Photo: NASA / Holt Smith Limited

How My Fiction Writing Ended Up on the Moon

Culture Astronomy
by Gustavo Bondoni Feb 29, 2024

On February 22, the Odysseus lander made a soft touchdown on the moon, marking the first time a private company reached Earth’s satellite. It was also the first time since the Apollo missions that an American vehicle landed on the moon.

A short story I wrote was on that lander, and it is now permanently archived on the moon.

The Lunar Codex is a project founded by physicist Dr. Samuel Peralta, whose aim is to archive a curated selection of art, literature, film, and music from around the world on the moon. It includes the work of 35,000 creators from 233 countries, territories, and Indigenous nations.

When NASA announced its program to speed development of the space economy to make lunar colonization feasible in the short term, private companies began transporting NASA instruments into orbit and onto the moon. These missions also had room for commercial payloads, and the Lunar Codex purchased a spot on several missions to transport creative works stored on memory cards and imprinted on NanoFiche film.

The first of these missions took works into outer space with no intention of landing on the moon. The second mission, Peregrine, did not succeed in landing and was lost in space.

Odysseus, a lander created by Intuitive Machines and launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was the third launch in the series, and its success means that the Lunar Codex has achieved its primary objective of archiving human work on the moon.

Which brings us to the question of how my work got onto a lander headed toward outer space.

The first thing to know is that the Lunar Codex is not a publisher. They don’t judge the merits of unpublished works in order to select them, but trust in the judgment of traditional publishers who select the work based on merit and how well a particular piece fits their editorial objectives. What the Codex did do, however, was select certain publications and the authors of certain published novels to be a part of the project.

This is where I come in. My short horror story “Superclásico” is exactly the kind of thing the Lunar Codex team was looking for. It’s a tale that could only take place in my native Argentina, mixing the most bitter soccer rivalry in the country with a bit of the typical crime that surrounds the fans, plus some very dark magic of a particularly Latin American kind. This story was published in the anthology series Tales from the Canyons of the Damned (Holt Smith Limited, 2019). The entire series was selected to represent horror anthologies on the payload, and my story went with it.

So what does this all mean? Well, for one thing, the work has been stored in extremely durable mediums, both physical and digital. Think of a time capsule meant to last essentially as long as current tech can manage — the Lunar Codex site describes NanoFiche as “impervious to temperature and humidity” with “a near-zero degradation factor” that will last hundreds of thousands of years. Should anything happen to humanity on Earth, the works will remain on the moon for possible discovery by someone else.

But even if an unthinkable disaster doesn’t come to pass, this little lander is officially part of human history. The Artemis Accords are a series of agreements that codify numerous aspects of human activity in space and on the moon, and they are aimed at international cooperation, including such things as interoperability, emergency procedures, scientific openness, and peaceful coexistence. According to these accords, any past landing site is a historic site and protected as such. The designation is kind like a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but in space.

When I started writing fiction, I never thought I’d be part of anything this big and important on a fundamental level. I definitely never imagined someone would be putting horror anthologies on the moon. If anyone had mentioned this project to me, I would have expected the time capsule to be full of New York Times bestsellers.

I guess the lesson here is that if a relatively unknown person from Argentina can make it onto a project like this, which sees the value in the arts in a completely unexpected way, then anyone creating stuff should take heart. There is no reason it couldn’t be you next time.

You know what they say: Aim for the stars, and even if you miss, you’ll reach the moon. I always accepted that motto. I just wasn’t expecting it to be a literal truth.

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