Sunday, May 21, 2023

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A Woman in Space by Sara Cavanaugh


'She's young, she's lovely - she's an astronaut!  And she's been assigned a dangerous mission: to discover the whereabouts of four missing male astronauts who had preceded her to the Moon.  Carol's space ship is mysteriously caught up in a force field that draws her inexorably into outer space.  Carol's mission is in great danger, as is her life and that of the man she loves!'

So.  When I'm not watching crappy movies or reading crappy comics I occasionally get round to reading crappy books:  And this, my friend, is an INCREDIBLY crappy book.  Probably the worst book I have read that the author didn't pay to have printed.

I'd heard about A Woman in Space from time to time over the years, always described  in glowing terms as one of those books SO bad it was beyond awful.  In short, just my kind of thing. Trouble was that every time I saw a copy for sale the seller was asking a very silly price. A while back I found a copy on eBay that was within my price range for this kind of masochistic self indulgence.  Tiara were a short-lived Romance title and this appears to have been their only SF book. A Woman in Space was "Sara Cavanugh"'s only published work. I don't think Sara Cavanugh was a real person.  Or even a woman.


So here's the story 

Young beautiful feminist astronaut Carol is sent on a make-or-break-the-whole-of-NASA expedition to the moon. The publicity of a WOMAN going to the moon has the whole world glued to their TV screen. Will she explode? The previous missions to scout a possible moonbase location have failed when the ships all MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED. Taking no precautions to avoid exactly the same thing happening again (other than sending a male chauvinist bloke along with her - who has to be mildly blackmailed into going because, as his boss puts it, people might think him a bit 'queer' (not my italics) if he didn't want to share an enclosed space with an attractive woman for a few days) they blast off. Carol and the reluctant, "I'm STRAIGHT!" hunk do 1950's crappy SF movie astronaut stuff for a couple of chapters... they 'clomp' about in magnetic boots... avoid near misses with noisy space debris that makes whooshing noises as it passes by... eat concentrated food out of tubes... do press-ups (in zero G?) to keep themselves toned... get naked and not have sex.

When they get to the Moon they arrive at the landing site in their 'plane' lander and they too are suddenly wheeked from the Luna Bermuda Triangle by an unknown force. Before you can say, "I wonder just how far I can throw this book?" they are taken onboard a huge alien space ship. Actually they fly into the landing dock, following radioed instructions. Following orders they cut their engines just as they arrive and come in with 'the flaps down'. Inside the vast ship they meet the sole survivors of a planet that had an uncannily parallel evolution with Earth. So parallel is this evolution that the other previously wheeked astronauts (the ones she was sent out to look for) have already impregnated a couple of the nubile young 'space bunnies' that make up most of the ship's compliment. They're all as happy as Larry with all the sex they are getting, have no desire to return to Earth, and are going to head back to the aliens' home planet to repopulate their 'brave new world'.

The author like the phrase 'brave new world'. She (if it is a she - I have my doubts) uses it a lot for a couple of chapters in an attempt to sound like she's actually read any SF, before dropping it and latching onto another SFishy sounding phrase: 'lost in space' is one. That gets used a few times in close succession.

Not wanting to spend the rest of her life on an alien planet watching 'male chauvinist pigs' rutting with 'space bunnies' as they repopulate the place (with 'male chauvinist bunnies' and 'space pigs'?)  she demands to allowed to leave and return to Earth. They won't let her because she now knows too much and will be able to easily reproduce all the aliens' hyper-advanced technology and soon earthmen will spoil their Playboy Mansion in the stars lifestyle. The commander of the men does make her the offer though that, if she can convince any of the men to go with her, he will let her return home.

And here, as Carol sets out to entice... anyone to go with her, the book suddenly lurches from gushy, awful romance book set in a 1950's kids television SF serial into the sort of crappy, low rent, pulp paperback porn which, if you were generous, you could imagine the lads from Weird Science writing before they got round to building Kelly leBrock.  

She sets out to seduce one of the astronauts who's studying the alien's ship weaponry:

“There’s more plans for weapons in those books?” Carol pointed to the dozen, or more, volumes on the nearby shelf.​
“Plans for weapons, electronic gadgets and mechanical things beyond your wildest imagination.” Ed was enthusiastic. “I’m in the process of transcribing that language to English with the help of Annissa.” She was the red-headed space girl.​
“You already know quite a bit about what’s in those manuals, don’t you?”​
“Hell yes! The girls, especially Annissa, have been quite helpful in teaching me the Eritan language. I’m getting so I can read this stuff like a native Eritan,” he bragged.​
“Good.” Sucking in a deep breath, Carol took the plunge. “How would you like to take a few of these ray​guns, the cannons and the manuals back to Earth?”​

He eyed her suspiciously. “What are you suggesting?”​
“I’m suggesting that instead of going to Erita, you return to Earth with me—taking along some of these items and the manuals.”​
“You're crazy! Bob would never let you go back.”​
Carol slid from her stool, eased over and leaned on his bare back. He had on only a pair of swim trunks. Her firm breasts were pressed against his shoulders.​
“Bob will let me return to Earth,” she murmured, “if I can find someone to go back with me.” She slid her hand down and tweaked at his man-sized nipples and gently massaged his hairy chest.​
“Bob said that! H’mm.” Placing the dismantled ray gun on the work bench, Ed swung around on the stool. Drawing her lushness to his nakedness he eyed her thoughtfully, his mind filled with lust and his swim trunks filled with passion.​
Carol exhausts herself (and us - it took me weeks to read this very short book, there is only so much badly-writted, 'sexy seduction' and angst-ridden, rhetorical question-laden, self doubting, internal monologue a man can take at once) she exhausts herself working her way through the male, Earthborn members of the crew trying to seduce one of them (any of them!) into returning to Earth with her. A couple of them have their wicked way with her before turning her down.

The cads!

She can't even persuade the doctor (whose access to, and understanding of, the alien medical treatments that are millennia ahead of Earth's means that he could wipe out most of humanity's bodily ills for ever and, as a result, probably become the most famous and revered man in medical history).  Hippocratic Oath and being hailed as the savoir of humankind... or sex with a few space bunnies? Hmmm... conundrum....

Finally Carol hits on the idea that all she really needs is someone to open the magnetic field that is stopping her flying her ship back to the Moon. (As the alien ship is going 'faster than light' how this actually works is open to question and another of the many SF illiteracies that clutter this book). No point in trying the boss alien, Korvin. But what about the other one; Marcus? She's noticed he doesn't take part in the daily orgies...

"I notice you don't take part in the fun and games at poolside, even though your wife does. Do you care to explain why you and Korvin do not engage in the goings on?"

"Me! Make love to the girls?" A horrified expression came to the chubby face, along with a flush. "I can not do that!"

Carol sighed. Her worst fears seemed realized. Marcus must be a homosexual. A gay. To her way of thinking, no man. not even one Marcus's age, could resist chasing around after the nudies unless he was a queer. "Are you some kind of a nut? A homo? Allergic to women?" she asked bluntly.

"I am not!" The flush on his face deepened. Giving her a baleful look he snapped, "Earth people! All they ever think of is sex!"

Revealing more of her sex and giving him a better view her beautiful breasts by loosening her blouse, she said, "What's wrong with sex? I would think a virile man like you would chase after the girls."

Eyeing her coldly, he said, "Those girls are like daughters to me. I helped raise them since they were babies. If made love to them, it would be like making love to my daughters!"

Next page:

"I do not like you. I will not be tempted."

"Aw nuts!" Carol with an impish gleam in her eyes, slid from the high stool, Standing before him he slowly took off her blouse and miniskirt and was soon bare assed naked. Fondling her melons and snatch she murmured, "all yours for the taking, Marcus...."

Needless to say....

Chapter sixteen
The smile came back to Carol's face an hour later when she headed toward her clothes closet to change into her astronaut fatigues. This time the smile reflected the contentment of a woman who had been well sated. Marcus had proven to be quite a man. A well endowed, great lover. He had surprised her. He had been more than adequate. He had been superb. On a scale of one to ten she would rate him as an eight and a half, which was approximately the size of his hot rod.

In a vague page of handwavium Carol is in the lander module and finally free of the alien ship. Marcus cuts the magnetic field and releases Carol above the Moon... BUT TOO CLOSE!

With the plane in full reverse, she pulled back on the control wheel and let out full flaps. Hopefully this would maneuver the ship into an upward sweep before crashing.

It did!


She docks her Landing Module / Cessna light aircraft into the NASA mother ship which is (please note) still on the Moon's surface,

She was still trembling from the ordeal. but with each passing minute she was getting back to normal. To being Carol Collins, ace woman astronaut. The self-assured, efficient woman pilot. Upon entering the mother ship, she clicked switches to close the hatch and repressurize the compartment. Then with the indicator reading at a safe level, she deplaned from the lander module with a happy smile. Immediately she zoomed upward, almost bumping her head on the upper bulkhead.


She had forgotten her special boots. They were still on the Erita in the closet. She had no need for them in that weird vehicle. Climbing around like a monkey on a bar, she managed to climb up the ladder, open the hatch and get into the main control room. Still groping from item to item, she went to her locker and got out her spare pair of boots. She could now maneuver around the compartment. She rummaged around and checked things. Everything was like she had left it. She refreshed herself, went to to refrigerator and got a snack. Then, after a last look around. she prepared herself for the big step.

Return to Earth!

For some reason left unexplained Carol decides that her best course of action is to return in secrecy to Earth and confide her incredible story to the only human male character (so far) in the book who she hasn't tried to have sex with, kindly, irascible father figure, cigar smoking General Jameson.

Putting the craft in a holding pattern she was ready for her next move. It was dusk on Earth. The mid shift at Ground Mission Control would be on. The Four to twelve shift. With a handkerchief over her mouth to disguise her voice she flicked the radio transmitter to the emergency frequency. Then sucking in a deep breath* she said slowly and distinctly, "Mission Control. Come in, Mission Control."

*and, presumably, not inhaling and choking to death on the handkerchief.

So she secretly talks to the general, secretly lands the moonrocket on the space centre runway and secretly is whisked away to tell her 'incredible story'. No-one notices. No-one spots a mysterious craft flying around over a military base? No one wonders who this strange female voice on NASA's emergency channel might possibly be...?  Anyone?

No one believes her - well the general does but everyone else (including the president) is 'yeah, yeah, right.... whatever...' about the whole thing until Carol is so fed up with it all she goes home to her family farm where Bob (the nastiest and most sexist of the human astronauts with whom - of course - Carol is madly, disastrously in love) suddenly turns up in the alien ship (which, again, is totally unnoticed by anyone). Bob has had a change of heart and promises Carol he will, henceforth, not be the totally abusive, offensive dick he has been up till now.... (and we've all heard that one before haven't we?)... Carol is still not sure... but in a stroke of, 'Hey! This is a crazy idea that might just work!' proposes the aliens land their ship on the White House Lawn (sic - seriously!) and then everyone will believe her incredible story and we can all be friends.

The aliens land on the White House Lawn and everyone believes her incredible story and everyone is friends.

The President nodded. "I understand, sir, but I would like to extend an invitation for you to feel free to visit us any time. You will always be welcome." He thrust out his hand.

Shaking the hand, Korvin smiled wryly. "I also extend an invitation for you to visit our planet Erita, Mr. President." He added mischeviously, "You simply head your space ship toward your sun for about three million miles, take a sharp left turn and go about five or six million miles and there we will be. Please do come visit us when you build your space ship."

The President, also a humorist between making agonizing decisions, smiled, and said, "Will three years from now be soon enough, my friend'?"

Korvin chuckled. "That will be fine, sir." With a final shaking of hands of those assembled, the groups separated. Korvin and his people slowly walked up the gangway, waving their hands to the assembled crowd.

Carol, standing at the foot of the runway at Jameson's side, hesitated. She was torn between two desires. An uncertain, dangerous future with the man she loved, or staying behind to become rich and famous under the guidance of Sheilia.

Decision time!

Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the letter of resignation she had written the day before. Thrusting it into Jameson's hand, she impulsively hugged and kissed the father figure. "I'm sorry, sir," she whispered, "but my future is with Bob. I'm going with him."

Jameson sniffed and nodded. "I understand, Carol. I want to thank you for saving NASA. Goodbye and good luck."

[stops reading]

The Grandson: What? What?

Grandpa: Ah, it's kissing again. You don't want to hear that.

the end



I can (and do) recommend A Woman in Space to all lovers of really bad books.  It's a stone gone classic.









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