Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey by Ruth Nestvold

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 13, 2014 in Reviews

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A monkey is dead on the surface of Caipora–a lush, Earth-like planet that was assumed to be habitable by humans. On the exploration ship above the atmosphere, the champagne has already been uncorked, though after the second rhesus monkey is sent down and suffers the same fate as the first, it seems the celebrations were a bit premature. Who would care about the lives of two monkeys lost on the cusp of such a great discovery? Apparently, Pam, the monkeys’ keeper does. She’s got four monkeys left under her care, and is determined to keep it that way.

Vladaya wants to send Multik now. I argued that we should send a robot first, try to recover Jane’s body; we could examine it in quarantine and determine the cause of death. But Ikuru said Jane could have eaten something, although she’s trained not to. Putting the blame on me and Jane. I said there’s no evidence, but Vladaya sided with Ikuru, saying we couldn’t know for sure. Before we try picking her up with a robot, it would be easier to send down another monkey.


In this flash piece, we catch a glimpse of a woman who has become attached to what were intended to be tools. Though she takes her passions to an extreme, her decision to question the moral dilemma is a valid one. Why is one life worth more than another? It may be easier to raise and train these monkeys than it is to build and send down a robot, but that doesn’t make it the right decision. Or the wrong one, depending on your stance. It isn’t as if this is the first time animals have been used to further science. Should their sacrifices be held in the same regard as those as their human counterparts? It is a fine line to walk. This story is a simple one, but the questions it dredges up are quite complex. If space exploration were looked at as a cross-species endeavor, would it shift the view? One day, when the first dog on Mars is playing fetch with her person, maybe we’ll find the answer in the wag of her tail.

Laika, first animal launched into orbit

In 1957, Laika became the first animal launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight.
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Dancing by M. E. Garber

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 9, 2014 in Reviews

Daily Science Fiction

Minutes after an explosion kills Arun, beloved father and husband and pilot to their antique spaceship, a mother and daughter are forced to put aside their grief to land the ship and find a way to save both of their lives.

The ship’s belly bumped the ground, rose up, and dove hard. Tearing metal shrieked louder than Natesha. Seema buffeted in her restraints as a series of booms shook what remained of the ship. Then it settled, hissing, to the ground.

 She freed herself and raced through the chaos of debris to Natesha, who sagged against her restraints. Trembling hands touched her daughter’s cheek, her neck. A pulse! Natesha’s eyes fluttered. Seema’s clenched body released, and she placed a kiss on her daughter’s bruised forehead.

Tears welled in Natesha’s eyes as Seema’s hands flew over her, loosening her restraints.

“Daddy wouldn’t have crashed us,” her daughter said, then threw herself into her mother’s arms and wept.

We’re instantly thrown into a tear jerker, these two women and a child on the way, set down on a hostile planet whose air will kill them in an hour. All of their emergency lifesuits have been destroyed by the explosion that killed Arun. Mother, Seema, cannot see how life will be possible without her husband, but for the sake of their children, she pushes forth, trying to be strong for their guilt-ridden daughter Netesha.

This piece of flash hold’s its fair share of emotion, and then some. Their reactions rang true, and their anxiety transferred to me as I read along. I felt Seema’s frustration of her daughter refusing to listen, but understood that Netesha was not in a place to make a rational decision of her own. The ending image (without spoilers) is a very powerful one that echoes the relationship between mother and child. My only gripe is that Seema stumbles onto the solution to their problem rather abruptly, and I would have liked it to be more of a natural discovery, but still, this is a very quick and emotionally potent read.

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“The Things They Were Not Allowed to Carry” by Helena Leigh Bell

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 4, 2014 in Writer's Life

Daily Science Fiction, June 2014
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Short Women in Space, Review #4

This neat little piece teeters between realism and surrealism as a group of interstellar travelers make their way to a new planet over the course of 50 years. Space is limited aboard the ship, and there is no room for non-necessities. Even very small and precious things get left behind. Obviously Martha’s grandmother’s piano cannot make the trip, and also Charles’s 1971 Corvette, but then the list of things they cannot bring goes sideways:

Tangible and intangible things, real and imagined were petitioned and overruled. Geologists Staebler and Garcia wanted to bring the smell of dirt roads after a thunderstorm. No one can carry this, it was decided. We will leave it behind.

Mementos and even memories are an anchor tying the voyagers back to their old life, back to Earth. They are best cast aside, but it is not an easy task to strip oneself of the past. The children aboard have much less baggage and are able to drop their ties to materialism and their old home. They even give up basic necessities such as clothing and bathing, figuring the ship never bathes, so why should they? As a result, in the uncomfortably close quarters of the ship, a cultural rift forms between young and old.

This story is a great account of the mental toll of long-term space travel. I enjoyed the sensory elements, as well as, being drawn along on this journey, slowly coming to the realizations of why history must be left in the past, and how that changes us as a people. It’s difficult to pull this off in a piece of short fiction, but Helena definitely delivers, so give it a read!

Kathryn C. Thornton First woman to make multiple spacewalks

REAL Women in Space
Kathryn C. Thornton
First woman to make multiple spacewalks (May 14–15, 1992, Dec. 6, 1993, Dec. 8, 1993)
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