Geek and sundry on the island of Guam
Approaching the square, white box that houses the planetarium at the University of Guam there can be no doubt what the building is all about. As the side says: Science. That one word is the only stark decoration on a building that is otherwise consumed by the same tan bland that covers most of the university. I’m headed for the second floor where a room with an odd ceiling is waiting – the domain of Star Lady, Pam Eastlick, and the University of Guam’s one and only planetarium. The most remote in the world, I hear Ms. Eastlick tell someone later.
It’s a Saturday night and there other things I could be doing with my evening – Ico on the Playstation, reading for the next Read It, Watch It or John Scalzi’s The Last Colony ( purely for pleasure this time Mr. Scalzi ), playing with my boonie dog, who is secretly a gene-spliced combination dog/crocodile/kangaroo hybrid. But I’ve made the journey down to Mangilao tonight to leave these things behind and enter this building as a supplicant, seeking a ritual lost in the early depths of my childhood when I first entered the kingdom of stars and planets. I’ve been lured by the song of lost miracle and communion, and you don’t turn your back on that, even for The Last Colony.
The schedule says the first half hour will be “Saturday Night in Armstrong City: A Teenager’s Guide to Living on the Moon”. Armstrong City seems like a great setting for an SFnal story. Lunar steam punk! The second half is billed as “Your Grandchildren’s Vacation”, and is a tour of the solar system cleverly disguised as … a Tour of the Solar System TM lead by a tour company in the the year 2080. Both presentations turn out to be well written and performed with pitch-perfect teenage wit by students a local high school. I find out afterwards that both shows were made ten years ago. Ms. Eastlick is proud that the data in them has held up so well, and rightfully so. The graphics are static rectangles projected onto the dome, mostly pictures taken from old texts. They have a 50s-postcard-from-Mars feel to them that is nostalgic and appropriate given the tourism agency angle. I don’t even mind that my head is propped on the edge of a furry grey step and I have made the very silly decision to try live tweeting the event. All that is forgotten, because I have found what I am looking for.
I give you –
The Planetarium Ritual, now with Accompanying Incantation:
Dim the lights, whisper to your neighbor that you’re not afraid
take their hand, so they know this is a lie
fall upwards into the new night sky
now you are a ghost of the heart of the universe
feel the rich stellar matter it pumps in and out of its black veins
all around you
rise back to your skin here on Earth and let the lights receive you
work the crink out of your neck by wiggling it side-to-side
wipe the stardust out of your eyes, and listen to what the lady doth intone
And what does the lady intone? What is the new secret ingredient to this time trusted Planetarium Ritual found on this Saturday night here on Guam?
“Look up tonight; the universe awaits you,” says the wise woman at the front of the room; it is both invocation and invitation. So, when I leave the building I do look up, as do so many others, paper star charts in hand. There we stand the circle complete, the ritual finished. Candle flames smothered and electric lights silenced, we are cast back into the primordial neither-now with only stars to accompany us.