British Fiction Focus

Landing The Apollo Quartet

Having lifted off in mid-2012 with Adrift on the Sea of Rains, achieved orbit by way of both The Eye with Which the Universe Beholds Itself and Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above in 2013, Ian Sales’ BSFA Award-winning Apollo Quartet is to land at long last later this week with the release of All That Outer Space Allows, the saga’s novel-length finale.

It is 1965 and Ginny Eckhardt is a science fiction writer. She’s been published in the big science fiction magazines and is friends with many of the popular science fiction authors of the day. Her husband, Walden, has just been selected by NASA as one of the New Nineteen Apollo astronauts… which means Ginny will be a member of the Astronaut Wives Club.

Although the realities of spaceflight fascinate Ginny, her gender bars her from the United State space programme. Her science fiction offers little in the way of consolation—but perhaps there is something she can do about that…

Covering the years 1965 to 1972, when Walden Eckhardt lifts-off aboard Apollo 15 as the mission’s lunar module pilot, this is Ginny’s life: wife, science fiction writer, astronaut wife… because that is all that outer space allows.

All That Outer Space Allows will be made available before the end of April in a number of different physical and digital editions.

But wait… there’s more! Because All That Outer Space Allows marks the completion of the Apollo Quartet, Sales set about making the various volumes “resemble more of a set.” He went so far as to have the covers of the first two tales redesigned to bring them in line with the look of the other books—

Apollo Quartet Ian Sales

—then he went farther:

Since CreateSpace won’t put text on the spine of a book if it has less than 100 pages, and the three novellas of the Apollo Quartet all have pagecounts of around 70 to 80 pages… I decided to bulk out the contents of each book. I did the obvious first: I increased the typeface point size by one. But that wasn’t enough. So I added an excerpt from the book following to each one. And then, to make these second editions a little different, I included in each a ‘Genesis of Apollo’ essay, describing how I came to write the story.

If, like me, you’ve already bought copies of the previous printings, yet you remain keen to read these ‘Genesis of Apollo’ essays, you’re in luck: Sales has been publishing them on the Whippleshield Books blog, and they’re absolutely fascinating. Come to that, let’s close on a quote from the third of the three I can see—will there be a fourth, one wonders?—wherein the author talks about his hopes for the whole story:

I’d hope the Apollo Quartet makes a point about science fiction, about what I think it is and what I feel it should be. This point, however, may not be entirely clear until the last book. So I guess you’ll have to buy them all and read them…

Take it from me, readers: that’s some damn fine advice. The Apollo Quartet represents some of the smartest and most striking science fiction released in recent years, so if you have anything resembling interest in the genre, you know what you should be doing.


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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