Sunday, 3 August 2014

Stardance by Spider Robinson

Important Note: This review was written years ago, as the reference to the last shuttle launch should make clear. It is not my birthday!

This is my birthday present to myself - to review one of my favourite books by my all-time favourite author. It is made more poignant by the last shuttle launch yesterday, which made me cry like a baby.

This is not new - shuttle launches, Apollo launches, everything I can think of that has to do with space overwhelms me with wonder, and Spider Robinson is a huge part of the reason why. He makes space so exciting, so enticing, so essential, the vision and passion for manned spaceflight so urgent. (And to send artists up - one of the great tragedies of the cancellation of the Civilian in Space program after the Challenger disaster, was that his wife, Jeanne, never got to up with the second mission, never got to try dance in space for any longer than the time in the Vomit Comet she got very late in her life.)

And so, Stardance. And Starseed and Starmind, and I'll get to those later, I promise. Stealing directly from an essay by Spider, Spider is one of my mentors, in the sense of being one of the people who taught me how to think. Who taught me about the first law of Callahan's, which I will hold on to my whole life. Who taught me about wonder and the intense power of hope. And these books, which hold the message, we need to get out there in larger numbers. How could we have left the moon alone so long? Why aren't we making art in space?

Stardance is about hope. And fighting. About being human, and what that means. To quote from the book:

"This is what it is to be human: To see the essential existential futility of all action, all striving - and to act, to strive. This is what it is to be human: to reach forever beyond your grasp. This is what it is to be human: to live forever or die trying. This is what it is to be human: to perpetually ask the unanswerable questions, in the hope that the asking of them will somehow hasten the day when they will be answered. This is what it is to be human: to strive in the face of the certainty of failure. This is what it is to be human: to persist."

And like the shuttle launches, this book wrecks me every time. But in a happy, joyous way. Please read it. It would be a wonderful birthday present for me if you did.

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