Apollo 8 & the Black Monolith (Apolo 8 y el monolito negro)

In 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, mankind discovered a large black monolith on the Moon.

En 2001: Una odisea del espacio por Arthur C. Clarke, la humanidad descubrió un gran monolito negro en la Luna.

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The Future in the Past (2001: A Space Odyssey)

We live in the future that we used to read about: our smartphones bear more resemblance to The Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy than to Bell’s telephone and there are people living on a space station above our heads. When I first read about helicopters and submarines in Jules Verne at the age of twelve, they were already reality; it was then difficult to grasp that to the author all this had been a fictional future. Good for Verne. There are plenty of contrary examples: books in which the authors were so wildly off the mark that we can only wonder at what they were thinking. Science-fiction? In many cases, the word science ought to be crossed off.

But not in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Don’t Panic!

Stop the World, I want to get off!
Stop the World, I want to get off!

There’s an Argentinian cartoon from the late 1960s-early 70s, about a little girl called Mafalda, whose exclamation, ¡Paren el mundo, que me quiero bajar! (Stop the world, I want to get off!) became an internationally known phrase. As we all have moments in which we want to get off (I did, yesterday afternoon), perhaps it might be a good idea if you keep The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at hand?

As the title suggests, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the only – electronic – book you’ll ever need if you should actually succeed in getting off by hitching a ride on a passing UFO. It will also provide you with light relief while you’re waiting by the roadside, as it were, with your thumb stuck in empty air as those heartless aliens are driving by without stopping.

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Chewing Gum for the Mind

Three quarters through War and Peace (for the fourth time; I’m blaming Mario Vargas Llosa), I’m in need of some light entertainment. You know the kind I mean: the sort of book in which you can just keep moving your eye along the line, keep turning the pages and never once be bothered by a single thought arising. A chewing gum for the mind.

So I dug out an outrageous space opera by Stephen Ames Berry.

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Return From the Stars

A 40-year old man is wandering round a huge station unable to find his way out. He’s becoming increasingly disorientated among the endless escalators, passages and moving walkways, bewildered by the flashing signs that mean nothing to him. He’s a big man and strong, well used to taking care of himself, yet he’s beginning to panic. He asks passers-by for directions but their answer is so full of jargon that they might as well speak a foreign language. All he wants is to get out of this station and be in the street, under the open sky. His name is Hal Bregg, he’s an astronaut and he has just returned from a ten-year long voyage – but a hundred and twenty-seven years passed on Earth while he was away.
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