Author of just released book Goldilocks has given us her list of 7 good things that came about when she was writing the book.
Goldilocks by Laura Lam (Wildfire, Hardback, ebook and audio) Published 30th April 2020
1 Faster Than Light Travel is a Headache
Initially, I wanted to make the science in Goldilocks, my book about the first all-female space mission to discover an exosolar planet to save a dying Earth, as accurate as possible. Yet I soon discovered that with the timescales I was working towards, speed of light travel would be very difficult to pull off believably. Currently, the best theory to get there is giant gold laser kites in space. No, really. Plus having to calculative relativity, and I had a huge headache. So, this was where I cheated. I used the Alcubierre Drive, a theory developed in the 90s to create warp drive. It’s currently impossible since we don’t know how to harvest negative energy, but technically if we figured it out, this method doesn’t break the laws of physics.
2 Being an Astronaut is Hard (Shocker)
Alas, I learned that I do not have The Right Stuff to be an astronaut. I have zero practical skills except lying and helping other people lie better. I read a lot about the NASA application process and what knowledge base you need to have to even think about applying, (the latest window for the next crop of astronauts just closed!) as well as what happens once you undergo the two years training minimum before you can even consider getting a chance to go to space. The odds are also so small to get in (I think it’s something like 30k something applications for 12 slots), and even if you are in the astronaut corps, you might not make it into space.
3 Who Knew Algae Would Be So Important?
When we do eventually go to space, we’re probably going to be eating a lot of algae, specifically cyanobacteria like spirulina. It doesn’t require much to grow beyond water and life and it’s very nutrient dense. The problem is, it tastes really bad. My astronauts grow to loathe the nutriblocks they have to eat on the ship, which at one point is described as ‘Turkish Delight, but more foul.’
4 Secret Rocket Launch Bases
Since my astronauts steal a spaceship at the start (for several reasons, but sexism is at the forefront), so when figuring out where they could try and secretly launch a rocket with no one noticing, I fell into a rabbit hole about secret Cold War rocket launch sites. I ended up chosen Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. It’s relatively sparsely populated now, but because of climate change, it’s even quieter in my near-future version of Earth.
5 History of Space Flight – Specifically the Ignored Women
Thanks to the fantastic film and book Hidden Figures, lots more people thankfully know about how African-American women helped shape NASA as human computers. Women were and are incredibly important to history of space flight, but they were often ignored or downright barred from participating. Writing this book really clicked into place when I learned about the Mercury 13, women who did the same tests as the Mercury 7 and arguably did better than the men, but weren’t allowed into space all the same. I recommend the Netflix documentary about them and also Sue Nelson’s book Wally Funk’s Race to Space.
6 Climate Change
I was already depressed about climate change, but the research I did for Goldilocks didn’t particularly help. As part of my research, I went to an undergrad class in Evolution, Ecology, and Climate Change at the University of Edinburgh and we brainstormed what Earth would look like from orbit if the worst case climate scenarios came to pass. It was pretty bleak. I did, however, learn about all the amazing things people are doing to try and stop what’s coming, and I still remain hopeful that we will be able to band together and enact change before it’s too late.
7 Self-Isolation and Writing Tips from Astronauts
I didn’t expect to have to put self-isolation tips into practice like this, but it turns out reading a lot of astronaut memoirs has prepared me reasonably well for what’s happening in the world just now. They all stress the importance of routine and frame of mind, of looking after yourself. To focus on what opportunities being so isolated offers you rather than focusing on all of the things you can’t do. So I have been trying to do that, with some success. And at least I can still go for a walk in the sunshine, which they can’t do in space. I can call my friends quite easily and video chat (the internet is really slow on the ISS evidently). I also found the astronaut memoirs really inspiring for writing and living a creative life, too. The odds of becoming an astronaut are much smaller than getting something published. If I make a mistake, I’m not going to accidentally send all the oxygen out of the airlock. It’s just writing, at the end of the day.