Monthly Archives: December 2014

Cosmonaut Christmas Greetings

Old USSR Christmas cards with cosmonauts. The greeting in Russian, с новым годом, means “Happy New Year.” You can see more cosmonaut Christmas cards here.




Christmas in Space

Boys watch the Christmas Eve broadcast from Apollo 8 astronauts in space, December 24, 1968. (Photo: Bruce Dale/National Geographic, via Will Amato.)

Apollo 8 Xmas Eve

In THE NIGHT OF THE COMET, Alan Broussard and son watch a TV broadcast of the Skylab astronauts decorating a Christmas tree made out of empty space-food tubes in 1973:


The Golden Record

The “Golden Record” is a two-sided, gold-plated, copper LP attached to the Voyager I and II spacecrafts, one on each. Launched in 1977, the Voyager probes are now 10 billion miles away, the farthest human-made objects from Earth.

Astronomer Carl Sagan oversaw the committee that assembled the music, sounds, and images that were inscribed on the disks.

(A cartridge with stylus were also attached to the spacecraft, so that aliens, when they find it, will be able to play the record.)

Included on the record are:

  • A greeting, in English, from then-Secretary General of the UN
  • “Hello” in 55 languages
  • Sounds of the Earth, including sounds from nature, people at work, and a mother kissing a child
  • 27 tracks of music, including a wide range of songs and music from around the world
  • 116 images
  • and a one-hour recording of brainwaves and heartbeats from Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s fiancee

Ms. Druyan explains the last:

“Earlier I had asked Carl if those putative extraterrestrials of a billion years from now could conceivably interpret the brain waves of a meditator. Who knows? A billion years is a long, long time, was his reply. On the chance that it might be possible why don’t we give it a try?

“Two days after our life-changing phone call, I entered a laboratory at Bellevue Hospital in New York City and was hooked up to a computer that turned all the data from my brain and heart into sound. I had a one-hour mental itinerary of the information I wished to convey. I began by thinking about the history of Earth and the life it sustains. To the best of my abilities I tried to think something of the history of ideas and human social organization. I thought about the predicament that our civilization finds itself in and about the violence and poverty that make this planet a hell for so many of its inhabitants. Toward the end I permitted myself a personal statement of what it was like to fall in love.”

Here’s track 31 of 31: The Cavatina Movement from String Quartet No. 13 In B Flat, Opus 130, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Forthcoming

I’m proud to have two pieces in this, out May 2015:

uncommon prayer

A BOOK OF UNCOMMON PRAYER collects everyday invocations from 60 acclaimed and emerging authors. Edited by Matthew Vollmer, and inspired by the Anglican original, the anthology spans a remarkable range of beliefs and inclinations, producing a kaleidoscopic portrait of contemporary concerns, from the heart-wrenching to the irreverent. All proceeds will benefit 826 Valencia, which is “dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get excited about the literary arts.”

COMING MAY 2015 from Outpost19. Pre-order available here:

The Undead Never Die

Received an email this week from a writer in Italy who wants to interview me for a book on B-movies and cult films of the 80s. She’s including TEEN VAMP in her book because it used to run on Italian television in the 90s, on their national RAI channel. It was called “College per Vampari.”

The lesson here is to beware what low-budget horror films you appear in in your youth, because those little bastards are immortal.

Here’s the poster for the Spanish version of the film:

Spanish Teen Vamp