Two Chimps: One an Astronaut, One a Writer

Fifty years ago today — November 29, 1961 — NASA launched the last “orbital qualification flight” for the Mercury program.


(Enos, the Mercury-Atlas 5 passenger. NASA image.)

Mission Mercury-Atlas 5 carried a chimpanzee, Enos, that “performed various psychomotor activities during the flight and was found to be in excellent physical condition following splashdown.” Enos was supposed to make three orbits around the Earth, but mission controllers brought him back after only two orbits because of a propulsion system problem.

(Aside: Lucky chimp, got to be an astronaut.)

As for the writer chimp, that would be me.

Usually, when it comes to literary primates, I think about hypothetical monkeys at typewriters, trying to produce Shakespeare; you too may be familiar with the infinite monkey theorem.* But monkeys have tails, and we already have Shakespeare, so I’ll live with the chimp metaphor.

Anyway, yesterday marked another metaphorical milestone for me in terms of my writing career, such as it is: I sent in my contracts — and, perhaps more important, my money — to upgrade to “Active” membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Soon, then, even though my fiction doesn’t come close to paying the bills, I may be considered a “professional” writer.

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*An even more entertaining Wikipedia entry: the infinite monkey theorem in popular culture.

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