© 2006 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.
The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre just became slightly cooler.
It was already as cool a place as you’re liable to find in North America, offering Vancouver, B.C. residents and visitors a Zeiss-projector planetarium experience, laser light shows, a space travel simulation, and some space and astronomy-related exhibits that are almost too much fun to be called educational. It is also home to the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory, which houses a most nifty half-meter Cassegrain telescope open to the public on any clear Friday or Saturday night.
But now it’s also home to me.
For the next eight months anyway. Nobody’s actually showed me my bedroom or bathroom, yet, let alone which shelf of the refrigerator is mine, but I am the MacMillan’s new, first-ever Writer In Residence.
The job was conceived and created by Executive Director Donna Livingstone, a visionary, a vision (see photo), and a force of nature; if she had been in charge of FEMA when Katrina hit, New Orleans would have been completely rebuilt a year ago, better than before. And the position is supported by the generosity of the blessed Canada Council for the Arts, which has helped keep me afloat numerous times over the past thirty years. (See my bio elsewhere on this site for particulars.) I’d like to thank Donna for thinking of the job, for offering it to me, and for finding creative ways to make it work within the guidelines the Council has to follow.
It’s a position whose duties Donna and I are sort of working out on horseback, as we go along. But one thing’s for sure: it will doubtless involve me shooting off my mouth a lot.
For a start, I’ll be posting regular columns or essays of at least 500 words on the Space Centre’s website. They’re being given the title “SPIDER ROBINSON RESPONDS,” and I headed the first one “Thrillin’ at the MacMillan”….but I’m already thinking of them privately as The Crazy Years In High Orbit. Jeanne tells me the Buddha once said, “People with opinions just go around bothering one another,” and that’s pretty much what I have in mind for these columns. A license to annoy. Once again I’ve been given a soap-box to climb up on and start sounding off, the way I had with my Crazy Years columns and later Future Tense columns in the Globe and Mail—but this time I get to restrict my remarks to a single subject close to my heart and mind and life: space.
Did you know about the spaceport now being built in Nova Scotia, for instance? It’s mentioned in the first column, “Let’s start wasting money in space,” which is already up on the Space Centre’s site right now.
Each column will cover a different aspect of the subject, beginning with Space Tourism. Subsequent installments will deal with topics like Sustaining The Planet, Spirituality Of Space, Militarization Of Space, Space Art, Space Law, and so on. They’ll appear roughly monthly; a detailed if tentative schedule can be found here.
We formally kicked off my residency on October 22 with the official Vancouver launch of VARIABLE STAR, a reading/signing/singing at the Space Centre, depicted in the Greg McKinnon photos scattered around this page. And just a couple of days ago, I dragged myself out of bed in the middle of the night—11 AM—to attend, by teleconference, the Center’s regular twice-monthly all-staff meeting, an experience both fascinating and encouraging despite the caffeinated-zombie fugue in which I experienced it. I get the impression that crew could pacify Iraq in a week and bring peace throughout the Middle East the day after that if anybody were smart enough to hire them for it. Where this Writer-in-Residence business will go from here is anybody’s guess, but watch this space for developments. And don’t forget to return to the Space Centre website at monthly intervals for the latest installment of Spider Robinson Responds. Look around while you’re there. It really is a cool place, well worth checking out in corpus.