The Apollo 11 moon landing had a profound but delayed effect on me.
The “delayed” part was because I missed the whole thing. The afternoon and evening of July 20, 1969, I was at my summer-while-in-college job, which was waitressing in a small-town diner. The diner had no TV. There was a radio, but the cook had stuck it up on top of a ceiling panel so that we waitresses could not change the station from the cook’s favorite country and western to our preferred rock. My pleadings for a news station—just this one time!—were ignored. A customer did come in with a transistor radio, and I caught brief snatches as I rushed around serving the late dinner crowd: “Eagle…the meatloaf with mashed…Armstrong and Aldrin…warm that pie, ma’am?…One small step…Are there free refills on coffee?…planting a flag….” It wasn’t until the next day that I saw those grainy, deeply moving stripes paint themselves across a TV screen, and tears filled my eyes.
I had no idea then that I would become a science fiction writer. I had no idea that someday I would set fictional scenes on the lunar surface. But I read SF, I gazed often at the moon through my tiny telescope, and I could hardly believe that we were there. We had done it. That small step, irrationally, felt like my own. And since everything a writer experiences eventually influences his or her writing in hidden ways—the step was my own.
Nancy Kress is the author of over two dozen novels, perhaps best known for her novella “Beggars in Spain” (winner of both the Hugo and Nebula, and later turned into a novel). Her work has garnered four Nebulas, a Hugo, two Campbells, and a Theodore Sturgeon award.