With the final landing of the Challenger in the news today, I wanted to write about “Lost” — my flash fiction finalist for the Potomac Review’s spring contest. The publishers posted it on their website as a Hot Opener for a few more days. (Thank you!)
The idea for the story came to me in December, and I drafted it rather quickly in January. When I was revising it in the following weeks, I decided to go to the NASA site and investigate spacesuits. What I found was mind-boggling. There is really no way ever, at all, in a thousand years, that an astronaut would meet the fate of my dear Georgianne Munn. Perhaps a few decades ago it may have happened, but the safety nets in place now are too varied and duplicated for such an event to occur.
Investigating the information reminded me of how truth can get in the way of fiction. I am so happy that I didn’t begin with the research, because I may have decided the story was silly. Since the story is actually about the ways that we react to tragedies beyond our reach, the astronaut is merely the ploy. Nevertheless, I felt like there was a lesson there. Research can be so helpful, but postponing it sometimes is an excellent thing to do. In the end, I was just making it up anyway.