Fly Me To The Moon; Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Outer Space

In early October of this year, the Internet was alive and buzzing over the latest, greatest Thing. I was, as per usual in this situation, ambivalent. What was the cause of so much excitement for seemingly everyone but me? The newest trailer for the forthcoming Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi. I was happy that my friends were happy, to be sure, but it wasn’t something that I cared about one way or another. I don’t like space stories was my general response when the subject of outer space came up in almost any conversation or environment. When confronted with the reminder that I enjoyed Firefly, I always had a response. Firefly, I sniffed, was a Western that happened to take place in space.

A few spoilers below

My ambivalence/outright dislike of anything that hinted at adventure beyond the horizons of Earth stemmed from several different sources. Every single one of those sources was terrifying to a young, impressionable me. I’m fairly certain that it all began with E.T. I didn’t screech like Gertie when I saw poor E.T. for the first time, but I remember feeling very unsettled by the sounds that E.T. made.

Later in the film, when the government arrived on the scene, I began to feel that spark of fear. Aliens must be bad, I thought. Why would those men bring guns if aliens weren’t bad? When the plastic tunnels and hazmat suits came out a bit later, another frightening thought entered my young mind: Aliens must make you sick. The movie was completely ruined for me from that moment on. I wasn’t enchanted when the bicycles flew. I wasn’t happy when E.T.’s family returned for him. I was relieved that the dangerous, contagious alien was leaving Earth.

After I got a bit older, my father allowed me to watch the first Star Wars movie with him (the real first film, Episode IV, of course). I was frightened at the different aliens. But the most terrifying moment to my young mind was when the pretty Princess (who had dark brown hair, just like me) and those nice men were stuck in a rapidly shrinking garbage compactor, and that was bad enough, but there was a monster in that room with them. I believe that this was the moment, dear readers, when I decided that all aliens must be nothing more than horrifying space monsters.

As I grew up I encountered other versions of space and its inhabitants. My father was a casual Star Trek fan. I remember accidentally seeing a few episodes of The X-Files. Star Trek was mostly safe; the aliens in that series looked like humans and even the angry man with the bumpy forehead (Worf, of course) wasn’t an enemy. The X-Files, however, was upsetting enough that I do not remember what scared me so much. I still haven’t willingly watched anything related to The X-Files to this day. Star Trek, on the other hand, came in and out of my life fairly steadily; I have a close cousin who loves it beyond all reason, and I enjoyed the episodes that she showed me. Nevertheless, I continued to avoid most tales of outer space due to that childhood fear.

A swarm of space bugs in Starship Troopers

When the original three Star Wars films were remastered and returned to theaters, my father took my brother and me to see them. I didn’t have a bad time, really, but I was still slightly disturbed by the trash compactor scene. Then the prequel films came out, and those just aren’t a good representation of anything, so I shall leave it at that. Time passed. I broke down and consumed Firefly after initially dismissing it (because spaceships), but I still classify that as a Western. A few years ago I watched Event Horizon and Starship Troopers within about three months of each other. These films did absolutely nothing to convince me that space wasn’t terrifying and filled with monsters and other nameless horrors. I was a grown-ass woman, and I was still frightened of what might be lurking out there in the universe.

Then, last year, I dragged myself out of the house to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. My personal life was a mess, and Spouse and I needed to get away from it for a while. So off to the theater we went. You can read my rather guarded opinion at the linked post above, but to summarize: I went in with zero expectations and came away pleased with the story but highly disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see more of those characters. Jyn Erso (another brunette heroine!), rather than Leia Organa, is the woman who gets the credit for finally engaging me into this much-beloved franchise. I very quietly acquired both the Rogue One novelization and the prequel novel, Catalyst (but haven’t read them just yet — soon). I snagged Jyn’s Funko Pop! figure (And K-2SO, of course). I even own a coffee cup featuring Jyn’s silhouette with the holy words emblazoned upon it. I told myself that I wasn’t diving deep into the fandom; how could I, with a one-shot movie where the entire team of protagonists dies? A short while later, however, I had the opportunity to watch Episodes IV and V for the third time in my entire life. I enjoyed the hell out of that experience, much more than I expected to. I decided that, at the very least, I needed to be conversant in what is arguably the biggest fandom in the world. I intended to rewatch Return of the Jedi and then view The Force Awakens as well, but we lost touch with the person who had been hosting the movie nights. Nevertheless, they remained in the back of my mind, a small bit of unfinished business that was a slightly annoying, but not enough for me to really do much about it. You don’t like space stories, I kept reminding myself. Space is frightening, and there’s no need to subject yourself to it. But something in my brain was crumbling.

Two significant things happened during a recent vacation. The first was my completion of Becky Chambers’ excellent novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (beware of heavy spoilers at that link). A friend had recommended it to me ages ago, and I liked the sample enough to download the entire e-book. Then I promptly forgot about it until I finished a different title and started idly browsing for something else to read. I came across the Chambers’ book and mentally shrugged. Time to expand the horizons, self was my only real thought on the matter. I loved every page of that book and am eager to read the next. Chambers is a skilled writer who managed to make even the more dangerous alien cultures sound, even marginally, reasonable. They may not behave in a manner that was familiar to me, but Chambers was able to explain that their actions were simply due to their nature, and that made things much easier to digest. Somewhere along the way, the Wayfarer and her crew became familiar friends. Rosemary, the primary protagonist, served as my own eyes and ears into this entirely new world and my fears were soon forgotten.

The other significant event was my first semi-viewing of The Force Awakens. I say that I semi-watched it because it is difficult to pay attention to a movie in a house with four children who are running amok instead of sitting and watching the movie with you. I saw enough of it to know that I wanted to watch it again. I even saw enough to sniffle when General Leia hugged Rey. More tears rose in my eyes when Rey stood before Luke and wordlessly offered him the lightsaber. After many years, I felt like I finally got it. I gravely informed my husband that I was, indeed, a Star Wars fan after many years of utter ambivalence.

As a novice (or Padawan, if you will) outer space enthusiast, I have so much to catch up on. It’s exciting! I have entire universes to explore and revisit with new eyes and an open mind. Therefore, gentle readers, if you feel passionately about a film or novel that involves aliens or space travel, please let me know in the comments! I am but a babe in the stars, and I would appreciate suggestions for stories that I absolutely must not miss.

18 Comments

  • steelvictory November 7, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series! The first book is Primary Inversion. It’s space opera done right, with plenty of awesome tech (because the other is a legit scientist) and a hefty dose of romance (because no one ever told the author she couldn’t have awesome relationships with her awesome science).

    Reply
    • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      I’ve heard of Asaro before and will put these on the list I’m compiling!

      Reply
  • Weasel of Doom November 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Awwww! Welcome to the dark side *evil grin*

    Reply
    • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Ha! I’ve been on the dark side for a while, space exploration or no 😉

      Reply
      • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:40 pm

        That’s true. And the cupcakes are delicious. 🙂

        Reply
  • Weasel of Doom November 7, 2017 at 10:05 am

    P.S. Awesome coffee mug! How can I get my greedy paws on one of those?

    Reply
    • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Mine came from GameStop and was part of their partnership with ThinkGeek 🙂

      Reply
  • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Well, you may remember that I am absolutely in love with Karin Lowachee’s WARCHILD. It’s my favorite space opera EVER.

    Other top recommendations:

    GRIMSPACE by Ann Aguirre (first in a completed series)

    FORTUNE’S PAWN by Rachel Bach (cliffhanger ending, but first in a completed trilogy, and so worth it!)

    LOST STARS by Claudia Gray (a Star Wars tie-in, but oh-so good. Incorporates the new movies while being set through-out the original trilogy, and just a fantastic story in its own right. HIGHLY recommended.)

    ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie is pretty amazing, but it’s got a learning curve to get used to.

    COYOTE by Allen Steele (first of a trilogy/series; made up of very connected short stories; really cool book, and the author was awesome when I met him at Odyssey).

    CITY OF PEARL by Karen Traviss (first of a completed series)

    INSIDE OUT and OUTSIDE IN by Maria V Snyder (two book duology; YA)

    That’s just at first glance at my LibraryThing SF tag. I’m sure I’ll think of other books, let alone comics, movies, and maybe tv shows. 🙂

    Welcome to the dark side! 🙂 We have cupcakes!

    Reply
    • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      I’m actually reading a Gray right now! TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU. The first in this trilogy (the name escapes me) was recommended for fans of Orphan Black. I like her writing! I’ll definitely check out LOST STARS. And quite a few others listed here!

      Reply
      • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:39 pm

        I’ve got that particular title…. it’s languishing on my Kindle, so please let me know how you like it! 🙂

        Reply
        • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 9:58 pm

          I read the first one in about three days. It’s very compelling, and Gray’s really captured the teenage girl voice (in a good way).

          Reply
          • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 10:43 pm

            Good to know! The only Gray I’ve read are her Star Wars novels, and I enjoyed Lost Stars far more than Bloodlines, but I had other things working against me with Bloodlines, which I talked about here.

  • Weasel of Doom November 7, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Oooooh, ooooh, I have recommendations, too 🙂

    CLEAN SWEEP, SWEEP IN PEACE, and ONE FELL SWEEP by Ilona Andrews.

    THE COLD BETWEEN and REMNANTS OF TRUST by Elizabeth Bonesteel.

    IN CONQUEST BORN and THE MADNESS SEASON by C.S. Friedman.

    ILLUMINAE and GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

    STARBOUND trilogy (starting with THESE BROKEN STARS) by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner.

    FRONTLINES series (starting with TERMS OF ENLISTMENT) by Marko Kloos.

    SERRANO LEGACY books (http://www.elizabethmoon.com/books-serrano.html) and VATTA’S UNIVERSE (http://www.elizabethmoon.com/universes/vatta.html) by Elizabeth Moon.

    SAGA (graphics novel) by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

    Reply
    • Casey Price November 7, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      *makes copious notes*

      Reply
    • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      HELL YES TO SAGA!!!! I knew there was a comic series I was brain-farting on! I’m thinking there’s another, but I’ve got to dig up my spreadsheet. 🙂

      Reply
  • Nicole Taft November 7, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Your reaction to space is totally understandable in a logical standpoint. Most of us are wowed by weird creatures on screen and for it to be action it has to be icky and destroyed (re: my favorite alien action movie, Aliens, but I’d avoid that if I were you). And most of the time that’s how everything is portrayed – including when aliens come down to earth. They’re mean. They’re here to kill us. Or we go out there into the big beyond and everything goes to shit.

    It’s hard to find a space movie that *isn’t* all of that, but here are a few that you can kick back and not be scared of:

    THE FIFTH ELEMENT – Bruce Willis shoots everything and Milla Jovovich beats people up. In space.

    WALL-E – It’s Pixar. You really can’t go wrong here.

    STAR TREK – The first one of the new movies they made with Chris Pine and co. It was a good time.

    GALAXY QUEST – Take a look at the cast, note it’s a comedy, and enjoy. 😉

    And, if you want something supremely stupid, and I admit this is probably the dumbest movie I own but I own it simply because of how stupid it is and it makes me laugh: EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY. Not set in space, per se, but it includes aliens that come to earth. And they are NOT scary.

    …Also if you haven’t read Rhonda Mason’s books, you totally should because they’re super fun.

    Reply
    • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      WALL-E is my favoritest Pixar film.

      I was going to recommend Rhonda, who was our MFT guest this week, but I hesitated since I thought that might be a LITTLE too obvious…. 😉 Also, I’m super-behind on her books.

      Reply
  • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Okay, non-book recommendations:

    TV: Battlestar Galactica (2003) starting with the mini-series and then you go with season one. Don’t worry about the extra stuff “The Plan” or “Blood and Chrome” or “Razor” or the prequel series “Caprica” until you’ve given BSG a shot. 🙂

    Movies: (surely you’ve watched Guardians of the Galaxy, right?), Arrival, Moon, Stargate (the movie, not the show, though I’m surprise J.L. Gribble didn’t recommend the show!), and of course Wall-E. If you’ll forgive something that’s kind of cheesy, but I loved it anyway, John Carter.

    Comics: Descender, and of course, SAGA.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: