Saturday, March 28, 2009

Creative Chunks #2: "Sixty-Ton Payload"

When I worked the night shift, I had a lot of time to think about the future, and a lot of time to put those thoughts into practice - even on the weekends I maintained my hours, and when your rise-and-shine comes at 2100 hours, there's not much else to do once the deepest part of the night comes. Last April, when I was just gearing up to write what ended up becoming "The Platinum Desolation," in a flurry of twenty minutes or so I hammered out a lunar-themed space shanty, "Sixty-Ton Payload."

What's a space shanty? It's like a sea shanty, a shipboard working song meant to synchronize repetitive physical movements, but for space. It was written with the tune of "Drunken Sailor" in mind, and there were a few occasions where the rhyming scheme tripped me up for a while. I unsuccessfully shopped this piece to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Asimov's - both rejections came of no real surprise. Prose is what sells, it seems.

That doesn't mean it has to languish in silence on my hard drive, however. I'd like it very much for you to enjoy it under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The title, by the by, was inspired by the Ares V rocket, the heavy-launch component of Project Constellation, which in April 2008 was expected to have approximately sixty tons of payload capacity for lunar flights. Since then it has apparently been uprated to seventy-one tons, but that really breaks the rhythm, so I shan't change it.

"Sixty-Ton Payload"
By Andrew Barton

What do you do with a sixty-ton payload?
Nine million pounds of thrust in colony mode,
Boost it up to Luna; we'll mine that lode
Lifting from the Earth below.

We'll build a little habitat under the dust
Screening cosmic radiation, also we must
Grow some leafy plants or else we'll all go bust
Living free 'neath all the stars.

A sixteenth of a gee isn't much to swing with;
When you mean to walk, you'll leap like Spring-Heeled Jack did,
Vacuum's not a pretty place to crack your suit's lid
Choking in the dark and cold.

Lunar living isn't cheap, it's really quite dear
Sleeping in a lighted cave for year after year
He was right who said there's no free lunch up here
The Reaper's at the airlock.

Now I hear they're worried NASA's budget's too crunched
To keep us here; and ESA says that they'd save a bunch
With cold 'bots to do our jobs - badly's my hunch
For rovers, nothing's beautiful.

They want to drag us down the well - what do they know?
Life in lunar gravity's not my kind of foe
Next week there'll be a hundred candles on my cake, so
I'll stay home in Luna.


"Sixty-Ton Payload" is hereby made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Meaning...

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