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Julia Shuvalova – Space O

Space-O-Julia-Shuvalova

I wrote the story “Space O” in Russian in late February 2021, upon learning about a literary contest dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight to space. The contest was organized by Litres.Samizdat, a Russian platform for self-published authors, and Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency. It was shortlisted for the final and was eventually published in a separate collection of novellas by other contestants. Apparently, this collection has recently been delivered to the ISS, too.

space o
A cover of the original Russian story

As I was thinking about the subject for my story, I went through some notebooks but I did not find anything that caught my attention. It had to be a short story or a novella. I began to think “outside the box”. I did not want to delve into too many technical aspects of space flights, nor did I want to populate the story with extraterrestrial characters. I wanted something creative, daring, and utterly humane. Suddenly Space Oddity came to mind…, and I wrote this story overnight.

This is obviously a fictional account of David Bowie’s composing one of his most famous songs, but I did some research for the fictional part. All aspects of the first three chapters fell together almost by themselves, I only had to write it all down. Along the way I realized that I walked the same streets in Soho, I lived in Bromley, accessed from Victoria Station, for 2 weeks in 2004, so I was a regular at Victoria Station, too. The pub I depicted was a beer hole I visited once, but it was probably in Greater Manchester where I lived between 2003 and 2010. And I saw many loaders, like “Major Tom”, in my 7 years in England. After I submitted the story for the contest I decided to check when the first British person went to space. Turned out it was a woman, and her mission was mutually financed by the UK and the USSR, and it took place… on May 19th, 1991. 30 years after the first flight. “Majors” had to wait for a long time.

Space O is a story about dreams – and what breaks them. It is about love and poverty – the topics that Robert Burns was very much aware about. It is about inspiration and thirst for life. And it is about the Earth and space – for “the whole space is about Earth.” And on occasion of David Bowie’s 75th birthday I translated the story into English and share it now on this blog.

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60th Anniversary of the first space flight

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