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The Lady Astronaut of Mars
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Short Fiction Discussions > "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 24, 2018 09:24AM) (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
I know, a little unconventional to set this up so early, but our September sci-fi read is The Calculating Stars. It's writing was preceded by a short story that is itself award winning. Though it is not necessary to read prior to Calculating Stars, we thought it might be of interest to some group members to buddy read Lady Astronaut!

Because it is so short, spoilers are allowed untagged. Please do not read this thread until you've read the short story, unless you don't mind being spoiled!

It is available free here on Tor's site.

https://www.tor.com/2013/09/11/the-la...


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Aha! I shall definitely do this!


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments Cool! I accidentally started on The Calculating Stars a bit too early, will definitely read this first :)


message 4: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Have a box of tissues handy, and make sure it's full, too!


message 5: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
If someone absolutely always wants to read things in chronological order, then know that this takes place decades after the novels. I'm already reading The Calculating Stars, and having read the novelette first, yes, it does change how I feel a little bit, but in a good way. But for those who want to keep things strictly chronological, now you know.


message 6: by Anthony (last edited Aug 24, 2018 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Anna wrote: "If someone absolutely always wants to read things in chronological order, then know that this takes place decades after the novels. I'm already reading The Calculating Stars, and ha..."

I appreciate the clarification. But I have to believe that if an author wrote stories in a certain order, that’s the order in which they should be read. I understand why some folks get concerned about chronology, but layers of storytelling can be revealed in all sorts of chronologies...


message 7: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Anthony wrote: "But I have to believe that if an author wrote stories in a certain order, that’s the order in which they should be written."

I strongly believe this, too, but I know that some people don't agree.


message 8: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
I've also clarified that the "preceding work" is by publication not in-story chronology. Thanks for the reminder!


Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2287 comments I enjoyed the story when I first heard of it, but won't reread until after I've read the full novel. I don't think it much matters one way or the other.

I suspect that the story was released first because it fit the challenge for which it was written, plus because, as it's free, it's a marketing strategy to get us more interested in the book.

In that it succeeds. I will probably buy the novel if my library doesn't fulfill my request in time for the group read.


message 10: by Anna, Circadian heretic (last edited Aug 24, 2018 09:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "I suspect that the story was released first because it fit the challenge for which it was written, plus because, as it's free, it's a marketing strategy to get us more interested in the book."

I obviously don't know, but the story was originally published in 2012, so I'm guessing it's more a case of a well-received piece of short fiction expanding to become a novel/series.


message 11: by Gabi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments Thank you, Allison. I'll try to squeeze it into my reading schedule (which already looks quite squeezed, but I really start to love BRs)


message 12: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
:) This one's not too long, I am excited to hear what others think!


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments That was excellent, succinct, painfully beautiful. Tears. Lots of them ;________;


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Beautiful. Moving. So well crafted. I love short fiction when it can capture a full life so fully. I was already looking forward to The Calculating Stars and now I cannot wait.


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments It’s incredible that you can bond and be moved so quickly by characters you’ve only just met. Short fiction at its best.


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments A fun side note, at my first job in 1998, where I mainly photographed and developed microfilm I had a side job programming punchcards on a big machine. My bos had taught me and we were literally two out of maybe three people in Denmark left knowing how to operate such a machine. If we needed any support we’d have to contact IBM in the States 😄


message 17: by Trike (new)

Trike Just a note: in Kowal’s short story collection Word Puppets, the last three stories are connected in the Lady Astronaut universe. I haven’t yet started Calculating Stars, but it sounds like she’s basically expanding those prequel stories.

From my spoiler-free review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) —

We Interrupt This Broadcast - ★★★★★ Science Fiction - This one is a prequel to the next two stories, setting off an alternative history Kowal has revisited a few times. This sucker is an ideal short story in the vein of The Twilight Zone; completely hardcore and encompassing big ideas in a small space.

Rockets Red - ★★★★★ Science Fiction - This story was written specifically for this collection, bridging the previous one and the final one. It reminds me of the nice little stories we would get in the Golden Age of Sci-Fi, where we'd just get a tiny slice-of-life tale that implied a far grander backstory rather than detail it. This is chronologically the last story written, so it is one of the most self-assured. She knows she doesn't have to explain everything for it to come across, so she doesn't. This is like seeing a really great artist do a convention sketch, where most of the picture is hinted at rather than drawn in.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars - ★★★★★ Science Fiction - Continuing the alternate history, this is another one I had read before, except this time I'd forgotten the details. Again the epistolary style is used and here we find a couple of Kowal's themes repeated and refined; a person's obsession with their vocation, making incredibly tough choices, strong but flawed characters trying to do the right thing, loss of self... All good stuff. This one is also free on her site.



message 18: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
I WASN'T READY ;_:

Oh man, that was a poignant little story. And so much more an adult story of love and horror than most romances or anything about cabins in the woods.

Gonna go hug my spouse now and confuse the crap out of him.


message 19: by Trike (new)

Trike At this point the reaction should probably be, “Just finished a book, huh?”


message 20: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
waaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

*ugly cries*


message 21: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
I told you! You should've been ready!

Trike, thanks, I didn't know there were more! Word Puppets is def. going on my TBR now.


message 22: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Just wait 'til you start the novel (after reading this), you're gonna cry for the first three or so chapters.


message 23: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
I was ready for every other sort of sad thing, not this particular sad thing!

Oh, goodness, my heart.


message 24: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
I wouldn't go. I couldn't go.


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments I bawled my eyes out for ten minutes, I kid you not. It WRECKED me. Absolutely amazing storytelling.


message 26: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
We're really selling this story, aren't we?

Trying to look past all the feels, I really appreciated how the less glamorous sides of life and old age were included.


Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2287 comments Oh, indeed, I def. recall that it's excellent. And no matter what led to what, I'm glad we have a novel and at least four stories.


message 28: by Gabi (last edited Aug 25, 2018 08:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments Now that everybody is so enthusiastic about it, I had to read it as well. A wonderful shortstory, that made it once again clear to me, why I spent my first two SF years with nothing else but reading shortstories. That's just my cup of tea. Everything is condensed to the necessary and the ending has to be spot on.

I loved the "human" way of the solution. My somehow grim imagination was expecting another ending.

Edit: thank you for the link to the shortstory collection, Trike. Another one for my TBR.


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Gabi wrote: "Now that everybody is so enthusiastic about it, I had to read it as well. A wonderful shortstory, that made it once again clear to me, why I spent my first two SF years with nothing else but readin..."

I too love short stories, but I also do love me some novels. If you’re looking for interesting shorter work, the James Tiptree Jr. collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is very strong so far. And the annual Year’s Best Science Fiction collections edited by Gardner Dozois have great stuff in them. There are 35 of those annuals out in the world, all available as ebooks in the States. Not sure how available they are in Germany... Dozois died recently, so I’m not sure if someone will be taking his place for those.


message 30: by Gabi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments Wow, thanks so much, Anthony. Just checked it. There are loads of the SF collections you mentioned available as ebook in Germany. New treasures for me!


message 31: by Kaa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaa | 1454 comments Oh, wow. I was completely unprepared for that, and I probably wouldn't have chosen to read it at the end of a week away from my spouse if I had known, but what an incredible story. I doubt my library hold on The Calculating Stars will come through in time for me to read it with everyone else, but I'm really looking forward to it.


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Gabi wrote: "Wow, thanks so much, Anthony. Just checked it. There are loads of the SF collections you mentioned available as ebook in Germany. New treasures for me!"

Aha! I’m very glad to hear it!


Dawn F (psychedk) | 1219 comments I wonder if this story will have an even bigger impact after reading The Calculating Stars, when you’ve followed the characters through a whole novel. Not that it doesn’t have a huge impact on its own, though.


message 34: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
I don't want to start discussing the novel here, but for me it's been very emotional to go back in time and follow these people, knowing what's to come. I don't know if it's possible to be even more crushed by this story, but I guess having read two novels about them first might do it.


message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 2611 comments I just read through this - excellent. I'm actually a little disappointed to know The Calculating Stars doesn't pick up where this leaves off- but also all the more excited to read it.


Meredith | 1356 comments Oh, I am itching to start Calculating Stars. I'll definitely be re-reading the short stories. Thanks Trike, I'd forgotten Rockets Red was set in the same universe as well.

Word Puppets is a great collection. Kowal does both sci fi and fantasy with a lovely style. I have also enjoyed her Glamourist series, Jane Austen (and her era) with magic.


message 37: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 2611 comments Oh- for anyone that knows- is there a (view spoiler) connection to The Calculating Stars? (view spoiler)


message 38: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
One of the stories mentioned above by Trike, "We Interrupt This Broadcast", is available to read online for free:

http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal...


message 39: by Meredith (last edited Aug 25, 2018 07:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meredith | 1356 comments "Rockets Red" is also available:

http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal...


message 40: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Yay, I'll read both between CalcStars and The Fated Sky!


message 41: by Anna, Circadian heretic (last edited Aug 29, 2018 03:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
For those who are confused:


Publication order
The Lady Astronaut of Mars
We Interrupt This Broadcast
Rockets Red
The Calculating Stars
The Fated Sky

Chronological order
We Interrupt This Broadcast
The Calculating Stars
The Fated Sky
Rockets Red
The Lady Astronaut of Mars

MRK says that the reading order isn't important, so start where you want! (Well, don't read Fated Sky before CalcStars.)


Meredith | 1356 comments “We Interrupt...” is definitely chronologically before the others in Anna’s list. I don’t know where “Rockets Red” fits, I may have thoughts after I reread the shorts.


message 43: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9646 comments Mod
Thanks Meredith!


Jacqueline | 2306 comments Thanks for that.....now I’m reading about Lady Astronauts lol

Just read Lady Astronaut of Mars and We Interrupt This Broadcast. Really liked them. I suppose now I’m going to have to go searching for the other ones.


Sabrina | 365 comments I do not often read short-stories and did not plan to read that one, but wow, what a jewel! This tale deeply moved me. What a very talented author and I guess I just have to read the sequels now…


message 46: by Julianna (new)

Julianna Zdunich | 19 comments A really poignant story. Didn't know what to expect and then I read the bit mentioning Dorothy and wondered how she was going to tie in The Wizard of Oz. This was very different from the what I usually read, the old-fashioned attitudes to women was a little jarring to me for a piece set in the future, or at least, set in a technologically advanced society. After I got over that, I enjoyed it - found I was thinking of Jason Isbell's song, 'If we were vampires' as it deals with the same loss of your partner. It has definitely made me curious about her other work - will look for 'The Calculating Stars'.


message 47: by Gabi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments Julianna wrote: "A really poignant story. Didn't know what to expect and then I read the bit mentioning Dorothy and wondered how she was going to tie in The Wizard of Oz. This was very different from the what I usu..."

Of course! It's embarrassing, I didn't realise that, although The Wizard of Oz was on every Christmas in my childhood.


message 48: by Julianna (new)

Julianna Zdunich | 19 comments :)))

right now i am reading 'Momo' auf deutsch. I was meaning to ask you the name of the good translator of the Pratchett books, so that I can keep an eye out for used copies. I start up the next Deutschkurs and need the practice.


Meredith | 1356 comments Sarah wrote: "Oh- for anyone that knows- is there a [spoilers removed] connection to The Calculating Stars? [spoilers removed]"

"The Lady Astronaut of Mars" was written for an anthology where authors took the first sentence from a favorite, classic book and used it as the start of a short story. So, Kowal used the first sentence of "The Wizard of Oz."


message 50: by Julianna (new)

Julianna Zdunich | 19 comments thank you for that, was wondering why!


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