The Seeds of Aril at The Cosmos Club
The table of books is set, with a plate of neatly sliced bites of melon and soft cheese in the center in the brightly lit alcove. Across the dark room, a podium with a goose neck mic stands in front of the tall stone fireplace. The room is empty otherwise. Four early guests wait in the corridor. The author is late, no one has heard from him. Kathie Olsen, a hoarse-voiced dynamo of perpetual excitement, the sponsor of the event, and once the chief scientist at NASA, takes us on a tour, upstairs and upstairs again. We explore, past dark panelled walls, flame shaped bulbs, and gold leaf chairs, till we come to the Pool Table Room, where Mark Twain once played, and the Writer's Room, where he once wrote at a large desk that now hosts a computer screen to the right side. We are at the private, elite Cosmos Club near Dupont Circle in Washington DC. The event tonight is a book signing party for R.M Robinson and his first novel: The Seeds of Aril, the first in a series of Science Fiction by Scientists, by Firefall Editions.
We return downstairs. The room is crowded with 75 guests. The author and his family have just arrived. His calm round face and gray-white hair are in contrast to his dark-haired vibrant daughters. A Program Director at the National Science Foundation, R.M. Robinson has invented the fiction of magnetic freezing, for transporting us around the universe, over millennia and distances measured in light-years. Both his protagonists and villains search for possible new earths to escape our present ever-more inhospitable planet. The book has just received a positive review from Publisher's Weekly and climbed to 68,000 on the list at Amazon. "I want a front row seat at the movie opening," says an exuberant colleague, a member of the budget police at NSF. A blond friend of R.M.'s nose-ringed daughter Julie picks up the novel in passing, without paying, and says, "I need something to read in the bathroom." In deference to the club's dress code, many of the guests, men and women alike, wear formal black. They have driven from work, but the aurora specialist has flown in from Greenland, the art director from Seattle, and the upper atmosphere expert from Brazil. The mix is international, if not galactic. R.M. Robinson commands the mic and thanks his guests for editing him so well, for explaining the difference between the far side and the dark side of the moon, the pituitary and the hypo-thalamus, and for reading science fiction at all, when their lives are so consumed with science fact. He reads three pages that invoke a parable of fireflies. "If each was a civilization that could only observe other populations during the brief time it was lit, then during that moment it might not see any other firefly, even though there were hundreds of them in its vicinity. The lonely firefly would emit its emerald light and fail to illuminate another during that glowing moment. Its light would fade away along with the vanishing hope that other fireflies existed, when the area all about was teeming with thousands of others, all with the same sad notion." The audience breaks into prolonged cheers. New wine is poured in sparkling glasses to go with the dark mushroom hors d'oeuvres....
Friday night, 11/18/11
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