Jan Millsapps, Venus on Mars, Jaded Ibis Press, 2014.
[Venus on Mars will be published in multiple editions, including interactive multimedia iBook, ebook, full-color print, black and white print and fine art limited edition.]
“Three women – three generations – all linked by a mysterious journal, one man, and the enigmatic planet Mars. With great imagination and a lyrical flair, Jan Millsapps has fashioned an engaging tale about finding your place in the cosmos." —Marcia Bartusiak
”In a style that recalls the haiku imagery of Basho and the laconic economy of Hemmingway, Millsapps writes across the unbounded interplanetary gulf that separates Earth from the brooding red planet Mars and intermingles the lives of three generations of women trapped in an involuntary struggle for gender equality that persists, even in the halls of haute science. Millsapps has a literary gift in her ability to bring the reader inside the eyes and mind of her characters. Every word is carefully crafted and delicately placed, every page magical to read. Even if the reader knows nothing about astronomy, Venus on Mars is a feast. —Dana Berry
|Venus takes a fresh look at Mars in a story told by multiple generations of women who live and work at the periphery of early male astronomers and rocket scientists, including Lulu Leonard, a secretary-turned-stargazer at historic Lowell Observatory, and Venus Dawson, a free-spirited image analyst at JPL whose "enhanced" versions of planetary data keep the staid scientists on edge.|
|It's the summer of 1971. A lone spacecraft, Mariner 9, is on its way to Mars, programmed to record the first close-up views of the planet's entire surface. The scientists who designed it hope the data it transmits will reveal evidence of life on the red planet.|
|Meanwhile, Venus is driving back to Pasadena after attending to her mother's burial in New Orleans, her only inheritance a journal written long ago by her Great Aunt Lulu, assistant to astronomer Percival Lowell, a wealthy Bostonian drawn to the heavens by way of the clear, calm Arizona air. |
Lowell built a private observatory dedicated to uncovering Martian mysteries, claiming as "evidence" of intelligent life on the red planet the detailed system of canals he saw there.
|But Lowell was not alone at the telescope. Because of her proximity to and (ahem!) intimacy with "Dr. P," Lulu was able to conduct her own observations, unique for her gender at that time. When her findings contradicted those of her beloved boss, she opted to record what she'd seen in a private journal - the book that has just been passed to Venus.|
|Cosmological past and present colide, warp and merge as the Mariner spaceship makes its slow way to Mars, and Venus stalls out in Flagstaff, where she decides to take a tourist's look-see through the big telescope at Lowell Observatory. She feels the earth move, and the heavens as well - and she goes from reading her great aunt's journal to living it.|
Author Jan Millsapps deftly teases the female experience out of a story that has been male-dominated, and the story she has created sets the stage for a critical issue still being debated in the scientific community: the need for an expanded dialogue including multiple voices and perspectives, as we continue our collective
quest for a larger understanding of the universe we all inhabit.
ABOUT THE NOVEL
A lone spacecraft is on its way to Mars. Meanwhile Venus Dawson heads toward Pasadena – and back to her job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where confidence is high among rocket scientists that the red planet will soon reveal its secrets.
Venus is in no hurry. Her male colleagues make lewd jokes about her, enter her in beauty contests against her will, and encourage her to wear her miniskirts even shorter. So she dawdles as she drives, examining the journal she’s just inherited, written by her Great Aunt Lulu, secretary “with benefits” to a famous astronomer, and a woman who gazed at the red planet through a giant telescope long before women were allowed to do such things.
The clever JPL scientists are certain their new spacecraft will discover evidence of life on Mars, but Venus finds it first – on the pages of Lulu’s journal. But before she can use this information to level the workplace playing field, a cosmic misstep strands her at Lulu’s old haunt, Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Venus must navigate the Victorian era and the space age simultaneously to claim her place in an expanding universe.
In this stylish and edgy novel, author Jan Millsapps deftly teases the female experience out of a history of mostly male astronomers and rocket scientists, and tells a mesmerizing story about generations of women struck by the stars.
"Venus On Mars" unfolds cosmic tale
by Vikram Singh
With NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover constantly sending back new data about Mars, eyes are on the sky.
SF State cinema professor Jan Millsapps’ gaze has been pointed toward the skies for years. Her second history-based novel, “Venus On Mars,” is all about finding one’s place in the cosmos.
Millsapps had a release party for the book June 2 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Events took place at the observatory for the transit of Venus, an astronomical event that would happen only once in a lifetime when the planet appeared as a black dot crossing the surface of the sun.
Founded in 1894, the observatory is home to the Discovery Channel Telescope, the fifth largest telescope in the continental U.S.
The novel was made possible by a one-year sabbatical granted by SF State. Millsapps’ research took her to the Mojave Desert; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; Lowell Observatory and even Boston.
Set in the 1970s during NASA’s unmanned Mariner 9 mission to Mars, the story follows Venus Dawson, as she returns from her grandmother, Lulu Dawson’s, funeral. Lulu’s character, who faces misogyny and gender bias, is based on astronomer Percival Lowell’s actual secretary Wrexie Louise Leonard.
“At Lowell Observatory I examined all of Wrexie Louise Leonard’s materials, including a journal she kept before she began working for Lowell — but her journal as it appears in my novel is fictional — based on the facts I was able to uncover,” Millsapps said.
Lowell, a main character in the book, was an astronomer who strongly believed Mars contained evidence of extraterrestrial life. The book explores issues female astronomers faced in both the 1970s through Venus Dawson’s storyline and the 1900s through her grandmother’s. Both were times when exploration of Mars was at its peak.
“It was very rare for a woman to be able to look through a big telescope in the Victorian Era. It wasn’t until the 1960s that women got full access to major observatories,” Millsapps said.
She decided that this was the perfect era in which to set the story.
“After continuing with my research, I realized I set my story right at the cusp of when women were pushing for equal status in the workplace,” Millsapps said.
Venus inherits her grandmother’s journal and takes it with her to her workplace in Pasadena, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Both the reader and Venus begin to uncover the romantic relationship Lulu and Lowell had during their time together through a series of journal entries woven into the narrative.
But it wasn’t until she was finished writing the book that she approached William Sheehan, a historical fellow at Lowell Observatory.
“At first I was critical, because I was reading it through a historian’s point of view, but once I loosened up and began to respond to it as historical fiction, I loved it,” Sheehan said.
Millsapps has placed quick response codes at the end of certain chapters to augment the reading experience. By scanning these codes, readers can access content online that will add to the story.
Eleventh grade English teacher, Jeannette Miles from South Carolina likes the idea of bridging the gap between old media and new and plans to use “Venus On Mars” as a part of her curriculum.
“I don’t have any problem asking my students to help me out with my technology. It’s a reciprocal interaction with students and I think this will make me successful with Jan’s books,” Miles said.
Millsapps’ plans to continue to push the envelope with new media back at SF State next spring, when she plans on “teaching cinema as an online medium and do the whole thing with smartphones and tablets.” - www.goldengatexpress.org/2012/12/11/venus-on-mars/
Jan Millsapps, Screwed Pooch. BookSurge Publishing, 2007.
Who knew 'the right stuff' would first show up in a stray female mutt with attitude? On November 3, 1957, Laika rode Sputnik 2 into outer space, the first living creature to reach earth orbit - but unlike all the animals and humans who followed, hers was a one-way ticket only. In 'Screwed Pooch,' award-winning filmmaker and author Jan Millsapps describes Laika's historic mission and its impact on the humans she encountered, both real and fictional. We meet her beloved yet duplicitous trainer, the brilliant yet anonymous 'chief designer' of the Soviet space program, her dog gal pals, Soviet top dog Nikita Khrushchev and his heavy-handed KGB, and residents of her old neighborhood, who mount a daring plan to rescue her. Laika's unprecedented journey takes us from the wind-swept Moscow streets to top-secret labs and launch sites, and from the miserable depths of a Soviet gulag to transcendent views of earth from outer space. Meticulously researched, 'Screwed Pooch' sheds light on Laika as the first space pioneer and examines her role in the early space race as both victim and heroine. Most importantly, Millsapps gives a distinct voice to the canine cosmonaut whose ultimate sacrifice paved the way for human space travel a few years later.
|On November 3, 1957, Laika rode Sputnik 2 into outer space, the first living creature to reach earth orbit – but unlike all the animals and humans who followed, hers was a one-way ticket only.|
In Screwed Pooch, award-winning filmmaker and author Jan Millsapps describes Laika's historic mission and its impact on the humans she encountered, both real and fictional. We meet her beloved yet duplicitous trainer; the brilliant yet anonymous "chief designer" of the Soviet space program; her dog gal pals; Soviet top dog Nikita Khrushchev and his heavy-handed KGB; and two women living in her old neighborhood who mount a daring plan to rescue her.
Laika's unprecedented journey takes us from the wind-swept Moscow streets to top-secret labs and launch sites, and from the miserable depths of a Soviet gulag to transcendent views of earth from outer space.
Meticulously researched, Screwed Pooch sheds light on Laika as the first space pioneer and examines her role in the early space race as both victim and heroine. Most importantly, Millsapps gives a distinct voice to the canine cosmonaut whose ultimate sacrifice paved the way for human space travel.
JAN MILLSAPPS, a pioneering digital filmmaker, an early web innovator, and a versatile and accomplished writer, has produced films, videos, digital and interactive cinema on subjects ranging from domestic violence to global terrorism, and has published in traditional print and online venues. As professor of cinema at San Francisco State University, she teaches courses in digital cinema, interactive cinema, web cinema and short format screenwriting. She earned her B.A. with honors in Creative Arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; her M.A. in English at Winthrop University; and her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of South Carolina. She also holds an academic certificate in cosmology.