Mon
Jul 20 2009 1:30pm

On July 20th, 1969...by Kage Baker

On July 20, 1969 I had been seventeen for a month and ten days, and my life was fraught with misery because of my parents. There was just no reasoning with my dad, who was, like, on another planet or something, but it was my mother who really made my world a living hell. She never seemed to notice I had, like, this personality of my very own? That I wasn’t just this extension of her life? She loved science fiction and I didn’t, for example. When she used to read to me when I was sick, she was always picking stories about flying saucers and Mushroom Planets and visitors from outer space. When I got older and she’d drive me to the library every Saturday, she was always suggesting books by people like Bradbury and Heinlein. That wasn’t me! I was into Narnia and hobbits and Wuthering Heights and she knew that, but oh, no, she had to keep pushing her UFO agenda to brainwash me. And it only got worse once there was a lot of science fiction on TV. You know how the announcer on Outer Limits claimed he controlled your TV? Ha! My mom controlled the TV in our house. One Step Beyond, Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, Star Trek—that was all that was ever on. And since it was generally accepted in our family that I was going to be a writer, she laid this big guilt trip on me by telling me she hoped I’d write science fiction. As if! I was going to write a fantasy trilogy, just like Tolkien. Or maybe Mervyn Peake. But like Charlotte Brontë.

So anyway, on the 20th of July I knew we were about to land on the Moon and blah blah blah, but I was more concerned with getting permission to go to a midnight marathon of Beatles movies. My mother, for some reason, didn’t feel I was old enough to be spending a night in a seedy art house theater in a bad section of Hollywood. I was SEVENTEEN! So we had this raging fight which I did not win, of course, and I stormed up to my room, climbed out the window onto the roof and lay up there staring into the blue infinity, brooding on the way my mother never understood me ever, and fell asleep. I was only roused by my mother sticking her head out the window and screaming “What on earth are you doing out there? They’re just about to land on the Goddamn moon!”

I scrambled inside and downstairs into the living room and everyone was sitting around the TV, glaring at me. But there, on the 13" black and white screen, was the surface of the moon scrolling past, the silver alien world with its craters and dunes of stardust. All about to come to pass, that moment prefigured by Verne and Wells and Munchausen, the capsule not splashing into the Moon’s eye but floating down so slowly, so steadily, as the bright desert rolled by under the Eagle’s outstretched legs… and then the Eagle had landed. We were witnesses to History. My mother wept.

I was sure she was only doing it to embarrass me.


Kage Baker is an American science fiction and fantasy author, perhaps most notable for her novels in the Company series. Her novella “The Empress of Mars” was nominated for a 2003 Hugo Award. She is a regular blogger here at Tor.com.

This article is part of Moon Landing Day: ‹ previous | index | next ›
6 comments
T C
1. Freelancer
I was 8. Already infected by Wells and Verne, and happy to watch Zone and Limits, etc. My brothers both fell asleep, but I was glued to that 13" black and white all night in the front room of our little home in the Valley. I still thrill over photos or motion clips of that most amazing human achievement.
Kage Baker
2. kagebaker
Well, see, you were 8, which is a much wiser age than 17.

I'm going to be watching the old footage on TV tonight myself, wherever I can find it, and wishing Walter Cronkite had lived a week longer.
Irene Gallo
3. Irene
This is one of my favorites today. Thank you!
Normandy Helmer
4. Chimaera
Speaking as a mother who has been salting her kids' bookshelves for 18 years now for the betterment of mankind, I am delighted to know that yours successfully tweaked your brain. Clearly it's the mother that really shapes brilliant writers. Don't you have a new novel to finish, dear?
Kage Baker
6. kagebaker
Well, I just watched the footage again, on the History Channel.

This time I wept too. I wept for my mother, and for Walter Cronkite, and the Lunar Age... hell, I wept for John Lennon and George Harrison.

We will go back to the moon, won't we?

And, no, I finished the novel and even turned it in on time. So there. And I only have a couple thousand words to go on that short story I owe Jon Strahan, which is set on Mars by the way, and SHE DID NOT EITHER TWEAK MY BRAIN!!...

Oh, it's too much effort channeling adolescence. Thanks, Ma.

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