What the astronauts found when they got to Earthlike world Gliese-D

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After the water wars, and the fall of the cities, one young woman becomes an astronomer - and has the chance to save humanity. In this new story from Genevieve Valentine, we get a poetic look at the dying Earth.

The story, on Clarkesworld this month, is called "Seeing," and it's as much about the poetry of astronomy as it is a future dystopia. And in fact, it's an alternate present. Scientists discover Earthlike planet Gliese-D (in the same system as another recently-discovered Earthlike planet, Zarmina) after the planet's political systems and environment seem to have collapsed. Hoping for a place to send colonists from Earth, a rogue science state studies possible habitable worlds and shoots our protagonist out to Gliese-D in search of a place to call home.

In the end, it's a story about what has to perish in order for new life to emerge.


Here's how "Seeing" starts:

After it was over, they pulled her from the sea.

Even as they lifted her into the rescue boat she was saying, "No, no; we could have made it."

She was cradling the hand the Captain broke.


The first time Marika saw the night sky, she was terrified.

(Strange she wasn't terrified sooner. They'd escaped the city because of the water riots. The city wouldn't last long; the night swallowed it up one time too many, and then day just never came.

Maybe that's what happened to her - one terror swallowing another.)


The night sky was a battle of stars, a violent seam tearing through the center like a wound badly sewn up. The points of light marshaled in ways she didn't understand; the constellations she remembered were devoured by the hordes. Everything bled.

(This prepares her, a little, for what comes later.)

(What comes later:

A star dropping out of sight, a ship that holds three, a scattering of gold.)


It is impossible, from the ground, to look at a star.

The atmospheric interference muddies the light, drags it through the sky faster than your eyes can follow. If you're lucky - if you're at a high altitude, on a clear night, in a lonely place - this interference is perhaps a few dozen arcseconds out of alignment with reality. If it's windy, or you can't escape the summer, or you are trapped by people and lights, your problems multiply. You fall away from the truth by full seconds; you are hopelessly lost the moment you turn your face to the sky.

By the time you look up, nothing is true any more; the ghosts of the stars only flicker and shine.

Astronomers call this measurement Seeing. (Science has run out of more complicated words to explain the ways the universe has outwitted us.)

What it means: you can't trust your eyes. You can't trust your instruments. You can't trust a thing, from the ground.


Read the rest via Clarkesworld

Image via Universe Today