The Challenger on Earth Again — or do I have to do the research?

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!)
http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/edu/alt.aspx?id=18937

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.

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About Carolyn

I live in Washington, D.C., write, teach, try to eat the requisite fruits and veggies daily, and avoid caffeine after 2 pm. I wonder about things a lot -- like why "pretty" means "pretty" and "not so much" and if I can ever perfect the single-portion, no-knead, daily baguette and how many people realize that Beau Brummel had a lot to do with our desire to bathe daily -- those of us who do in fact "take the daily."
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