Wanna Race To Mars? Join MACHINA (& Giveaway!)

Next week, a project nearly two years in the making becomes real.

When I started working on the story bible for MACHINA, a few things inspired the idea of two startups racing to build the machines that will help us live on Mars.

Being Trolled by JPL Mission Control back in 2016….

I’m a huge nerd, and a former programmer (although not this kind — and I’ve totally lost my chops, sigh) and I’ve seen up close the impact development crunches and long game projects have on teams, and dreams. I wanted to create a big-cast drama that reflected the personal stories behind the race farther into space.

A favorite book from way back, The Soul of a New Machine, about the race to develop the personal computer, was a touchstone. So too was a more recent book, Machines of Loving Grace. Both chronicle the dreams we have for our technology – and the unexpected stops along the way.

Pancho Barnes

A visit to JPL several years ago, and a timely re-watch of The Right Stuff added more layers –reminding me how much I loved the backstory the Happy Bottom Riding Club. The Club’s owner, aviator Pancho Barnes promised test pilots a steak dinner if they broke the sound barrier. (I have so many stories in my head about Pancho Barnes, it’s not funny.), but it was thinking about robots, what we believe, and what we don’t know, plus the angel investors and (cough) other funding sources, and what they expect that we know — and how it all comes together in a pressure cooker that can easily be upended by personal jealousy, bias, espionage and outside interference… that was the forge for MACHINA.

Totally pushing all the buttons at JPL Mission Control.

The creative process is never smooth. For two teams building the robots that will take us to Mars, it’s a dusty, bumpy ride.

Most importantly, it’s the people who make the story, and with MACHINA, that begins and ends with my co-writer dream team – Doctora Malka Older (Infomocracy, Ninth Step Station, and (not coincidentally) this piece of brilliance in today’s Foreign Policy Magazine), Curtis C. Chen (Waypoint Kangaroo, Ninth Step Station ), and guest author Martha Freaking Wells (MURDERBOT DIARIES, the gorgeous “unbury the future” speech, and so much more). Our long-suffering but still resolute project manager (and robot dog wrangler) Marco Palmieri. Our amazing audio recording artist Natalie Naudus and audio director Amanda Rose Smith. And more of the incredible Serial Box team, including Julia Rios on editorial, BJ Mendelson, Theo Guliadis, Rachel Pinnelas in PR, Marketing, and Community Management. With special thanks to Raq Winchester for insights and notes. And a special thank you to every researcher and dev who has inspired us with your elegant solutions and your dreams.

We cannot wait for you to meet the teams from competing startups Watchover and DevLok – including Stephanie, Trey, Lakshmi, Smitts, Bharath, Tana, Denise, Wynne, Noor, Cameron, Pseudo (our rescue robot dog) and many others. Plus the robots themselves.

Take a look at a couple early readers’ thoughts here, and here.

We look forward to relaxing with you at the Moonshot Bar, racing with you across the desert, and adventuring all the way to one of the most remote places on Earth, and (hopefully!) beyond.

And most of all, we welcome you to join us as the race to Mars begins. I encourage you to get signed up for the season now, and to tell all your friends.

To sweeten the pot, I am raffling off 5 season passes and 10 10% off discount codes through this Saturday! Here’s how to enter.

Ready? Let’s Go To Mars, friends!


  1. Glad to see someone else who’s a fan of “The Soul of a New Machine.” Great book. You might also like Steven Levy’s “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” First third is about the early days of the MIT hackers on the TX-O and PDP-7 machines. Next third is the story of the Homebrew Computer club in the bay area which gave rise to Apple and other computers. The final third is about the rise of computer games via chronicling the development of Sierra Online.

  2. Interesting. It’s nearly FORTY years since “Soul of a New Machine” came out! I still have my copy somewhere. Of course I didn’t buy it new. My father…grandfather told me about it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s