My birthday was yesterday, July 14th, also Bastille Day. These are the highlights of my 64th birthday. Generally, I don’t celebrate birthdays, but thanks to internet commerce, I did two significant things today: one silly, one profound. Try and guess which is which.
Marco’s Pizza; the local franchise is two blocks away; sent me an email birthday deal: 1 free medium pizza with one topping if I buy another of equal value or more. I took them up on it. Two medium pizza! They’ll be feeding me for four days.
1 pizza with ham and pineapple — basic Hawaiian
1 pizza with feta cheese and jalapeños — nothing basic about that! (they didn’t charge me for the extra topping on the birthday pizza — in case you’ve been keeping count.)
I subscribe to the Tor Books email newsletter. They must have a birthday daemon, and I must have signed up using my Facebook account so they know my birthday. The daemon sent me an “exclusive” birthday story, just for subscribers: A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon a Star, by Kathleen Ann Goonan. I hadn’t read anything of hers before, now I have to.
The Tor description is as good as any one sentence I’ve tried to compose, and doesn’t come any closer to touching the quiet, emotional depth of the story. Tor says, “[It’s] about the daughter of a rocket scientist in the post 1950s who wants to go to the moon, despite being discouraged because ‘girls don’t do that.'”
The story begins with a simple prologue: a list of dates and events beginning in 1901 with the birth of Walter Elias Disney. It ends in 1950 with the birth of Carol Elizabeth Hall, the girl. From there on the story is about her, her relationship with her father (who dies when she’s 13), her relationship with her mother, the lingering effects of World War II, Tomorrowland, The Jupiter-C rocket, the moon landing, Fantasia on acid, and what it’s like being a girl, then a woman, in the second half of the Twentieth Century, who wants to be a rocket scientist.