We are well and truly into the endgame now! If you’ve been paying attention to my Facebook fanpage, you may have noticed a few changes since Friday – most notably the addition of a “Cosmic Nomad” banner.
But unless you looked particularly closely, you probably missed the link pointing people to www.cosmicnomad.space at the same time. Which is probably just as well because the presale page for Cosmic Nomad has just been published, but I’m giving it another few days to finish a few things with the book before I make the big announcement! At this point, the entire body of the book has been written and edited, the appendices added, and final formatting for the print and ebook versions are being done.
There are a few minor things left like the book’s copyright page, table of contents, acknowledgements, foreword, and page number formatting. However, the main reason I’m giving myself another few days before announcing the start of presales (or formally announcing the September 17 publication date) is so that I can read through the entire book out loud.
One of the biggest lessons I took from Becoming Martian didn’t come until 6 months after it was published when I had to read it out loud for the audiobook edition – it was only then that I noticed missing or misplaced words (eg. writing ‘nut’ or ‘nit’ instead of ‘not’). So to improve the general readability I’m making one more editing pass over the whole thing by reading it out loud, and then we’re switching into full-blown “nuts and bolts” formatting and printing mode!
One of the other big lessons from Becoming Martian is that the “nuts and bolts” stage that turns a manuscript into a print proof takes a few weeks and not the few days I gave it last time. Thankfully I’m not about to head off on a huge US trip like I was just weeks before Becoming Martian was published – instead, I’m bunkered down avoiding COVID-19 with nearly two months before a flexible publication date (at least until I announce it!) so I can add those finishing touches that make a book look professional.
It’s exciting to be so close to the end, but it’s also vital that I keep the pressure up and carry this through to the end – the third lesson from Becoming Martian was that finalising the print proof was only the first step, not the final one. As soon as the book is ready for printing and the ebook properly formatted, then I need to start putting together promotional events and encouraging people to buy it!
Finishing the manuscript does mark one important “final” stage – the last partial draft I share with my patrons! Because the next “draft” I share with all of you will be the book itself! While I’ll be posting print copies to my top-level patrons in the lead up to public publication on September 17, that doesn’t mean I can’t share the near final version of the Cosmic Nomad ebook next month!
Hell, if I don’t have a final version with the publisher by this time next month then things will be very wrong. So hopefully it won’t be a “near final” version – I’ll be able to share the entire, completed ebook with you, and signed print versions should be on their way to you soon after too!
I’ll reach out to each of you in the next few weeks to get postal addresses so I can send you early print copies, but in the meantime enjoy the final third of my draft chapter on completing the remaining 101 things!
Thank you all again for your incredible support through this multi-year journey, and hope you’re as excited to read Cosmic Nomad as I am to finally publish it!
73 – Stand on the International Date Line [Earth]
This one initially seems pretty straight forward, but gets more complex the more you look into it. It used to simply be a case of visiting Taveuni in Fiji and standing on the line: the island is split by the 180-degree meridian, so for years it had two timezones and a marker where you could literally jump between today to tomorrow. The Fijian government decided it was a bit ridiculous having an island with two timezones though, so they made it someone else’s problem by moving the International Date Line to a point between American Samoa and Independent Samoa.
The marker is still there on Taveuni though, and you can still bounce around it, but you’re not changing timezones when you do – you’re just looking a bit stupid on the opposite side of the planet to Mali. Even if you caught the ferry between American Samoa and Independent Samoa, wouldn’t be “standing” on the International Date Line unless you were 1.5 kilometers underwater – about 80 times deeper than your average scuba diver is qualified for, and twice the crush depth of a modern nuclear submarine. I’ve crossed the date line plenty of times flying from Sydney to LA and back, so I figure if flying over it doesn’t count then neither does the ferry.
The 180 degree meridian also crosses Antarctica, but no one draws the International Date Line on maps over Antarctica because everyone there either uses UTC or the timezone for the country that owns the bases. Which sounds like a mighty fine idea for keeping track of time on Mars too. Personally I think the whole “Imaginary line that splits today from tomorrow” is a bit ridiculous, but standing on the 180 degree meridian might be an added extra if I happen to be scuba diving with turtles in board shorts near Taveuni, or splashing around the Ross Sea in a dry suit as leopard seal bait.
82 – Build Your Own House [Mars]
Let’s be honest, the chances of me owning or building a home on Earth are slim at best. I’m not opposed to building some sort of remote Unabomber-style log cabin, or even going full-Ewok with a treehouse. But they’d only ever be temporary holiday homes while working on my next manifesto.
I’m a firm believer that if you can’t carry it then you can’t keep it, which is why my house has been my backpack for years now, and why I add extra avocado whenever I like. It’s also why when “normal” people get that wistful look in their eye talking about building a house in the suburbs with a nice white picket fence around their happy marriage and 2.4 kids, I always ask if they can smell burning toast to check if they’re having a stroke.
That said I will eventually build my own house – it’ll just be on another planet. While the first Martian habitats will be self-contained landing modules and inflatable units fabricated and launched from Earth, they’ll still need to be connected together by crews on the surface. As we strive to become independent from Earth, we’ll also start making bricks and glass out of Martian dirt to build homes without relying on supplies from those filthy Earthlings.
So if I don’t build a log cabin or treehouse on Earth, I’ll eventually build my own home, including making the bricks – I’ll just be 56 million kilometers from the suburbs and the smell of toast when I do.
85 – Visit the World’s Tallest Buildings [Earth]
Since the 101 Things To Do Before You Die book was first published this entry has changed considerably with different skyscrapers being cancelled, expanded and changed as everyone races to build a bigger dick-substitute into the sky, but there’s 14 from the list of 16 you can still visit though. I ticked off the Empire State building and the Sears Tower travelling through the US on the same trip I was given the book on in 2005, but it wasn’t until early 2017 that I ticked off a third with the Petronas Towers, and that was only because I was visiting Malaysia to make the terrible/hilarious mistake of trying to get back together with an ex-girlfriend. Remember kids: never go back to the carpet store.
The truth is I just don’t care about big buildings. If I ever happened to be in Hong Kong there’s four from the list I could visit, another two in Shanghai, and two more in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. But going to any of these places just to see some big buildings would really just feel like stamp collecting. Neither Taipei 101 or One World Trade Center (the “Freedom Tower”) have ever held much appeal either – if you want an amazing view from above then how could you beat the view from low Earth orbit?
The only building on the list that holds even a passing interest also happens to be the tallest, the Burj Khalifa. I don’t really care about saying “I visited the tallest building in the world” though, it’s more about seeing where Tom Cruise got to do his high-wire antics running around the outside of this ludicrous building in Mission Impossible 4 and wishing I could give it a go too.
88 – Get Married Unusually [Earth or Mars]
Even before the possibility of a life on Mars, getting married was never really on the agenda. The only times I’ve ever seriously considered it was in the depths of two truly terrible relationships. Like “Sam Neill in Event Horizon” type relationships. So now if I ever hear a little voice in my head whisper “Maybe things will improve if we got engaged”, it’s a screaming alert that I’m in a haunted relationship/spaceship and need to find an escape pod immediately.
There’s always the option of a Martian wedding too, or even one in space on the way there because you’re bored and trying to kill time. The honeymoon is going to suck, but saying “Main Engine Start” before saying “I do” will definitely count as an unusual wedding to most Earthlings. Although it seems some folks here on Earth have already evolved past the quiant concept of single-planet matrimony, because for a guy openly planning to leave humanity for another planet I’ve received a surprising number of marriage proposals. There might be other factors at play here though, because recently most of them have been from educated Americans after an angry orange manatee became president.
Technically I’ve already been engaged once, but it was to another comedian after she called me chicken and dared me to do it. Both of us were in the US at the time and joked about eloping in Vegas, but we were only ever considering it for material. Both of us being lazy and emotionally-unavailable comedians also meant neither of us actually cared enough to even be in the same state at the same time, let alone meetup to be married by a fat Elvis impersonator.
If I did meet someone incredible on Earth – who was also okay with me eventually leaving them for another planet, wasn’t just trying to escape Cheeto Hitler, and our relationship wasn’t based on comedy or a schlocky 90’s space-horror – then there’s really nothing stopping me from getting married. It just hasn’t happened yet. If it does though you can rest assured I’ll do my best to make it super weird for everyone.
90 – Join the 16-mile-high club [Earth or Mars]
When I first discovered Mars One in early September 2012, I immediately knew it was the clearest path I could follow to space. But it took another six weeks before I was certain I’d give up anything else to make it happen. Watching Felix Baumgartner slowly ascend into the stratosphere slung under a balloon was inspiring, but the real moment of truth for me was when he opened the capsule door, and the tiny amount of warm air still inside the capsule puffed out into the empty sky.
I’ve seen the same phenomena parachuting, when the lead jumper opens the aircraft’s side-door and the warm air inside the cabin puffs out as the cold air outside rushes in to give everyone a chilly reminder that they’re about to jump out a perfectly good aircraft. You move to the door, look to the horizon with blue sky above and the Earth below, and from 14,000 feet you leap into the empty sky.
But the camera over Baumgartner’s left shoulder wasn’t looking at the horizon from 14,000 feet. It was looking at it 128,000 feet, and that empty sky wasn’t blue – it was black.
A short shower of ice crystals drops from the boom above Baumgartner’s capsule door, he switches to his suit’s internal oxygen supply, takes a moment to calm himself before unbuckling his seatbelt, slides to the open edge and stands on the capsule’s porch to salute the sky, says “I’m coming home now “… and jumps. On October 14th, 2012 Felix Baumgartner became the first human being to break the sound barrier without propulsion, reaching over 1,300 kilometers and hour and breaking three world record with a freefall from 39 kilometers. Crouched over a laptop in a friend’s lounge room I watched it live with my girlfriend at the time, and as Baumgartner landed she turned to me and said “I understand now why you need to do this”.
It was an extraordinary and defining experience to watch, but the truth is I didn’t care about much that came after the capsule door opened. That brief puff of warm air instantly freezing against the black sky told me in an instant all I needed to know: one day I’ll see Earth’s sky turn black, and rather than look down to say “I’m coming home now” I’ll look towards the darkness and whisper “Fuck off Earth” as the second stage kicks in.
94 – Get Something Named After You [Mars]
Much like getting my stupid face on the front of a national newspaper for entry #63, I really don’t care about having something named after me. I care about seeing humans living on another planet. It doesn’t matter if that’s me or not, it’s just important that it happens. I’m not here to inspire you or your kids, but if striving to be one of the first people on another planet has that effect, then so be it.
I’m certainly not going to encourage anyone to name a school after the first ginger Australian leprechaun on Mars though, especially considering my surname is Richards, aka “Dick” with an S on the end. So while I don’t care about legacy and won’t encourage having anything named after me, I will send a pre-emptive congratulations to the 2035 graduating class of Josh Dicks High. Aim for the stars, kids!
99 – Confess [Earth]
The only class I ever failed in school was religious education, and the last time I walked into a church was 2002 during Army basic training. We’d been ordered to attend on our first Sunday, and the roof literally creaked as I stepped over the threshold. So it’s unlikely I’ll be threatening the structural integrity of a confession booth any time soon.
That said I’m a strong proponent for being open and honest about everything provided the details won’t hurt someone else in the process. The whole idea behind this book is to be “radically vulnerable” and share every aspect of my personal experience on Earth before settling permanently on Mars. In it’s own way this book is my confession – opening the closet to reveal anything even resembling a skeleton, so no one can claim later that I tried to hide it.
Some folks wait their whole life before confessing on their deathbed, but you’re reading my confession right now. Don’t wait til your dying breath to be open and honest – tell boring people to get fucked today.
100 – Reach 100 Years of Age [Mars]
Given I’m set on being launched by thousands of tons of explosives to a cold desolate planet, baked with cosmic radiation on the way there, and then baked again every time I step outside my underground Martian lair; you’d probably think making it to 100 is a bit of an ask. Especially if you consider one Martian year is nearly twice as long as it is on Earth.
However if we stick with counting Earth years, there’s probably a higher chance I’ll live to 100 on Mars than I would if I stayed here on Earth. That is provided we don’t explode during launch, get hit by a massive solar flare in transit, land on Mars at “cratering” velocity, or die in one of a thousand other ways trying to get from the surface of Earth to our hobbit hole on Mars. Because once we’re safely there, we’re basically living in a permanent low-g health spa. The gravity on Mars is 38% of Earth’s, so our hearts don’t have to work as hard to pump blood and there’s less wear and tear on our bones and muscles.
There’s no shortage of things trying to kill you on the way there, and once you arrive you probably don’t want to get sick or start saying “I love the smell of perchlorates in the morning” while seasoning your breakfast with Martian dust either. But between the reduced gravity and the close monitoring of the habitat’s food, air and water; the folks on Mars might have a better chance of reaching 100 than someone on Earth would. Which is just as well because the Queen doesn’t even send telegrams anymore – it’s all done via email. I don’t even know how you’d get a telegram anymore, but I do know the only email I’ll wait on Earth for is one that says when I’m leaving.