In the world today, we could all use more time to sit and look at the stars. If you can’t, there’s always entertainment to help us out. In my eyes, the space shown in movies and TV or explained in books is always as magical as any fantasy setting.
One of my recent reads was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. It is the first book in her series called The Lady Astronaut novels. There are also short stories that tie into this universe. So far, only two novels published with two on the way in the next two years. Even though I’ve only read the first book in the series, I immediately thought it would be a great miniseries or television show. If the rest of the series doesn’t live up to the first one, that’s fine as original television ideas can also fall apart in subsequent seasons. It’s a way of life.
Here are some reasons I want to see it adapted:
- The book is about a meteor hitting the United States in 1952, which causes the eastern seaboard to no longer exist. The space program is started as a way to escape the planet as it will become uninhabitable. This alternate history aspect really is what makes this different from other shows or miniseries on television. There will be names you recognize but in different fields, especially if you are knowledgeable about the space program.
Similar to recent films and other space-related programs
- As a whole, the book is similar to Hidden Figures, First Man, Captain Marvel (I’m assuming based on certain clips!), and on the TV side, The Astronauts’ Wives Club. The main character is Elma York, who flew planes during World War II as part of the WASP program. She is also a brilliant mathematician. Her husband, Nathaniel, is an engineer and that’s how she gets involved in the space program. She is surrounded by other smart women, some of whom also fly planes. When it seems that they are only going to let men become astronauts, she becomes disheartened and that’s when she begins her real mission.
Feminism! That’s also intersectional!
- It is extremely feminist and there’s a real push for racial equality as well as gender equality. Elma and Nathaniel become good friends with an African American couple and she tries her hardest to include them. She makes sure that they and other people of color are involved in this new society they’re planning. She uses her privilege to lift them up and that is beautiful in this day and age.
- What is also wonderful is the fact that she and her husband are such great partners. Whenever she experiences sexism, he is visibly angry and wants to help as much as he can. He also includes her in certain aspects of his job because he knows she’s smarter than him and it doesn’t bother him at all! We need more male characters who are not threatened by smart women!
Other Real World Issues
- There is also portions of the book that touch on mental health and climate change. Elma suffers from panic attacks and it makes her a bit more relatable. As for climate change, the meteor strike impacts the earth in so many different ways. It’s not what’s currently affecting us but it’s still enlightening, especially from certain conversations within the book. Also, what you don’t tend to see much on TV: Elma and Nathaniel are Jewish and that is a huge part of their identity. And with the timing of the book, there are mentions of the Holocaust and how it affected their families.
The book is impeccably researched and the changes made from our history are all explained in the notes at the end (which also includes a bunch of other books she used as reference points). It was honestly such an incredible reading experience and even if it doesn’t get optioned for anything, I hope you’ll at least be interested enough to check out the book.