Science Fair, Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster, Muck Media, 2018.

Every year students from all over the world hope to earn a spot at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s most prestigious science competition for high school students. Science Fair profiles nine teenagers who competed at ISEF in the spring of 2017. Although the film offers only brief glimpses into the science behind the projects, the personal stories it tells are delightful and fascinating. In Iracema, Brazil, Myllena Braz da Silva and Gabriel de Moura Martins will be the first-ever ISEF competitors from their hometown. At Brookings High School in South Dakota, few students are aware that one of their own, Kashfia Rahman, took home third place as a freshman and will return to ISEF as a senior. In Jericho, New York, tough-minded mentor Serena McCalla puts in long hours preparing her students to present their work to the judges. Reminiscent of other competition documentaries, such as Spellbound, Science Fair is a slick, funny trip through the highly competitive world of ISEF. The film was released in the US on 14 September 2018 and is currently playing in theatres. —mb

The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tor Books, 2018, $18.99 (paper)

The Fated Sky, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tor Books, 2018, $15.99 (paper)

Speculative fiction author Mary Robinette Kowal won a 2014 Hugo for her alternate-history novelette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which first introduced the character of Elma York, a former Women Airforce Service Pilots member and a mathematical genius. Kowal now expands on Elma’s story in a two-book prequel series. The Calculating Stars opens in 1952 with an environmental catastrophe: A massive meteorite hits Earth, devastating the East Coast of the US. But humanity has bigger problems ahead. The debris and water vapor launched into the atmosphere will soon render Earth uninhabitable, and the world is forced to race against time to launch humanity into space. Because only men are allowed in the US-led astronaut program, Elma is soon on the front lines of the struggle to put a woman in space. In The Fated Sky, the focus shifts to a new colony on Mars—and to the civil rights movement back on Earth. Kowal’s alternate history of the space race is imaginative and engagingly written. The books will appeal to historical fiction enthusiasts and anyone who dreams of visiting the stars. —mb

The Ultimate Interplanetary Travel Guide: A Futuristic Journey Through the Cosmos, Jim Bell, Sterling, 2018, $24.95

Beautifully illustrated with colorful graphics, images, and photos from space missions, The Ultimate Interplanetary Travel Guide presents a wealth of facts, figures, and information about our solar system, cleverly framed as a travel brochure. Inspired by a series of NASA-commissioned space-travel posters, author and planetary scientist Jim Bell sets his guide 200 years into the future, when travel to the Sun, Moon, and planets is an option for would-be space tourists. In addition to describing all the “must-see” destinations, Bell throws in fun sections on what to pack and what amenities will be available. —cc