Today, I’m excited to feature a post by M. Pax, sci-fi and urban fantasy author, and keen astronomer. OK, over to her. 🙂
Pine Mountain Observatory is my favorite place on Earth. Thirty miles east of Bend, OR, it sits near the summit of a 6400-foot mountain which once was either an island or part of the shoreline of the Great Basin. That was a sea that once covered the Western US about 10,000 years ago.
Central Oregon is one of the last great bastions of dark skies in the United States. Even in town, I can see more stars than I ever saw living anywhere else. Honestly, until we moved to the west coast, I had no idea it was even possible to see the Milky Way – that great swath of light with all the stars.
It looks like a cloud, but it’s not. It’s billions and billions of stars, so many stars that their light forms a cloud to our eyes, and it’s one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, called the Orion arm. It’s the arm of the galaxy that our solar system is in, along with pretty much every star we can see by eye.
Pine Mountain is surrounded by great nature, and UFO and strange light sightings are common on the road that leads out to the observatory. One night I had my own experience with them and I called it a UMO [unidentified moving object], because they didn’t fly. Every night since, I’ve looked for those lights, but haven’t been blessed with another encounter. What were they? I’m pretty sure the truth would bore me, so it’s probably better not to know. Mystery is often more fun.
Cattle mutilations have taken place in the valley at the base of the mountain, real X-Files stuff with strange lights. One of our fellow volunteers had been a forest ranger and witnessed one. I asked him countless questions. Strange and interesting.
Big Foot sightings abound in the forests around us. I haven’t seen him, although I joke with all the visitors that the rock formations at the top of the summit are yeti houses. Sometimes they believe me. All great fodder for my stories. It all feeds me with so much inspiration.
Better yet, I’ve come to know the beauty of moonrise and the desert, the utter peace of sitting alone under the stars on a mountaintop, and the jaw-dropping awe of meteors shooting overhead. I peer through the telescopes at worlds far away, at stunning and stellar sights, and I have to wonder whether someone is looking back at me.
What are those worlds like? What do they know about the universe? Their perspective is vastly different from ours. If we lived in a globular cluster or closer to the center of the galaxy, we might have no idea that other galaxies existed. How would that change who we are?
Some of that leaks into my stories – the wonder, the strange, the dust [Central Oregon is very dusty]. What’s out there? Mulder says the truth is. And I wonder, what is the truth?
M. Pax is author of the sci-fi series, The Backworlds, and the new adult urban fantasy Hetty Locklear series. A Browncoat and SG fan, she’s also slightly obsessed with Jane Austen. In the summers she docents as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory where the other astronomers now believe she has the most extensive collection of moon photos in existence. No fear, there will be more next summer. She lives in stunning Central Oregon with the Husband Unit and two lovely, spoiled cats.
She is also a member of Untethered Realms, a group of friendly, like-minded spec-fic writers.
Try The Backworlds for free. (Available on all e-readers)
[Graeme’s Note: This is a great read! Reminiscent of Firefly, a great tale of the gritty frontiers of space.]
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe.
After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the planets left. Competition is fierce and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son.
Cut off from family and friends with little money and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze heads into an uncertain future. Boarding the transport to Elstwhere, he vows to make his father regret this day.