Sunday Short: Mary Robinette Kowal's The Lady Astronaut of Mars

Sunday, August 3, 2014
This week's short is Kowal's Hugo nominated novelette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, available via

Illustration from
While technically longer than a short story (which is <7500 words), I loved this story too much to not include it in these reviews. It is from the perspective of a female astronaut in an alternate history where we colonized Mars early after an asteroid hits Washington, DC. Kowal does a fabulous job of painting the setting with details just enough to let your imagination fill in the rest.

The central struggled of the story is what happens if your dreams and professional aspirations are no longer compatible with your older spouse's well being / health. Marriage is for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Elma, the lady astronaut who helped to colonize Mars, is getting older and is no longer called for missions. Her husband is sick and likely to die within a year. When Elma gets called for a mission to a planet light years away -- what does she do? When her husband insists she go, and everything she is wants her to go, yet she doesn't want to leave the love of her life... what does she do? It is just a beautiful read!

I loved that the protagonist of this story is older (almost 60) -- there isn't enough speculative fiction of that age range. I loved that she was honest about the struggle between her dreams and her commitment to her husband. I loved how honest and uncomfortable the story was in it's portrayal of illness and deterioration. By the end, I needed to hug my husband almost immediately.

Rating: 5/5.

Favorite non-spoiler lines*: "I wanted to get off the planet and back into space and not have to watch him die. Not have to watch him lose control of his body piece by piece.... And I wanted to stay here and be with him and steal every moment left that he had breath in his body."

*Honestly, the last part of the story is probably my favorite, but they would spoil you... so just go read it!

I am taking a break next Sunday -- but check back the week after that for another novelette, John Scalzi's Unlocked
Have a suggestion for another short to feature on the blog? Leave it in the comments below.

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