Happy Moon Landing Day! + A NEW Amazing Stories

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And to think, just a couple of days ago I asked myself “What am I going to write about on Saturday?”

I’ll dispense with Amazing Stories’ new look first since, if you are here, you are already experiencing it.

Click here to order or subscribe!

Kermit Woodall, balancer of multiple hats, has been hard at work on this new “modernized” look for the website for quite some time now, interrupted only by the fine work he has been doing as the magazine’s Art Director.  (How about that latest cover, huh!?).

The new look features a larger graphical footprint, highlights multiple articles by providing links to our major subject categories and then follows it up with a standard listing of posts, most recent to most oldest.

There’s a “trending now” ticker, highlighting the posts readers are currently reading;  the top menu has been re-arranged and tightened up (though I still have some “page cleanup” to do – unused pages are going to go bye-bye shortly).

Yes, there will sometimes be duplicates of posts in the various presentations – which are:  above the fold – the top menu plus the five most recent articles (we typically publish at least five posts per day); below the fold – individual article categories ranging from Editorial to Recent News, Fandom, Awards, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Anime, TV/Film, Poetry, Horror, and Science.  These breakouts are then followed by All Posts, which has been described previously.

There’s other stuff as well – don’t forget our very comprehensive Events Calendar (events – make sure you’re in there!) and other behind-the-scenes cleanup work.

We think this new look not only brings us more up-to-date with website design, but also provides a more attractive and easy to navigate site.  We hope you enjoy it.  (If you’re not seeing a “new” Amazing Stories website – dump your cache and reload!)

FIFTY YEARS AGO, the United States rose to the challenge of the international space race and met President Kennedy’s challenge to “…commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

I had met my own challenge of “committing to achieving the goal, before the summer is out, of attending summer camp and being allowed to watch the Moon landing on television”.

It was a monumental battle of wills, my parents taking the role of the obstreperous, shoe-banging Soviet Union, I the stand-in for the United States.  Like the space race, I was starting from behind.

Watching the landing (and later, the walk) was a fact of life, something everyone would be doing.  It wasn’t just a spur of the moment, latest hot pop thing that everyone would engage with for fifteen seconds before moving on to the next headline.  It was the culmination of our nation’s entire reason for being, a glorious epitaph we’d deliver for our recently murdered President on the grandest scale imaginable – writ huge right up there in the sky.  It was a big (friendly) fuck-you finger waving in the face of the USSR, those commie bastard trogolodytes that had no business besting us in technology and science (we couldn’t figure out how their scientists and engineers and cosmonauts* got so much done when they themselves were sub-human, or slaves to sub-humans and, though we knew this didn’t make much sense, we didn’t really question it.  The USSR was Bad and we were Good and that’s all we really needed to know.  We weren’t “behind” in the space race, we were careful and we valued human life.  If the Soviets cared about such things, they’d be the ones “behind”.)

No, not spur of the moment.  THIS moment had been building since World War II.  On a formal basis, it had been building since October, 1957, when the Soviet’s put Sputnik 1 into orbit and made darned sure that everyone could listen to its “beep beep beep” as it orbited the planet.

Kennedy had inspired the nation.  Johnson made sure the dollars kept flowing to Texas and between the two, the entire world was going to get to witness humankind’s finest achievement.

Except I was going to be at summer camp.  Where there were no televisions.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances of my realization that I might not be able to watch the landing.  I do remember my emotional shock.  You know Bradbury’s story – All Summer in a Day?  I’d not read it yet at the time, but that’s what going to summer camp during the Moon landing was going to be like for me:  a once in a lifetime – once in the lifetime of the Human Race! – event was taking place and I was going to be shut up in a closet.

This could not be.

My interest in the Moon landing was not a casual one.  I was going to be an Astronaut.  I was too young to be the first person to step onto the Moon, but there was a good and solid chance that I could be the first person to walk on Mars…or maybe Ganymede…

At the time I was not only surreptitiously watching Star Trek (from the shadows of the stairs, over my father’s shoulder, every squeaky step memorized in case I needed to beat a retreat);  I was reading Heinlein, watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, the Gemini Missions, reading Bonestell’s The Conquest of Space;  I’d recently acquired a 3″ reflecting telescope and was sketching the Galilean Moons of Jupiter – when I wasn’t playing with my Cape Kennedy play set, my rocket-launching train set or my Marx astronauts (who always seemed to land on alien worlds that greatly resembled my back yard – which was sometimes inhabited by my Aurora Godzilla model).

This was not an unusual state for a kid back in those days.

But summer camp loomed in my countdown – a big fat Hold – threatening to scrub the entire mission.

My mother suggested I bring a radio with me, surely I could listen to the landing.  I’m sure I did not yet know the appropriate curse words for that idea.

As the date to leave for camp drew closer, I got increasingly desperate.  My parents just did not seem to apply the same import to this horrific situation as I did.  I finally had to go all Gene Krantz on them – lock the doors and lets work this problem!

“OK, Mom and Dad. Listen up.  I want you to forget the flight plan.  From this moment on, we are improvising a new mission.”  I rolled out a blackboard.  “How do we get Steve to a television?”  I diagrammed the situation on the blackboard.   “Steve is here”, I said, indicating the diagram on the blackboard, illustrating a stick figure of me shown quite some distance from a television icon “does he not go to camp this summer?”

 

(Steve consulting with his parents)

Pandemonium.  “No, no, he’s going to camp.”

“But they might not have a TV there!”

Well, unlike NASA and their Apollo 13 problem-solving, my successful failure relied on emotion rather than plucky engineering and the inevitability of physics.  I (probably) stamped my feet while proclaiming that I’d run away from home to watch the landing if there was no way I could watch it at camp.  The camp director was contacted and he admitted that there was a television (working) in the counselor’s lounge and they’d exempt me from the no-TV rule so I could watch the landing and walk.  I even got a written note.

And so history was made and I got to be a part of it, along with a half-billion other people across the globe.

My astronaut dreams faded along with NASA’s own.  Planetary visits are no longer in my future.  A bit of the sense-of-wonder went out of the world, at least for me.

The one thing I think I may have learned from that entire experience, though it took me a few decades to understand it, was that this country, the United States, needs bold, grand visions and strong, courageous leaders that champion them, in order to find itself heading in the right direction.  We’re a nation founded on ideals and forged in warfare.  It’s a country full of energy and passion, ideals and imagination, all of which, as we have seen the past few years, can just as easily turn inwards as it can be directed outwards.  When we turn inwards, we lose our purpose.  Our nation needs a new outward focus.  Space exploration may not be in the cards this time around;  perhaps addressing global warming and approaching it in the same manner as the moon shot is the answer.  I don’t really know, but sniping and picking at ourselves is certainly not working.

*Commie bastards even changed the name for Astronaut!  Stars weren’t good enough for them, they had to go for the cosmos!

***

A few other notes today:

You can listen in “in real time” to the Apollo 11 mission here 

You can read a review of our latest issue here on SFRevu

And we’ve got a podcast called The Gernsback Machine.  You can listen Here.

Happy Moon Landing Day, Everyone.

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