6 min read

Building Beyond: Over the Moon

That's amore.

Building Beyond is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Let’s give it a try, together.

The moon has fallen in love with a human being on Earth.

Phoebe Barton is a queer trans science fiction writer. Her short fiction has appeared in venues such as Analog, Lightspeed, and Kaleidotrope, and she wrote the interactive fiction game The Luminous Underground for Choice of Games, which was a Nebula Award finalist. She serves as an Associate Editor at Escape Pod, is a 2019 graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and lives with a robot in the sky above Toronto. Find her on Twitter at @aphoebebarton.

Gailey: How, logistically speaking, did the moon become aware of the human?

That's the problem, isn't it? The moon's been aware of humans for a while, but you'd have better luck identifying someone with your own eyeballs from 30,000 feet. That's the thing about having a semimajor axis of 384,400 kilometres; it's hard to meet individual people, and the speed-of-light delay is just evident enough in communications with Earth to be annoying. I mean, she (the moon's a she, I have spoken) doesn't mind the visitors, but it's been ages and they mostly hung out in their landers. Also, they were all guys (the moon is obviously queer, look it up).

So it's a good thing her New Heartthrob of a Human is a queer lady radio astronomer. You can learn a lot about the lunar surface by bouncing radar off of it, and it's a lot easier to deal with the communications thing when you know who you're talking to. As the moon does.

Gailey: Has the moon's behavior changed at all as a result of being in love?

It seems like it's been shining a little brighter in the night, but nothing that the average person would notice - and that's probably for the best, really. It takes a lot of energy to change one's orbital elements, and doing that would have a huge effect on Earth. Knowingly screwing with the tides is definitely something that would upset your girlfriend, don't you think?

Gailey: What are the potential consequences if the moon becomes heartbroken?

The moon doesn't cry where humanity can see it. She shows a firm, strong face to Earth, but on the far side fissures open and tears of molten rock flood out with a force unseen since the Late Heavy Bombardment, eventually to cool into Mare Solitatis, the Sea of Loneliness, maybe. It's hard to admit that you have emotions sometimes when you've covered yourself in such stony faces, but the pain of heartbreak can break through a lot.

Suzanne Walker is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She is co-creator of the Hugo-nominated graphic novel Mooncakes (2019, Lion Forge/Oni Press). Her short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld and Uncanny Magazine, and she has published nonfiction articles with Uncanny Magazine, StarTrek.com, Women Write About Comics, and the anthology Barriers and Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability. She has spoken at numerous conventions on a variety of topics ranging from disability representation in sci-fi/fantasy to comics collaboration. You can find her posting pictures of her cat and chronicling her longsword adventures on Twitter @suzusaur.

"Wow, look at the moon tonight!!!”
"Gosh, she's so pretty, I love my girlfriend the moon"
"WOW, awfully presumptuous of you, don't you think???"

The Moon had heard this girl constantly objectifying her any time she cast herself in particularly dramatic lighting. Finally fed up with it, she came down to earth (which really did a number on the tides, adding to an already severe flooding problem) and told the girl to stop it.

"Sorry, I'm really sorry," stammered the girl. "You're just so powerful and beautiful, and I respect that a lot."

"Well if you respect me, at least ask me out before you start calling me your girlfriend," huffed the Moon.

"Fair enough."

A somewhat awkward silence set in while the girl dug her toes into the sand, the ocean water now somewhere around waist height where it had been ankle deep before.

"So...do you want to?? Go out???"

The Moon was so astonished by the girl's forwardness that she said yes on instinct.

She viewed this kid as more of an object of curiosity than anything else — who would dare ask out the moon? She was pretty in her own sort of way, buff with nice tattoos. Arranging a date proved to be a bit difficult but the Moon took her out to Saturn and the tides came so far out that humans finally found Atlantis while they were gone. The Moon hit up her friends Rhea and Dione who helped provide a breathable atmosphere for the human (and said not a word about the  situation, for they'd seen far stranger with their brother Titan), and together the Moon and the human watched the sun cast its light on Saturn and her rings.

The Moon found out more about what the human liked to do — a lot of swimming in the oceans, which would have felt like sucking up from anyone else but struck the Moon as sincere.

The human asked the Moon about her dreams, her ambitions, if technically the Moon was cheating on the Earth with her.

"No," said the Moon, "we're in more of a codependent roommates relationship and I need some distance anyway, it's fine."

Time works differently out by Saturn, and the Moon found herself captivated by the girl in spite of herself. No one had ever paid her quite this much attention, at least not in a way that wasn't also some sort of religious worship (which she did not mind at all, for the record, it kept her ego up).

Before she knew it, the Moon fell in love with the girl and her boundless energy.

They spent a season together, bathed in stardust and quiet, but word came that Earth was extremely suffering from the tide situation. They both felt pretty guilty about this, and hightailed it back past the asteroid belt fairly quickly.

"Can I stay with you?" the girl asked, and the Moon felt that her heart might just break. But if that were to happen, the oceans would really be in trouble.

"You can't," she said, "It wouldn't be fair to you. You belong on the Earth, and I belong in my weird codependent relationship with her. It sucks, but that's life."

"Please, I love you so much," said the girl, "isn't there any sort of compromise?"

So the Moon turned the girl into a mermaid, and she lived in the ocean forever, feeling the Moon's love with each rise and fall of the tides.

I’ll be honest with you, friends. I came up with this prompt before the announcement of Roland Emmerich’s upcoming disaster film, Moonfall, which is about the Moon falling onto the Earth. This wasn’t meant to be a tie-in to that, but good god am I ever delighted about the timing. That movie is going to be a hot mess and I can’t wait to watch it.

Both Phoebe and Suzanne came up with incredible beginnings. Phoebe's romance is the start of a subtle exploration of astronomical responsibilities in the face of huge emotions. Suzanne’s mermaid origin story is the prologue to a tale of undersea longing and connection in impossible circumstances. Moonfall is going to be a major motion picture in which the Moon, the one in the sky, crashes into the Earth like wooooah oh no!!! and there are definitely going to be explosions about it.

What would your lunar romance look like? What really happens when the Moon hits your eye?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this newsletter. The subscriber community is a wonderful and supportive one, and we’re spending 2021 finding new ways to stay connected and share experiences.

This week, many of us are reeling from the combined nightmare of legal and natural disasters that are falling on many parts of the United States. If you’re looking for ways to help, here’s a place to start:

  • Abortion is healthcare. Abortion funds are mutual aid. If you’d like to donate to abortion funds in Texas, you can do so here.
  • If you’d like to support relief and recovery efforts for those who have been impacted by Hurricane Ida, click here to donate to The Mutual Aid Response Network led by Imagine Water Works.

In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.