Outer Space, Inner Minds
Ever since humans have looked up, we have been mesmerised by the changeable wonders of an evening sky.
Even more so, they have speculated on the celestial objects that we can see with a naked eye and those beyond the reach of our most powerful telescopes and space probes. We continue ask is there life beyond our fragile atmosphere, our solar system, our galaxy—or are we alone, a cosmic accident in an otherwise lifeless universe? And, if other lifeforms do exist on moons or distant exoplanets elsewhere, what form/s does it take? Is it intelligent, more or less so than we humans are?
The sheer volume of unknowns involved with exploring what might be out there seems daunting to many of us, but this only makes our scientists and the adventurers all the more determined to find answers to the most challenging questions that will engage generations well into the foreseeable future.
For this anthology, we asked artists to respond creatively not only to these cosmic questions but also from an internal angle, from the perspective of a mind trying to make sense of elusive notions of “reality” in time and space, and who we are in the scheme of things. We offered them the freedom to present us with work on and beyond the printed page. So here you’ll find not only stimulating words, but images and audio, and thought-provoking links to external websites that will prompt you to further explore the frontiers of our constantly expanding universe and our responses to it.
|ISBN 9781922332394 (eBook, 184pp);
152mm x 229mm
|AUD $13||USD $9||NZD $15||GBP £6||EUR €7|
For thousands of years, humans from all around the world – from different cultures, different regions, different views – have looked up. We have looked up and wondered what was out there? Who is out there? Will we be out there? Why we are here? It was only in fiction that we could get answers to these questions. That was, until recent times.
It is no surprise that many kids want telescopes for birthdays or to be astronauts when they grow up. Knowing and exploring is literally built into our DNA. To be human is to wonder, and there is no better place to wonder than space.
We are living in perhaps the biggest growth in our exploration of the Universe. Technology has allowed us to look wider, peer further, and visit our neighbours in our Solar System. Our ability and knowledge of the Universe has now surpassed the answers that fiction gave us. This expansion gives us a window into an exciting future. One that offers us hope, answers, and a new view of the Universe.
It is safe to say that the Apollo 11 Moon landing was one of the most influential and memorable events in human history. The fact that people use it as the event of which to compare other big events to, “You’ll remember it like the Apollo 11 landing”, shows its importance. For the first time, humans set foot on place that wasn’t Earth. Only 25 years before, the world was at war. It showed what humans could achieve when we aimed high, were driven, and worked together. It brought out the best in us.
Now, our rapid advancements in technology are bringing out the best in all of us. Space is no longer just for rich countries, or a select few. More and more countries are launching probes into space, astronauts into orbit around the Earth, and even looking towards Mars. There are countries that were not even countries when humans landed on the Moon that now have probes in orbit around Mars.
In 2019 alone, three different countries attempted landings on the Moon. China landed on the far side of the Moon, a private company in Israel attempted a landing on the Moon as well as India. For all of human history up until 2019, only two countries had landed on the Moon. In 2019 alone, three more were added to this illustrious list. It doesn’t stop there.
Now, we are not just talking about going back to the Moon, but staying there. What may have been depicted in fiction decades ago, like bases on the Moon, reusable rockets, and mining, are currently being planned for this decade. The Moon is the key to exploration. It allows us an easier and cheaper means to launch into space due to the low gravity and little atmosphere.
The Moon is the gateway to Mars, asteroids, and even further. Exploring Mars is now part of our regular exploration. And it may hold the answer to “are we alone”.
The clear evidence of water having once flowed on the surface of Mars, and water currently underneath the ground, means Mars has a lot of the conditions needed to support life. While the life that we may find is unlikely to be anything big – most likely bacteria or something small, it probably is (or at least was) there. Don’t be surprised that, by the end of the decade, we have clearly found life there. That by the end of the decade, we’d have an answer to “are we alone?”. That indeed, we are not alone.
But if we are not alone, is there someone , or rather something else, out there, looking for us and asking the same questions? Does intelligent life exist?
It was only in 1992 that the first planet around another star, an exoplanet, was detected. We know of thousands of planets, and we think that billions if not trillions more exist. There are about 300 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy, and we think that most of those stars have planets around them. There could be over a trillion planets in our Galaxy alone, and 20 billion or so planets could be like our own Earth. Then there are all the potential moons that may exist.
When we look at our Solar System, moons of Jupiter and Saturn offer even better places to look for life. Moons like Titan around Jupiter, or the ice- and water-rich moons like Europa are interesting places to explore. Both of these have more water than Earth, and soon, we’ll have probes on them looking for life.
And yet, this is just in our Milky Way Galaxy. There are about 2 trillion galaxies in the Universe, each of these galaxies with billions of stars, and probably planets orbiting around them, and moons orbiting around those planets.
The Universe is a big place. Our knowledge, or rather, our discovery that our Universe is a big place is rapidly increasing. It puts into scale our movement around this planet, and how relatively small we are.
While we are small, when we work together, we can unlock the secrets of the Universe. We can not only look up and wonder, but then solve. We can question and find the answers. The Universe has a lot of secrets out there, but when we humans are at our best, they are not out of our reach.
– Brad Tucker, Mount Stromlo Observatory
Australian National University
Philosophical, descriptive, thought-provoking, evocative. Those are some of the adjectives that sprang to mind after reading Outer Space, Inner Minds, a collection of 80 poems edited by David P. Reiter. To augment the written content, images from NASA and from Dr. Who episodes are paired with some of the poems.
The anthology includes the works of 35 contributors. Building off the title, the collection is divided into four sections: “Outer to Outer,” “Outer to Inner,” “Inner to Outer,” and “Inner to Inner.” The latter section in particular includes a number of thought-provoking pieces, among them Richard James Allen’s “When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be”:
. . . poetry is not just
a clandestine language we are condemned to teach each other
on death row, but a set of keys we have smuggled in
to unlock the internal stratosphere of our freedom
Although new volumes of speculative poetry often hail from North America or England, that’s not the case with Outer Space, Inner Minds. Many of the contributors are based in Australia, and references and descriptions woven into some of the poems reflect that fact.
Many of the entries have intriguing titles like “The Man in the Quantum Mask,” “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror,” and “Mummy on the Orient Express.” A number of poems tip the hat to pop culture or famous historical figures such as Dr. Who, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, and Agatha Christie. One of the more impactful poems is Mark Tredinnick’s “The Trees on Little Mountain Creek,” which contains the lines:
. . . And how the fire leaps is how
The earth pines for the sky, how long the sky
Has hungered for the ground. And all life longs.
For what it’s not or can’t: a fish to breathe;
The air to swim; the wolf to pasture; trees
To take up their beds; the barn owl not to know.
And we, to forest. But this is just a way
To say: there’s a divinity we know but cannot
Touch, even when it touches us.
Several poems reference the moon, including “Supermoon,” “Full Moon in May,” and “Peregrine Moon.” In Ron Usher’s “The Dark Side,” the moon is personified, becoming The Man in the Moon:
Fairy tales and Pink Floyd
had us believe one side of the cheese
Moon is forever in darkness.
Truth is, half’s merely unseen
because the Man takes the same 28 days
to turn on his axis as he does to orbit Earth.
It’s called tidal locking by those who read poetry
through telescopes, astronomers.
Marion Wighton Packham’s “The River Calls Us” muses on the nature of time: “Water is slipping through our fingers. / And time stands still watching us in that precious moment smirking at our carefree ways.”
Peter Cartwright’s “Time” also resonates:
I dwell or rather exist
at this bone hard time
of cold dark weather
of cold dark change
this time of closure
like the last grand closure
of the Morning Glory that the frost will kill tonight
The poems are not without humor, as seen in Tony Steven Williams’ “Pluto speaks out”: “I have to say how demoralised/ I felt in 2006, when you constructed/ those rules for planetary definition . . .” In addition to speculative references, many of the poems capture the magical moments of everyday life. Turning to another poem by Tredinnick, this one titled “Cycles of the Moon”:
Evening now, the darkness just beginning
To tell, and low above the paddocks, where
The kite was up early getting the hang
Of herself again in the sallow morning light,
Going nowhere very very fast;
The contributors employ a variety of styles, including free verse, rhyming poems, haibun, and prose poetry. While some poems are more powerful than others, the collection as a whole is enjoyable. As an added bonus, Outer Space, Inner Minds provides North American readers with an introduction to some talented poets they may not have previously encountered.
David P Reiter
Dr David Reiter, editor of this anthology, is a multi award-winning text and digital artist, and CEO / Publisher at IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd) in Brisbane, Australia. Recent works include Time Lords Remixed, a poetical response to the Series 8-11 of Dr Who, Black Books Publishing (2018), an interactive satire about the publishing industry; the medical/micro-textual hybrid Timelord Dreaming, which won the 2016 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Digital Narrative, Your eBook Survival Kit, now in its 4th edition, and the picture book Bringing Down the Wall, which was 2014 Best Book for Teens & Kids (Canadian Children’s Book Centre). While artist-in-residence twice at the Banff Centre for the Arts, he completed My Planets Reunion Memoir Project, which won the 2012 WA Premier’s Award, and The Gallery (2000), a non-linear interactive work featuring the relationship between Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. To celebrate IP’s 20th anniversary, he curated and designed Just Off Message, an anthology of more than 40 Australian and international authors. Most recently, he produced Dark Sky Dreamings: an Inland Skywriters Anthology, which inspired him to call for entries that resulted in this new anthology.
David P Reiter
Jayne Fenton Keane
Marion Wighton Packham
Noel Jeffs SSF
Richard James Allen
Russell Darnley OAM
Tony Steven Williams