Surviving space stations, mapping movies

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books


Our relentless desert heat may have you longing to send yourself elsewhere. These two books will do the trick, transporting you through the realms of space and spaces.

“It’s a Question of Space: an Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordi-nary Questions” (by Clayton C. Anderson, b&w photos, University of Nebraska Press, paperback, 207 pgs., 2018, $16.95) fields inquiries in a lively Q&A format. With two missions to the International Space Station, six space walks and a 30-year NASA career under his belt, Anderson covers every imaginable aspect of dealing with what goes on up there. He discusses the basics of outer space, spaceflight operations, communications, politics and philosophy, describing details ranging from the interview process to dressing in zero gravity, whether astronauts can vote from the ISS, consumer products utilized by astronauts in space, how much “me time” astronauts have on the ISS and why NASA briefly considered Anderson a “problem child.”

He writes informatively, humorously, and honestly, even revealing the role that astronauts play in espionage and the rules that NASA has developed for what to do when spotting a UFO. Also, exercising care to leave no stone unturned, Anderson conclusively sets the record straight on whether astronauts need passports to depart Earth.

“Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies” (maps by Andrew DeGraff, essays by A.D. Jameson, handsomely illustrated full-color maps, Quirk Books, coffee-table hardcover, 159 pages, 2017, $29.99) gives visual context to who did what where in favorite films as varied as “King Kong,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “North by North-west,” “The Shining,” “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Jurassic Park.” Illuminating articles accompany each map; Jameson compares plots and paths while DeGraff adds his comments on the complexities of each route.

For instance: “’The Wizard of Oz’ is half amusement park, half fairy tale, half acid trip – it doesn’t always add up. The wider shots that we get of Oz, which are mostly matte paintings, don’t really match the way space is laid out in the scenes. Painting the map, I had to resolve those contradictions, which was trippy, like painting a house with rooms that are bigger than the house.”

Armchair travelers, rejoice! Relax with these opportunities to cool off far from here.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Story First Published: 2018-07-20