The Devil’s Details: Tears in Space


Welcome to a new series here on Satis: The Devil’s Details. This may or may not actually survive more than a few posts, but we’ll see where it goes. The idea came to me because I am very observant, but the wrong way.

My wife will know exactly what I mean.

Details catch my attention. It isn’t a conscious thing; it might be a fascinating speck of dust on my desk, or a fellow in the background of a news report wearing an oddly-shaped fedora. In the sense that as long as my eyes are open I’m seeing some thing at any given moment, I’m not particularly looking at things other people aren’t; rather, what tends to happen is that my brain takes some odd part of the scene and runs away with it.

As it happens, this usually leads to me not observing much else. This is the ‘wrong’ of the way: I never really notice the things I’m meant to notice (crumbs on the kitchen counter, wrinkles in the drying clothes, traffic lights that have turned to red), and get carried away by things that, on the grand scheme of things, probably don’t matter all that much.

The thing is, I don’t really mind. Of course, I’d like to be able to notice the important things in life as well, but perhaps the little things are just as significant. Examples: the funny inconsistencies in people’s handwriting because their hand gets tired as they write; imagining a long and detailed life of the groundhog dead by the side of the road; the single off-beat ride cymbal in a song, and wondering if it was meant to be there or not. I watch bugs on walks through the woods, and marvel at the tenuous balance of a fallen twig, caught in the branches of another tree.

These sort of things often keep my mind occupied. Most people call this ‘distracted’; I sometimes wonder if they’re the ones who are distracted, though, at missing these weird and fun little things.

International Space Station crew members Russian cosmonaut Romanenko, U.S. astronaut Marshburn and Canadian astronaut Hadfield joke as they talk with relatives after putting on their space suits at the Baikonur cosmodromeEarlier this week an article from The Atlantic caught my attention. Apparently (and kind of obviously, when you stop to think about it), you can’t really cry in space. Even if your ducts produce excess tears, with no gravity there kind of isn’t anywhere for them to go. So they just sit there. On your eye. And hurt.

What a funny thing to think about. It reminds me of watching movies and realizing no one ever goes to the bathroom. It isn’t the kind of thing that crosses your mind. Now, of course, I know exactly what to include if I ever write a science fiction novel.

In fact, these are the kinds of details I try to include in my own writing if I can; it’s the little touches that make something that little bit more special.

So here’s to weird, odd and special details. I can’t promise that this will be funny, engaging, or even mildly interesting. Kind of like the details themselves.