In the Cave of Night – memorable

My next personally memorable word, phrase, or scene (aha! cheating already – yep) is my very first one – “the cave of night.”  I’m a second-generation sf reader, and Mom kept her Galaxy and Astounding magazines lying around out on the (enclosed) porch of our 2nd floor apartment.

Wandering out there in 1955 as a seven-year old who had awakened to the worlds inside any block of black-marked sheets of unpowered paper, I found a Galaxy Feb issue.  I settled down to read a story called “The Cave of Night.” …

I learned of Rev McMillen’s plight in the first hours, along with the rest of the world.  Stranded – all his return fuel burnt, receiver out, air for 29 more days – trapped in the cave of night.  We listened to him talk of the beauty of the world turning below him, how there were no boundaries visible.  How many sunrises and sunsets he saw every day in orbit.  And we rushed to build the second ship…

James E. Gunn wrote this, and four more involving the Big Wheel space station they built to carry on Rev’s pioneering spirit.  These were published by Bantam Books in 1958 as Station in Space,


taking advantage of the Russians launches of Sputniks 1 through 3 to help sales.  According to Prof Gunn’s website, the television show I saw based on the story the next year was on Desilu Playhouse in 1959 as “Man in Orbit”.

Station in Space was reprinted in 2004 as an ebook Station in Space Kindle edition and paperback.  After you read it, if you are lucky enough not to be in an urban sea of nightlight pollution, look up at the stars … and consider how different our timeline was.

I think the 2 versions of Martin Caidin’s Marooned have been the best subsequent treatments of the theme, with honorable mentions to Dean McLaughlin’s ASF story The Last Thousand Miles, later revised as the first section of his 1965 novel, The Man Who Wanted Stars, and Charles Sheffield’s 1999 novel, Aftermath, in which returning expeditions from the Jovian moons and Mars find dead space stations (a subplot in Aftermath).

I’ll share other memories with you.  Next one, the 3rd: “In the ocean of night.” Let’s hear yours!


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