So You Want My Job…?

As more thoughts come to me about advice for English majors who want to work as a space writer, I realized that a lot of effort is just getting smart about the space business–the technology, business, and politics of it all.

Below is a list of the various resources I’ve absorbed over the years to “get smart” about writing for the space biz. It’s a mix of books on writing, space fiction, space opinion, science, and other bits. One last sub-list comprises the journalistic/blog resources I consult to keep up on current news. This set of resources should not be considered comprehensive, but a good introduction to some of the primary issues, political points of view, and even paradigms space people use as part of their shared cultural shorthand. Other things no doubt will come to me. I still need to find a good NASA acronym guide.

Anyhow, I hope this information is useful to you. The bottom line, as I discovered through a long and slow learning process, is that if you want to work in any line of work, you have to demonstrate that you’re passionate about it and that you have taken the time to learn about it. It’s probably wrong that I enjoy my job as much as I do, but hey, there are worse things I could be writing, right?

Stuff to Read

On Writing

Style: 10 Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Robert Williams
How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card
On Writing by Stephen King
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand
From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun
World-Building by Stephen L. Gillett

The next three are still on my to-read list…

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Analog and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel by Paul Nahin
Aliens and Alien Societies by Stanley Schmidt and Ben Bova

On Space (Nonfiction)

The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin
Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization by Robert Zubrin
The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space by Gerard K. O’Neill
Blogging the Moon by Paul Spudis
Mining the Sky by John L. Lewis
Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles by Roger Bilstein
The Lunar Base Handbook Ed. by Peter Eckart
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story by David Hitt, Owen Garriott, and Joe Kerwin
The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer’s Guide to Interstellar Travel by Eugene Mallove and Gregory Matloff
Paradise Regained by Gregory Matloff, C Bangs, and Les Johnson
Architecture for Astronauts: An Activity-Based Approach by Sandra Hauplik-Meusberger
Space Politics and Policy: An Evolutionary Perspective by Eligar Sadeh

On Space (Fiction)

The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
The Man Who Sold the Moon/Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Welcome to Moonbase by Ben Bova
How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet by Robert Zubrin
Medea: Harlan’s World Ed. by Harlan Ellison
Going Interstellar, Ed. by Les Johnson and Jack McDevitt

On Science/Technology


The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil
Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku
Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis
Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
N-Space by Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind by Larry Niven
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy by Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil
Out of This World: The New Field of Space Architecture Ed. by A. Scott Howe and Brent Sherwood
The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin


Engineering an Empire: The Complete Series
Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity
Joy of Science

Current Periodicals/Blogs
Space News
Aviation Week and Space Technology
The Space Review
Spaceflight Insider

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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2 Responses to So You Want My Job…?

  1. Matt says:

    I wanted to give another recommendation for something that’s right up any space fan’s alley. On YouTube there is a channel called Deep Astronomy, and it’s owned/operated by Tony Darnell who works at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He does a lot of informational videos about astronomy and space travel, as well as Google Hangouts with astronomers, physicists, and engineers. It’s a fantastic source of info, plus you can send him questions during these broadcasts or tweet at him and his guests.

    Just recently he had one talking about the future of space exploration and exoplanets with some astronomers from different NASA centers.

    Check them out if astronomy is your thing! Link is below!

  2. What a comprehensive list! I will definitely be checking some of these out. I need all the help I can get as I figure out my next moves post-grad. Thanks!

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