Reading List: Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

I talk with the author of The Lady Astronauts series about inclusivity in space exploration, history, and blue astronaut poop.

Thank you for signing up for Reading List! This newsletter is a regular column on the world of science fiction and fantasy. If you like what you read, please consider signing up as a paid subscriber and sharing it with your friends.

Paid subscribers get some additional perks: some long-form features, commentary, and as outlined below, an occasional podcast of interviews (and probably of the long-form stuff.)


Hello!

A couple of years ago, Mary Robinette Kowal published a pair of books that utterly blew me away: the first two installments of her Lady Astronaut series: The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky. This week, she publishes the next novel in the series, The Relentless Moon, and it’s just as good as its predecessors.

in 2012, Kowal introduced readers to Elma York in her audio novelette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, set in an alternate timeline in which an asteroid lands off the coast of Washington D.C. and kicks off a climate warming event that threatens humanity’s existence. That novella is set decades later, as Elma is about to set off on a mission outside of the solar system.

The Calculating Stars is set after the impact, following Elma as a coalition of nations, International Aerospace Coalition form a plan to stand up a space program to begin colonizing the Moon and Mars as a way to prevent humanity from going extinct. Elma, a former Women Airforce Service Pilot, wants to join the initiative, but is told that she can’t, because she’s a woman. Working with other female pilots, she helps push the IAC to not only accept women as astronaut candidates, but to launch them into space alongside their male counterparts. 

In the second installment of the series, The Fated Sky, Elma, now an experienced astronaut, is assigned to the first mission to Mars, along with an international contingent of fellow astronauts. As the mission proceeds, she faces skeptical colleagues who don’t believe that women should go into space, and her own issues with anxiety. 

The next installment of the series, The Relentless Moon, shifts perspectives to follow another astronaut in the IAC, Nicole Wargin, who was part of the same astronaut class as Elma. While Elma is rocketing off to Mars, Nicole is assigned to a mission to the growing Lunar colony, amidst growing unrest down on Earth and her husband’s presidential campaign. Another installment of the series, The Martian Contingency, is expected to be published in 2022.

A issue of Reading List will hit your inboxes later this week, but paid subscribers are going to get this interview in podcast form, which I’m calling Transfer Orbit.


This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

I wanted to start off by looking at your body of work so far. You've published novels set in the Regency era, World War One, and now the 1950s and 1960s during the space race. What appeal does the past hold for you?

One of the things that I like about working in something that is a historical genre is that it allows us to look at patterns that tend to repeat themselves in our society in history. That then allows the reader to draw parallels with the modern world and their own situations, without it becoming a polemic. So for me, it's many of the same reasons that I like science fiction and fantasy in general, in that it allows us to kind of examine some of that connective tissue a little bit more thoroughly.

What is a good example for you inspiration-wise? Is there any particular moment in history that sort of grabbed you by the shoulders and said, I need you to write about this?

It's not so much that way. I mean, occasionally it is, I guess. Like, I really wanted Jane Austen with magic when I did my first series, and with the space program, I just have always been fascinated with space.

But often there's a moment where a historical period and something that I am thinking about deeply intersect and I'm like, “Ah! This is the story that I need to tell right now.” And it doesn't, it's not everything in history that is interesting, it's really the way they intersect with the contemporary stuff, if that makes any sense at all.

Also the clothes. I will also say that I am a sucker for good clothes. And sometimes that will influence me and my choices.

What's a garment that's appeal to you and that you've worked into your books?

Um, so all — of I mean, literally the reason that I wrote the Glamourist Histories is because I genuinely like the clothes. I worked on something that was set in 1907, and that was when I really discovered that part of what attracts me to a particular era is my desire for the clothing because I did not, it turns out, like the clothing from the 1907s.

In The Relentless Moon, I gave my main character a taffeta ballgown that’s peacock in color, specifically as an excuse to buy such a gown myself.

What was your first exposure to the history of space exploration?

Well, I was born in 1969, and my parents are very proud of the fact that I sat up on my own to watch the moon landing. So there's not a point in my life where I haven't had the moon and space as part of my own personal narrative. The two moments that I can remember really paying attention, would be the first shuttle launch, and then when Sally Ride went up. Those are the two moments that I remember paying attention to it for myself instead of part of just kind of the world that I existed in. And it's kind of cool when you think about it, the fact that how many people alive today have only lived with people going into space like there hasn't been a point when we have not had people leaving the planet.

I know when I was born — my life encompasses the Challenger explosion, although I don't specifically remember it, but I remember it being a thing.

I was in high school when we lost the Challenger. I was an office assistant, so I was in the office and heard and saw it because they were showing it to all the classrooms. I had to go into the assistant principal's office and say, “something has just happened.”

What was that like?

I still remember the sense of shock, and one of the things that I remember really clearly is the way her face changed. I don't think I had seen an adult do that thing where like she had the moment of Oh dear God, this is terrible, and then immediately had the there is a student here and I have to be responsible, and putting that armor very, visibly back on. I think that's the first time I saw that and realize that it was a thing that that grownups had to do.

How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?

There’s no point in my life when I don't remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.

Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that's why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone's husband is cheating on them, it's not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.

Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren't enough to drive a plot. I feel like that's doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.

I want to jump over to your original Lady Astronaut story, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, which you published in 2012. What was the initial impulse for creating Elma York?

So, I have a couple of different ways that I will wind up writing. Sometimes I have the idea, and I will carefully craft structure for it and then proceed. Sometimes I free write, and then figure out what the structure is. This is one of the ones that I initially free wrote.

I knew that I had to start with this opening line, I had this punchcard-punk universe that I had come up with, and quite liked for another short story called “We Interrupt This Broadcast,” and I thought, “well, what what else is happening?” What does that the future of that story look like? What else can I do in this this kind of universe?

I knew that I wanted it to be first person, because it was an audio, and I think first person tends to play better. So I just started writing. And one of the challenges with having decided that I was going to start with a famous first line and wanting to do Wizard of Oz is that the first Wizard of Oz is in third person. That meant that my main character couldn't be Dorothy, Auntie Em, or Henry, since they are all mentioned in third person in the first sentence. It gave me “Dorothy lived in the great Kansas prairie with her Uncle Henry, who was a farmer and her Aunt Em who is a farmer's wife. She says she met me.” — I am paraphrasing my own work — “I have no memory of that.”

And it was something that I was thinking about a fair bit at the time about the process of aging. My grandmother, who lived to be 109, was 105 or 106 at that point, but she just had a health thing — she'd had to go in for surgery and came back out. I had stayed with her for a while to to help with some of the care (and I feel okay telling this now since she she has passed) but the scene in the story in which Nathaniel does not make it to the bathroom, he's quite sick and he doesn't make it — and I was there with Grandma, the first time she had that happen, where she couldn't make it. It made me start thinking about these choices that we make as we're aging.

I was also thinking about the nature of being in a long distance relationship, which would happen for my husband and I. Several times a year, the first several years that we were married, I was working in New York, but we lived in Oregon, and so I'd be gone three to five months out of the year. So all of these things, were kind of swirling around in my head when I started writing.

And then I probably got a third of the way in and was like, “okay, but wait, what is this story actually about?” and figured out what the actual plot was.

The story of it obviously went on — with some controversy — to earn a Hugo, and then was later published On Tor.com. What about it prompted you to return to the world with a much longer novel?

I had written several short stories in that universe, actually. I think it's interesting that the idea of what we were able to do during the Apollo era. Someone in the space program — I wish I could remember who this was — said that they felt like they had reached forward into the 21st century and brought a slice back to the 1960s. Because the thing that happened with rocketry, the advances that we made, when you think about the fact that flight happened for the first time, 50 years before that. The fact that we then sent people to the moon, that's that's an amazingly fast development process!

From “can we get people off the ground at all?” to a “why don’t we go around that the orbital body there?” And I was like, “what would it have been like if we had kept going at that pace?” You know, where would we? Where would we be now? Like, what would society look like if the library in Alexandria hadn't burned down? These are interesting questions to me that I'm just like, “eh, thought experiment!"

So the process of going “Hey, I'm gonna write a novel about this” was partly because I was aware of how many other stories it was possible to tell them this universe and partly was honestly the completely commercial crass thing of my editor came to me and said, “Hey, you won to Hugo for that? Do you want to do you think there's a novel in that universe?”

And I was like “Why yes, yes, I do.”

One of the interesting things I've found while reading this story is just that there's not a lot of science fiction about Apollo era hardware. Obviously, science fiction was really coming to fruition throughout the Apollo era and the space race, but a lot of that was in the distant future, far future. There are books out there about the Apollo mission or alternate Apollo missions, but there's not much there compared to the rest of the science fiction canon. Why do you think that is?

Good question. I think some of it may simply be that it's not science fiction, especially for people who were writing during the period of which we think of as the Golden Age. It's not science fiction, you know, it's just science. When you write about stuff that happens in that period — it's just fiction. So I think it's that we're just now getting to a point where it is far enough in the past that it's historical fiction, which makes my mom die a little bit inside every time I say that the 1960s is historical period.

But there are other people like Temi Oh, whose novel Do You Dream of Terra Two? is an alternate history that looks at kind of what would have happened if we had gone to space earlier. I mean, you're right, it doesn't have a lot but there are definitely other people who are playing with it.

In preparation for the series, I remember that you were conducting a lot of research into NASA history and the technical procedures and you visited several NASA sites. So much of science fiction or so much a writing is just authors using their imagination to come up with the parts and places of their worlds. How did you how did putting your hands on things or seeing them up close help you imagine the world that you created for the series?

So I want to be clear that I think I could have written the series without having done this. But what it gives me is the minutiae, it gives me the small sensory details and it gives me the in-between spaces. So one of the things that happens when you research is that people take pictures of the main rooms, they take pictures of the front of things, but they don't take pictures of the passages in between rooms. They don't take pictures of the steps in between things. And they also don’t take pictures or write down or document things that are just normal. They don't think about it. Like if I am walking into a room, I'll say I turned on the light. But I don't describe reaching over and moving a plastic toggle into the upright position, because everyone knows what I'm talking about when I say turn on the light.

So when you're reading something that was when you're reading a biography, or an autobiography, a lot of times what I found was that the astronauts would have been doing this so much that they forgot what normal looks like to someone else. The clearest example that I can give this forgetting is when I was talking to Kjell Lindgren when he invited me down to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab to watch them practice a spacewalk. “Do you want to come to the NBL to watch a full dev run?” And the answer is “yes, I do.” And then he said, “but you probably won't want to stay all day because it'll be really boring.”

I'm like, so “you know, how about professional puppets here? If you ever want to go to New York, and see Sesame Street, let me know. And I can hook you up, but you probably won't want to stay all day because it'll be really boring.” And he laughed and acknowledged that I had a point. They still have the sense of wonder about the job and the joy and all of that, but when you hang out with a bunch of other astronauts, you forget the parts of it that are cool to other people.

So, going to places lets me see all of those things. There's a scene in The Relentless Moon where they are in the room where they do spacesuit maintenance. I only know about that room — like, I know it existed — but I only know what that room looks like, and the sound of the fans, and the giant table with women sitting around hand sewing things because I was there. Because it's not part of the front. No one takes pictures of it.

What was one of the most surprising things that you learned over the course of this research? Was there anything that you learned that you realized you had to throw it in somewhere?

The disinfectant that they use … so when you poop on the Apollo missions, you were going into a fecal containment bag, which was literally a plastic bag that you taped to your rump, and then you would have to put in a disinfectant and kneed it in order to stop bacterial growth and all that. It was bright blue, and if you put in too much, then you had a bag of blue poop.

And did that make it into the books?

Oh, yeah! You asked me for something that made it into the book that I was like, “I have that because that is ridiculous.”

Also, that you should never eat a milk dud that you see floating on the space station. Also made that in there.

I have heard that. I imagine that you treat anything that’s floating with some amount of suspicion.

Yes.

Earlier this year I remember seeing that you got to try on Adam Savage’s replica spacesuit. What was that experience like?

It was amazing. So Adam and I were at a conference and he was doing a demonstration. He was like, “this is my spacesuit!” And there were two astronauts in the room. And they were like, “Oh, this is a really high fidelity replica — this is really good.” And I'm in the middle of writing The Relentless Moon at that point, so I'm asking, like, “so what what does it feel like?” And Adam just asks the room “does anyone else want to try it on?” and my hand was up so fast, it was like it had been born already in the air.

So he let me try it on. It's really warm, which I knew — like, that's why they have a liquid cooling and ventilation garment — but it's like, “wow, this is really warm, and it’s not even like the 21 layers that the actual Apollo suit has!”

It was neat seeing how reduced your sense of touch was, the movement, and also the sound. I got to try on an actual space helmet, one of the shuttle era ones. I mean, it wasn’t rated for space, but it's it was rated for the NBL. I got to try one of those on, right after having tried on a helmet for T-38. The thing that struck me with all three of them was the way the sound changes.

So with the T 38, it's like a motorcycle helmet and it's trying to protect you from the roar of the jet, so everything is very, very muffled. They don't have to worry about that with a spacesuit because you're in a vacuum, so you just get the sound of your voice reflecting off of the inside and the NBL helmet I tried on that was just the helmet going over my head. But having this on, being in there, [you] realize how dampened everyone else's voices were and how much my own voice reflected back and that I had to project in order to be heard outside of it. But it also feels like you're talking too loud because your own voice is being bounced back at you. That was very cool.

I have a little bit of experience with this sort of thing. I'm a fan of The Expanse TV series, while doing research into it, I found that one of the spacesuit helmets that they use in the show is actually a surplus Chinese Army Helmet — it's called a GK-80 helmet, and it’s basically a high altitude fighter jet helmet. And it looks like a space helmet. And the funny thing is, you could go on eBay and buy one for about $200. So I bought one and what I found really interesting was just how you sort of expect, a spacesuit helmet or a fighter jet helmet to be like this really sort of durable thing and this one is just held on with metal clasps. Feeling it in person, it gives a certain fidelity to what this is like, and in some ways, it takes away some of the a little bit of the magic like, “Oh, this, this is it?” But also it's like, “oh, this is a real thing!”

Adam is the nicest person — I asked him if he could recommend a pattern for Snoopy Cap because I wanted to make one and or rather I wanted one and I couldn't find one for purchase that I thought was good enough for my personal taste, and I like making things so I asked if he knew a good pattern, and he just sent me his to make a pattern from, one that Ryan Nagata made. And you’re making this and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, this is this is actually just a zipper. That's, that's that's all this is. This is not a fancy thing.” I have to remind myself, “yes, but at the time zippers were still actually fairly high tech.” Like, that whole evolution of the zipper in and of itself is an interesting process, and it’s like “oh yeah, I take slippers for granted. This is technology.”

I want to shift over to The Relentless Moon. The thing that struck me is I started reading it earlier this month (in June 2020) was the IAC and your characters are facing widespread riots as people are angry with the space program and upset about just the state of the world. Has this year's series of protests or the deaths of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Ahmed Arbery prompted you to look back on those scenes any differently?

No, because sadly, this is us just repeating a thing. All of those riots [in the novel], all of those headlines about the riots, and the riots themselves are all modeled on riots that were happening in the 1960s over civil rights. This is a path that we have been on and we make progress and then get complacent. And then there are a lot of areas where we don't make progress.

The fact is that the earnings gap between black men and white men is the same as it was in the 1950s. And part of that — on paper, it looks great, it looks like “oh, yeah, now we're making good progress.” It's that they're being paid the same, except that they're also being incarcerated at greater rates now and being removed from the workforce in other ways, just not getting jobs. So it's the earning gap is actually the same. So things like that, working on the novel gave me more perspective about what was happening now, rather than the other way around, because I had read so much about the social trauma and upheaval that was happening then.

As soon as the riots started happening I was like, “Oh, yeah, no, this is a thing that has to happen and it's gonna get worse” and I am hoping that that change will actually happen this time, but also, the thing that causes change is cooperation between the people and the power. And we don't have that in this scenario. We have someone who is absolutely unwilling to compromise, who is unwilling to listen, who is unwilling to admit, setting the tone for all conversations.

The fact that change happens last time things got this heated was directly related to who was in the White House, setting the tone for what happened then in Congress. And also, frankly, terrifyingly, and sadly, people dying. And that's horrifying that it takes that for us to pay attention.

One of the things that we've spoken about before with The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky is that there was a sense that climate change was sort of at the forefront of the book, in that this asteroid lands and it sets off a runaway greenhouse effect and that there are people who are sort of questioning its veracity. Like, “well, this can't happen now, because look, it's snowing! What do you mean global warming is a thing?” In this book, it's feels like a lot of those attitudes have hardened in much the same way that you see attitudes hardening right now around … just look at the news and take your pick of whatever subject. How did you work this into the narrative in this book and potentially going out further?

So in the first book, I had President Brannon, who was the secretary of agriculture and a Quaker, and had been a farmer. He came from farming stock, but was very much a pacifist and cooperation-oriented president. What happens again, the pattern that we see, is that very often people will go for the opposite of whoever was in power if they are unhappy, and so in The Fated Sky and The Relentless Moon, we have President Denley, who is a hawk, and he's very much an America First person.

So a lot of the things that are happening, and the discord that's going on is because I deliberately made a choice to put a president in power who would make things worse.

I'm going to do a historical example of the difference that a leader can make, even when they're on the wrong side of history. That is Robert E. Lee — who has a lot to answer for — but he did one thing, right. At the end of the Civil War, he went around and just said, over and over again, “lay down your arms, lay down your arms, lay down your arms, we have lost this, lay down your arms, this this conflict is over, lay down your arms.” And if he had not done that, if he had instead said “we will never surrender!” He modeled what people needed to do, and otherwise I think that we would have had guerrilla warfare going on for decades after the end of the Civil War.

As I say, he has a lot to answer for — he's on the wrong side of history. But that is one thing that he did right. And it is something that that people do, like we have a thing when we are in crisis that we that we want to help, but then we also look for someone to model for us what helping looks like, what action we should be taking. And that's that's one of the reasons that whoever is in the White House is so important because they wind up setting the tone for the nation.

Given that we're going through a massive world-impact event, that has really morbidly united the entire globe with a shared experience, what do you hope that readers will take away from The Relentless Moon and rest of the series?

That we survive things better when we weather it together. The thing that I have consistently tried to model with these books is — I want to acknowledge that there are people who will be unhappy and, and fight and be selfish, so I include them — but I also want to model what it looks like when you make a different choice, when you make the more inclusive choice, when you are generous, because I don't think we see that often enough. I think that it is part of human nature, and it’s not a part that we honor in fiction enough.

It feels in a big way that if there's any sort of through-line in this entire series, it’s that inclusion and empathy are big — which is kind of interesting because it runs counter to the broader history of space travel. NASA has been highly selective when it comes to space and even to the point where people speak about it as a genocidal thing.

Yeah. The way the space program is structured currently, and I talked about it in the book, it's a giant eugenics program. Unintentionally, but you know, there are a lot of unintentional choices that we can make that are very bad. And I like to see people making choices intentionally.

You know, the world is full of unexamined bias and the choices that people make are not coming from a bad place and they're not a bad person, but it still has a bad effect. Using an example from puppetry, Jim Henson, who did a lot for making the art of puppetry a mainstream thing in modern America, was six foot four. So he built sets he was comfortable in. And when he needed to add additional performers, he looked at who did well in the audition. And strangely, those people were also all in the six-four range, because they did well in the audition because they fit the set that he had built for himself.

So when they go to bring new people in, it's like, “well none of these puppeteers are having problems, you're having a problem, it must just be you,” not paying attention to the fact that you know all these puppeteers are between six feet and six foot four. And then what happens is that when you look at it, you go “oh, you know what, we really need to get more women in here,” and they have trouble because six four is really unusual height for a woman. So most female puppeteers have to perform in clogs of some sort. I have a friend who has shoes that make her 10 inches taller. And then that that adds this extra layer of difficulty to your performance.

It’s not an intentional choice: none of this was “we need to exclude women!” and it's not just women — it's like anyone who's short. It winds up having this disproportionate effect on a particular population. And space is doing the same thing. I get real mad about SpaceX — I mean, there's a number of things — but one of the things that I get real mad at is that they say that they’re thinking about making the program accessible to everyone, and in fact, they are thinking about a wide range of heights. I believe that they've made the seats as adjustable as possible — but, they are still optimizing for two male astronauts. And even if they're thinking about other things, when you're looking at “Okay, we need to, we've done some testing, we need to make a choice between A or B.” And if the two guys who are going to get on the giant bomb first are in your A camp, you're going to give them more weight, whether you want to or not. It’s not going to be a conscious thing. It's just that you're gonna unconsciously give them more weight because they're the ones who are going to immediately have to deal with it.

I remember last year for the 50th anniversary of Apollo, you wrote about the systemic things in the Apollo program which have persisted now today, where women are essentially excluded because of the size that they are. And what comes to mind right away is the is the spacesuit thing from the all-female spacewalk and it was scrubbed because they didn't have the right spacesuits on hand.

Yeah. I do want to say that NASA is aware of this, and the biggest reason we're using spacesuits that are 40 years old is because of funding. I know that if they could, I know that they have done development on other things, and if they could build additional things they would, but there's a reason that there are only — I think we're down to 11 of these now, and only four of them are rated for spaceflight. They don't have the money, and money keeps getting reallocated to different things. The suits that they're building for the Artemis Program, the choices that they're making there are quite different. The spacesuit designers are women, and they are what they've realized is that it's much easier to design for the smallest person and then size up from there. So they're designing the suits for small women.

How are you going planning on incorporating all of this into the future of Lady Astronauts as you move forward? Because I know you have another book in the works, and if I recall correctly, you have a novella in the works? What do you have planned moving forward? How are these issues going to continue to surface?

The novella — which at some point I will write — I have not had a chance to write it yet, is something that takes place when the meteor strikes. The Martian Contingency, which is the book after The Relentless Moon is on Mars all the time. And what that looks at is — I mean, there's a bunch of fun space things too — but the thing that I'm noodling with in my head is what does it look like to make a society without importing some of the more harmful parts of society from Earth? One of the things that I know going in is that there's a number of characters who say, basically say “yeah, can we not call this a colony or a settlement because those words both carry a lot of damaging history.”

There are connotations to them.

Yeah. And then conversations about about language and what language do we speak, and what languages are we going to lose, that kind of thing, are things I’m thinking about with Book 4.

Do you have plans to continue beyond that? Or do you have a definite end point in mind?

I am not...so it's interesting. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky where solidly a duology for me — those books are meant to be read together. I'm trying to do all of the other ones as standalones. You definitely get history if you go back and read the others, but but I could see myself writing a bajillion different standalones in this world.

I don't have a long arc for it, probably in part because I have The Lady Astronaut of Mars novella, which is set in the future so I don't have “ah, we’ll get to these things and yay! everything will be fine.” [With] “The Lady Astronaut of Mars,” I have an idea of what that that novel is — it has this embedded mission in it to go to an extrasolar planet and I have in my head like, what, that what that would be if I wrote a book or a short story about that. So there are a lot of stories in there.

I'll keep writing them as long as they're interesting to me, and as long as my editor continues to want them, but but it's not a universe that I think about in terms of an arc, whereas the Glamorous Histories, I did think of that as a five book arc; I fatigue after five sequential books as a reader. I have two other arcs that I want to do within that with those characters, but the Lady Astronaut universe, I think because it started with short fiction and was kind of all over the place, it feels like a different playground.

And short fiction allows you to tell stories or not don't necessarily slot into a novel category. You can tell smaller stories or really big stories.

Yeah, I've got a — we're working on an anthology that we're gonna pitch. I say anthology and not collection, because my intention with that is to have some other authors write stories within the Lady Astronaut universe, so that we have some #OwnVoices stories for characters that I don't feel like I can write.

That sounds interesting!

I'm very excited about the people who have said yes, so far. I just have to write the novella so that we can pitch it. And I just haven't had time to do that yet.


Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon is out in bookstores tomorrow, July 14th, 2020.