The Lady Astronaut of Mars is a beautiful little novelette that is both sweet and sad. A must read for science fiction fans.
This short story was published as part of an anthology entitled “Rip-Off!” in which all the short stories feature well-known characters in different settings. This features Dorothy and Auntie Em – as everyone will know, from the Wizard of Oz. It is set many years in the future in which Dorothy, now grown up has emigrated to mars after a tragic accident at her family farm. On Mars she has an appointment with an elderly lady who was once a famous astronaut, and part of the reason she decides to embark on the journey to a different planet. Now retired this sixty – three-year old astronaut is given the chance to do what she loves again, but she will be gone for several years, and her husband only has one year left to live.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the well known “Glamourist Histories” which if you haven’t had the chance to read yet, are a beautiful series of novels set in Regency England, in which an alternative history is in place – one that is full of magic and mystery.
I recently attended the Loncon3 convention, which is the 72nd world science fiction convention. Included with the tickets is an invitation to this years Hugo awards. Looking up the list of nominations, I recognized Kowal’s name from Shades of Milk and Honey and as a result decided I just had to read this. And I’m so glad I did. The Lady Astronaut of Mars did in fact win best novelette at the awards and Kowal made a lovely speech, stating that she was inspired by her grandmother to write the story. It truly is a beautiful story, one that most certainly tugs on the heart strings – I suggest you have some tissues on hand!
Elma is watching her husband deteriorate, and the story paints a very realistic picture of what that can be like, watching someone you love fade away. It has some very haunting passages when see that she is torn between the two things she loves most in the world – space travel, which after years of being stuck on Mars she is desperate to do again, and the man she has been married to all these years.
“I wanted to get off the planet and back into space and not have to watch him die. Not have to watch him lose control of his body piece by piece. And I wanted to stay here and be with him and steal every moment left that he had breath in his body.”
The story features plenty of romance elements, science fiction elements and an alternate history thrown in as well. A lot for such a small story. It is a quick read and I definitely recommend you give it a shot, the characters feel so life like and you immediately empathize with Elma and the predicament she faces. You can also head over to tor.com, where the publishers have provided the story free of charge. Happy reading!