Arguably my most successful story to date, “Three-Quarters Martian” garnered a First Place in On the Premises July 2011 writing contest, received accolades in The Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2011, and was produced in audio form by EscapePod (my first pro level publication credit) in August 2012. All while violating one of those so-called rules of writing, opening with the protagonist waking.
The first man to walk on the moon was a hero to five generations. The first woman to walk on Mars was forgotten even before her boots plunked into the red dust.
“Hey,” a husky voice said in the dark.
I ignored her: the Swedish hockey team was calling to me from the sauna.
“Anna-Jing.” Same voice. A large hand grasped my shoulder.
I was losing my battle to recapture the fading dream.
“Wake up,” commanded a new voice in a rich brogue, “now.”
I took a deep breath, tasting the dust in the cool air, then slowly opened my eyes. Pulling the threadbare blanket around me, I sat up in my hammock.
Kaiza, the first and likely last aboriginal Australian to teach planetary astrophysics at Stanford, gently removed her hand from my shoulder. “Trouble in Florida.”
“The launch isn’t today.” I said, still groggy. Our resupply rocket was scheduled to lift off from Cape Lee in a week. We needed this one—the last launch, from Kazakhstan, had crashed in West Korea.
“There won’t be a fecking launch,” said Mick, our mission commander. He gestured at the wall screen, which snapped to life. Grainy footage showed a giant rocket lying on its side like a beached whale, next to a familiar gantry. A dozen old pickups were parked beyond the shattered nosecone. Scores of horses and four oxen grazed nearby, a web of cables and ropes leading back to the rocket. A horde of men and women in shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and baseball caps, were prying metal panels from the side of the rocket. Hundreds more lay dead on the ground, interspersed with the bodies of gray vested soldiers.
“Where are the pitchforks and torches?” I asked. No reply.