[ASH] Coherent Super Stories #39 - Dead Stars

Drew Nilium pwerdna at gmail.com
Mon May 11 21:23:33 PDT 2020

On 4/21/2020 6:02 PM, Dave Van Domelen wrote:
>       [Interior of an observatory, an astronomer points dramatically
>        at the night sky and proclaims to the reader, "THE STARS ARE
>        DYING!"]

:o Holy cow!

>       During the black and white boom of the 1970s, Coherent Comics' publisher
> decided to get into the SF/F magazine business, and even bought up a number
> of "orphaned" works from a defunct 1950s publisher in preparation.  But then
> the bust hit, and expansion plans got scrapped.  But Coherent still owned the
> rights to these stories, and would publish them as text backups in some of
> their comics for several years, giving them just enough of a distinction to
> help ride out the lean years until the Direct Market got started.  In the
> mid-80s, they published a collection of these works, with comic-style covers
> at the start of each one.

Ooooooh, nice.

>       His assistant nodded, holding up a photographic plate.  "The star is
> still there, after a fashion.  Took an extra-long exposure to pick it up,
> it's as if it's a cinder.  A black dwarf, when last week it was a healthy
> main sequence G-class star.  Still waiting on the spectrography to come in,
> but I expect it will tell the same tale."
>       "Blackbody radiation consistent with temperatures that would fit a
> planet, not a star," the head astronomer nodded.  "Now, the theorists might
> still claim some wiggle room in their stellar lifecycle models, but I'm
> pretty sure a main sequence star doesn't just turn off on its own."

ooooooooh. Fascinating. Very Clarke-ish feel.

>  "Get everyone on that
> spectrograph, and I'll call our southern hemisphere partners to get their
> data.  We need to find out if these stars were only 'kind of' like ours, or
> dangerously like it.  Best case, we can find some telling differences and use
> that to reassure the public."
> 	       *	      *		     *		    *
>       A few weeks later, at a meeting of observatory directors and prominent
> astrophysicists, the mood was grim.

>       "They're all in the same direction," one of the people in the darkened
> room said.
>       "Precisely.  Only about a ten percent chance for that particular
> clustering if they were truly random.  Now this next slide overlays the rest
> of the 'historical' vanished stars, most of which you're still trying to find
> with your telescopes to see if they also left visible cinders.  A bit
> scattered, but again, mostly on one side of our celestial sphere.  Finally,
> the seven that have been observed since the phenomenon was noticed, including
> two whose news was slow to reach us from remote observatories...."
>       The room let out a collective gasp.
>       "It's definitely coming this way, whatever it is," someone remarked.

Dun dun DUNNNN.

>       It had been agreed that without more information, humanity could not
> hope to face whatever was devouring stars, but the key to any solution would
> be energy.  Resources.  There was a time of some chaos as people thought
> divine judgement was upon them, or decided to go out in a blaze of glory, but
> eventually humanity settled its internecine differences and began to work on
> saving their home.

Ah, yes, the mid-20th century, when as an American you could say, "If something 
*really* threatened the future of the human race, I'm sure we'd be able to pull 
together with few problems once we got past a few crazy people!" @-@

>       Jupiter was dismantled for fuel and other resources, followed by Saturn.
> The Great Work continued while stars continued to wink out, even as the night
> sky was filled with the flares of rockets moving materials to a near orbit
> around the Sun.
>       At last, the Great Work was completed, and ready for activation.


>       "And energy is what the Great Work has been about.  When I activate the
> collectors mounted on the orbiting fragments that were once the cores of
> Jupiter and Saturn, a field will be generated that covers our Sun, save for a
> small window controlled by a dozen of our most powerful analog computers, a
> window to make sure that our world does not fall into eternal twilight.

...ohhhhhhh. X3

>       203 lightyears away and 203 years later, alien astronomers huddled
> nervously over the display from their telescope.
>       "Another star has been snuffed out," one said.
>       "Third one since we noticed the phenomenon," another added.
>       "And this one bright enough for the amateur sky-watchers to notice," the
> first noted, dismay in his voice.  "We need to figure out what to tell the
> public...."

:D Excellent setup and punchline.

>       The style is deliberately a mixture of dry and lurid that a lot of the
> 50s SF short stories I read as a kid tended towards, with the Clever Idea
> taking precedence over things like character development. 

Yeah, it definitely felt solidly in that genre.

> I put in a
> deliberate Asimov reference...while later on I'd find that he was a pretty
> horrible person beneath his carefully crafted avuncular image, I can't deny
> the influence his writing had on me in general,

Mega ditto. X3

Drew "lovely" Nilium

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