiation in space gain frequent mentions. If you had not known about these before you would have no excuse after reading Rocket Science.

The fiction varies in style from the serious to the lighthearted – sometimes almost to the wistful. Capsule (ahem) reviews follow.

Tell Me A Story by Leigh Kimmel
A child’s story about The Astronaut and the Man in the Moon resonates nostalgically through human progress from Moon bases to Mars settlements out to the Kuiper Belt.

Fisher’s Gambit by Stephen Gaskell.
A lone prospector in the Kuiper Belt enters into a bargain that will make his fortune. But what is the nature of his benefactor?

Final Orbit by Nigel Brown
The US is retiring from space and the International Space Station is being sold off and broken up in the full glare of internet access. Their astronauts plan a last act of defiance. This is written from a US point of view. A British angle on a story such as this (I have thought of a similar scenario) would most likely lead to a more muted dénouement.

Incarnation by Craig Pay
“Soul shards” set into the skull allow reincarnation after death. A father has fled to Titan after his already reincarnated daughter kills herself. His wife pursues him with a sample of their daughter’s blood desperate to reincarnate her a second time. An affecting tale well told.

Dancing on the Red Planet by Berit Ellingsen
The first humans to land on Mars plan to celebrate not with a small step but by dancing…. This is a story which is slight but warmly human and affirmative.

Pathfinders by Martin McGrath
An isolated scientific community – apparently in Antarctica (and all of whom seem to be male) – has its communication from Earth Control cut. Tensions result. This is reminiscent of the editor’s “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” but with no Wunderwaffe.

A Biosphere Ends by Stephen Palmer
A Chinese-Korean mission to Mars experiences degradation in its closed environment. Later an AI investigates the failure. This story is unusual in that the information dumps are boxed off and in a different type-face.

Slipping Sideways by Carmelo Rafala
A man whose lover has killed herself is told by her husband that the Large Hadron Collider has allowed parallel universes to coexist.

Conquistadors by Iain Cairns
A company wishing to mine asteroids is faced with a Greenpeace type protest.

Going, Boldly by Helen Jackson
A holodeck style games software developer is sent abroad to learn the details of different animals’ movements to incorporate them into the latest game as preparation for an interstellar colony drive. Has some humorous moments.

Why Barnaby Isn’t Aboard the ISS Today by Gary Cuba
A klutz ends up on the International Space Station by accident. Told not to “screw the pooch” he can think of nothing else. Inconsequential, but mildly amusing.

Not Because They Are Easy by Sam S Kepfield
The US Moon landing in 1969 is pre-empted by the Soviet Union. Four years later their “landing” is revealed as a hoax. Subsequent history unfolds rather differently than it did in our universe. (Though, for me, Nixon as a redeemed President is far too hard to swallow.)

The Taking of IOSA 2083 by C J Paget
A group attempts to hijack an asteroid habitat in order to escape a failing colony. What they find on it shades from SF into horror – like a reversal of John Wyndham’s short story Survival.

The Brave Little Cockroach Goes To Mars by Simon McCaffrey
A US Mars mission cobbled together on shoestring to forestall Chinese, Russian and European efforts to reach the Red Planet first has a stowaway….

Sea of Maternity by Deborah Walker
An inhabitant of a lunar colony, fixated on her work and with a complicated private life find sout what is really important to her.

The New Tenant by Dr Philip Edward Kaldon
The International Space Station is sold off to a small company which struggles to make a success of its plans.

Dreaming at Baikonur by Sean Martin
More or less a chronicle of the tribulations of the father of the Soviet Space Programme, Sergei Korolev, but in fictional form.

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