By Susan Harris
In honor of US astronaut Scott Kelly’s return to Earth this week after nearly a year in space, we’re gazing heavenward, starting with the otherworldly hero of our two excerpts from the Argentine classic The Eternonaut. First serialized in the Buenos Aires newspaper Hora Cero from 1957–59, Héctor G. Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López’s apocalyptic graphic novel opens with a four-handed card game interrupted by a blackout. One glance out the window brings the horrified realization that the falling “snow” is actually radioactive particles from a nuclear disaster. After one of the players rushes off to his family only to fall dead in the street, the three surviving men deploy their combined scientific knowledge and the conveniently well-equipped workroom to create a sealed suit in which one of them can safely seek provisions and aid. The second installment ends with the eponymous narrator stepping out onto the sidewalk and into the terrifying new world beyond.
Closer to home, Hasif Amini’s “Story” connects the cosmos with the human need for narrative. When our ancestors gazed at the stars and imagined them as constellations with names and histories, Amini notes, “outer space, which extended so far off into the unknown, seemed to become alive, festive, familiar.” In times of fear and uncertainty, storytelling provides not only solace, but an understanding of the world and our place within it.
Kelly’s long sojourn has already provided one transformational narrative: Because the spine elongates in space, Kelly grew two inches. He’ll return to his previous height as he adjusts to his new environment. In the meantime, for more tall tales from multiple worlds, turn to our archives, where you’ll always find celestial writing.
Image: From “The Eternonaut” by Héctor G. Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López, translated by Erica Mena.
Published Mar 4, 2016 Copyright 2016 Susan Harris