Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Space and Science

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,”

My last DemiCon?

By Jan S. Gephardt

DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. I have a lot of great history with DemiCon as an institution, and as an eagerly-anticipated annual event. I’ve blogged about it in this space for the last several years, as veteran readers of this blog may recall.

It was the convention that primarily inspired my 2019 post “Why I go to SF Conventions.” For a profile of DemiCon at its recent best, take a look at my 2018 post, “My DemiCon 29 Experience.” I had a wonderful time there.

Even the Pandemic didn’t kill my love for DemiCon. Their patient, helpful Joe Struss helped me create “My First Original Video” for Virtual DemiCon in 2020. And they looked as if they were coming back strong in 2022, as reflected in my post “The Best and Worst Time.”

But DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. At least for a while.

This is a predominantly dark gray image, featuring a drawing of an astronaut with wings against a dark sky with a yellow crescent moon. The words say “Starbase DemiCon: A New World. Des Moines Holiday Inn Northwest, 4800 Merle Hay Rd.
Image courtesy of the DemiCon Facebook Page.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I figured we were off to another great start last fall, when I received an invitation to attend with a guest as a professional guest (this means the membership fee is waived because I’ll be “paying for it” by appearing on panels. It’s a normal-enough procedure, and I’m always happy to agree). I responded quickly to say quite truthfully that I was looking forward to it.

After that, however, crickets. (Okay, it was winter. But still). Finally in March I figured I’d better find out if they’d forgotten me. As it turned out, they kind of had. There’d been a reshuffling of the con committee in some way. My invitation and acceptance had gotten lost in that shuffle. But Amanda in Programming said of course I’d be welcome, and she’d find ways to fit me onto panels. No author reading, though.

Um, okay. Well, things could still work out. It didn’t have to be my last DemiCon. But unfortunate events and disappointments gradually accumulated.

This is a montage of some of the paper sculpture that Jan would have brought to DemiCon 34 if she’d found the Art Show information. The artworks are: Top Row, L-R: “Common Cliff Dragon – Male,” “Gemflower Outburst,” and “Love in the Storm.” On the next row, L-R: “Overcoming Complications,”  pair from the “Guardians” series in yellow top mats, “Protector” and “Defender;” and “White Clematis with Dragons.” The lower pair of “Guardians,” in green top mats, are “Fierce” and “Brave.” All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.
Woulda, Coulda, but missed it! Here’s some of the paper sculpture I would like to have shown at DemiCon this year. All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.

Art Show?

I couldn’t find Art Show information online. Turns out it was on their website and they did (let the record show) have an Art Show. It was listed under “Venue” in dim type at the bottom of their index page. I found “Dealers Room” on that drop-down menu, but somehow my eyes kept skipping over “Art Show” (second down after “Anime Room”).

I guess I was always in too much of a hurry to search the fine print. And, perhaps because of the concom shakeup, I also never received a contact from the Art Show Director. Usually I get a cheery email a few months out, asking if I’ll be showing art again this year. That really would have saved me, this year.

So, I didn’t bring any art (thought, “what’s the point?” and we were tight on space). Then, to my dismay, I discovered there was an Art Show after all. I tried not to be too upset, but I never could quite bring myself to go inside and see what was there. I suppose it should be no big deal in the grand scheme. But I was crushed.

Granted, a mistake I made shouldn’t be used as a justification to make this my last DemiCon. But it was one more, particularly searing disappointment on the growing pile of them.

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,” ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.
Our son Tyrell Gephardt represents at the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table on Friday 5/5/23. This shot gives a good view of about half of the Dealers Room, as well as the books we offered. Photo by Pascal Gephardt. Nebula 2 tablecloth design ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.

A Very Tight Squeeze

The Big Convention Experiment for this year is a quest to answer the question: Can Weird Sisters Publishing present a profitable Dealers Table at sf conventions? Didn’t have to be super-lucrative, but at least breaking even would be nice. We tried to vary our offerings (and increase the odds of selling things) by including the work of selected Kansas City Author Friends Dora Furlong, Lynette M. Burrows, Randal Spangler, Karin Rita Gastreich, and M. C. Chambers, as well as my books and my sister G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Duet. Happily, we did sell something from almost everyone. But did we break even? No.

Our first challenge was squeezing ourselves into the space. To say the Dealers Room was “cozy” . . . well, check out the photo above. There wasn’t room for our banner. In fact, it’s a good thing I’ve lost about 30 lbs. over the course of the past year (thank you, NOOM!), or I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze through to work the table.

Unfortunately, the aisle space was almost as constricted as the space behind the table. ADA compliance? Ouch! Not so much. The aisles were consistently congested each time I came in, but that doesn’t mean there was room for a lot of traffic. Yes, it was a small con. But as a semi-frequent visitor to the dealers rooms of many conventions, I can tell you I personally would have looked at the congestion and thought, “Nope.” Was that the experience that made me question whether this would be my last DemiCon? Well, no. Not by itself.

A helpful audience member took this photo before the “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday night. Left to right, panelists are Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David Pedersen.
Taken before the “A.I. Meets SF” Panel on 5/5/23. L-R: Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David J. Pedersen. Jan teamed up with one or the other of these men for all but one of her subsequent panels. Photo by Helpful Audience Member Number One, who remained anonymous.

The Best Bright Spot: My Panels

For me, the highlight of this convention was the panels. This is often true. For one, I love to talk about our genre(s), writing, art, and related topics. For another, I generally love working with the other panelists. Most are interesting, knowledgeable, and intelligent people, and would be so in any setting. A well-moderated, intelligent discussion with such people is a delight I relish.

Most of my panels teamed me up with either Steven Southard or David J. Pedersen. The “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday 5/5/23 included all three of us. I had a lovely time working with both of them. They’re bright, thoughtful men. I’d met and been on panels with David before, but a major high point of DemiCon 34 was meeting Steven. Our panel discussions were lots of fun, and we had large, intelligent, well-informed audiences. It was a mix of elements practically guaranteed to be both stimulating and fun.

I was on five panels. By the time we got to the final one on Sunday afternoon (where I joined Author Guest Rachel Aukes to discuss “Who Will We Meet in Space?”), I think everyone was exhausted. The audience barely outnumbered Rachel and me, and they seemed little disposed to talk much. But that somewhat “flat note” certainly wouldn’t have been enough, on its own, to make me ask, “Is this my last DemiCon?”

The first bedroom the “night persons” in the Gephardt contingent occupied had two inviting-looking beds with a built-in nightstand and wall sconces between them, with what looked like floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a small balcony facing west. In the photo, some of our luggage is stacked beside and between the beds.
Two queen beds and big, sunny windows provided a deceptively-inviting view. Photo by Jan S. Gephardt.

My Last DemiCon?

In my first book, What’s Bred in the Bone, there’s a chapter titled, “A Combined Weight of Awfulness.” I wouldn’t ascribe “awfulness” to my DemiCon 34 experience (with one exception). But disappointment after disappointment built up through the weekend. The convention committee seemed disorganized. There weren’t many panels that looked interesting to me, outside of the ones I was on. Readings by friends were mostly scheduled against my own panels, so I couldn’t attend them. I didn’t get many other networking opportunities.

But our discovery in one of our rooms would’ve sent us home immediately if we’d been there strictly as fans. A rash of distinctive red bumps rose on several sensitive square inches of my son’s skin. Then he found a rather distinctive little brown bug in his bed. And when you find one, you know there must be more. De-con efforts have continued since we got home, to make sure none infiltrated our luggage.

We had a dealer’s table. I’d made promises to be on panels. We’d bought a program book ad. So we accepted a change of rooms and stayed. But combined with all the other issues and disappointments, this was definitely the nadir of all my convention-going experiences in the more than three decades I’ve been going to conventions all over the country. So DemiCon 34 is likely to have been my last DemiCon. At least for a good long while.


Many thanks to The DemiCon 34 Facebook Page for their Convention header. The artwork displayed in my “woulda” montage is © Jan S. Gephardt. Many thanks to Pascal for the Dealer’s Table photo and to Helpful Audience Member Number One, for the photo of the “A.I. Meets SF” panelists. I took that room pic myself.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke

To The Moon

By Jan S. Gephardt

As I write this, the Artemis 1 Mission is still “go for launch” next Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. A lot of us are excited about the prospect of a new Moon program. But other voices, from both left and right, question whether we should go back to the Moon at all. Indeed, from the very beginning there have been questions about the priority we should give to our reach into Space.

We haven’t been to the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. A full 50 years. Half a century. Dating myself, here, for the sake of scale: that was the year I graduated from high school. I’m retirement-age now, so that’s a working lifetime ago.

Why not? We’ve launched other missions – why not go back to the Moon till now? In my research, I’ve discovered several reasons.

I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream. – Neil Armstrong
That was then. Why haven’t we gone back for all these years? (Famous Quotes 123).


Consider the political landscape in the United States between 1972 and 2022. Control of the House, Senate, and White House has seesawed back and forth between Republicans and Democrats rather frequently, after two long periods of Democratic Party rule during the Roosevelt-Truman years and again during 1960s and the Kennedy-Johnson administrations.

This meant that each administration and Congressional majority got to make up their own rules. They felt free to set, re-set, abandon or continue the policies of their predecessors. As a result, there were never enduring, universally-established ideas about where, how, and even if, we might boldly go anywhere. Including to the Moon.

The last Apollo missions happened during the Nixon Administration, but while Nixon wasn’t exactly against space expansion, he was much more bullish on the idea of making space more affordable and accessible. The Space Shuttle project had its origins in the Nixon White House.

“Before another century is done it will be hard for people to imagine a time when humanity was confined to one world, and it will seem to them incredible that there was ever anybody who doubted the value of space and wanted to turn his or her back on the Universe.” — Isaac Asimov
Isaac would undoubtedly have been disappointed to know it would take us 50 years to refocus on the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Focus, Refocus, and Lack of Focus

Space programs take a long time to develop, and they require a lot of money. People in power haven’t always seen it as a high spending priority, especially in times of economic difficulty. Many early programs ran into cost overruns of the sort that saw Skylab B mothballed in the mid-70s, about the same time the Soviets canceled the Almaz (space platform) project, possibly for similar issues.

In the latter 1970s the Space Shuttle program remained in the development stages, but continued to move forward. The Ford and Carter administrations were preoccupied by inflation, an energy crisis, foreign threats, and social upheaval. Ford greenlit the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Carter emphasized the need to self-defense in space, but didn’t take the idea very far. You’ll notice that none of these ideas got us anywhere closer to the Moon.

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” — Carl Sagan
Sagan’s sample-size did nothing to lend power to his words at the time. He died in 1996, at a time when NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet had begun to show its age and limitations, but new space initiatives weren’t in fashion. (Quotefancy).

Space-Based Defense

Ronald Reagan took that space-based defense idea and majored on it. He proposed a massive Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). But vocal observers complained it was unrealistic for the technology of the period. They nicknamed it “Star Wars” and painted it as over-priced science-fictional wish-fulfillment. At the time, they weren’t entirely wrong, although the idea of space-based defense both predated, and ultimately outlived Reagan’s idea.

George H.W. Bush was a space-development booster. On the 20th anniversary of the our first Moon landing, he announced the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which included a space station called Freedom – but no plan to return to the Moon anytime soon. Congress couldn’t get past the idea of its $500 billion price tag, however. Not even if the spending was spread across 20-30 years.

Bill Clinton’s administration never brought “Freedom” to fruition, but did start construction on the International Space Station. He focused more interest on exploring the universe, and kept the door open on space-based weapons. Especially in his second term, however, divisions in the United States grew more extreme. The Republican-led Congress was unwilling to work with him on initiatives of most any sort.

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.” — Miyamoto Musashi
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Advance and Retreat

George W. Bush reshaped NASA policy yet again, refocusing on space exploration (Vision for Space Exploration, 2004). He reintroduced plans to return to the Moon (by 2020), retire the Space Shuttle program, and start preparations to send humans to Mars. But Bush became much more heavily focused on waging two wars that did not produce predicted easy victories, and the onset of the Great Recession at the end of his term.

His successor Barack Obama had little time or energy for space, and certainly not for the Moon. Not in the depths of the Great Recession. His political capital went for economic fixes and the ACA. Faced in his second term with an oppositional, Republican-led Congress, few initiatives prospered. But he did use his executive power – to kill most of “W’s” space initiatives, including a trip to the Moon.

Instead, he opened the door for more private investment in space and a focus on commercially-exploitable asteroids and Mars. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other initiatives began their dramatic rise.

“In the coming era of manned space exploration by the private sector, market forces will spur development and yield new, low-cost space technologies. If the history of private aviation is any guide, private development efforts will be safer, too.” — Burt Rutan
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Taking the High Ground

I’ll refer you to my sister’s excellent essay on the Space Force for a look at the most recent iterations on the United States’ focus on space-based defenses. The Trump Administration further encouraged private space enterprise. They resurrected the National Space Council (continued under Biden and currently chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris). And they shifted the country’s efforts from the Obama-era focus on Mars back to the Moon.

The Biden Administration embraced and continued the internationally-supported Artemis project, which will (we hope) launch Artemis 1 on Monday. The long-delayed return to the Moon has finally begun in earnest.

Riding atop the Space Launch System (survivor of the “W” Bush-era Constellation project), the Orion spacecraft won’t carry humans this time (“Captain Moonikin Campos,” “Helga,” and “Zohar,” all varied types of sensor-equipped “manikins,” will ride in their place, along with NASA mascot Snoopy and ESA mascot Shaun the Sheep). Nor will it land on the Moon. but it will deploy CubeSats and orbit the Moon.

“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, he would have given man a moon.”
— Krafft Arnold Ehricke
Looks as if the Artemis Project might actually get us there after all. (Quotefancy).

Artemis 1, 2, 3, and Beyond

Monday’s launch of Artemis 1 is an essential test of equipment and systems. If all goes well, in mid-October NASA will retrieve it from the Pacific Ocean. At that point, teams of scientists will start feverishly poring over its data. They must apply everything they can learn from Artemis 1, to ensure the safety of the human crew on Artemis 2.

Artemis 2 is currently planned for a May 2024 launch date. It, too, will orbit the Moon, but won’t land. The crew has a whole laundry list of systems checks to perform, both in Earth orbit and during the lunar flyby. The Artemis 2 crew hasn’t yet been named, but they’ll all be North Americans: three from the USA, and one from Canada. Whoever they turn out to be, the latter will be the first Canadian ever to travel beyond low Earth orbit.

We’ll get to Artemis 3 sometime in 2025 . . . we hope. There have been numerous delays already. This first crewed Moon landing of the Artemis Project (first humans on the lunar surface since 1972) also will see the first use of the SpaceX-built Starship HLS. If all goes well, this will be a true return to the Moon.

Artemis 1 through 3 are the beginning, not an end-point. Artemis 4 starts building another international effort:  a space station called Lunar Gateway, designed to orbit the Moon. And you can guess from the name where things are headed from there. It all starts with a return to the Moon.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur might be right, after all. (Quotefancy).


For once, this section doesn’t have much to add. All of the quotes are attributed in the captions. Nearly all came from the Quotefancy page “Space Quotes,” with one ringer from Famous Quotes 123. All quote images were selected by this post’s author.

Lucy’s beautiful, verdant landscape captures the terraced hills with their little farms on either side, the meanders of the Sirius River through the center, and the torus’s perverse upward curve in the distance.

Thinking About Space Stations

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ve been thinking about space stations, lately (sure, doesn’t everyone?). As a regular reader of science fiction, I encounter the fictional kind pretty often. And I’m always interested in news from Earth’s very own space station, the ISS. Technically we Earthlings have two, but it seems like China doesn’t want to share.

I’m particularly interested in Jessica Watkins’ long-duration ISS assignment. She’ll stay in orbit for 6 months, adding valuable insight to our knowledge about the effects of microgravity on humans, by providing data from someone who is not a white male. She’s also breaking new ground (another “first,” –the first Black woman to fly an extended mission).

The information Watkins will gain for us is particularly important to me. That’s because anytime I’m thinking about space stations, the first one that comes to mind is the one I’m working hard to create: Rana Station.

Lucy’s beautiful, verdant landscape captures the terraced hills with their little farms on either side, the meanders of the Sirius River through the center, and the torus’s perverse upward curve in the distance.
The Sirius River Valley: It’s hard to imagine the years of effort by a surprising number of people that lie behind this peaceful-looking landscape. (Painting © 2022 by Lucy A. Synk).

My Anti-Disbelief Kit

As a writer, my most pressing necessity is to induce rational, intelligent, scientifically-educated readers to willingly suspend their disbelief and accept some patently unreal things. That humans can live together with a non-Terrestrial sapient species in harmony within the same nation, for example. That a government could dedicate itself to the well-being of all citizens. Or law enforcement agencies could fight crime effectively and respect the civil rights of everyone, even criminals. That dogs can be uplifted to an intelligence level on par with humans, for another. And, of course, that they all can exist in an exo-system somewhere else in the Galaxy, inside a human-and-ozzirikkian-made megastructure in space.

I know: that’s a lot of disbelief to suspend! But I have a huge advantage. Decades of popular media have trained people in our culture to recognize such ideas as not totally crazy. Thank you, Star Trek, Star Wars, and of the many, many other “space”-based movies, TV shows, and video games we’ve enjoyed!

The other major tool in my Anti-Disbelief Kit is to follow the science we do know, as closely as possible in my story context. That’s why thinking about space stations is something I do frequently. I keep updating myself, even as I have started publishing my XK9 books. If I can stay up-to-date with current knowledge development about space, as well as the knowledgeable extrapolations of experts, my stories will ring more true to my readers.

Three pictures of humans working inside the International Space Station, the photos are at odd angles, suggesting the very low gravity.
Things float around in microgravity – and there is no “up” or “down” unless it’s relative to one’s own face and hands. (See extensive credits below).

Enough to Eat – In Space

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t planning to set my XK9 stories on a self-contained, self-sufficient space station. It was part of my basic concept “from the git-go.” Part of the appeal for me came from the “closed system” nature of the interior environment. I’ve done a lot of research and given a lot of thought to food production, protein sources, and agricultural infrastructure on a self-sufficient space station.

I think we all know the more familiar idea of a space station as a port of some sort. Sort of a super-sized airport in space. Most fictional space station depictions don’t get into food production questions. They mostly assume there are logistics chains from somewhere (or that magical “replicators” will cover the need). But I’m from farm country, I was born in the Show-Me State, and I’m also a longtime home gardener. I have a real hard time suspending my own disbelief when it comes to replicators or astronomically long logistics chains. How could I ask my readers to do so?

Something we already know about hauling things up from gravity wells into space is that it’s very expensive. And – speaking of thinking about space stations and their resupply issues – on the ISS they’ve been growing experimental food-producing plants for a long time already. NASA and the world’s other space agencies know full well that multi-year space missions or “colonies” on the Moon or Mars can’t afford to rely only on food from Earth.

Clockwise from the beefsteak in the black vacuum-sealed bag velcroed to the blue tray or mat at lower left, other vacuum-sealed food items are candy-coated peanuts, shortbread cookies, cheddar cheese spread, creamed spinach, and at the center some round crackers. At lower right are a pair of medical-style scissors, a fork, and a knife (which look startlingly similar to this blogger’s “Paul Revere” flatware pattern). The utensils appear to be held in place by two magnetic strips.
Taken in the Food Tasting lab in building 17: Bags of International Space Station food and utensils on tray, 2003. (see credits below).

Thinking About How to Build Rana Station

Thinking about space stations in the abstract is all well and good. Having some starting-point ideas about what you think you want to do is essential. But the next step is research. I had seen others’ fictional space stations. As I’ve noted in a previous post, within my lifetime I’ve experienced the progression from a time before we had real-life space stations, till now.

I love research. My sister would tell you that there have been times when I seemed likely to happily delve into research forever, and never resurface to write stories at all. And when it came time to create my own space station, I certainly didn’t need to start from scratch. I had loads of wonderful data, ideas, and extrapolations to build from. I “just” needed to do the research.

In this case, I took my “DIY project” online. The more thinking about space stations that I did, and the more research I piled up, the clearer it became that I had a lot of choices. In part to help me think through each possibility clearly, and in part to make good use of my research time, I created blog posts about several different space station designs. Even though I ultimately decided not to use them for Rana Station, I wanted to consider them. I blogged about Dyson Rings and Spheres, Bernal Spheres, and O’Neill Cylinders. But for several reasons, for Rana Station I settled on a chain of super-sized Stanford Torii.

Visualizations of the interior of a toroid space habitat: a landscape of the interior, and a cutaway of the interior with homes and landscaped plants.
Visions from the Ames Center in 1975: © NASA; artwork at left by Don Davis. Artwork at right by Rick Guidice.

Always Thinking About Space Stations

The longer my readers and I spend on Rana Station, the more aspects of it will become relevant, and the more ideas I can explore. It’s not enough to do the research and have ideas about how things should be set up. The science fiction novelist’s mission is to both entertain and explore science-based thought experiments. The cool ideas we cook up will only gain traction if they’re smoothly inserted into an engaging story when they become relevant.

The idea of uplifted police dogs on a space station will tend to intrigue the kind of people I’m writing for. But it’s my job to keep then intrigued and engaged once they’ve arrived on-Station. That’s why I’m always working on new story ideas. Always seeking better ways to visualize my characters in greater depth. It’s why I’m interested in new forensic science developments, and new discoveries about dog cognition.

And it’s why I’m nearly always thinking about space stations.


The illustration at the beginning of this post is ©2022 by Lucy A. Synk. This painting was first unveiled on my monthly newsletter. Learn more about how it was developed and why it was painted in my recent post, “A Vision From a Different World.”

Many thanks to NASA and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, for the photos in the montage of people working inside the ISS. Floating on the left side of the montage, Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins put together extra sleeping space for astronauts during a “crew handover.” The sleep unit is the Crew Alternate Sleep Accommodation (CASA). It can be converted to a storage rack when it’s not an emergency bunk. They installed it in the European Space Agency-built Columbus laboratory module. Hopkins later became the first astronaut to transfer to the US Space Force.

The NASA photo at what is to us the top of the image shows Astronaut Kate Rubins working with the Biomolecular Sequencer. Her experiments with it yielded the first DNA sequencing in space. In the third photo (from JAXA), Astronaut Norishige Kanai exercises on the Advanced Resistive Device (ARED). Designed to fight muscle loss in space, it has proven to work much better than the previous unit. The Rubins and Kanai photos came from a NASA story about preparations for a new moon mission.

Two Photos You May Remember

I used the less-than-mouthwatering array of contemporary space food on an earlier blog post, “Growing Rana Station’s Agriculture.” Many thanks to original sources NASA and Wikimedia Commons!

I also used the two vintage views inside a Stanford Torus, in A Vision From a Different World.”  These 1975 paintings are ©1975 by NASA. They were painted by Don Davis (torus interior landscape) and Rick Guidice (cutaway view). I am deeply grateful that NASA has made this resource so freely available.

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