Ever have those times when you’re working away quietly, maybe not seeing a lot of direct reward for what you’re doing and maybe starting to question if you’re making an impact… when seemingly out of nowhere every thing absolutely explodes in your face and you’re suddenly running to try to keep up with it all? And your response is to throw even more fuel on the fire to see if you can go even faster?
No? Is that just me? Maybe it’s good I didn’t go into bomb disposal after all…
All my claims last month about “hitting 2017 in the face like a honey badger” have come back to bite me, because now 2017 is giving back more than I bargained for.
There’s a lot of amazing things I can’t share publicly just yet (but can on Patreon), however the biggest public news is that on February 15 the ABC rebroadcast an interview I did on Conversations with Richards Fidler nearly a year ago, and now suddenly every teacher in Australia wants me to speak to their kids!
From March 13th on I’ll be visiting schools in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth to give presentations and do Q&A sessions like this. So if you’re a teacher interested in having me to speak to your students about colonising Mars, or you’re a parents who’d love for me to visit your child’s class, then be sure to get in contactsoon to book before the end of Term 1!
Before I start visiting schools across Australia though I’ll be in Adelaide to speak at the WOMADelaide festival next week! The fine folks from WOMAD have put together a variety of amazing events that team me up with the extraordinary Carmel Johnston – commander of Hi-SEAS IV, NASA’s year-long mock Mars mission in Hawaii.
Together we’ll be speaking about getting to & living on Mars at:
– March 9: “Life On Mars” in conversation with Angela Catterns
– March 10: “Make Me A Martian” webcast with Australia’s Science Channel
– March 11: “Human Life On Mars” in conversation with Robyn Williams
All the Mars One candidates are expecting to hear very soon about when and where the next astronaut selection phase will be, and I’ve also just locked in a bundle of other interesting events later in the year too – stay tuned for updates on all of it that!
And somewhere in among all this chaos I’ve managed to keep things up to date on joshrichards.space – here’s everything I’ve posted publicly over the last month;
- “Personal – Why I Don’t Get Invited To Writers Festivals Anymore” – Short answer: Mostly because I prefer to tell kids about space toilets & zero-g turds than make polite conversation with poets who think I’m hitting on them
- “Space – Getting to Mars [Part 1: Overview]” – I’m constantly answering questions about what it might be like to live on Mars, but I’m very rarely asked about the incredible journey to get to Mars. So I’ve kicked off a new series on the trip looking at orbital mechanics, spaceships, the psychology of being in deep space, radiation, and landing people safely on the red planet.
For those of you supporting me on Patreon you’ve had several weeks early access to all the public posts, as well as;
- “Reading, Watching & Listening – March 2017” What I’m reading, watching & listening to that’s helping influence my writing right now
- [Journal] Partner Parallels, Growth & Foreshadowing – An entry from late 2015 recognising patterns in how I’ve approached relationships through the years, the decisions I’ve made that have played into that, and why I’ll keep making mistakes with people I love because it’s how I learn.
To celebrate the amazing support I’ve had from fans through Patreon since we launched in December, I’m running my first Patreon giveaway this month! I’ll be giving away Martian t-shirt & hats, posters and all sorts of goodies as well as providing a huge amount of exclusive and behind-the-scenes content for supporters as I visit the WOMADelaide festival and speak in schools all around Australia this month.
I’ll launch the giveaway on Monday, but it’ll only be open to Patreon supporters – if you’re not one yet this is definitely the month to sign up!
- Early access to my “Becoming Martian” book drafts,
- A personal acknowledgement in the final book,
- A digital copy AND a signed paperback copy when it’s published,
- AND all the private journal entries and other private content I share.
February has been crazy, March is going to be absolutely out-of-control, and right now I have literally no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in April… but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day I’m writing about space as well as speaking to kids and adults about exploring beyond the world they know, so whatever insane thing happens next I know I’m doing something I love.
In October 2014 I was at the National Young Writer’s Festival in Newcastle, standing awkwardly by the snacks at the opening Meet and Greet event and trying to decide who looked friendly enough to fulfill the “Meet” component of this little soiree. By blocking the corn chips just long enough I accidentally made eye-contact with someone after a nacho cheese fix, introduced myself, then asked what she was doing at the festival: “I’m a poet. I’m running two workshops and doing a late night reading. What about you?” I told her, to which she replied “You’re not an astronaut – that is THE WORST pickup line I’ve ever heard”, then stalked off with corn chip dust all over her fingers and nose.
Sorry, I should probably introduce myself to you too. Hi! My name is Josh: I’m a 31-year-old physicist and comedian. I served as an explosives specialist with the Australian Army and British Royal Marine Commandos, then left the military to work in the UK as a stand-up comic and radio presenter. In 2012 I was writing a comedy show about sending people one-way to Mars when I discovered an international organisation planning to actually do it. So now I’m one of 100 people short-listed from over 200,000 applications worldwide to become the first colonists on Mars in 2031 and never come back. Right now though that mostly means I perform science comedy and speak in schools about how I’m willing to go to Mars one-way because it will change who we are as a species.
It also means I write articles about space exploration, and I’m currently editing my book on how becoming a dual planet species will change us in body, mind and soul. Which is why I was at a writers’ festival. It’s also why I was standing next to the Doritos, feeling out of place.
Most of the time I don’t immediately tell people I’m an astronaut candidate – ‘comedian’ is far less threatening. One-way missions to Mars are great for hooking people’s attention when you’re performing or writing, but it tends to shut down casual conversation pretty quickly. It always depends on who you’re speaking to though: when you’re at a writers’ festival to talk about colonising Mars ‘astronaut candidate’ is what you lead with. When you’re explaining to Peter Hellier what a Hohmann transfer is by comparing Courtney Love to a black hole, you’re a ‘comedian’ and ‘maniac’. And when you’re visiting a primary school because a science teacher saw you on TV talking to Hellier, you become a ‘science communicator’ who uses a merry-go-round metaphor to explain orbital mechanics, instead of Courtney Love.
Every time I visit a school though, some kid is guaranteed to ask me how you shit in space. EVERY. TIME. Of course they don’t say it that way, it’s “How do you go to the toilet in space?” But a quick Google image search – which I know they’ve already done – proves there’s a variety of zero-g hose systems for both male and female astronauts to urinate into. So what these kids are really asking is “How do you shit in space?” In the 60s the Apollo astronauts crapped into plastic bags then kneaded the bag (by hand) to work a bacteria-eating powder through it, because if they didn’t knead it properly the bag would fill with gas and explode. The space shuttle actually had something to sit on, but since things don’t flush in zero-g, the ‘toilet’ was basically a seat over a blender that used air-jets to push solid waste downwards. Yes, it would break. Yes, turds would escape the bowl and float around the spaceship.
How could you NOT tell kids this though? Kids ask because they don’t know, because how we shit is something kids (and a lot of adults) laugh about, and they want to hear stories about it. Space toilets are insanely complicated pieces of engineering, but kids don’t care – they want a story about shitting in space. Adults want to know too but are usually too polite to ask, so I’ve written a book they can read on the train and look intelligent reading because it has Mars on the cover. It sounds cheap, but if it takes toilet humour to explain a complex topic like space science, then I’m happy to share stories about exploding turd bags with people of any age.
The brilliant yet terrifying thing about public speaking and live comedy is immediately sensing if the audience is interested or amused, so you learn to adapt your performance and material as you perform it. Stand-up was how I learnt to turn things that interest me into things that are funny. At its core the challenge with writing is no different though: work out who your audience is, what they want and are familiar with, then connect your topic to that and make the audience feel something. Laughter, anger, disgust – whatever. Writing also gives you the luxury of time to twist yourself up over every syllable, in exchange for unloving silence when you write a great joke.
By the way, I genuinely wasn’t trying to pick up Dorito-fingers at the writers festival, but I DID describe our awkward exchange an hour later as I was chatting up someone I was actually interested in. Because if I’m going to leave Earth for good in 2031 then there’s no way I’m missing the chance to use “I’m a candidate for the first human mission to Mars” to get geek girls interested, make people of all ages people learn and laugh, and at least try to get laid occasionally.
Hopefully everyone will believe me when I say I’m just doing it for the species.